31 October 2014, Reims, Champagne
Before getting to the tasting notes, for anyone thinking about visiting the Champagne region, it can be more than a day trip from Paris. We spent a couple days exploring the town of Reims and enjoyed visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Palais du Tau and the Hotel Le Verguer. Additionally, L’assiette Champenois is an incredible dining experience as Antonio has mentioned in a prior Vinous Table post. Friendly service, a gorgeous atmosphere and French food at its best – truly deserving the 3 Michelin Stars in my opinion.
I. Dom Ruinart
The oldest Champagne house founded in 1729, this is one of the big houses I did not have a lot of experience tasting prior to this trip. That changed fairly quickly after tasting their wines and I’ve already purchased some of the 2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs.
1. NV Ruinart Blanc de Blancs – bright and fresh with citrus aromas and a light body with a short finish. A simple, linear wine that I wasn’t a huge fan of as it lacked depth. They try to achieve this type of style for this wine though by only blending 3 recent vintages to keep the freshness. 60-70% is a base year with 80% from premier cru sites with 9g / liter of dosage. 88 points
2. 2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs – toasted, creamy and vanilla notes. When you close your eyes and smell the wine, it gives aromas of a great white burgundy. More layers and depth than the NV but still very tight today. They only use grapes from grand cru sites for this wine and is a wine I’ve already started purchasing. Also 9g / liter of dosage. 96+ points
3. NV Ruinart Rose – again, as with the NV Blanc de Blancs, linear and simpler taste on the palate. Strawberry/red fruit and floral aromas but something I would use as an aperitif or summer wine as it lacks the power and depth to be a great food pairing wine. As with most of the big houses, they make their roses by blending red and white base wines. 89 points
4. 2002 Dom Ruinart Rose – great potential but way to young and too tight. I thought the ’04 Blanc de Blancs could use time in the bottle to get better, the Rose NEEDS time in the bottle at this point. Toasted bread, ripe strawberries, red roses but noticeable acidity and concentration that I think could get better with time. Having not tasted any older vintages of this wine, tough for me to score today. 93+ points
II. Veuve Clicquot
Our amazing tasting at Veuve Clicquot started at their private hotel in Reims, Hotel du Marc where a representative joined us for lunch. The goal of the lunch was to show how well Champagne can pair with food. The building itself was incredible and located fairly close to the winery’s visiting area.
Wines with lunch:
1. 2004 Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame – biscuit/yeasty aromas with a complex, layered palate. Vanilla brioche with piercing acidity. It didn’t feel as tight as the 2004 Dom Ruinart which felt as if it could eventually explode and yield greater complexity – this wine was drinking well and paired well with our appetizers with its high acidity but probably doesn’t have the same upside. 93 points
2. 2004 Veuve Clicquot Rose – roses, red fruit with some noticeable tannins. As with Dom Ruinart, made as a blend of white and red base wines. 20 wines in the blend including grand and premier cru. 91 points
3. NV Veuve Clicquot Demi-sec – 35g / liter dosage and meant to be paired with our desserts. Not only was I not a big fan of the wine, I didn’t think it was a good match for most desserts as it’s sweet but not enough to match anything but the simplest desserts. Stone fruit and ripe pears on the palate with still some acidity to balance the sweetness. If anything, I’d drink this wine by itself as a digestif, not with desserts or before a meal. 88 points
It’s also worth mentioning that a visit to Veuve Clicquot is worth it for the cellar tour alone. We only saw a small portion of the 18km they have but it was staggering. Combining former stone mining tunnels with newly built tunnels, it’s such a large operation they use golf carts to go from one part to another: