"I only drink champagne when I'm happy, and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it - unless I am thirsty"
- Mme. Lily Bollinger
If ambrosia actually existed, I want to think it is awfully close to champagne. After all, like Mme. Bollinger, my affection for this libation ranks among one of my favourite things in life. It has always puzzled me the willful ignorance most consumers have to champagne. Having made the holy pilgrimage to Reims, France several times in my life, my affection is to the actual region and the superb wines coming from there.
Kleenex vs. Facial Tissues
All Kleenex are facial tissues, but not all facial tissues are Kleenex, but Kleenex became such a dominant brand that any facial tissue is called Kleenex. That is the same situation with Champagne. Champagne is a small region a little over 100 miles east of Paris. It is there where the wines called champagne are actually from. Everything else is a sparkling wine and cannot legally call itself Champagne (Except for California sparkling wines, but that's a whole separate discussion, pm me for information if you really want to know!). A sparkling wine outside the Champagne region, but still in France is called a Crémant. When I lived in Barcelona, I developed a fondness for Cava, which is Spanish sparkling wine. Spumante is Italian. So, what you are calling champagne might be anything but that!
If all you know of champagne is Cristal and Dom Perignon and it is only for Valentine's Day, or celebration and that too much of it gives you a headache, boy, oh boy are you in for a treat. This is the same mindset resulting in people cheating off the Asian in tests, yet steering clear of them on the highway. There is so much more depth to these wines! And, if you learn a little bit more not only will you be pleasantly surprised as to the complexity of these wines, but your friends and potential romantic partners will say, "I didn't know Dave was this sophisticated. Huh? What else does Dave know?" Which is almost always a good thing. Unless Dave knows who really let the dogs out? Then, it actually isn't.
I'm going to give you some of my favourite champagnes and I would love your feedback on what you thought of them as well! I'm going to do it Bubbly Award Ceremony style because it might be slightly less boring that way:
BEST CELEBRATING A HUGE LIFE EVENT CHAMPAGNE:
The nominees are:
1995 Comte de Champagne, Taittinger
1996 La Grande Dame Rose, Veuve Clicquot
1995 Sir Winston Churchill, Pol Roger
And the Bubbly goes to....1995 Comte de Champagne, Taittinger! This wine is simply...superb. You really need to start drinking it now, because it is only going to get more expensive as time goes by and actually the quality will get worse. Try a 2008, that will be friendlier on the wallet!
BEST CHAMPAGNE BY ITSELF
The nominees are:
Billecart Salmon Rose
Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Rare
And the Bubbly goes to...Billecart Salmon Rose! This rose champagne is exactly what champagne should be...fun, effervescent, pleasant notes and just puts a smile on your face.
BEST CHAMPAGNE WITH FOOD
The nominees are:
Laurent Perrier Rose
Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV
Veuve Clicquot NV
And the Bubbly goes to...Taittinger! This is my favourite everyday champagne, it doesn't break the bank, but is a very, very nice wine. I lean toward 100% chardonnay champagnes vs. the chardonnay/pinot noir/pinot meunier blend, but this has a nice crispness to it with strong representation of fruits and minerals. The fact that it is $10 cheaper than a Moet Chandon Brut Imperial and $20 cheaper than the Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label makes it, I think, the best bang for its buck that you can find almost anywhere.
As long as Champagne holds a certain mystique, you becoming fluent in its aspects and characteristics will be something others can appreciate and value. The last six champagnes I mention are not ones that are going to destroy the bank at all. There are some terrific sparkling wines coming out of California, Spain, South Africa, and the Normandy region of France. They are even more affordable and can be a wonderful stepping stone into a wine that can be consumed on a day to day basis!