Well lets talk a bit on a wonderful liquid love by the world over. I had my taste of sparkling wines first in Florida USA many years ago, too long to tell…. I was working at a liquor store in Central Florida, and had my first taste of the Spanish,and Italian sparklers.
This follow by the introduction to what folks there told me was the ultimate sparkler ,something call Champagne from France. I would imagine it was circa 1986 at Ormond Beach,FLorida ,USA. I was a young men starting my life in the state coming from New Jersey ,and was working at the ABC liquor store there by US 1.
It was a love affairs that continue to expand throughtout the years, and each time with better bottles. What it began as just the brut normal bottle it went up to the Krug,and Dom Pérignon of our world.
Today in the region of Champagne, that I have visited several times lying just east of where I met my wife at Meaux, it has about 284 maisons de Champagne or houses divided into 12 grands groups that represent on last figures available about 55% of the sales . Five of these groups are listed on the stock market such as LVMH, Pernod-Ricard, Vranken-Pommery Monopole, Boizel Chanoince , and Laurent Perrier. The bruts with no year or NV represent between 80 and 85 % of sales. The bottles with year on it or cuvées millésimées are never more than 5% of sales with the biggest gain of all amongst the rosé bottles.
The world has a lot to hear about the famouse names like Môet et Chandon, Mumm’s, Ruinart, Veuve Clicquot, the Heidseick gamme, Tattinger, etc. However, over the years I have try to expand my taste branches and have found some amazing finds that to me seems better. Taken aside the sentimental favorite , Mercier and Jacquart (first bottles had with my then girlfriend today my wife) , some of the new found names are Ayala, Gosset, Henriot, Agrapart et fils, Egly-Ouriet,Larmandier-Bernier,Philipponnat,and Tarlant.
The diversity is endless ,and when you try a brut is not the same as a demi sec for example. You can choose it for an entire meal as some of my close collegues here do, or simply leave for the dessert or a toast either before or after the meal. For an apéritif or beginning of a meal one is best to serve a Champagne Blanc de Blancs ; while with a caviar it is best to serve a champagne based on red grapes ; the blanc de blancs is good for seafood as well while the fish will go well with a brut NV. To go alone with cold cuts,sausages, patês, terrines etc it is best to serve a Brut milésimée or year on the bottle with concentration of red grapes. Generally with the birds such as chicken, roosters, etc it is best a Champagne blanc des noirs will go better. As to the meats especially those in sauces it is best the Rosés. The cheeses will go well with a Brut NV. For the desserts a Champagne Rosé is best except when we have king chocolate on the table in any form then a Demi Sec will go better. And for the nights, why not bring out the best vintage Champagne of prestige maybe with a good Havana Cigar !!! the list is not firm just my observation over the years, and generally speaking.
One site that speaks about in French official webpage of the Champenoise is http://www.maisons-champagne.com/ and the city office of tourist for Reims give you info on the houses based there http://www.reims-tourisme.com/tabid/12479/Default.aspx ,and the city of Epernay has a load of them divided into four regions, here is the webpage http://www.ot-epernay.fr/-Les-champagnes-par-region-viticole- and the regional office of tourism for the Champagne-Ardennes also has great info here http://www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk/champagne/vineyards/from-vineyards-to-wineries.aspx
One of the highlights of a visit to the area is not just the drink but also the history and wonderful architecture found. Do you know that for example underneath Reims there is 300 caves of chalk and about 20 meters deep (66 ft)! with kilometers/miles of tunnels. Its like another city down under ::) At Reims there are mostly under the hill of Saint Nicaise (old place of the abbey of Saint NIcaise today gone) where the oldest are going back to Roman times of the 3C BC. These mines or caves were work until the French revolution, and then use by the maisons de Champagne for aging of their wines. The six major houses share this rich underground such as Charles Heidseick, GH Martel,Pommery,Ruinart,Taittenger, and Veuve Clicquot.
The mines or crayéres caves of Veuve Clicquot have naves under the hill of Saint Nicaise with a huge laberinth that resemble an abbey for real. It has marking done by men from WWI that shelter here and you can see humans in front of you as in real. You see what is call the ” cathedral” arches and niches that resemble a religious site of old. At Ruinart, you see vertical drops along high walls of chalk and narrow passage; You see an stair leading to nowhere carved into the thinkness of the wall, mysterious … You see halls of a wonderful white gleaming before you which maybe it is why they make a wonderful blanc de blancs! . At Pommery, you see carving of an old era right at the wall like arts on sculptures with an orange twist that is like been in a cathedral. You see the osmosis with white walls of chalk mingling with wonderful static bottles aging for glory. At Martel you hae on the floor sticks coming out looking like the vines that was place out of fools in a hurry or underground devils, and more arts like dates written on the wall like one 1763 like graffittis. All in all is a wonderful world underneath and it is all open to the public. Have a toast on me, and enjoy Champagne.