After 12 interesting months of tasting specific varietals in 2012, we decided that 2013 would be the year of "regionality," and started off with the region of Champagne. Très délicieux! Our merry team of Wineaux were instructed to bring a bottle of Champagne - bubbles from anywhere else would cause pain and embarrassment to the bringer!
Some background on Champagne from Wikipedia:Champagne is a sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France following rules that demand secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create carbonation. Some use the term champagne as a generic term for sparkling wine, but many countries reserve the term exclusively for sparkling wines that come from Champagne and are produced under the rules of the appellation. The primary grapes used in the production of Champagne are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Champagne appellation law only allows grapes grown according to appellation rules in specifically designated plots within the appellation to be used in the production of Champagne. Some sparkling wines produced in other regions of the world use other grapes.
Our tasters consisted of regulars John Dickey (cork-puller extraordinare), Debra Bizek, Xochitl Maiman, Barbara Barrielle, Shawn Shai Halahmy, Michelle McCue, Rico Mandel, and myself. Barbara sneaked in a small slab of foie gras she's been saving for a special occasion (thank you, thank you!), and we plunged into the bubbles for our first blind tasting of the year:
1. NV Heidsieck Blue Top Monopole - Appearance was clear with medium to large bubbles. The nose was yeasty, with notes of almond, green apple, pear. On the palate, there was a harsh edge that softened after a few minutes, and pairing with foie gras. $27 at Total Wine and More
2. NV Mailly Grand Cru - Lovely small, fine bubbles to look at, but not much nose; a bit of grapefruit. On the palate dry, clean, green apple, and a nice acidity. $38 at Total Wine and More. After this had been open for a while, this was the one I really enjoyed with my Zuppe de Pesce.
3. 2000 Robert Fleury Millesimé - Deep gold in appearance with medium to small bubbles. The nose had some oxidation, with notes of caramel. Somewhat sherry-like on the palate with overtones of quince, apple, raisin, and caramel. This biodynamic wine was an even blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. Despite the faults due to age, most of us liked it and thought it might be well-paired with either dessert or nuts and olives. $65 from Michelle's personal cellar.
4. NV Franck Bonville Blancs de Blanc - Lots of bubbles, clear gold in color. The nose was clean and youthful with a lemon tang and serious perfume, which I personally found a bit off-putting. Green apple and honey on the palate, and well-balanced acid to fruit had Shawn liking it a lot. Rico and I rated it 'meh.' $34 from Total Wine and More
5. NV Charles de Marques - Even though this was non-vintage, it had some age on it. Deep gold in color, honey and caramel in the nose, with yeast and yogurt balanced with tasty minerality on the palate, made the surprising reveal that it was from Trader Joe's and cost $20, a true delight.
6. NV Emilien le Duc Brut Reserve - Lovely deep gold color and pretty bubbles, but unfortunately corked. We made sure that Barbara took the $35 bottle back to the store for replacement.
7. NV Gérard Loriot - Many happy faces were seen after tasting this lovely wine! Deep gold in color, hazelnuts and a bit of oak on the nose, with a complex and delightfully balanced palate. This wine was 100% Pinot Meunier! This was the big winner of the evening. $40 at Woodland Hills Wine Company. Thanks for bringing it, Xochitl!
8. NV Nicolas Feuillatte - Pale gold color, a nice clean nose, and a bit of harsh carbonation gave way to an inoffensive bubbly with notes of apple and pear. $29 at Bevmo
We all agreed we were off to a good start for the year. Michelle was still kind of bummed that she had missed November's Syrah tasting, so to accommodate her need for tooth-purpling wines, February's meeting will be reds only from Northern Rhone Valley - which will be mainly Syrah.
As always, thanks to the good folks at Fab's for giving us the private room, no corkage fees and the lovely Amelia to serve us. Cheers!