Champagne has always signified celebration, happiness and good taste.
I enjoy a nice glass of champagne with food, at a festive event, while sailing… Often my taste leads to the usual suspects, primarily Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Perrier-Jouet and Moet & Chandon… While these are some the best champagnes in terms of both taste and reputation, I’d like to introduce you to some that are lesser known but still delicious.
As some of you know, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to further embrace the “shop local/shop small” movement. While I can’t shop local for Champagne living in San Francisco – “Champagne” is only from the Champagne region of France of course – I can shop small. I’m on a mission to discover boutique wine producers.
It’s important to note we are blessed to have some amazing world-class sparkling wines in California (to be discussed in a later post) but today is about exciting new sparking finds from where it all began.
K&L Wine Merchant’s annual Champagne Tent Event provides the opportunity to discover some wonderful unique small champagne houses. Their tent event is truly special and one of my favorite wine tastings every year. Champagne’s grand marque houses attend and pour their prestige labels – Krug Vintage, Veuve Clicquot la Grande Dame, Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon, Louis Roederer Cristal – it’s really not to be missed. This year in addition to enjoying all the well-loved and well-known favorites, I made a special effort to devote time to the lesser known labels. I’m glad I did for some great discoveries were made. Here are a few of my new finds…
Champagne Louis Sostene is brand new, only in the second year of non vintage wines to be released. It’s a tiny family owned domaine with a female owner, Martine Gonet. I particularly like her Louis Sostene Cuvee LSR 1er Cru Brut Rose, it’s intense red berry and spicy notes winning me over. It’s super food friendly, immediately conjuring up images of a divine roast duck pairing, a romantic dinner perhaps. It’s a value at $35, so sure to be a frequent indulgence.
Another find is Champagne Pierre Paillard. It’s as established as Sostene is new, the winery having been in the family for eight generations or 200 years. It’s been bottled under the Pierre Paillard label for four generations.
I especially like the Acte 1 Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs and the 2002 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Vintage. The 2002 has nice complexity with pleasing lemon, apple, and vanilla notes. Add the hint of spice and brioche, it’s the complete package. It’s elegant and festive with a luxurious feel, a nice celebration wine. It would be a great birthday dinner champs and is just $59. In terms of food I see it with oysters or lobster… To make it even more festive I got a magnum.
The 2006 Michel Loriot Pinot Meunier Vielles Vignes Brut is something unique, it’s made with just one grape varietal, pinot meunier. PM is traditionally blended with chardonnay and pinot noir for champagne, but this one is made from 100% pinot meunier – via 70 year old vines. It has spice, a hallmark of good PM with lots of apple and a delicate creaminess. It makes sense the owners Martine and Michel Loriot favorite pairing with the 2006 is parmesan cheese as it shares a similar edge. Actually I see it as a great cheese wine period, it’s a fab pairing for a decadent cheese course.
There is a lot of complexity for $49… If you are a little weary of a champs without at least some chardonnay or pinot noir, fear not. Several Michel Loriot Champagnes are featured on the exquisite wine list of RN74, one of San Francisco’s top restaurants.
I’m so glad I ventured beyond existing champagne favorites as it’s always exciting to make a new discovery. To make your New Year truly special you might want to try one of these. Cheers!
Happy New Year!