We did a sparkling wine tasting exactly one year ago in 1998 to prepare for Dec 31 1998, so it only seemed right that we should do another one to prepare for the coming 1999 rollover! After all, according to many people, this is The End. Might as well go out with a smile!
For our tasting, we decided to go with six Champagnes & Sparkling Wines. Eight of us did this tasting, and we tasted with only dry crackers and water to keep our mouths fresh. Let me note that I used my new Riedel millennium glass, and while I was skeptical that it would really make a big difference ... it did! Everyone was very jealous of the bubbles and aroma I had.
We rated these wines on a 0-20 scale: 0-4 appearance, 0-6 aroma, 0-5 flavor, and 0-5 overall. The ratings you see are the average ratings amongst us all.
Krug non vintage brut, $55/split: Score 14.8
We started at the high end, figuring we wouldn't want our senses dulled while drinking this one. It had very small bubbles, a pale yellow color, and a very neutral aroma. Some tasters detected a faint fruity or musky flavor. There was very little finish.
Westport Rivers 1996 Imperial Sec, $35: Score 13
This is a Massachusetts brand, one of the highest rated in the US. It was more yellow, with larger bubbles than the Krug. It had a heavier aroma, a bit yeasty. The flavor was fruitier and more flavorful.
Roederer CA non vintage brut, $22: Score 16.4
This was very pale with small bubbles. It had a very fresh, fruity, almost bleachy flavor to it. There was a light cherry aftertaste, and the finish lasted a long time. We all enjoyed this one a great deal.
Joseph Perrier non vintage cuvee royale brut, $21: Score 15.9
This was also very pale, with aggressive bubbling. It was almost like pop rocks in our mouths! Very fresh smelling and tasting, a bit musky or mossy.
Piper-Heidsieck non vintage extra dry, $25: Score 13.9
This was pale, not very bubbly, and had a yeasty, rounded aroma to it. It was sort of fruity flavored, but with a bit of muskiness and earth to it.
Moet et Chandon White Star non vintage, $35: Score 13.9
This one is formulated for the US palate, and sells very well in the US. It was pale with few bubbles, with a sweet, musky, fruity flavor to it. Good for casual drinking.
We then went through the various cheeses listed on the Champagne & Cheese listing - brie, edam, gouda, mild cheddar, colby - and tried combinations of those. We found all of these cheeses did go very well with Champagne. Take care, though! Once we opened the cheese, we all began to smell cheese in the Champagne and it altered their tastes. Be sure if you're tasting wine to not have cheese around until you've finished the tasting part!
The Basics of Champagne
Methode Champenoise - How Champagne is Made
Champagne Pairings and Reviews
Champagne History and Information