2000 Champagne Class

I took a series of wine courses last year at Assabett which I enjoyed greatly - Ian White is a local wine expert that did a great job of explaining the various wines and entertaining the class. We ended that year with a Champagne course which was enormously fun. When I saw that it was being offered again this year, I gladly signed up for it, and prepared for some fun.

The basic idea was that Ian brought ten bottles of bubbly into the classroom, and we sent them around the table to compare and contrast each one, seeing how the different regions and grapes and winemaking techniques affected the end product. We began and ended with some inexpensive varieties, but in the middle we forayed into realms that most wine drinkers reserve for special occasions. Here are the notes.

Andre Brut, $6

This is perhaps the sparkling wine (I use the term loosely) that many people cut their teeth on. It is much like ginger ale - pale yellow in color, lemony and on the sweet side, with maybe an apple flavor as well and low bubbles. This isn't created with traditional Champagne methods - it is bulk fermented.

Freixenet Cordon Negro, $10

Another classic, this black bottle is often seen at parties. It was a pale yellow green, with medium bubbles and a frizzy, off sort of flavor. This is a cava from Spain. Cava are traditionall made with macabeo, xarello, and parellada grapes.

Mumm Cuvee Napa, $20

A Napa Valley sparkling wine created by a French Champagne house, Napa is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Traditional Champanges only use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meniur, so this is a bit of a break from tradition. This had medium bubbles and a light flavor - citrussy and a bit creamy.

Moet et Chandon White Star, $35

The French Champagne that is made explicitly for the US drinking palate, this is sweeter than traditional French Champagnes. It is also one of the top selling Champagnes in the world. Very frizzy, with a light citrus flavor, and, yes, sweet.

G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut NV, $40

The traditional French house, made in France. Lots of medium bubbles, and a medium bodied flavor. The flavor was quite interesting - caramel, citrus, and a spark to it as well.

Laurent Perrier Brut Rose NV, $60

Rose usually means high quality with Champagnes. The salmon wine had small stream of bubbles, but I was not fond of the aroma. It was a sickly acidic smell in my nose, and frizzy in the mouth.

1988 Mumm Cordon Rouge, $50

Compared with the non vintage Mumm, this was a darker yellow color, creating small necklaces of bubbles. It had a creamy caramel flavor, along with a full rich earthy, or mushroomy flavor to it.

1992 Dom Perignon, $90

Ian had hoped to show how the Dom wasn't much better than the other lesser priced wines, but in fact the Dom showed rather well at the tasting. Tons of little bubbles, with a light, fruity, creamy flavor, with hints of coffee. Many do not realize that Dom Perignon is made by Moet et Chandon and is their 'top level' wine.

Moet et Chandon Nectar NV, $40

The sweeter (demi-sec) Champagne from Moet, this had the aroma of sugar cubes. It was light and sweet, with small necklaces of bubbles.

Martini and Rossi Asti, $10

No longer claiming 'spumanti' on its bottle, this is a popular sweet bubbly in the states. As an Asti Spumanti, it is very sweet and goes wonderfully with strawberries and other fruit desserts. Sort of a sweet bubbly soda-pop of a wine, with very sugary flavors.

Which was my favorite? Yes, the Dom Perignon, although with that price tag it is not something I can indulge in often. Take a look at the yearly sparkling wine tastings we hold for a comparison of sparklers in a medium price range, perfect for any celebration.

The Basics of Champagne
Methode Champenoise - How Champagne is Made

Champagne Pairings and Reviews


Champagne History and Information