Most Valley wine lovers start to think about Champagne when the calendar turns to December and we begin to plan our holiday celebrations. My passion for the bubbly began in 2007 when I took a job as a Fine Wine Specialist for locally owned Ohio Wine and Beverage.
Ohio Wine had the distribution rights for two of the most historic Champagne houses: Perrier Jouet and GH Mumm, so I began my education by reading and tasting as much as I could. This early submersion into al things sparkling led to what has now become a life long passion.
Fast forward to August of 2015 and I’m putting the finishing touches on a three week European wine region tour. There was no doubt where the first stop would be. France’s Champagne Region is an easy two-hour train ride from Paris and the two main cities in the region, Reims and Epernay are easily accessible and navigable.
Perrier Jouet and GH Mumm have much in common, but it is their differences that make them in enticing story of contrast. Perrier Jouet is nestled in the quaint village of Epernay and they are not open to the public. In fact, I was very fortunate to be granted an appointment for my tour and taste.
Perrier Jouet’s Champagne style is more delicate and beautiful with more Chardonnay used in the cuvee’ (blend). I had the good fortune of touring the historic cellars and tasting with my host Barbara Zaborowska.
We walked through he centuries old underground caves which included some impressive artwork, a secret passageway (the owners son used to access Champagne whenever he desired) and an incredible inventory of Champagne dating back to 1825.
I arrived an their incredible tasting room following the cellar tour and was treated to a fantastic tasting of the entire portfolio including several vintage offerings. I also gained access to their library, which contains order registries dating back to first years of the house. One book contained an order signature from Napoleon III who famously coveted the bubbly!
I took a half hour train ride north to the much larger city of Reims and prepared for visits to several houses including Veuve Clicquot and Tattinger, but the highlight of my time there was my visit to GH Mumm.
Mumm’s style is more firm and masculine with a higher percentage of Pinot Noir in their cuvee. They are open to the public and are a major destination for tourists, with over 200,000 visitors annually. I enjoyed an afternoon of cave touring and tasting with Elodie Lesain, who proved to be a knowledgable and delightful host.
She first took me down a steep staircase to the underground caves that stretch for hundreds of kilometers under the city streets of Reims. She pointed out that Reims was right in the center of the fighting in World War One, so the entire population took shelter in the caves during the fighting.
Many soldiers and civilians took time to carve drawings and messages into the cave walls, providing an eerie reminder of “The War To End All Wars”. The caves were one of the few historical elements left as Reims was basically leveled during the war.
Fortunately for us, the caves and their precious contents survived. GH Mumm’s caves include an interesting museum of the house’s evolution, some bottles dating back to the 1800s, and a total inventory of well over a million bottles.
GH Mumm was gracious enough to open their “Maison” for me to enjoy an amazing tasting of their impressive portfolio. The house style really came through as the Pinot Noir grapes presented an abundance of red berry fruit and fresh acidity.
Here’s a look at my top three Champagne selections for the holiday season. They’re all readily available in local stores and restaurants:
2006 Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Gift Set $139
Aromas of white fruits and fresh spring flowers lead to flavors of fleshy peach, pear, lemon and grapefruit with hints of pineapple and a silky finish. Gift set includes and elegant box and two hand-painted flutes.
NV Perrier Jouet Grand Brut
Enticingly lively, floral and lightly juicy with fresh apple, white cherry and apricot mingling with ginger and mineral notes on the finish.
NV GH Mumm Cordon Rouge
Aromas of ripe yellow peach, pineapple, vanilla and honey lead to an explosion of freshness in the mouth orchard fruits, breadcrumbs and caramel.
I sincerely hope you make one or more of these Champagnes a part of your holiday celebration. Better yet, make Champagne a part of your regular wine experience in 2016! Cheers and happy holidays!!
If You Go
What: Wine Academy Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles!
When: Thursday December 10th, 7-9PM
Where: Trumbull Country Club (event open to the public)
Reservations: Log on to www.myvalleyvino.com – $60 for five wines with Tapas Dinner Pairings