I’ve always been baffled when people say they don’t like or don’t drink Champagne….”I don’t really drink much Champagne”…I know what each word means, but put together that way…just sounds like jibberish to me. How could a beverage that inspires such passion in me be so easily dismissed by so many people?! Sadly, I think I tasted why.
“I’m going to be out with the Vranken rep this week, can we come by and taste you on a couple things?” the email read, I’ve had the wines before and never thought that much of them, didn’t hate them, matter of fact, they didn’t even inspire enough intrigue for me to hate them. “I’ve tasted them before and didn’t really care for them, don’t want to waste your time” was how I responded. Got another email saying “doesn’t hurt to try again” so I agreed to sit and taste with them, one sniff and I regretted it.
Now I’m pretty reserved when I’m tasting with a sales rep, even more so when they have a supplier with them. I don’t dig hurting people’s feelings and don’t feel the need to tell these people what I think is “wrong” with their wines, I know other buyers that do but that aint me, I taste, take notes and “it’s not my favorite” is the worst you will ever hear come out of my mouth. When I got up from the table I said, “Not my favorite” but walking away I was kinda pissed that we wasted each other’s time, even more annoyed that wines like that have the marketing budget to get their bottles on lists all over town, which when tasted, leave consumers saying, “I don’t really like Champagne”…well, with overpriced boring bubbles like that, it’s no wonder!
I fell in love with great Champagne 11 years ago, it was a bottle of 1989 Billecart-Salmon Nicolas Francois, it was more than I would have normally spent, $89.99 at the time, ($119 now) but I was talked into it and I have never been the same, that being said I feel that the wines from that estate have been creeping beyond what the bottle delivers…but Nicolas Francois will always have a special place in my heart…..without that bottle, who knows if Champagne would have ever stolen my heart and yanked me deeper into this world of wine that I love so much. Up to that point I’d had plenty of bubbles but they were the mass market brands that grace every supermarket shelf…the ones that most people drink, and while I never turned down a glass of one of those, I rarely bought or even thought about buying them. Then I was drinking the “idea” of Champagne, now I drink the “flavor”.
So while sipping on Heidsieck and Demoiselles, Rose, Vintage and Bruts I just kept thinking…”What would inspire anyone to buy this wine a second time?” which of course had me taking a pass on brining them in…I’m not in the business of selling one bottle, one time to one customer, 12 times….I want you to love them, crave them, dream about them and come back over and over again, if I sold anyone wines like the ones I was tasting, not only would I feel horrible about it but I would be perpetuating the whole, “I don’t really like Champagne” thing, and that….that would make me sad. I try not to spend too much time shit talking on the top Champagne houses, they do have some good wines, maybe a tad too pricey, but some solid wines to be sure but for the most part, their basic or non vintage bottles are really freaking BORING…that and they make so damn much of the crap that it often sits in warehouses, (of the distributor) for God knows how long, getting tanky and stale tasting…ewe. I can honestly say I have had more off bottles of Veuve Clicqout and Taittinger than any other Champagne I have ever had….really harsh when you think about the fact that I buy those maybe three times a year…if that, when stuck in a grocery store needing a bottle of Champagne, or in a restaurant with a serious Champagne jones…that’s a pretty crappy average if you ask me. So I won’t go so far as to say I hate them, but I will say that I don’t trust them…and there are just so many better bottles to be had. So if you don’t like Champagne or don’t drink it often, maybe it’s just that you haven’t had some really good ones, and by good ones I mean hand-crafted, artisan bottles….don’t go thinking Perrier Jouet flower bottle when I say good….I’ve had it, it’s fine…not great, not that exciting, but fine…
So do this old bird a favor, before you utter phrases like, “I don’t really like Champagne” or just write the marvelous, frothy beverage off as something you toast with, get your hands on a couple of really serious grower Champagnes, really taste them…you may just have to get a new phrase. Visit a wine shop, a good one and talk to the buyers there, find out what they are drinking, read Peter Liem’s blog, read this blog…but find the real deal and get to tasting. Here is a small list of some of my favorite growers: Agrapart H. Billiot Jean Milan Camille Saves R H Coutier Pierre Peters Rene Geoffroy Jose Dhondt There are lots more but those are my “hit the sweet spot” almost every time estates…have fun and drink some yummy bubbles!