Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Well No Wonder...

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:

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!


Benito said...

We all have our little wine loves and desires, but I imagine being a Champagne enthusiast must be one of the most frustrating. It takes time to learn how to appreciate Champagne, and it can develop into an expensive habit.

I love good Champagne, but hardly ever drink it. Most of the time I'm not around Champagne lovers, so my bubbly jones gets satisfied by Prosecco, Cava, or West Coast sparklers. Pale imitations, I know, but it's hard to break out a grower Champagne at a dinner if you know you're the only one that's really going to enjoy it.

Samantha Dugan said...

Et Tu Benito?! (Smash/crack/chink/chink/foomp) That is the sound of my heart being broken....sigh.

Dontcha see my dear, they may become Champagne drinkers if you shared the good stuff with them, that's what I was sayin'...plus, what's wrong with enjoying a bottle of bubbles your own self hmmm? You and I are going to meet one day and I will douse you in grower bubbles, then you will make the "poo face" that I make now when drinking Cava!

Benito said...

Never fear, Samantha, I share many of your concerns when it comes to the subject of dry rosé. I feel like pulling my hair out at times.

But also bear in mind I've got weird buying preferences. I'll pass up Burgundy and Bordeaux for the opportunity to try some bizarre Greek wine for the first time.

I will be on the lookout for some of your recommended Champagne. :)

Samantha Dugan said...

Greek wine over Burgundy?? You are killin me today pal! Kidding of course, and that is part of what I love about wine...no right answers for everyone.

After like, 11 years of soap boxing the dry Rose deal is easy now, so keep plugging along dude...they will come around!

K Claret said...


Drink Tavel and Bandol Rose. I had the best rose of my life like two weeks ago. Sam will agree..Tempier Bandol is amazing but pricey! There are other bandols under $20. You'll get there.

K Claret said...

Another great champagne..

Robert Moncuit BDB grand cru from le mesnil sur oger..$40 awesome!!!

Samantha Dugan said...

Moncuit...have not had that in a bit, but remember quite liking it...thanks for the reminder, gonna have to see about getting a retaste on that wine.
Good tip on the Bandol, just got in the Bastide Blanche and at $18.99, rockin' value!

Nancy Deprez said...

Funny someone tonight just told me - when he drank great Champagne, it didn't even taste like "champagne" it tasted more like wine.

The issue here is that Champagne, like Riesling (in a way), gets a bad name from all the cheap stuff out there, and eventually people associate the good name with a bad product, so when you get the real thing, one doesn't even recognize or associate it with that name. Sad but true.

Great Champagne, real Champagne, is a real wine, and that's what makes is excellent, the base wine, not just some bubbly drink. Plus of course, the way the bubbles get in there - that's pretty important too.

Nancy Deprez said...

I love Champagne. It has been tooooo long.

By the way, Sam, when is your next Sparkling wine tasting on a Saturday? I have a couple of new customers for you - one of them is a Champagne lover, but will also drink some sparkling wines.

Samantha Dugan said...

I have to agree that great Champagne is more like wine, matter of fact, when drinking it at home, (alone) I drink Champagne out of regular wine glasses, not flutes....the bubbles are less of a consern, it's the base wine I am after. Now in the case of something like Prosecco, it's all about the froth factor, because you see, the base wine is just..."meh".

Champagne does get a bad rap from all that mediocre crap that is flooded on the market, those "big house" bubbles used to be good, but over the years they have lost their contracts with many of the best growers, (as those growers keep the best parcels for their own brands) and the wines now taste flat and down right boring. I think people hold on to the fact that these "brands" were the best....just wish they would taste some of the real stuff, I think it would change their mainds.

It has been too long??!! Well girlie, get yer rump over to The Wine Country, we have lots!!