Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ooh La La! Affordable French Champagne

I'm off to a late start with my project to drink more French champagne this year. It was one of my New Year's Wine Resolutions, but Italian wine and weird varieties have definitely taken center stage here at GWU$20.

Finally I managed to make bubbles my top priority, and went around the shops looking for something that wasn't a big name on sale, or my trusty (but not creative) Veuve Clicquot with the orangey-yellow label. I took some advice from the folks at Chronicle Wine Cellar, and picked up a bottle of NV Beaumont des Crayeres Brut Grande Reserve ($26.95, Chronicle Wine Cellar; available elsewhere for under $30).

Beaumont des Crayeres is actually a cooperative venture that winemakers in the Champagne region began in 1955. More than 240 "partner-members" provide grapes for the wines, often grown on very small family plots near Epernay. This combination of small plots and a single, larger house style was intriguing to me because it seemed to me (based on my very limited knowledge, to be sure) that Beaumont des Crayeres is halfway between the big Champagne houses and the smaller houses where a single grower is able to put out a very small amount of limited production wine.

The combination yields very good results, if my bottle of Grande Reserve is representative. Made from 60% Pinor Meunier, 25% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Noir, this was an excellent QPR Champagne for under $30. It had, as I hope the picture shows, a very dynamic small bead that filled the glass with vapor trails of bubbles. It was pale straw in color--much paler than you would expect--and had shy aromas of biscuit and citrus that you slowly emerged from the glass as it became a bit warmer. The flavors were full of bread dough, lemon, and a bit of stone. the overall impression of the wine was one of clean freshness, and every sip made you head straight back to the glass (and the bottle for more).

This wine was a definite rebuy, and if I had the space I'd buy a case and keep it on hand for a whole year's worth of impromptu celebrations. After this success, I think you can count on seeing some more Champagne reviews shortly.


Anonymous said...

sounds delicious!! I need some value Champagnes for the cellar. For the most part lately when it comes to sparklers I go with Prosecco.

nice review.


Dr. Debs said...

This is a good 'un, John. I usually go with French cremants or Prosecco, too, but this was nice and definitely had that ooh la la French thing going on.