Friday, May 23, 2008

My Favorite Grower Champagne (So Far)

I'm starting to get bitten by the grower champagne bug.

As a devoted drinker of NV Veuve Clicquot in the yellow label--which I enjoy partly because I'm never disappointed--I always get exactly what I expect when I pop the cork. While this kind of familiarity, like your favorite chair, is very comforting, it is not precisely exciting.

Drinking grower champagne is different. I'm finding that they are a pleasant surprise, and offer something unlike what I've grown to expect and love from familiar standbys like Veuve Clicquot.

My most recent foray into grower champagne came from Comte Audoin de Dampierre, which is based in Chenay. They've been making Champagne there for almost seven centuries, and produce over 200,000 bottles a year. For their top bottling, the Cuvee Prestige, this house still uses a hand made string ficelage, which was the traditional way to make sure the cork didn't pop out of the bottle because of all the pressure. The ficelage is the point of origin for the wire basket that most sparkling wine has wrapped around the cork today.

The NV Comte Audoin de Dampierre Grande Cuvee Brut was a terrific champagne for the money, and definitely represented excellent QPR in a grower champagne. ($25.95, Chronicle Wine Cellar; expect to pay between $19 and $36 online or at a retailer near you). Made from a blend of 30% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, and 10% Pinot Meunier, this was a sparkling wine that somehow managed to be both creamy and light. The wine was bright pale straw in color, and had lots of bubbles accompanied by a frothy mousse. I smelled faint aromas of bread dough and toasted brioche, which were warm and mouth-watering. When I sipped the wine I enjoyed the flavors of cream, lemon, and apples, especially with the toasted almond edge that these flavors took on after the wine slid down your throat.

This would be a perfect bottle to open when you want something special but don't want to break the bank. It's widely available, too, so keep your eyes peeled for it in your favorite wine store.


Leigh said...

I'm intrigued enough to look for this Champagne over the weekend. I am a huge fan of NV Veuve Clicquot - I have annoyed many a friend by declaring my continuing devotion to it, although I did shock them by purchasing some Cava a few months ago. Special occasions are not hard to come by in this household!

Dr. Debs said...

Leigh, did you find it? As for regular special occasions (!) you can't do better than cava, in my opinion. A great budget sparkler.