Sunday, January 4, 2009

Festive Season Wine Review Part II: the Champagnes

What better a time of year than to drag out the French bubbly and make a toast? Here are the genuine Champagnes we pulled out this season.

Taittinger Prelude Grands Cru

In a room full of wine at a champagne tasting this easily stood out as my favourite. It's a crisp Pinot Chardonnay 50/50 blend with light bubbles and a slight citrussy tang. New to the Taittinger line their wine makers claim to be attempting to make a grand cru that is reminiscent in quality of a vintage pedigree and to my mind they have hit the spot. It is strong enough to stand as an aperetif but also subtle enough to eat with a canape, salad or fish course; it finishes very long with a pleasant warm afterglow. Currently sells for $120 - $130 retail however this is my pick of the toasting Champagnes and should be top of your list when purchasing for a wedding, new year or other special occasion.

Louis Roederer Brut Premier

I was given this last Christmas by a friend who knows my keenness for Champagnes and as it was reaching the end of its drinking life it was time to bring it out come New Years. Roederer is famous for its Cristal Champagne that is favourite with the bling-tastic crowd and I never really understood why, this lesser cousin to Cristal isn't also high on my list of sparklings in the price range.

Its blend is 56% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier and features a hefty amount of aged oaked vintage wine in the blend, making it a fuller, smoother, fruitier wine and I think for me this is its downfall as I like light crispy floating sparkling wines. It definitely has its fans and would be a great accompaniment to a cheese and fruit platter but should be avoided drinking on its own. For around $80 a bottle on the Australian market I would tend to float more towards Veuve Clicquot or a Pommery which are of a similar price.

Pol Gessner Brut

Pol Gessner is a very new entrant into the Champagne market created by the owners of Lanson and imported by the Woolworths group it is squarely aimed at the middle class target being a very affordable $30 - $40 a bottle. It stands up to Champagnes that are triple the price and if you're more interested in taste than in label then this is a fine choice for large purchases, drinking with seafood or even a more "every day" occasion such as a birthday or date night. The blend is a classic French mix of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier (55/15/35) and the colour and taste are both very light with a soft lemony flavour and a very clean end. I think the low Chardonnay content works in favour for my tastes and getting actual Champagne of this quality for this price certainly scores points though for a special occasion it may be worth spending the extra money on a better label or purchasing a local sparkling for the same price.

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