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Champagne (nv) Brut

December 9, 2002 • Murphy Bank

PfW Champagne panel.Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles. We picked ten of the best known, most popular labels' non-vintage offerings and subjected them to our collective appreciative scrutiny. We do SO like our sparkling wines, and Champagne most of all. An assortment of caviar, cheeses, nuts and crackers accompanied.

While they all were very enjoyable to taste, our panel had a difficult task in ranking these wines. Each wine was appealing in its own way; none were unsound. Choosing between them was more a matter of style than quality and called for a lot of hand-wringing and nit-picking. We may have been equally accurate to select by coin toss or label beauty.

The final numbers clearly separated the wines into three groups, but any of these wines should be quite enjoyable, should you care to make your own evaluation ...

Brand Varietal / "Type"
Vintage,
Appellation, Vineyard

TASTING NOTES: Color; aroma; flavor; body;
balance; finish. Alcohol. Varietal composition
(if known). Summary. ($ paid)

Wines are considered Equal Quality
Within Categories of Recommendation
(Listed Alphabetically by Brand)

consensus terms appear in bold
(possible flaws? are in brackets)
* indicates a second or third party
WEBSITE

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Mumm Brut Cordon Rouge.Mumm cork cap.Mumm
Brut "Cordon Rouge" (nv)
Reims

Clear, pale straw, fairly active bubbles went flat relatively quickly; clean, fresh, stark, lightly fruity, Chardonnay, apples, citrus, grapefruit, yeast, toast and roasted coffee aromas (fishy? Lucite?); fairly expansive, creamy-silky texture; clean, light, fruity, citrus, grapefruit, nutty, yeasty, pleasant, soft, almost sweet flavors (bland?); very well-balanced; pleasantly lingering finish. 12% alcohol. A blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Meunier. The Mumm Red Stripe has been a popular favorite for many years. This crowd-pleaser is very smooth and round, may be too light for some tastes (one of our panel said he preferred seltzer water). ($41) WEBSITE

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Carte Jaune.Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
Clicquot cork cap.Brut "Carte Jaune" (nv) Reims

Clear, pale straw; very light, citric, apple, toast, butter and yeast aromas; very expansive, full, with a rich, soft, creamy texture; clean, light, gentle, wispy, faintly sweet flavors integrate fruit and yeast well; well-balanced, very slightly tart; lemony, yeasty flavors linger well in finish. 12% alcohol. A blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay (portions not disclosed). A perennial favorite of our panel, the appeal is primarily in the rich, creamy texture and round balance. Widely available at deep discounts under $30. ($38) WEBSITE

Piper Heidseick Brut.Piper-Heidsieck
Piper cork cap.Brut "Piper" (nv) Reims

Clear, pale straw, slow rising, small bubbles; clean, fairly deep, floral, citrus, green olive, yeast, bread, toast and roasted nut aromas (medicinal?); slightly expansive, frothy, creamy; clean, light, sweet, sappy, blossomy flavors of citrus, toast, bread dough; slightly tart, very well-balanced; medium-long finish. 12% alcohol. An appealingly elegant style, walks the middle line between delicacy and yeasty fullness. ($24) WEBSITE

RECOMMENDED

Deutz Brut Classic.Deutz cork cap.Deutz
Brut "Classic" (nv) Ay

Clear, pale straw, steady, even bubble stream; very light at first, but warming released fresh, floral, sweet, pear, apple and citrus fruit with rich, biscuit dough and autolyzed yeast aromas; slightly expansive bubbles, pleasant mouth feel; light, roasted nut, apple, soft citrus, quince and slightly sweet, rich flavors turn somewhat tangy, grapefruit or aspirin-like; crisp balance; medium to short finish is tart, slightly bitter, peppery, aspirin-like. 12% alcohol. Another fruit-forward style, although this wine overall seemed a little odd, disjointed, jumpy, schizophrenic, bipolar, and full of intrigue. While lacking internal harmony, it got along quite well with our food. ($38) WEBSITE

Laurent Perrier Brut LPLaurent-perrier cork cap.Laurent-Perrier
Brut "L.P." (nv)
Reims

Clear, light straw, fast rising, pinpoint bubbles; light, restrained, clean, apple, citrus, toast, yeast, smoke and vinous aromas; very expansive mousse; clean, brisk, faintly sweet flavors of fruit, green apple, citrus,pear, yeast and lees (bland?); good balance, soft, faintly low acid; medium to somewhat short, crisp finish (metallic?). 12% alcohol. This house boasts a "large portion of Chardonnay", although the exact percentage remains undisclosed. A youthful, delicate style, where fruit plays as much of a role as yeast development. ($35) WEBSITE

Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial.Moet cork cap.Moët & Chandon
Brut "Impérial" (nv)
Epernay

Clear, very pale straw, small, active bubbles; very light, almost no aroma, barely suggests flowers, vanilla grapefruit, yeast; light, mild mouth feel; flavors show fruit, slight sweetness, toast, bread dough and yeast (matchstick? medicinal?); excellent balance, slightly tart; pleasant, flavorful, if somewhat short, aftertaste. 12% alcohol. A blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay (portions not disclosed). Will never steal the show, but very easy to drink; for those who prefer a light, delicate touch to their bubbles. ($46) WEBSITE

Louis Roederer Brut Premier.Roederer cork cap.Louis Roederer
Brut "Premier" (nv)
Reims

Clear, medium straw, very small, lazy, slow-rising bead; complex, lots of fruit, citrus and yeast, but also faintly earthy, chemical, green smelling (musty? oxidized?); lightly expansive bubbles, creamy texture; toasty, yeasty, bread dough flavors are fat, rich, ripe with succulent fruit, grapefruit; slightly tart, good balance (sour?); long, dry, somewhat rough, bitter, aspirin finish. 12% alcohol. Blend of 56% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier. The flavors of this wine were well-liked are very appealing; little nervous tics, however, in the aroma and finish kept it from being top-ranked. ($42) WEBSITE

Taittinger Brut Reserve.Taittinger cork cap.Taittinger
Brut "La Francaise" (nv)
Reims

Clear, straw to light gold, lively bubbles; fairly assertive fruit, citrus, apple, smoke, toast, nut, biscuit dough and yeast aromas with faintly vegetal and mineral notes (metallic?); light, very fine mousse with a rich mouth feel, creamy texture; clean, mouth-filling, big flavors of fruit, lemon, almonds and biscuit dough; crisp, slightly tart balance; fairly long, green apple finish (angular? stiff? rough?). 12% alcohol. A blend of 60% Pinot Noir with 40% Chardonnay. Abundant aroma and flavor here, not at all delicate or reticent (one panelist thought is was beer-like). The relative abundance of or lack of acidity was quite controversial, but the wine continued to please, even after warming up. ($35) WEBSITE also 2

TASTED

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut.Feuillatte cork cap.Nicolas Feuillatte
Brut (nv)
Epernay

Clear pale gold, not very active bubbles; vanilla, apple juice, dried cherry, citrus, herb, perfume and yeast aromas (dull? medicinal? oxidized?); more foamy than expansive; yeast, vanilla, floral, apple and dry, green, buttery, seem oxidized at the same time; balance is citric, quite tart (sour?); finishes with tart and medicinal, mouth-coating flavors. 12% alcohol. This wine was not balanced and left an overall impression of unripe and oxidized fruit; some panelists thought it needed a chaser (luckily, we had several at hand to choose from). ($24) WEBSITE

Krug  Brut Grande Cuvee.Krug cork cap.Krug
Brut "Grande Cuvée" (nv)
Reims

Clear light gold; complex, floral, talcum powder, pear, nutty, toasty, woody, Sherry and caramel aromas (oxidized?); very slightly expansive, very fine bubbles; older, mature cuvée, fino sherry, yeasty and toasty flavors with citrus, Mandarin orange, lemon and a hint of oxidation; good balance, tart; very long finishing flavors are even better than in-mouth flavors (medicinal?). 12% alcohol. Unmistakably older style cuvée, from the color to the minuscule bead, does not suit all palates (quite controversial among our panelists), but is considered to be a classic style. Best served without food accompaniment, where it can be the center of attention. House of Krug is now owned by Clicquot. ($110) WEBSITE


This Panel included Regulars Deanna, Bob, Roy, Jon, Ray, Tammy, Jim L., Betsy, Ron and Jim V. and Guest Peter
About Champagne

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