Buying Champagne

Didier Gimonnet in the Cuis vineyard

I like to drink champagne mostly as an aperitif and some times with seafood and white fish. Chardonnay based wines from the

Côtes des Blancs fit the bill very well. The big Champagne Houses in Reims and Epernay make excellent non-vintage blends and prestige cuvees using their vast and varied reserve wines. The good smaller grower-producers who lack access to such resources can seldom match these champagnes but concentrate their efforts lovingly on making superb vintage wines.

“House Style” for me is an elusive concept but I like the taste and mouth-feel of Pol Roger NV and Roederer NV. Sadly, their prestige cuvees are not within my price range. I buy a couple of cases of each NV wine from Vino Cave in Reims and cellar them for at least one year before consumption, by which time they have acquired some ‘vintage quality.’

As my flirtation with unblended, terroir champagnes has come to an end (sorry Pierre Larmandier!) I buy the good vintages of Larmandier- Bernier in Vertus (Grand Cru Extra Brut Vieille Vigne de Cramant), Pierre- Gimonnet of Cuis (Cuvee Fleuron and Special Club), Vilmart of Rilly la Montagne (Grand Cellier d’Or and Coeur de Cuvee) and Drappier of Urville (Grande Sandree), directly from the producers during my regular trips to the Champagne region. They are not cheap and need 8-10 years of cellaring but when they are mature, they are exquisite without the smell or taste of dead yeast and the pleasure they give is enormous.

Pierre Larmandier

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