World famous champagnes scheduled for holiday tasting
First, let's get champagne's terminology straight.
In America, most people believe white or rose' wine with bubbles is champagne. Not so. To be champagne, it must be made in the Champagne district of France. French champagne is one of the world's greatest wines.
The bubbly drink from California (or other areas in our country) is not champagne. It is merely sparkling wine.
The popularity of either or both is coming into season. Sales are stronger between Thanksgiving and New Year's than at any other time of the year. It is a perfect accompaniment for turkey, is used to toast Christmas and reaches its peak as the beverage of choice for saying farewell to the old year and welcome to the new.
It is also our beverage of choice for the final wine tasting of the year to be held Nov. 30 at Princeton's Restaurant. The wines, as usual, will be purchased at Edna's Supermarket Package Store in Broadmoor.
As is our usual procedure we have lined up three outstanding examples of French champagne Three others are American sparkling wine.
We start with the least expensive from Washington State, produced by St. Michelle Domaine. In my opinion it is superior to the popular Totts or Korbel even though its price of $13 is comparable to the others.
No. 2 will be Roederer Anderson Valley, a sparkling wine which consistently gets ratings about 90 on the 100 point scale. Many wine experts believe it at $20 to be the best value for its price level produced in the U.S.
Then, we're going to conduct not only a tasting but also an interesting experiment. A number of years ago, several French champagne houses decided the climate and soil of California could produce a wine worthy of the name and reputation they had earned in their own country. World famous Taittinger of Reims, France, was one of those. The attendees at our next tasting will have the opportunity to compare and decide for themselves.
Wine No. 3 will be Taittinger's Dom Carneros, made and bottled in California under the direction of French winemakers, a wine of such quality it qualifies to bear the Taittinger name. Its retail price is about $25.
But then we shall follow with Taittinger's made in France Champagne, a $43 bottle of wine. A recent revue said Taittinger champagne is "one of the most elegant and delicate" champagnes. You will be able to compare one with the other, a domestic Taittinger and the original product from the home winery in France.
Local wine stores tell me the most popular imported champagne in Meridian is Moet White Star. White Star at $38 is on our tasting list. At holiday time it is in short supply, but Edna has already put away the amount we will need.
Finally, we will complete the tasting with champagne by Bruno Paillard, a small French vintner who was recently called by a leading wine publication "Champagnes fastest rising star." The same publication says Paillard goes for elegance rather than body or character and his wine is one of the most consistent non-vintage champagnes on the market.
Now, I admit to being prejudiced. Bruno is a friend of mine who, a few years ago, invited my wife and me to come to his home in France so we could "drink some old vintages together." It is one of the best memories I have in 30 years of tasting and enjoying wine.
Pailliard's Champagne is in short production and difficult to find in this country. It sells for $50 plus per bottle, but is well worth it.
You'll note we do not have several of the $100 champagnes on the list, notably Dom Perignon. Over the years, I have drunk Dom Perignon often enough to believe it is badly over hyped, over priced and not better than most other French champagnes. In addition, its price is at a level where the average consumer cannot, or is not, going to buy it. I prefer to stay within a price range reachable by many or most of the audience.
Because of the high cost of champagne, we must charge $30 per place for this one tasting. Response thus far has been the strongest of any of our tastings to date so if you plan to attend, you should make your reservation as quickly as possible.
Seating at Princeton's tasting room is limited. Call 482-0930 or send your check for the number of places you will need to: Post Office Box 5223, Meridian, MS 39302. We urge you to do it soon.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime Meridian resident, has written a wine column for several years.