Champagne lineup set for Thursday's tasting

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
Nov. 19, 2003
The champagne lineup for Thursday's tasting is now complete, and there is a wide range of types and prices represented.
A few years ago when visiting France we journeyed to Reims, literally the capitol of France's champagne district. There we toured the city, its great cathedral and a myriad of other local attractions including the cellars where millions of bottles of the world's finest champagnes are stored.
One of those cellars was owned by the famed producer Taittinger. We had access because our host, Bruno Paillard, who makes exquisite champagnes under his own name, is a friend of ours and a relative of the Taittinger family.
Located beneath the earth in a cool, almost cold storage area Taittinger's storage facility is almost awe inspiring when you see how much wine is there, aging to the perfection demanded by consumers of wines in their price range.
One reference book I read in preparing for this tasting said this about Taittinger: "This house uses a high proportion of chardonnay in its non-vintage Brut reserve making it one of the most elegant and delicate of Grand Marque Champagnes.'" And it is certainly that.
Their non-vintage is in the $45-per-bottle class, and it will be one of the wines featured at this week's tasting.
Famous champagne
Another was to have been champagne made by Pol Roger. Pol Roger champagnes were the favorite of Sir Winston Churchill, and his particular preference still carries his name, The Winston Churchill edition. Unfortunately the state warehouse was out of the Pol Roger wine we had chosen so we substituted Moet &Chandon's White Star. We served this champagne at our 2001 tasting, and it was the most popular wine of that evening.
It is probably also Meridian's favorite champagne in its $35-per-bottle class. White Star has a distinct yeasty flavor the audience found to be very attractive. This winery is France's largest with a wide range of bottlings including the world's most famous champagne (but not the world's best) Dom Perignon.
Dom Perignon carries a $100-per-bottle-plus price tag, but I have never felt the wine inside warranted that rather unreasonable price. I've tasted it perhaps five times and have always believed, and still believe, their White Star offers much more value and a very competitive flavor. At $100-per-bottle you can be certain that Dom Perignon will not show up at our tasting table but Moen &Chandon's White Star will.
Another French champagne to be served is made by Louis Roederer and carries his name. Roederer is one of the most profitable wineries in France producing about 21⁄2 million bottles per year. In fact, he is so successful he decided to open a winery in our country, and from that winery we now have the Roederer Anderson Valley sparkling wine at about $22 per bottle. We'll compare the two.
Notice his French product is called champagne because it is made in the Champagne District. The Anderson Valley is merely called sparkling wine because it is not made in France. Only wines produced in the Champagne District of France can bear that name.
Pacific Echo
Just for fun, we've included a pink sparkling wine made in California by Pacific Echo. This company may be our country's best producer of middle priced sparkling wines, about $22. Pink sparkling wine is actually a rose, and you'll find it interesting.
A few months ago an Italian sparkling wine hit the Meridian market in an unusual and attractive bottle. I don't know if it was the bottle or the wine inside that made it sell so quickly, but another shipment has come in and we've ordered some in order to see for ourselves.
The door wine for this seven wine tasting is Greg Norman's new sparkling wine from Australia. Every wine that carries Norman's name has been tremendously successful, from his cabernets to his shiraz and blends in between. It's priced under $20 and is well worth it.
There are still places available for this tasting so call 482-0930 and make your reservation. The fee per place is $35. It starts at 6:30 p.m. at Northwood Country Club and you do not have to be a member at Northwood to attend.
We've moved the tasting up a week from our normal last Thursday of the month because of Thanksgiving and this will be the final tasting of this year. Everyone is too busy in December to think of anything but Christmas presents so we will resume in January.
But if you're thinking of purchasing champagne for a holiday dinner or as a present for someone, this tasting is the place where you should be.