A Tasting of Rare Bubbly

How best to cap off a week of spirits and cocktail seminars at New Orleans’ Tales of the Cocktail in July? With a tasting of rare bubbly, of course. On Saturday afternoon, lucky attendees in the Bonnet Carré Room in the Hotel Monteleone were treated to samples of Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne at a seminar facilitated by Master Sommelier Rob Bigelow, Master Sommelier / Master of Wine Doug Frost and Olivier Zorel, Area Export Manager Americas for Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte.

There are around three hundred million bottles total of Champagne sold per year; one hundred sixty million are consumed in France, followed by the United Kingdom and then the United States (though the latter is first in sales of tête de cuvée, the finest bottling released by a house during the finest years.)

Founded in 1975, Nicolas Feuillatte is one of the newest houses in Champagne, and poured seven Champagnes during the hour and a half tasting, starting with the Brut Reserve NV. Zorel noted that he prefers the term “multi-vintage” to “non-vintage,” as any bubbly without a designated date on the label is generally a blend of vintages—designed to assure a consistent house style from year to year. The 2006 Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, showed how high acidity in a wine preserves it; even at nine years old the fruit was vibrant and fresh on the palate, and the wine still had a lot of aging potential. (Frost pointed out that while years of bottle maturation for a Blanc de Blancs leads to oxidation, a darker golden color and lessening (or loss) of effervescence, the complex and interesting notes of brioche, nuts and honey that result can be equally compelling.

On the flip side, their 2004 Blanc de Noirs is made from the other two grapes permitted in Champagne, which happen to be red: Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Both add structure, dark fruit notes and (depending on the style) color, but Bigelow pointed out that Pinot Meunier doesn’t age particularly well, so it’s a style best enjoyed on the younger side.

Among the few other offerings sampled were two vintages of Nicolas Feuillate’s tête de cuvee, 1998 and 1999. Called Palmes d’Or, its black studded bottle is meant to evoke a black pearl necklace, and was inspired by a young opera singer with whom the house’s founder fell madly in love. Aged for at least six years, these are complex wines with long, lingering finishes and notes of dried fruits, peach and spice that will only get better with time.

The trio agreed that no matter which style, brand or vintage, Champagne tastes best in a magnum-sized bottle, as it ages longer and develops more character than in a standard 750 ml bottle. They also see merit in the trend of enjoying bubbly in a white wine glass rather than a flute, so the imbiber can better appreciate its aromas, flavors and mouth feel.

What to find out how to incorporate Champagne into your venue? Attend the Sparkling Wine session at the Nightclub & Bar Show in March. Registration will open in October. 


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