“The devil bowed his head, because he knew that he’d been beat…”

by Katie Pizzuto on October 1, 2008

in boutique wine,Champagne

I’m gonna try a few new things here,  because I can’t stand the bland wine reviews that flower most wine blogs, but I do think discussing individual wines is important. The first ongoing series is going to be the “angel vs. demon” battle. Each time, I’ll pick a particular wine region and two of its wines—one from each corner of the ring—and talk about what I think makes each one the angel or demon. Feel free to stand in defense of either one at any time…a little blood ought to be spilled during any good bout.

So I might as well start out with a heavyweight—Champagne. I LOVE bubbles. I humbly bow to the bubbles in reverence and hate the thought that millions of dolts out there only serve bubbles for “special occasions.” For me, surviving mothly PMS is a special occasion, as is finding a $10 bill in my freshly washed jeans or actually getting the trash out on trash night. Hell, I have bubbles once a week unless I’m gravely ill. But if we look at the bubble industry, particularly the Champagne region, there is a whole lotta “eh” wine selling for much more than it’s worth. Factories are pumping out boatloads of mediocrity and selling it to you under the guise of a “luxury item”. Their inflated prices are more a product of huge advertising budgets than they are about quality production, and in the end, the product you look at so romantically winds up being made not by man but by machine. Don’t get your panties in a bunch and tell me that ALL wine is made by machine—I get it. But conglomerate Champagne has no soul. Period. It’s blended from several hundred lots from every corner of the region to ensure two things: “consistency” in their taste and boring the crap out of me. Welcome to the ring a prime example of soulless industrial Champagne, and your “demon” for today: Veuve Clicquot NV Brut (yellow label).

In the other corner of the ring is grower Champagne, which Terry Theise lovingly refers to as “farmer fizz.” These wines are made by growers, not marketers. Families with only a few hectares of vines are often keeping the grapes instead of selling them off to négociants, and making their own Champagne. THESE are the wines that speak of humanity, of place, of soul. These are the wines that are mooning those factories that would snuff out the expression of terroir. If it’s not distinctive, why the hell would it fascinate you…know what I mean?!? So, entering the ring we have a stellar example of grower Champagne, and the “angel” of the battle: Henri Billiot NV Brut Reserve.

Henri Billiot NV Brut Reserve ($38) – 5 hectares in size, so not widely available, and yet priced equally to the Veuve! No filtering, no malolactic fermentation. About 80% pinot noir usually, still it’s energetic, crisp and alive. Fruit-driven, but not without balancing minerality, and has a creamy, long finish.

Veuve Clicquot NV Brut ($39) – One dimensional. Tastes fine, no major gripes, but for nearly 40 bucks I don’t want “fine”. Narrow, no depth, predictable…the Paris Hilton of Champagnes, I guess.

Best way to find out if a Champagne is worth its price tag? Let it go flat in the fridge. Then retaste it. Would you still drink it as-is or toss it down the sink drain? Let me know.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Linsey October 1, 2008

ahem champagne … or rather the process was invented by a brit

hehe the french stole the idea


2 Anthony October 1, 2008

That is a true statement Linnie Lou


3 Linsey October 1, 2008

uh huh *grins*


4 Katie Pizzuto October 1, 2008
5 Linsey October 1, 2008

and who knew when Maurice Chevalier sang ‘the night they invented champagne’ in Gigi he was talking about the british



6 Linsey October 1, 2008

oops correction – Louis Jourdan

who quite frankly is the best looking french guy ever!


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