Champagne: The More You Know

Happy Weekend,

Want to know the easiest way to piss off a wine snob?

→ Call any sparkling wine Champagne.

Want to really piss off a wine snob?

→ Take their real Champagne and drown it in orange juice.

Listen: I love Champagne, but I do believe part of my soul died when I saw someone pour orange juice into a glass of 2006 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (200 USD) at a brunch.

But, I’m mostly over it.

What happened was my fault.

I put that gorgeous wine on the table, and I assumed people would know what to do.

But therein lies the Champagne gap between ignorance and arrogance.

So, today’s newsletter is designed to bridge the distance between the folks who die for Champagne and those who are here to get drunk.

You’re likely in the middle.

Champagne vs. The World

So, what makes Champagne special? Many of the things I talked about in why wine is expensive.

But Champagne is a brand, more so than any other wine region. And they’ve put down the legal foundation to protect it.

As a result, we obey. Why? Because Champagne is really good.

The combination of climate, tradition, and strict rules have ensured the success in the marketplace.

Growers vs. Showers

Despite these restrictions, we still get a huge variety of Champagne.

First, we have the showers (show-ers).

These are the Champagne brands you’re familiar with like Veuve Clicquot. Millions of cases per year sourced from vineyards across the region.

Then, we have the Growers.

Grower Champagne is produced by the person(s) who grew the vines. And the term “Grower Champagne” is your ticket into the wine world. Drop it at your next dinner and watch a browbeaten Somm’s eyes light up.

What does each side represent?

With showers, like Veuve, you get consistency. There is a time and place for Coca-cola. Like when you need a last minute gift for your sister’s boyfriend’s co-worker’s baby shower.

With Grower Champagne, you have yet another spectrum.

There’s high quality stuff that will rewire your brain. And some stuff that, despite the fizz, falls flat.

But alas, this is wine: a never-ending discovery of nuance.

How Do You Buy Champagne?

So, despite my not-so-subtle Veuve bashing, you can score a good deal. In the coming months, it will be on sale at at razor thin margins at big box liquor stores. But at full price, you can do a lot better.

Here are my three favorites near 60 USD:

  • Chartogne-Taillet ‘Cuvee Ste. Anne’ Brut Champagne
  • Pierre Paillard ‘Les Parcelles’ Bouzy Grand Cru Extra Brut
  • Jacques Lassaigne ‘Les Vignes de Montgueux’ Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs

But, you just want good Champagne anywhere?

For that, I’m a Moët & Chandon advocate. It’s crisp and lights up my mouth more than Veuve.

I’m here for the adventure. What’s something wild?

There’s nothing like Egly-Ouriet.

But don’t take my word for it, here’s Peter Liem, author of Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region:

“If there are any Champagnes that fit the often-used description of “Burgundy with bubbles”, Egly-Ouriet’s would be the leading candidates.”

– Peter Liem

For me, the Egly-Ouriet experience is texture and aromas. Truly one of a kind.

Champagne Terms

I’ll be honest, I skipped a whole bunch of stuff about Champagne. Because the biggest challenge is learning the vocabulary. So here are a few extra resources if you’re ready to nerd out.

Closing Thoughts on Champagne

Should we piss off wine snobs?
→ 100%, they are the worst.

But should we do it by mixing juice and expensive wine?
→ Probably not, but it’s really up to you.

If you want to have a mimosa, buy any other sparkling wine like Prosecco or Cava. Use your left over dollars to pop for a premium fresh squeezed juice.

Champagne deserves a glass all its own.

This Week’s Free-Run Juice

Free-run juice is a wine term for the grape juice that comes from their own weight prior to pressing. These are weekly tidbits that came out from my own wine exploring.

Worth The Squeeze – Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region

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If you know someone who loves Champagne, this is the book to get them this holiday season. It’s thorough and beautiful. It’s a winner of multiple awards, including a James Beard, and it’s the perfect companion to any wine book collection.

It’s currently 40 USD, and that’s one of the lowest prices I’ve seen.

Buy it for some one you love or yourself.

Mist Your Mimosa

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The news story that inspired this week’s newsletter. This. is. real. There’s an actual sweepstakes for spritzing your sparkling brunch cocktail (just don’t use Champagne, please).

Champagne: How It’s Made

It often takes an outsider to explain things well.

How It’s Made doesn’t miss. And this classic video breakdown of Champagne is wonderful.

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