Home > Tasting Notes and Wine Reviews > Tasting Grower Champagne at MacArthur Beverages

Tasting Grower Champagne at MacArthur Beverages


FarmerFizz2

There is a rich literary history about the wines of Champagne.  The early notes of Martin Lister in 1698 observe that the “Wines of Burgundy and Champagne are most valued; and indeed, not without reason; for they are light and easie upon the Stomach, and give little disturbance to the Brain, if drawn from the Hogshead”.  As for tasting the wines he details “another sort of Wine, called Vin de Rheims, this is also a pale or gray Wine; it is harsh, as all Champagne Wines are.”[1]  There were, perhaps imagined, literary debates about whether Burgundy or Champagne was the best wine.[2]  Michel de La Roche eventually found that “As for Champagne-wine, it is valuable by reason of certain acrimonious falts, very much unfolded, which qualify it to drive the urine and remove obstructions; but leaves a great quantity of tartar on the joints, and in the fibres of the muscles.  Were it not for this fault, that wine would be preferable to all others.”[3]

Map of Champagne. From Black, Charles Bertram. Guide to the North of France. 1876.

Last night I found myself at the Second Annual Blogger Tasting at MacArthur Beverages.  I did not attend to debate Burgundy against Champagne nor was I concerned with my joints.  Instead I was there to taste from an expanding selection of grower Champagne.  Many people are familiar with the big house names such as Moet & Chandon, Roederer, and Veuve Cliquot.  These producers source fruit from across Champagne which allows them to produce good, consistent wines year in and year out.  Grower Champagnes are made by smaller producers that source fruit from their own vineyards.  As such they should better represent the terroir of the vineyard and desires of individuals.

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It was apt to have a Champagne tasting because it has been sold in Washington, D.C. since Congress first met.  Richard Forrest sold it by the dozen bottles at Mr. Johncherez’s store near the Little Hotel during August 1800.[4]  It was also available in 1802 by the dozen at the store of B.W. Morris & Co. on High Street in Georgetown.[5]  By September 1808, both red and white Champagne was available at the store of John Goulding in Georgetown.[6]  William Morris of Baltimore advertised to “the citizens of Washington” that he had “Sparkling, White and Red Champagne Wine in cases and hampers” on December 9, 1814.[7]  Sparkling Champagne was available locally at P. Mauro’s store on Pennsylvania Avenue by December 1817.[8]  Philip Laurenson of Baltimore locally advertised on October 1, 1824, some 35 cases of Ruinart & sons “celebrated sparkling Champagne Wine.”[9]  He had both the sweet and dry versions.  The local merchant William Cox on Pennsylvania Avenue eventually imported his Champagne directly.  On May 16, 1828, he offered 100 dozen cases of sparkling and sillery still Champagne from the house of J.C. Dinet, J. Mayer, and Rineart & Cox.[10]  From these producers he had white, red and partridge eye available in both quart and pint bottles.

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Today there is a large selection of Champagne in Washington, D.C.  For this tasting Phil organized a tasting of seven bottles of grower Champagne and one ringer.  All of the wines were served blind.  In attendance were local bloggers and wine lovers including Paul DeRose of Wine Outpost, Tod Godbout of Wine Compass, Sindhu of Four Courses, and David White of Terroirist.  As for the wines my favorites included the NV Pierre Peters, Brut Blanc de Blancs and the 2010 Cedric Bouchard, Inflorescence, Brut Blanc de Noirs.  The former showed good balance of fruit, mousse, acidity, spices, and grip throughout the evening.  The later was more forward both on the nose and in the mouth, certainly not subtle.  The more affordable NV Donson & Lepage, Brut developed well with air and represents a good introduction to grower Champagne.  Likewise the NV Dosnon & Lepage, Brut Rose was enjoyable being a bit more substantial and mature in flavor.  The 2007 Vilmart & Cie, Brut was certainly unique with interesting fruit and an attractive, racy aftertaste.  Please find my tasting notes in the order the wine were poured.  Many thanks to Phil and MacArthur Beverages for hosting a tasty evening.

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NV Donson & Lepage, Brut, Avirey Ligney – $40
A Jon David Headrick Selection imported by European Cellars.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir.  Dosage 8 g/l.  Disgorged January 15, 2013. Alcohol 12%. There was a subtle yeast and fruit nose.  In the mouth were firm bubbles which burst as crisp acidity hit the tongue tip.  There was ripe, apple fruit as the bubbles dissipated .  There some grip and green apple acidity.  This developed well with air revealing good fruit.  Nice, affordable wine.

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NV Louis Roederer, Brut Premier, Reims – $40
Imported by Maison Marques et Domaines USA.  Alcohol 12%.  There was a touch more biscuit on the nose along with an odd perfume.  The mouth follows the nose with very fine bubbles which turn into a mousse.  There were robust flavors.  I did not enjoy this bottle.

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NV L. Aubry Fils, Brut Premier Cru, Jouy Les Reims – $40
A Terry Theise selection imported by Michael Skurnik.  Disgorged December 2012.  There was a subtle nose of ripe apple and yeast.  There was crisp acidity in the mouth with dry and chalky flavors.  The bubbles quickly become a nice mousse.  It maintained drier flavors with a little citrus hint in the finish.

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NV Pierre Peters, Brut Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Cuvee de Reserve, Mesnil Sur Oger – $50
A Terry Theise selection imported by Michael Skurnik.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay.  Disgorged April 2013.  Alcohol 12%.  There were some ripe fruit aromas on the nose.  The mouth began with a burst of ripe fruit matched by expanding bubbles.  It took on a very fine, mouthfilling mousse.  There was acidity on the tongue which becomes apple-like.  There was good grip, spices, and a good drier finish.  Nice.

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2007 Vilmart & Cie, Brut, Grand Cellier D’Or, Rilly La Montagne – $70
Alcohol 12.5%.  There was interesting yellow fruit making it the fruitiest wine thus far.  The finish mixed both acidity and spices.  With air it took on a lemon citrus note along with a racy aspect in the aftertaste.

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2010 Cedric Bouchard, Inflorescence, Brut Blanc de Noirs, Val Vilaine, Celles Sur Ource – $60
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir.  Disgorged April 2012.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This was the most aromatic with toast and articulate aromas which stood out of the glass. This wine burst into the mouth with white fruit and salivating acidity in the finish.  There was a lot of flavor in this wine, showing good depth, lots of fruit, and ripe spices.

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NV Dosnon & Lepage, Brut Rose – $45
A Jon David Headrick Selection imported by European Cellars.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir. Alcohol 12%.   The nose was a bit more subtle with fruit and perfume.  In the mouth were flavors of gently ripe red fruit.  The mousse was subtle and soft taking on a little chalk towards the creamy finish.  It had salivating acidity and a more mature personality.

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NV Pascal Doquet, Brut Rose, Vertus – $50
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was different, meaty.  The flavors were up front with dry, grippy fruit, firm bubbles, and old wood notes. Probably an off bottle.

David Bloc and Phil Bernstein

David Bloc and Phil Bernstein

If you find these historical descriptions interesting then I recommend you look at Henry Vizetelly’s A History of Champagne.[11]  As it was published in 1882 it is available online.

Image from Vizetelly, Henry. A History of Champagne. 1882.


[1] Lister, Martin.  A Journey to Paris in the Year 1698. 1699. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=JjqbUDmIvTgC&pg=PP7#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] De La Roche, Michel.  Memoirs of Literature, Volume 4. 1722.  UR: http://books.google.com/books?id=0FMJAAAAQAAJ&pg=PR2#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] De La Roche, Michel. New Memoirs of Literature, Volume 1.  1725. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=c6Y3AAAAYAAJ&pg=PP7#v=onepage&q&f=false
[4]Date: August 5, 1800  Paper: Centinel of Liberty (Georgetown, DC)   Volume: V   Issue: 60   Page: 1
[5]Date: January 4, 1802  Paper: Washington Federalist (Georgetown, DC)   Volume: II   Issue: 209   Page: 1
[6] Date: September 16, 1808  Paper: National Intelligencer (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 2
[7]Date: December 9, 1814  Paper: Daily National Intelligencer (Washington (DC), DC)   Volume: II   Issue: 602   Page: 1
[8] Date: December 3, 1817 Paper: Daily National Intelligencer (Washington (DC), DC)   Volume: V   Issue: 1530   Page: 1
[9] Date: October 1, 1824      Paper: Daily National Intelligencer (Washington (DC), DC)   Volume: XII   Issue: 3652   Page: 1
[10] Date: May 16, 1828          Paper: Daily National Intelligencer (Washington (DC), DC)   Volume: XVI   Issue: 4772   Page: 4
[11] Vizetelly, Henry. A History of Champagne.  1882. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=fb0nAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false
  1. October 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Some very nice stuff here. Lots of interest to me since I’m now staritng an MPhil on the history of champange in Voctorian England. I’ve just been trying to find the first US example of champagne being used to baptise / launch a ship. The earliest in the Naval History is given as the Maine in 1890. I’ve found UK examples for the 1840s. Any advance on that?

    Yours,

    Graham

    • October 21, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      Graham,

      Thank you for checking out the post. I do not know the answer but I shall keep a look out. I believe I see the same references which you do. I do know that sparkling Champagne was advertised for sale in New York City by James Stuart on September 14, 1789. By Florian Charles Mey of Charleston on December 1, 1803 and by Cornelius Coolidge & Co in Boston on May 19, 1807. So it was available early on in those major cities.

      The Charles H. Marshall launched on May 26, 1869, from the shipyard of William H. Webb in NYC was christened by Miss Metzgar “on the noble vessel entering the water, broke a bottle of Champagne over her bow…”Date: May 26, 1869 Paper: Commercial Advertiser (New York, NY) Page: 4

      Investigating the newspapers further lots of stuff in the 1880s. I see General O.D. Green, Adjutant General built a “catamaran sailing craft” which was launched February 10, 1881. His daughter Miss Katie Green remarked at the end “With this wine of Champagne I baptize and christen her.” Date: March 1, 1881 Paper: Idaho Statesman (Boise, ID) Volume: XVII Issue: 98 Page: 1

      The Steamship Mexico built in San Francisco Bay launched February 15, 1882, was christened by Miss Tulita Wilcox, daughter of Captain Wilcox an owner of a steamship line ….”shrieks of a score of steam whistles were let loose as the bottle of champagne was broken on her bow by Miss Wilcox, and the vessel received her name.” Date: February 15, 1882 Paper: San Francisco Bulletin (San Francisco, CA) Volume: LIII Issue: 108 Page: 2

      I find a number of other 1880s examples the “queenly schooner John H. Tingue” on September 6, 1884. When it came to the US Cruiser Atlanta on October 13, 1884, an 8 year old girl was to break the Champagne but the father, Secretary Lincoln, was afraid and so she simply raised her hand instead of breaking it. Date: October 13, 1884 Paper: Elkhart Daily Review (Elkhart, IN) Page: 4

      Vanderbilt’s private yacht was christened with American champagne in 1886.

      Best,

      Aaron

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