Though Champagne is always the appropriate beverage – for both quotidian and celebratory drinking – and knows no season, it is de riguer for the holidays. Whether as party beverage or gift (hint! hint!), the Yuletide is made merrier with bubbles. Each year, shortly after Thanksgiving, Federal Wine and Spirit ,in collaboration with its distributors, hosts the premier Champagne tasting in Boston – the event spanning two evenings. The first night is devoted to the Champagne houses – the grands marques, while the second evening features the smaller independent estates. Besides the opportunity to sample a variety of Champagnes, an added inducement is the significant discounts offered the night of the tastings; Champagnes do remain on sale until year’s end. This year,the event was held at the venerable Marliave. And since we of WDWU are interested in smaller producers and interesting, idiosyncratic wines, we attended the second session which showcased the Récoltant-Manipulant Champagnes.
In recent years, estate champagnes have grown in popularity and respectability. Decanter, the venerable English wine magazine, recently hosted a panel of Champagne experts to taste and evaluate grower champagnes. The panelists enthusiastically endorsed the wines or as the magazine stated, “Grower Champagnes get thumbs up in first Decanter panel”. One panelist went even further to describe the wines as “a refreshing change from ‘the dull conformity of the grand marques’ “.
In all, we sampled fifteen Champagnes ranging from Blanc de Blancs to Blanc de Noirs, including several rosès.
Undoubtedly, though, the highlight of the evening was Derek Whitaker of Atlantic Importing Co. pouring at Table One. But Derek wasn’t just pouring – he was conducting a class on Champagne. For each of his selections, he would discuss the grower, the cépage and with the assistance of a detailed map from The Wine Atlas would locate the estate, discuss its village location, appellation designation and the aspect of its vineyards. Not once, but continually as he poured five different Champagnes. Truly amazing! I had previously met Derek at the legendary Bueno Queso Social Club where he had been in charge of beverages. The selection he would present at each gathering of the club was always well curated and his exposition about each was captivating. He is a born wine educator. When we left, the crowd was three-deep around his table.
And it was at his table that I drank my favorite Champagne of the evening – the Billiot Brut Rosé NV. With an intriguing aroma of cherries, the wine is rich and voluptuous yet bracing. The perfect accompaniment to holiday festivities or as an antidote to overbearing holiday hoopla.
Many thanks to Federal for hosting such a fine event!