For those of you who live under a rock, in a cave, at the center of the earth, a couple of pretty Brits known as Royals plan to wed tomorrow, but wealthy attractive people, who don’t invite any of us to the party, get married every day. I’m fairly cynical and while I don’t have the words to explain how little I care about this, it seemed as good an excuse as any to have a tasting of non-vintage Champagne, including Pol Roger, the official Champagne of the Royal Wedding. So I assembled a small group of revelers, two boxes of organic strawberries (which were inexplicably less expensive than the same size package of non-organic strawberries) to accompany 3 NV Champagnes in the under $40 (pre-tax) category: Nicolas Feuillatte Blue Label Brut NV ($29.99), Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV ($34.99), and Pol Roger Reserve Brut NV ($39.99), which of course is the official Champagne of the Royal Wedding.
These retail prices reflect prices paid today at Sherry-Lehmann, one of New York‘s oldest and finest wine retailers, know largely for being deep in big Bordeaux. Historically, their prices are all over the map. In the case of the NV Pol Roger Reserve Champagne and the sadly now sold out (and quite stunning) Evening Land Pinot Noir, they have/had some the better available prices on the vile rock they call Manhattan (and certainly in the neighborhood), yet the fees for their marquee Bordeaux and Burgundy, can be considerably higher than other merchants, but the rent on Park is pretty steep. I’ve been buying wine on and off there for years (previously on Madison), going back to the days when one was able to pick up an ’86 La Mission Haut Brion for around a hundred bucks.
I am not a Champagne drinker generally. I’ve tasted many of them and I certainly have my favorites at a number of price ranges from the almost free to the borderline obscene, but the place Champagne holds in the universe of my wine consumption is as a high quality cocktail for a celebratory moment. I rarely drink more than a glass before moving on to wine sans gas. That being said, my favorite summertime brunch beverage consists of decent cava and Red Jacket Orchard Fuji Apple Juice. But on to the tasting.
Nicolas Feuillatte is primarily known for the reasonably profound Palmes d’Or, but to stay within the NV (and the price cap), the Blue Label Brut NV was the first Champagne of the evening (in line only, all bottles were opened, poured and tasted within minutes of each other). The Feuillatte has small tight bubbles, is visually pale and soft in the glass, and the palate is a touch sour, but not the least bit unpleasant. It has a nose that’s almost salty, with white peach, pear, and a hint of green apple on the palate. For under $30, this is a very nice bubbly.
Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV displays larger looser bubbles, much more apparent yeast on the nose, the sweetest of the trio, by a fair margin, and with the least discernible character. Compared to its compatriots, it’s the light beer of the bunch and gives the impression that one could suck down a pint of it and not recall many specific flavors, not to mention eventually waking with an earth-shattering headache. It’s simply an irrelevant wine at its price point, but much like it’s higher priced, hand-painted big brother, the bottle is quite attractive.
Pol Roger Reserve Brut NV, the official Champagne of the Royal Wedding, shows the smallest bubbles, has a crisp mouthfeel, and is by far the most complex palate of the evening. It was an unfortunately attractive wine and the crowd favorite, unanimously, which is a problem because I had prepared a bunch of toothy comments with which to bad-mouth the the Royal selection. But as the sharp French gentleman who sold me the wine told me this is his favorite Champagne under $40 and amongst it’s company tonight, I begrudgingly agree. Pol Roger Reserve Brut NV is a class above and a truly palate-smacking experience. Slightly more golden in color, the nose displays a balance of fruit and yeast, it’s rich and creamy with enough acidity to keep it short of over-bearing. So, they picked a nice Champagne. Bah Humbug.
*Pol Roger Champagne is being held hostage by the Royal Family of England and it must be freed! If you don’t think that’s funny and actually only clicked through because you thought you were getting free Champagne, please fee free to send hate mail. If your hate is sufficiently humorous, I’ll bring you a glass myself. Cheers!