RUINART CHAMPAGNE BLANC DE BLANCS
“The thing about champagne, you say, unfoiling the cork, unwinding the wire restraint, is that is the ultimate associative object. Every time you open a bottle of champagne, it’s a celebration, so there’s no better way of starting a celebration than opening a bottle of champagne. Every time you sip it, you’re sipping from all those other celebrations. The joy accumulates over time.” …. David Levithan (American Writer).
With an average retail price of $70 U.S., (though you can find it, occasionally in the $50s), I’ll concede this is not my everyday Champagne, albeit my favorite. Ruinart is the oldest established Champagne house, exclusively producing champagne since 1729. This “Blanc de Blancs” (white of white) is 100% Chardonnay. Champagne, however, IS WINE and it presents itself, as does other wine, in many forms. “Blanc de Noirs” (White of Black – white wine from red grapes) can be a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, or simply Pinot Noir. It may come as vintage or as a blend of several years (non-vintage). And then there is the dosage – the measurement of sweetness injected into the wine after disgorgement that determines its finish as an unsweet to sweet dessert wine with gradients in-between. So, while I must admit this Ruinart Blanc De Blancs is, for me, a special occasion wine, it is so only because of its price and my economic status. Many Champagnes cost less (though, for me, few deliver more).
The point being, it is wrong to categorize Champagne (mind lock it) as celebration wine. With all the styles in which Champagne may present itself, one could easily serve different styles of Champagne throughout each course of a grand meal: from the aperitif to and including dessert just as you do with wine. It’s Champagne’s association with celebration that has stunted its sales growth here, limited its appreciation and given rise to that horrid image of pop, cheer and laugh as the wine foams out of the bottle and then gets served.
In fact, Champagne’s natural acidity makes it a natural for food pairing. Try a rose with salmon. Try a Blanc de Blancs with chicken (even fried), oysters, creamy cheeses, shellfish, linguine with white clam sauce, caviar and appetizers containing caviar, salty foods and dishes made with cream sauces, steamed, fried or grilled seafood (as long as the sauce is not overpowering).
I recently enjoyed this wine with a “crab fest” of steamed King Crab Legs and Dungeness crab clusters, grilled shrimp, saffron dusted scallops (a mistake) and a spinach soufflé.
SO WHY SHOULD YOU ENJOY THIS WINE?
To begin, Ruinart opens with a soft pssst, not a loud pop – the mark of well-made Champagne (be certain to chill any bottle so as to reduce the pressure when opening). Pour this luminous, glistening Champagne – the color of golden straw – into the glass and notice that the mousse is not aggressive. Such excessiveness – for me – just gets in the way. No, everything about this Champagne is finessed. Bubbles are extremely fine and shockingly persistent, carrying to the glass’s rim all the aroma and palate pleasing tastes one could hope for.
The unique chalkiness of the soil that these Chardonnay vines grow in and the cool climate of the area assure perfect expression of the acidity in these grapes from Ruinart’s estate vineyards in Sillery and Brimont (the ancestral home of the Ruinart family) and from premiers crus only in the Cote des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims. Using only the best of recent vintages, these are blended with 20-25% reserve wines.
Ruinart maintains chalk quarries deep underground the city of Reims where the wine rests after first sitting on its lees for four years after the second fermentation. The result is a crisp but rounded and creamy wine that is a study in elegance. Malolactic conversion provides rich creaminess to the mouthfeel, but the wine remains crisp and cleansing. For a Champagne, it is surprisingly full bodied, while yet being lightened by its citrus character and delicate mousse kept fresh with the most persistent of very fine bubbles. On the nose: hints of toast, honey, butterscotch and almond play with notes of white flower and green apple. The palate delights in brioche, lemon crème, and hazelnut. Lychee adds an exotic touch. While apparent, none of these flavors are brutish, instead they are suggested. A hint of cantaloupe? The fruit emerges through the sharp acidity which, itself, is opposed by amazing creaminess.
Other tasters refer to poached white peach, lemon meringue pie, angel food cake, butter cookie, lemon peel hints and jasmine. Different words, I think, for essentially the same experience. All appreciate the minerality in the finish of this wine.
If you still believe that Champagne is fit only for celebrating occasions, perhaps you’ll begin to consider that Champagne can make any occasion special and any meal an occasion.
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Ruinart, founded by Nicolas Ruinart in the Champagne region in the city of Reims in 1729, is now owned by luxury goods conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Moet Hennessy).
James Suckling 93
Wine Spectator: 92
Wine Enthusiast: 92
Robert Parker: 90
Munis Vini 2014: Gold
Munis Vini 2015: Silver
Munis Vini 2016: Gold
Producer: Champagne Ruinart ruinart.com
Imported By: Moet Hennessy USA, Inc. (NY, NY)
Dosage: 8g (Brut)