JetBlue, you’re currently 0 for 2; 3 hours on the tarmac at JFK on the way out and straight up cancelled on the way back – Northeast weather advisory or was it simply an undersold flight?
Luckily, I had Ed McCarthy, Mary Ewing-Mulligan (of Wine for Dummies fame among a myriad of other wine-related accomplishments) and 8 Tête de Cuvée Champagnes to take my mind off air travel.
Tête de Cuvée is also referred to as Prestige Cuvée and in layman’s terms, it’s the pride and joy of the Champagne house that made it. The best grapes from the best vineyard sites (almost always Grand and Premier Cru) spend more time on their lees (dead yeast cells – recall the magic of the second fermentation) and while no minimum aging laws exist, most have spent at least 5 years in the bottle prior to release.
All of this yields a complex Champagne, with a fine mousse (bubbles) and developed aromas (think mushrooms in a good way), with an ability to age that most other Champagnes on the market lack. What’s not to love? I can think of two things – they’re difficult to come by and they don’t come cheap. I’ve listed the average retail price after each bottle, as given by the instructors.
This was by far the most impressive line-up I’ve tasted and shame on the organizers for making this a morning session because it was terribly difficult to spit.
- Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne, 2002 $210-250. The third oldest house in Champagne, these guys have been at it since 1834. This was a blanc de blanc (100% Chardonnay) with very crisp acidity, a lemony nose and a palate with peach, coffee and mocha notes.
- Perrier-Jouet, Fleur de Champagne Rosé 2002 $300. According to Ed, rosés don’t last as long as other vintage Champagnes (this was news to me) and can also seem sweeter because they often have more Pinot Noir (more fruit-forward). Just so you know, the “t” is pronounced and pair-e-yay-jew-et is a pretty Champange with stewed strawberry and mushroom notes.
- Pommery Cuvée Louis, 1998 $190-200. This was earthy, yeasty, yet delicate and ready to drink.
- Gosset, Celebris, 1998 $130-150. Pronounced “go-say”, this is produced by another branch of the Cointreau Family. It was rich and concentrated with floral, honey and butter notes.
- Mumm, Rene Lalou, 1998 $140-150. This is the first vintage released by this house since the 1980s (they faced various difficulties, including being purchased by Seagram’s). This Champagne was elegant and harmonious, not showing much age, even though it was over 10 years old.
- Deutz, Cuvée William Deutz, 1998 $145-150. Believe it or not, the company pronounces it “duhtz”. Lots of dulce de leche notes, this Champagne was ready to drink.
- Charles Heidsieck, Blanc de Millenaires, 1995 $115. Notes of truffles and brioche, this was the best value of the line up.
- Henriot, Cuvée des Enchanteleurs, 1995 $145-165. Believe it or not, this is their current release and it tastes young. It’s mouth-watering and dry, with notes of almonds on the nose.
Needless to say, this was a good day.