Learn how to taste champagne like a pro with the help of Madame Nicole Moncuit and her daughter Valerie Charpentier, the owners and winemakers at Champagne Pierre Moncuit, a Grand Cru producer of Blanc de Blancs, or Chardonnay based wines, in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, France.
STEP 1: Chill your bottles in an ice bath for about 20 minutes.
This is enough to cool the wine without making it too cold, which preserves the bubbles. However, keep in mind that the cold temperature can reduce your ability to taste and smell the aromas and flavors in the wine. Never open a bottle of Champagne that is warm! As the warm gas expands and propels the cork across the room, they are leaving your Champagne, never to return! Nicole and Valerie invested years to deliver this bottle to you in perfect condition. Allowing the bottle to chill before opening ensures that you will enjoy their work as intended!
STEP 2: Savor the first sip without a plan.
While it is a myth that the Benedictine Monk, Dom Perignon actually said “I taste the stars”, there is a very good reason that quote is evoked so often. Champagne hits our mouths unlike any other beverage in the world. Enjoy!
STEP 3: The stars in your glass may be electrifying, but they are only part of the story.
Take a second sip of Champagne and allow your body temperature to warm the liquid in your mouth. This is where the magic happens. As the wine warms up, flavors and aromas will emerge in much the same way that a tomato sauce on the stove will fill the kitchen as it comes to a slow boil. In your mouth, this happens within five to ten seconds. This is where the layers of a great Champagne are revealed you will notice the bubbles feel differently when the leave solution in your mouth. From a prickle, they grow and expand. Move the wine around and let it coat your mouth. Slowly breathe through your nose to notice the aromas before swallowing. Feel the bubbles as they leave the wine. Is it pleasant? Too sharp? Not bubbly enough?
As a taste of Champagne Pierre Moncuit warms in your mouth, new flavors and aromas will emerge. Citrus, lemon zest and flavors akin to more tart green apples on the front of the wine give way to richer, broader notes thanks to the extensive lees aging. Here you might notice a texture akin to that of aged parmesan cheese. Chardonnay, especially lees aged Chardonnay, has been found to have higher amounts of compounds responsible for umami, the fifth taste that refers to “pleasant and savory” sensations. Without taking a moment to hold the wine in your mouth, you will miss this experience.
This is where Champagne Pierre Moncuit excels. Valerie shares her mother’s extraordinary patience and she lets her wines develop on the lees in their cellars for years, allowing the flavors to mature and deepen. Non-Vintage wines age for 3 to 4 years, while vintage wines, and the rare Cuvee Nicole Moncuit made from 100+ year old vines, can age for 15 years or more before release.
STEP 4: One component we have not addressed is the aroma of the Champagne in the glass.
Just like a still wine, the aromas of Champagne change as it sits in your glass and warms slightly. At first the flavors will be leaner, more like citrus and green apple, but as the wine warms you are likely to see the same notes of parmesan cheese and ripe orchard fruits emerge. Pay equal attention to these changes as to those happening in your mouth. This is Grand Cru Champagne at it’s finest.
At Champagne Pierre Moncuit, they drink Champagne slowly to appreciate the complexity and depth of the wine. When you taste Champagne in this manner, it moves from refreshing to profound. Try it yourself and let us know how it works!
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PS: We take no responsibility for your disappointment if you attempt this with something less than Champagne Pierre Moncuit. This test reveals the greatness of special wines that are balanced and made with exceptional care. It also reveals all the flaws of lesser wines; sweetness becomes intolerable, acidity can spike, off flavors are exaggerated… Caveat emptor.