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Champagne is for when you are depressed or feeling decadent, ecstatic, optimistic, or fatalistic, or celebrating a business deal, a joyous occasion, or simply another day of life.

It glides down the throat with quail’s eggs, enhances shucked oysters, and is not bad with bacon and eggs either.

It’s exceptionally convivial, and knows how to behave whether the occasion is a tender tete-a-tete or a rip-roaring party, but you can give a bottle of champagne as a present anytime to anyone without a second thought!

         Everybody knows champagne, and only few dislike it!

         Harrod’s in London stocks a good selection., as does Sherry Lehmann in New York. Even the L C B O (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) offers a selection as good as any, and in many cases better than most wine merchants in North America.

         Champagne connoisseurs know that not all champagnes are created equal! Some are better than others, and yet others specialize in the crème de la crème. Each champagne house (producer) has a style and tries to blend for consistency. Most champagne is created from a judicious blend of two black grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and the white Chardonnay. Blenders mix these grapes in varying proportions to achieve the house style.

         The character of some champagnes is distinctly “black grape” such as Bollinger, Veuve Cliquot-Ponsardin, Roederer; others like Laurent Perrier and Pommery are lighter and consist mainly of Chardonnay. Some champagnes like Pol Roger and Perrier-Jouet,are known for their fruitiness; Moet et Chandon is straightforward and also the market leader.

         Then there are champagnes made entirely from Chardonnay. They are called Blanc de Blancs and may be considered the ultimate aperitif wines, ethereal, exciting and lively. .Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs is the epitome of that elusive quality people call finesse, delicacy and refinement.

         Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs is impressive for its distinct taste, texture and aging ability.

         Champagnes may or may not be vintage dated. When the growing season is favourable and ripening takes place to the total satisfaction of growers and winemakers, a vintage is declared. Vintage dated champagnes cost more; taste and age better and occur tree to four times a decade.

         Rose champagnes may be produced by employing Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier with a short maceration period or blending the finished Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. This is a decision the management of each house makes according to fruit quality There are rich champagnes with full body, ample taste and are off dry. Then there is doux (sweet) or brut (dry) or brut sauvage (as nature makes it=extra dry).

         Bollinger markets an R D (recemenet degorge=recently disgorged) champagne that exudes freshness other champagnes cannot match.

         Krug is extremely well made champagne from selected vineyards, barrel fermented and aged before blending. The same is true for Salon de Mesnil, a small house that makes only vintage champagne.

         In all cases, remember Magnums cellar much better and longer than regular or split bottles. The bigger the champagne bottle the longer you can cellar it. There are a number of champagne bottle sizes the largest being a Nabbuchadnezar containing 15 litres, the equivalent of 20 regular bottles.

What is the best champagne then? It depends on your taste, the occasion, and your wallet.

         You can drink champagne at breakfast, between meals, as an aperitif, with your lunch or dinner, when you are sad, or happy, to celebrate a joyous occasion, when lacking appetite or thirsty.

Here are a few recommended houses and brands:
Bollinger, A Gratien, Charles Heidsieck, Krug, Dom Perignon (a brand of Moet et Chandon), Krug, Dom Ruinart, Salon de Mesnil, Veuve Cliquot-Ponsardin, Perrier-Jouet, Taittinger, Laurent Perrier, Piper-Heidsieck, Pommery, Roederer, Canard-Duchene, Pol Roger, Deutz, de Venoge, De Castellane, Ayala, Mercier, Billecart et Salmon.

Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu

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