Guide: 5 Champagne Bruts to Master
So we put our blindfolds on and brought on the flutes for an evening of well-mannered blind champagne tasting frivolity.
The typical season of champagne popping is behind us, although the end of winter is also worth celebrating. Our friends at Men’s Folio Singapore wanted to get better acquainted with the bubbly stuff over the festive season so they got the blindfolds out and brought on the flutes for an evening of well-mannered blind champagne tasting frivolity. We commented as we nosed and wrote, as we tasted to bring you the layperson’s guide to champagne.
G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut
What it is: Founded by three brothers Jacobus, Gottlieb, and Phillip Mumm in 1827, the House has grown to become one of the largest producers in the Champagne region. As the official sponsor of F1 racing since 2000, G.H. Mumm provides champagne bottles for podium celebrations and has since marketed itself as the champagne “created to celebrate”. With a blend of Pinot Noir (45 per cent), Chardonnay (30 per cent) and Pinot Meunier (25 per cent), the style of G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut is said to be well rounded, with a subtle balance of freshness and intensity.
What we thought about it: The bouquet opens up with light floral and white fruit notes before developing into subtle vanilla and caramel hints on the palate. All in all, it is a champagne that delivers everything you’d expect a champagne to: smooth, refreshing, with the right amount of bubbles. Having said that, it doesn’t possess any qualities that make it stand out. Comments from the panel include, “smooth”, “goes down easy” and “pleasantly average”.
What it is: In 1772, House founder, Philippe Clicquot placed an advertisement in the Gazette de France announcing that he was “founding a wine merchant business in Champagne, under the label Clicquot” and that he was offering to go to all four corners of the kingdom to take the fine taste of champagne wines to foreigners. A short lineage of just 10 cellar masters has led this quest for quality to ensure the continuity of Veuve Clicquot’s style: strength and complexity. This strength comes through in the House’s heavy use of Pinot Noir (50 to 55 per cent) for its Brut Yellow Label, giving it aggressive and forceful notes.
What we thought about it: The champagne bursts with apple aromas, which lingers long after you’ve taken the first sip. The general consensus was that there was a distinct separation of flavours such as vanilla and apple hints as well as a creamy mouthfeel. Comments from the panel include, “good but not amazing”, “wide range of elaborate flavours” and “pleasant but with a relatively short finish”.
What it is: Moët & Chandon is one of Champagne’s oldest Grandes Marques. Established in 1743 by Claude Moët, the House of Moët has extensive vineyard holdings throughout Champagne today, producing over 30 million bottles annually. Created from more than 100 different wines, this champagne is a balanced blend of 30 to 40 per cent Pinot Noir, 30 to 40 per cent Pinot Meunier and 20 to 30 per cent Chardonnay, making it very approachable with bright fruitiness and elegant maturity.
What we thought about it: The Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial boasts of strong citrus notes, but dies off almost as quickly as it bursts on to the palate. The mouthfeel had quite a bit more bite than expected, something that is probably due to, what one panellist suggested, “excessive bubbles that felt more fizzy than it should”. Due to its intense sweetness, it was agreed across the board that this would feel rather “jelak” (a term to describe being satiated by something that’s too rich) after the third glass.
Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut
What it is: Produced in the Épernay region of Champagne, and dating back to 1811, Perrier-Jouët consistently produces excellent champagnes with a style that it likes to boast – floral, stylish, and diamond-cut. Making use of its predominantly Chardonnay blend, harvested from the best plots on the Côte des Blanc, the Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut reveals itself in subtle floral and fruity fragrances that pair well with flavours of Bresse poultry, and the sweetness of vanilla notes.
What we thought about it: The general opinion of this champagne was that it was refined and balanced with fruity aromas of “peach” and “plum”. It came across as subtle wine and wasn’t, at all, bubbly, which “doesn’t give it much of a mouthfeel”. All in all, the Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut is a refined champagne that, as one panellist described quite aptly, “is like a refined, high-end tai tai who is so mysterious and complex, you can’t help but feel drawn to”.
Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut
What it is: Piper-Heidsieck Maison was founded by Florens-Louis Heidsieck in 1785 in Reims. He was a self-educated man, overcome with the incredible ambition “to make a cuvée worthy of a queen”. Over the years, Piper-Heidsieck champagne developed its identity and a reputation of being classic, structured, full-bodied, and bursting with fruity notes, as characterised by its Cuvée Brut that is composed of a majority of Pinots Noirs, incorporating more than 100 crus from around the Champagne region and Pinots Meuniers from the Grande et Petite Montagne de Reims region. The Maison has long had an association with film after first appearing in 1934’s Sons of the Desert and with Marilyn Monroe famously proclaiming to “wake up with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck”.
What we thought about it: A bold champagne with vibrant acidity and bold white fruit flavours of pear and apple. However, it is a champagne that is much drier than refreshing, something that caught the entire panel off guard given its rich golden colour and fine bubbles, which prompted one to say that, “looks can be rather deceiving”.