I am not one of those people who think enjoying champagne is all in the tasting… I think there is a champagne magic factor at play. Champagne and the houses (or maisons in French) all have history and stories to tell, which I happily admit influences my decision about what I’ll drink.
The cynical might call it marketing, I like to think of it more as magic. So I am going to share some ‘champagne magic’ about 10 houses I love dearly and see if it sways you!
The main champagne magic for Pol Roger lies in the simple fact that it remains the only house in Champagne to hand-riddle every bottle of champagne in its cellars. And I can’t help but think a little bit of that care and tenderness finds its way into the wine.
Other magic moments from Pol Roger include:
- Pol Roger was the champagne of choice at Harry and Meghan AND Kate and Will’s royal weddings… the girls have class.
- Pol Roger was the favourite champagne of Sir Winston Churchill! As brash and gruff and blunt as the British PM was, he was said to have had 42,000 bottles of Pol Roger champagne opened in his lifetime. Pol Roger have even named their stunning cuvée de prestige, the Sir Winston Churchill, after the war-time Prime Minister.
Ruinart’s main champagne magic is that it is the oldest champagne house in the region!
- Nicolas Ruinart started his first account ledger devoted to “wine with bubbles” on September 1st 1729, which serves as the birth certificate for the first Champagne House ever created.
- The first bottles of “wine with bubbles” produced were actually intended as gifts for Nicolas Ruinart’s clients who purchased cloth and fabric.
- But in 1735, Maison Ruinart abandoned the cloth trade to concentrate on the burgeoning champagne trade. This became Nicolas’s sole occupation and growth was exponential with 170 bottles sold in 1730, 3,000 bottles in 1731, 36,000 in 1761, and onwards.
If ever there was a house with magic, Veuve Clicquot’s was started with the iconic and legendary Madame Clicquot, known as ‘La Grande Dame de la Champagne’, who was a true pioneer in Champagne.
- She married François Clicquot, son of the founder of the Maison Clicquot, who was passionate about champagne… but he died in 1805, leaving Madame Clicquot to take the reins of the family house. A woman in business was pretty much unheard of… and so the magic began!
- La Grande Dame invented the art of riddling and created the first ever blend of rosé champagne… and this year rosé turns 200!
- She was born in 1777 and lived to be 88!
- To honour Madame Clicquot, the house created The Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award in 1972, to recognise exceptional female entrepreneurs.
The secret to the Bolly magic lies in its vineyards, which are home to the oldest vines in Champagne.
- In the early 20th century, Champagne was pretty much wiped out by phylloxera… only three plots owned by Bollinger were ‘magically’ spared. Sadly, in 2005 one of those three plots succumbed to the virus leaving just two original plots in all of Champagne – the Chaudes Terres and Clos St Jacques, in Aÿ (I visited them both on my trip).
- Vines in these two remaining plots are grown in the traditional way, and 100% worked by hand and sometimes with the help of a cart-horse.
- An extremely rare wine is produced from these plots… for the most recent vintage, the 2006 Vieilles Vignes Françaises, only 3,300 numbered bottles were produced.
- And then there is the Bolly-Bond connection, with Bolly featuring in 14 Bond films… read my full post here
Moet & Chandon
Moët & Chandon may well be the granddaddy of champagne magic! There is little doubt in my mind that Moët & Chandon is the most recognised champagne brand on the planet and the house credits Jean-Remy Moët, grandson of founder Claude Moët, as being the man who introduced champagne to the world.
- I love this quote about Jean-Remy Moët… “Much like his champagnes, when Monsieur Moët enters the room, boredom disappears.” (sounds like magic to me!)
- Moet also lays claim to some heavy-hitting magical champagne traditions like…
- Pioneering sabering of bottles and using champagne to christen ships. Legend has it that Napoleon and his troops invented the tradition of sabering to open bottles of Moët to celebrate victory.
- In 1967, when Dan Gurney was handed the Jeroboam of Moët & Chandon after winning the Le Mans race, he used the bottle like a firehose, deliberately spraying champagne over the guests, establishing a new victory tradition
- Creating the first champagne tower, now used at parties as the ultimate symbol of glamour!
The champagne magic for Piper-Heidsieck is linked to the famous women who have loved their wines.
- Marie Antoinette was the first brand ambassador for Piper Heidsieck (or Heidsieck & Cie as it was known at the time)
- In 1953 Marilyn Monroe allegedly said … “I go to bed with a few drops and Chanel No 5 and I wake up each morning to a glass of Piper-Hiedsieck, it warms me up.”
- Piper-Heidsieck has a special connection to movies. It is the champagne poured at the Oscars and the Cannes Film Festival and it has been popped in hundreds of movies over time!
The magic of Mumm is less in its history and more in its modern thinking and marketing brilliance!
- Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man and mag-nificent athelete, has been appointed as CEO (Chief Entertainment Officer) for G.H. Mumm
- In more magic moves, Mumm has collab’ed with David Guetta, and sky-dived a champagne delivery to the 2016 Melbourne Cup!
- And perhaps the most modern magic of all, the house lays claim to the first digitally connected champagne bottle, bringing the physical and digital worlds together. This special bottle had an RFID chip and sensor so when the cork was released, a message automatically directed the club lighting to spotlight the table where the bottle was popped. See it in action here
A little more traditional, the Taittinger magic comes from being fully family owned, rare for the big Maisons today.
- It’s a relatively young brand, despite the centuries of history associated with its location. The house was bought by Pierre Taittinger in 1932, but the family voted to sell it in 2005, before Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger fought to buy back the family business in 2006. Together with his daughter Vitale and son Clovis, they run the house today.
- The Saint Nicaise hill, where the maison is located, has history dating back 18 centuries including the Saint Nicaise Abbey. The Taittinger cellars are located in the ruins of the Abbey of Saint-Nicaise, built in the thirteenth century in Gallo-Roman chalk pits dating from the fourth century.
Louis Roederer’s champagne magic dates back to 1876, when it was the first house to make a prestige champagne with its Cristal.
- Initially created for Tsar Alexander II, the Cristal bottles all had a rare (and infamous) flat base.
- True story…the Tsar was rather paranoid and feared a threat to his life could be concealed in a punt of the bottles so he demanded a re-design.
- And to appease the extreme luxe tastes of the Tsar, the original bottles for the Tsar were made from real crystal! Not surprisingly, modesty has since prevailed and Cristal is now sold in clear glass bottles. The bottles are wrapped in gold foil to protect the delicate wine from light.
And finally, the Krug magic stems from the incredible Krug Grande Cuvée which is a magical blend of around 120 wines, from the three grape varieties, from ten or more different vintages with a high percentage of reserve wines which you can detect instantly (between 30 and 50%).
Every bottle of Krug has a unique ID printed on the label. You can enter this label at www.krug.com and discover the story behind your champagne including when it was disgorged (received its cork), the exact blend, the oldest and youngest vintages in the blend and any seasonal challenges.
And there is one more way to feel the champagne magic
If you have a hardened heart and think you can sniff marketing BS at 100 paces, then your last (and possibly your best!) chance to feel the champagne magic is to pop a bottle, take a sip and wait for the tingle in your tastebuds and a warm flush to come over you. And if you can’t feel that… then give the rest of the bottle to someone who deserves it!!!!!!
As always I want to know what you think… can you taste the magic? What did you think? If you’re tasting it, post a pic and tag @bubbleandflute or #bubbleandflute or #champagnefan
Bubble & Flute promotes the responsible consumption of alcohol for individuals of legal drinking age in their country.