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Blue-Chip Bubbly

Ring in the millennium with these five prestige champagnes (if you can find them)
Jim Gordon
From the Print Edition:
Vince McMahon, Nov/Dec 99

(continued from page 2)

One reason it's not hard to find is that Moët & Chandon makes Cuvee Dom Perignon (as it's officially known) in quantities estimated at hundreds of thousands of cases. Another explanation is that Moët has worked tirelessly for more than 60 years to promote and distribute Dom, especially in the United States. The third and most important reason is that when someone buys and drinks a bottle of Dom, they're not disappointed. The quality is always very good, as in the current 1992 vintage ($110), and sometimes spectacular, as in the 1988 and 1982 vintages. People remember the name and return for more.

The name Dom Perignon refers to a Benedictine monk, Pierre Perignon, who worked in the wine cellars of a church-owned vineyard in Champagne 300 years ago. Legend has it Perignon single-handedly invented Champagne, but this has been discredited. It is clear, however, that Perignon did much to perfect the method of making high-quality sparkling wines from the rather thin table wines of the Champagne district.

Moët & Chandon has owned the property where Perignon worked, the Abbey of Hautvillers, for more than a hundred years. In 1936, Moët began selling the 1921 vintage of what until then had been a private bottling of first-class Champagne and called it Dom Perignon. Today, Pinot Noir grapes from the abbey property still go into Dom Perignon, which cellar master Richard Geoffroy typically blends from about 55 percent Chardonnay and 45 percent Pinot Noir.

Dom Perignon's taste is as distinctive as its antique-looking bottle and label. Along with lively fruit flavors, fine bubbles and full body, Dom boasts an assertive aroma that reminds one of toasted bread and wet earth (it's much better than you think). This aroma is the wine's signature, as individual as the enterprising monk for whom it is named.


Much of Roederer's success is undoubtedly due to Cristal. Roederer, founded in 1776, created Cristal in 1876 for exclusive use at the court of Czar Alexander II of Russia.

Not widely known by the public, Cristal is nevertheless coveted by Champagne lovers. It fetches even higher prices than Dom. Besides those $2,000 bottles of 1990 Cristal, the current vintage widely available is the 1993. This Cristal is one of the best Champagnes from a very good but not great year, and retails for $170 a bottle. The 1990, however, ranks with past great years of Cristal, including 1985, 1982 and 1979.

The taste of Cristal--the blend is slightly more than half Pinot Noir, with the rest Chardonnay--combines generous flavors with a graceful texture. Its style is not overly powerful, but it layers in nuances of citrus fruit, minerals, even ginger, that linger on the finish. As with any wine type, the length and nature of the aftertaste are what separate the good from the grand.

Roederer is one of the few major Champagne houses that own a majority of their vineyards. Its holdings of 450 acres supply 75 percent of the company's output, including all the grapes for Cristal, which gives Roederer complete control over the quality of the prestige cuvée from the vine to the bottling line.


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