International Champagne Week

As many of you know, International Champagne Day (ICD) was a couple of weeks ago, created, I guess, as a reason to pop open a bottle of bubbly, but we already put away more than our fair share of champagne in the Drunken Cyclist house. Yes, we pop bottles for special occasions, but we also consider Tuesdays (or Thursdays, for that matter) to be a rather special event. In fact, pretty much any day that we spend above ground worthy of popping a bottle of champagne.

Well that particular week, there were plenty of opportunities to pop a few corks, not just ICD….

#1: Anniversary

Generally speaking, I am not one to forget important dates since, after all, they are just numbers (and math is one of my three passions that I list at the top of the page). Thus, I knew for a while that my anniversary was approaching. I had planned to make my wife dinner, open a nice bottle of champagne, and have an overall nice evening.

Well, things, as usual, did not go exactly as I planned….

IMG_33141999 Cattier Champagne Brut Premier Cru Chigny-lès-Roses: Retail $75. I suck. Really. I suck. Today was my anniversary and I had thought about cooking a “special” dinner for her. Instead, she insisted that we cook the leftover beef from the barbecue the day before; she was adamant that we cook the Korean Kalbi. OK. So I went down and got a bottle of vintage champagne to have after the boys went to bed. Then I forgot to put it in the fridge. No problem. I put it in the freezer. Then I forgot to take it out. Luckily, it was not frozen, barely. No problem. I poured the wine, and took a sip–good, but still very cold. As I tried to warm it up in my hands, it gradually lost a lot of what was left of its sparkle. Oh well, I guess there is always next year. Unrated.

#2: International Champagne Day

I have been writing about wine for almost three years now and as I get more “experience” I gradually “learn” a bit. Well, it was not until this year that I “learned” that International Champagne Day was usually the same week as my anniversary. I am not really sure why it took me so long to figure this out–perhaps it is because, as I stated, we drink a lot of champagne and therefore I really never took notice, or, more simply, I am just a dope.

Well, this ICD, I pulled out what I thought was going to be a bit of a heavy hitter. My mistake? I bought these wines from the state-run Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) store, which is notorious for buying damaged wine and, even worse, storing wine in terrible conditions (yes I have finally learned and rarely shop at the PLCB anymore, but given that it is technically the only place where a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania can legally buy wine….).

1999 Bollinger Champagne La Grande Année: Retail $120. I popped this open with some friends for International Champagne Day this past week. As many of you know, I am a big champagne fan, particularly vintage champagnes with a bit of age on them. There is a rumor out there that champagne does not age, which is perpetuated by those in Champagne that claim that the wine is ready on release. While this might be true for Non-vintage wines (although I am not ceding the argument by any means), it is decidedly not true when it comes to vintage bubbles. Vintage champagne is not made every year (although in the last decade or so, thanks to global climate change, it certainly seems that way)–it is only made in the best years and therefore, in my opinion (although it is certainly not uniquely mine), vintage champagne can age just like any other fine wine. Well, for what ever reason, it does not seem as though this wine has aged all that well. The wine had great vintage champagne flavors of toasted bread and a bit of sherry, but there was very little sparkle, which diminished the experience for the others (although honestly, not that much for me). Unrated.

#3: A Visit from Good Friends

After two rather unsuccessful bottles of champagne, some might have shied away from popping a third in the same week. Not me. Some good friends who had moved away a couple of years ago were back in town for the night and we needed to pop a few corks. As is our want, we start with some bubbles. They brought over a very nice bottle of Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut (a domestic sparkler from the Anderson Valley in California), which we sipped while waiting for my wife to return from a work event. Seeing that the Roederer had no hope of lasting through the appetizers (they also brought some lovely caviar as well), I checked my Cellar Tracker and saw that I had one bottle of Pommery left in the cellar. Now, champagne lovers will not necessarily start doing cartwheels at the mention of a Pommery Non-Vintage Brut, but I feel strongly that it is one of the better values to be had in Champagne, and a Drunken Cyclist house favorite.

IMG_3359So I went down to the cellar to grab the bottle, and much to my surprise, there was not one bottle–there were two! For those of you that don’t have some sort of cellar management system, this might not seem like that big of a deal. Well, I can assure you, at least in this house, that it is far more common to go down looking for a bottle that is in the inventory, only to find out that it is long since gone.

So I was rather happy about it–kind of like putting on an old pair of jeans and finding $40 in the pocket.

NV Pommery Champagne Brut Royal: Retail $40. Great vibrant sparkle, tropical notes with a bit of fresh-baked bread. Vibrant acidity and long finish. Paired well with the Russian caviar. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.



About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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12 Responses to International Champagne Week

  1. mrsugarbears says:

    Yummy! I love that you and your wife commonly drink champagne. One more reason to love your blog!


  2. Haha, I was expecting another misstep by the third bottle- glad one worked out well!


  3. And there it is Champagne! Agreed Champagne ages well…especially the better made multi-vintage bottling (Krug Grand Reserve come to mind if you’ve got the coin and at the entry level Louis Roederer Brut Premier, which is also $40) And I’m with you, I’m cool if the Champagne loses a bit of bubbles. It’s still a great wine!


    • I really think that the sparkle confuses most people—they neglect to evaluate a champagne like a wine since there are all those bubbles in there! Without a doubt, Champagne produces some of the finest wines on the planet!


  4. Jeff, are you sure it is not International Champagne Century for you.


  5. The Anniversary Champagne sounds like it could have been pretty amazing. Wow, were you tired? I do those sorts of things when I am. I can really get behind Champagne week and would gladly pop a cork every week. Love your reviews.


  6. Antoine says:

    In the UK, cyclists are definitely more in to beer! There are so many very good champagne made by small producers in the champagne region…


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