Over the last couple of months, we conducted
The Great Champagne Challenge of 2018
in our dining room. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t casual, hell, no, it was damn serious, it was a true challenge. Just look at all those bottles!
We don’t actually drink champagne often. Mostly on St. Sylvestre, as New Year’s Eve is called around here, maybe to celebrate a birthday or to welcome houseguests. Let’s say we’re special occasion champagne sippers. It all began with an idea earlier this summer. Keeping the keyword “special” in mind, we asked ourselves, shouldn’t we have our own special house champagne? A champagne we both enjoy equally and which would become “our” signature champagne at C2L, our home in Cognac* called Chez Deux Leons.
[* We already have two House Cognacs, but that’s a different story 😉]
One of those two lions in our house promptly began exhaustive online research into champagne in general, facts and terminology, and the range of champagnes available in our price range. By the time his birthday rolled around in mid-July, the first selection of champagne candidates had arrived.
Before ever tasting the champagnes, it was already quite a challenge to select our tasting candidates. If I tell you that there are over one hundred Champagne Houses, plus nearly 20 000 small growers or vignerons, you’ll understand the inherent difficulties. Nevertheless, Barry prevailed digging through this considerable mountain of bottles on offer to assemble our roster of candidates.
We made sure to apply stringent rules to our champagne tasting, striving for the highest possible rate of neutrality. Tasting three champagnes in each test, we recorded private notes on appearance, bouquet, and taste of each champagne. We also assigned a rating between 1 – 10 to each candidate for the position of C2D House Champagne.
Barry would open the bottles and while I waited in the kitchen, he poured two glasses per bottle, recording which champagne he assigned to the A, B, and C glasses. Then we switched rooms and I would rearrange the paired glasses to my 1, 2, and 3 tasting sequence.
I know that this picture shows our first tasting event because for all following tests we used wine glasses for ease of bouquet evaluations.
In the group shown just below, I want to point out a champagne-making rarety. The wine in the center bottle, Les Murgiers, was made by the House Francis Boulard and Daughter, Fille rather than the usual Fils, son. Nice.
We staged nine tasting events for our Great Champagne Challange which included half bottles whenever possible. But some champagnes were not available in a smaller size and we had to endure the hardship of actually drinking all that bubbly.
We did find out, though, that champagne, if well stoppered with a good quality champagne cork [above, black & below, yellow] may remain drinkable for a couple of nights.
Originally there were only two rosé champagnes included in the challenge. To preserve anonymity, we had to order a third one and test this group separately.
We amassed quite a collection champagne corks and of muselets, the wire cages holding the corks in the bottles against the internal pressure. Now let us proceed to the all-important question, which champagne made the podium?
Adding in the numbers for the rosés, the top four champagnes included a second Boulard!
With their test score of 19 points each, the Philipponnat Royale Réserve Non-Dosé [no sugar added] and Francis Boulard et Fille ‘Les Murgiers’ shared first place. The other Boulard champagne, the Francis Boulard Rosé earned third place honors with 18.5 points. Our fourth place finisher was a huge surprise to us. With a respectable 18 points, it out-scored all the big-names like Moët & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Deutz, and Bollinger among others. Instead, we encountered an old friend in fourth place. The Voirin-Desmoulins champagne is a well-priced recommendation at the E.Leclerc supermarket chain, where we have been buying it ever since we discovered it there two or three years ago!
We haven’t quite settled on the ultimate contender for C2L House Champagne yet. Personally, I’m leaning toward Les Murgiers, naturally!