Monday, August 21, 2017

How to Host a Champagne Tasting At Home

How to Host a Champagne Tasting At Home
Champagne is definitely my drink of choice. It's slightly unfortunate because in certain situations, when I order bubbly, I feel a little pretentious (which I shouldn't!), it's also not available everywhere, and it's usually pricier than wine or a cocktail. 

But I LOVE carbonation. I use to have a bad diet coke habit in high school and college that I totally got rid of (I probably drink 12 a year, not even). But now, my sparkling water habit is in full gear (which I guess is 'better' than diet coke).

Anyway, I'm very into trying all different champagnes, sparkling wines, proseccos, etc. Over the years, I've tried everything from the dirt cheap to the pretty expensive. I've narrowed down my favorites to:

- Moet and Chandon Brut
- Veuve Clicquot Brut
- Chandon Brut 

While I was in Napa, it was fun to be able to taste a bunch of sparkling wines side by side. But they were (obviously) all from the same vineyard/label and I knew exactly what I was drinking when I was drinking it. For years, I have always wanted to do a blind tasting of a bunch of different labels side by side. 

I had toyed with the idea of doing it for my birthday one year, but never executed it. I thought being at the lake would be the perfect fun activity for all of us! 
champagne tasting

After executing this, I couldn't recommend it more. This was SO interesting to find out what I really thought without the influence of the labels, and it was also really interesting to see others opinions and how they totally differed from my own. No one had the same guesses and so many chose different ones as their favorites. 

I plan to definitely do this again with different labels. You can also do this with a bunch of different wines, too. I think it would be so much fun to do a cabernet sauvignon tasting- that's my favorite wine! 

We tasted 7 different labels... one is not pictured because it was a 'wild card' bottle that no one got to know the name/brand before we tasted it. 

Everyone knew the brands we were tasting (with exception of the wild card bottle) because there was no way any of us would be able to identify a brand with just taste. Our palettes are not that refined! 

The lowest priced bottle started with Trance and went all the way up to the highest priced bottle, Dom Perignon 2008. Here is the total list in price order low to high:

- Trance
- La Marca
- Chandon Brut
- Luc Belaire Brut
- Veuve Clicquot Brut
- *Wild Card* (not pictured) 
- Dom Perignon 2008 

We decided to mix it up, meaning we had everything from sparkling wine to prosecco to champagne. I think it could be really interesting to just do a champagne tasting or just do a prosecco tasting, too, to see what you like best from each category. 

In total, this wasn't a 'cheap' activity. It's costly, so if you plan it enough ahead of time, you can grab a bottle here and there if certain ones go on sale in your area. I think in total, it cost around $400 for the bottles/supplies/etc.

You'll need a glass per person per bottle. We had 8 people and 7 bottles, meaning we needed 56 glasses. We certainly didn't have 56 champagne flutes. So we got plastic shot-glass type cups. It's a much quicker clean up!

You're going to want to taste them all side by side so you can compare color, bubbles, etc. It's really interesting to see the variation in all of them, even just from sight. 

You're also going to need someone who is not participating to 'serve' you the champagne. Bailey, volunteered to do this and poured each round into the cups for us and served them to us, so we had no idea which was which. 

We all had the same sheet with 7 numbered boxes and each cup was in order left to right so we could keep everything straight. We also had three categories for everyone to guess: most expensive, cheapest, favorite. In each numbered box, everyone made notes about the color, bubbles, taste, etc. 

We also kept neutral flavored crackers and water on the table so we could cleanse our palettes when needed. 

The key to serving champagne, in my opinion, is keeping it extremely chilled. I find it's best chilled in a bucket with half ice and half water. This gets the bottle extremely chilled and will really make a difference in the way it tastes.

So here are my personal thoughts on each bottle...I'm going to keep it short because this post is already a novel! 

A few people really liked this bottle. This was my least favorite (beside the wild card, which you'll see why). It was sweet and fruity and syrupy. I personally like non-sweet and dryer when it comes to any type of wine/champagne/etc. 

La Marca
I've always said that I prefer sparkling wine and champagne over prosecco because it seems to me that there are less bubbles and they are larger bubbles making it less smooth than other options. However, I was very surprised to find out how much I loved this one (which is great news because it's only around $15 a bottle!!). I specifically wrote 'easy to drink' in my notes and that couldn't be truer. It's just an overall pleasant prosecco and I'll definitely be buying this in the future. 

Chandon Brut
This was my #1 favorite, which didn't surprise me a bit. I've always said that it's my favorite affordable sparkling wine and it can totally hold its own against pricier bottles, and even in a blind tasting, this held true with me. It's dry, flavorful, tons of small bubbles...just all around delicious.  It will continue to be my go-to at just under $20/bottle. 

Luc Belaire Brut
This was really good- but didn't jump out to me in my notes. It's a solid bottle, and not bad for the price (around $36/bottle). 

Veuve Clicquot Brut
This was my BIGGEST shocker. I buy a ton of Veuve and always always always have it on hand. This was one of my lowest rated champagnes on the entire list. I actually wrote 'fat bubbles' in comparison to a lot of the other bottles. I find that the larger the bubbles, the less 'smooth' it tastes. I also wrote 'sour', which surprised me! 

*Wild Card* : Vintage Moet and Chandon 2001
My aunt actually had this in the fridge and Callie really wanted to throw it in. She doesn't drink champagne at all and was given it as a gift and it just sat in the refrigerator. None of us knew we were being served this except for Callie and Bailey- and this bottle was SPOILED. It was SO gross. No one liked it. I can't even describe the taste, but it was nothing you ever want to drink... my notes say 'AWFUL' in all caps, ha! 

Dom Perignon 2008 
I was hoping I didn't love this because of its price. It ended up being my second favorite (second to Chandon). To me, the taste was entirely different from any other bubbly in the tasting grouping. It was very dry, almost musty in flavor (not meant to be a negative), and even strong tasting. I loved that the flavor was so strong. I'll buy this again, but only ever for a very special occasion. 

TL:DR, I guessed the most expensive and cheapest perfectly, the only two I mixed up were the La Marca Prosecco and the Veuve Clicquot which was really surprising and eye opening to me! It was cool to see that my palette was actually pretty correct most of the time. It was really interesting to see that others had totally different opinions! All in all, I definitely recommend this as a really fun group activity! 

1 comment:

Kelly said...

This sounds so fun!!!!! I would love to do one of these; maybe a bachelorette party activity?! I'm hosting one in March, will have to bookmark this!


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