Guest Blog from Owner, Nadia Zilkha: Champagne Day 2

TASTE, TASTE, TASTE was Eric’s mantra today after we visited the Champagne Houses of Billecart-Salmon and Krug. What better way for a winemaker and his team to figure out exactly what’s going on with his wines in the casks or barrel. In wine, as in life, we know where we want to go but we may need to make adjustments along the way. The winemaker’s intended approach to creating the best wine is automatically influenced by the big difference in vintage. Just as the weather can affect the size and type of the harvest, the progress of the lots in different tanks or barrels can vary even for grapes from the same block. Hence the need for constant and consistent tasting.

Francois Domi the “chef de cave” at Billecart-Salmon tastes his wines every week when they’re aging in their casks to see how the individual lots are progressing. He uses this tool to figure out how he will create his final blend, not mixing all the lots in at once but retaining the subtle character of the individual fruit from different vineyards by blending them after they’ve aged in their tanks (450 of them, all of various sizes on two levels in their cellar). Krug has 400 stainless steel tanks, many that are actually double stacked, i.e. one tank with two sections. I loved the fact that they were able to disgorge and bottle using their 3 km of cellar to hold the wines until they were ready for the market. There was so much activity in their cellar today that we could really experience work in action and had to move out of the way often to let carts filled with wine bottles go by.

Krug also prides itself on its ability to select from over 120 individually plots in its signature Krug Grande Cuvée. From the original time in 20 year old oak barrels to its time developing in tanks, the wines are always separate and constantly monitored for taste before they’re finally assembled together in March, not all of them making the cut. They’re then aged for at least another 6 years in the bottle before resurfacing after their secondary fermentation, their riddling, their washing and labeling.

Krug recently created an app for the iPad and iPhone which indicates how many different wines were blended into each Cuvée and how old some of the reserve wines were. We shared a bottle with the ID 312 036. a blend of over 120 grapes spanning 15 years. A wine geek’s dream and delicious.

One has to respect the intense attention to detail required in this laborious process of making champagne. The wines we tasted were created by teams that tasted their wines frequently, that understood the character of individual lots, and that recognized the flavor profile they were aiming for. And that was impressive. Onto Burgundy for more appointments tomorrow!

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