After spending four and a half years in Atlanta, Georgia, I am departing to become a Longhorn – that’s right, I’ll be attending graduate school at the Red McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas! During a visit to Austin last fall I had the chance to attend my first Texas football game, and all my fellow Tarheel fans know why I felt like a bit of a traitor. And yes, I never thought I could add “burnt orange” to my alma mater color scheme…hmph. I lose there. While I’ll stay true to my Carolina blue, I suppose a little variety is nice.
I know very little about the Austin wine scene and can’t wait to explore it! In spite of my excitement, I am also incredibly sad to leave Atlanta, especially my comrades in my tasting group. To say good-bye, I hosted a tasting at mi casa, and lots of fun wine was had. The theme was burgundy, both red and white, but the stand out wine of the night was far and away a Champagne brought by fellow sipper Dennis Sullivan. He could not have come up with a better way to say good-bye.
First of all, let it be known that the Wine Genie does not drink a lot of champagne. I prefer other sparklers that are more in my price range – assuming this MBA does what it’s supposed to, this buying pattern will change in the future. Hah! And so readers, I present to you a little information on the 2000 Gaston Chiquet “Special Club.” There are two important letters on the label of this wine – RM – standing for Recoltant-Manipulant. These letters indicate that the wine is classified as a “grower champagne.” In other words, the growers make wine from their own grapes. You may be thinking “doesn’t everyone do that?” Not so much – it is common in the Champagne region (and elsewhere) for grape growers to sell their grapes to larger producers instead of bottling wines themselves.
So what makes the “Special Club” so special? The Special Club, otherwise known as Club Trésors de Champagne, is comprised of 26 Champagne producers that each make grower champagne. This group, which seems quite exclusive, seeks to represent the utmost quality in Champagne. When the Champagne region experiences a solid growing year, each of the 26 member estates are allowed to make their own cuvee and place it before a jury. After what sounds like an incredibly rigorous judging process, approved wines are allowed to go to market. Some years there are several Special Club wines; in other years there are none. When you’re buying one of these bottlings, you can be quite confident that what’s inside is good, because a series of experts, all personally invested in the wine’s success, has allowed the wine to be made available to the public. That sounds like a guarantee to me.
This Champagne was “different” from other champagnes that I’ve ever tried. When I think about Champagne, the common descriptors that immediately come to mind are yeasty and biscuity. Yes, adding a -y is acceptable for creating adjectives. The Gaston Chiquet certainly displayed yeasty notes, but had substantially more minerality than other Champagnes I’ve tried. I think this is why I liked it so much. The wine was 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. The third grape that is allowed in Champagne and often used is Pinot Meunier – this grape was not included in this wine.
Many thanks to Dennis and Melanie for making my Atlanta Wine Group good-bye so special and so fun (this tasting lasted until 1 am – and it was on a Monday – whoops!). While I know there are new and interesting things to come in Austin, this wine has made it’s mark in my memory, not only because of the Special Club designation – but from the special people in Atlanta that it represents! Cheers!