23 December 2010

sacred monsters of champagne: julhès paris, 75010

G quizzing the Krug rep, who sported a leather biker jacket under his blazer. He said it was due to the cold. 

Some disconnected observations from the "Montres Sacrès du Champagne"* tasting Nicolas Julhès hosted the other weekend at Julhès Paris, his wine-and-foodstuffs wonderland near Strasbourg St. Denis:

1. Krug tastes quite a bit like fish roe.

I mean this in a beamingly positive sense; this is a wine that's pretty universally impossible to hate on. But it's fishy, with a dewy light corporeality to it, something translucent and ever-so-slightly saline. I say "fish roe" and not "caviar" first because the flavor itself is definitely closer to something from Yo! Sushi, and second because it's just too boorishly facile to come out with a line like "Champagne tastes like caviar." It's like saying "Wow, this alligator skin feels like cashmere."

Anyway, I've heard it said many times that Krug is heavenly with sushi. That makes perfect sense.

2. Cristal is totally unpleasant.

Image swiped from lifeisreallybeautiful.com. Really.

I'm not just saying this because of the whole 'company run by idiotic racists' thing. It's actually very fiberglassy and industrial somehow. The structure is there, it's well thought-out, it has some impact; it just doesn't feel as though it were meant to be drunk.

Image swiped from artinfo.com.

It's sad to consider that Cristal is in the same stratospheric price bracket as Krug and still gets purchased. But it's downright laughable when you remember that the Louis Roederer house's basic "Brut Premier" is perfectly tasty, with a more harmonious bubble structure and less overt architectural tastes, for a fraction of the price.

3. Drappier are to Champagne what Sparks are to rock music.

I say this apropos of Drappier's remarkable (for Champagne) willingness to experiment, and the house's general high-toned finesse. In previous posts I've raved about their "Brut Nature Sans Soufre" bottling, which is a bold sulfurless variation on their vaguely unusual "Brut Nature" zero-dosage bottling. The other day at Julhès Paris their Paris rep Guillaume introduced me to their "Quattuor" bottling, which they call a "Blanc de Quatre Blancs," on account of it derives from Chardonnay supplemented with Pinot Blanc and two near-forgotten rare Champagne varietals, Arbanne and Pinot Meslier.

Not in a million years could I tell you what specifically the Arbanne and the Pinot Meslier add to the blend. This is where I become a strict utilitarian, as far as wine-buying goes, and suggest that, even beyond the wine's high quality, its crisp structure, its engaging herbal scrubbiness, it's worth buying simply because it is a Champagne equipped with an interesting factoid. Name the last time anyone has every said anything interesting about a Champagne at a party.

4. Piper-Heidsieck really lay it on thick.

I've already ranted about how their Viktor & Rolf collabo glassware makes me violently ill. But just feast your eyes on this rare bottle:

Just in case you weren't sufficiently impressed by the cobweb of gold schmutz, they go ahead and spell it out for you. (I am by now convinced this house is still aiming for solely for the Russian market.) The wine itself isn't awful; it shares a kind of chemical-core with the houses' basic blends, but does have some nice lingering ginger tones. I had this helpfully pointed out to me by their rep in attendance, a Long Island native who was actually very nice and knowledgeable, but who launched into the following paraphrased spiel as I took my first sip:
'Imagine you are alighting from a golden canoe upon the cool misty shores of an enchanted eastern land where the very air you breathe is scented with ginger and musk and orange oil and you are surrounded by tattooed virgins who chant your name and caress your forearms inviting you to taste with them the exotic fruits contained in the mystic garden of the castle of the despotic regime who are hosting a ball that night and -' 
I had to beg her to stop because the Rare Millisieme 1999 went up my nose.

* A great name, not least because it makes you want to slay them.

Julhès Paris
54, rue Faubourg Saint Denis
75010 PARIS
Metro: Strasbourg St. Denis
Tel: 01 44 83 96 30

Related Links:

Champagne 101 tasting at Julhès Paris, 75010

An overview on Drappier @ FranceMagazine
Eric Asimov's very helpful blog post on grower Champagnes @ NYTimes

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