le tasting room

Loire wine tours, tastings, day trips from Paris & short breaks organised by experienced English wine trade professionals.

Friday, 12 November 2010

A Tale of Two Magnums

We've had the opportunity of sharing a couple of Magnums over the past couple of weeks that merit a mention.

We opened the Dom Perignon Vintage 1982 with family to celebrate my father's 80th birthday. I'm not sure how long it had been hidden away in dad's cellar but we couldn't think of a better time to open it. Dom Perignon was the famous Benedictine monk who is often accredited with 'inventing' Champagne although it is for his development of blending that we should be grateful as it was the English who in fact had more to do with it's development as a commercial product.

The Cuvée was launched in 1921 as their top of the range Champagne and has a price tag to go with it so expectation was high. Any wine that is kept for a long time changes and develops in bottle - only top quality wines can expect to withstand long ageing and come out the other side all the better for it.

So, what was it like? Well, it was tricky to open - the cork was very dry and despite our best efforts to open the bottle in the correct manner (twist the bottle not the cork) we didn't manage that. After several minutes of gently teasing the cork up it broke in two so we had to revert to using a tradtional waiter's friend. With a lively bottle of Champagne this is something I would absolutely not recommend as the pressure in the bottle is still likely to be very high. As this wine was nearly 30 years old we decided this was a risk we could take.

To the wine - it was a delight. A delicate caramel colour with very fine bubbles that continued to rise up the glass. Hints of toast, hazlenut, butter biscuits and stewed apple came through on the nose with just a hint of oxidation (which we love). A gentle elegant glass of Champagne, softer on the palate due to it's fine mousse and truly delicious. Worth it? Yes, as this was a special occasion. This wine is tasting fabulous and is by no means past its sell by date yet. A lovely surprise and one that we will remember for a long time.

We opened the second magnum on Tuesday while entertaining a group here in the cellar. 22 people from around France joined us for an introduction to Loire valley wines so we thought it fitting to offer a glass of Crémant to start off the morning.

A more humble wine you might say - certainly not in the league of Dom Perignon 82. We bought several magnums from Gratien & Meyer about 3 years ago and this was a good opportunity to open a couple. A lot younger as well - vintage 1999 - a mere 11 years ago. A blend of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay - would it live up to expectation? Well, it was delicious. Am I being unfair comparing the two wines? No, not at all - the Crémant too was slightly caramel in colour showing its age. It too had complex aromas on the nose, green apple, biscuit, nuts and toast. Maybe a little less intense and shorter on the finish than the Dom Perignon but a real treat. The mousse was still lively, the wine a pleasure to drink.

Fine and rare wines will always cost more than their actual worth and it's a privilege to taste them from time to time. Lower cost alternatives can also be fabulously good value as in this case. I enjoyed them both - the one that will stick in the memory? The Dom Perignon of course. But, if I had to pay my own money - I know where the Euros would go.


  1. What an interesting post Cathy, I loved reading your views on the two wines. With christmas in mind, I was thinking of getting something a bit more expensive for Christmas, do you have any recommendations?

  2. Hi Sarah
    Thanks - it was a real treat to try the DP 82. Never drink better wine than when in the UK with my dad. Re Christmas - drop me an email at le tasting room with ideas for your menus etc and what kind of thing you are after and I'll give it some thought.