As far as influential people in the history of Champagne go, perhaps none had a larger impact than Nicolas Ruinart. He was the first person to sell the bubbly libation as magic-in-a-bottle back in 1729. His long line of successors perfected this creation and its marketing, and today this colorful history is told at their stunning chateau in Reims — as Gary Westby and I were delighted to discover.
As one of the prized properties of LVMH, today Ruinart is a bastion of French culture and style, and there was no shortage of stunning art pieces on display, including this table by Maarten Baas, called “Le Bouquet de Champagne.”
As we headed towards the underground chalk cellars, we walked past the disgorgement line for one of their champagnes which was in an unrecognizable green bottle. It turned out to be a cuvée only sold on the European market. I was able to get a shot of the frozen sediment just before disgorgement.
There was a certain humbling effect in heading further underground, into the chalk mines created by the Romans millennia ago. There aren’t too many products available that are the cumulative product of so much work and history, of which Ruinart’s champagne line is the perfect representation.
We sat down to taste with Caroline Fiot, the assistant winemaker for Ruinart,. Caroline explained that the Ruinart wines are created in a reductive style that minimizes any contact with oxygen during its creation. This puts an emphasis on freshness and balance, and they prefer Chardonnay for its natural manifestation of these qualities. A pneumatic grape press is used for the softest extraction of juice possible, and temperature-controlled vats help keep temperatures low during fermentation, increasing the wine’s aromatic expression. They even use a thinner bottleneck to decrease the amount of air in the bottle during aging.
The Ruinart Blanc de Blancs is one of our best selling. It is made from fruit from the Montagne de Reims and the Cotes de Blancs. The current release is based on the 2014 vintage, with 25% reserve wines from 2012 and ’13. It is focused and balanced, with bright flavors of lemon, lychee, and guava, with a roundness on the palate that pairs perfectly with its reductive style. A hint of ginger makes it absolutely perfect for sushi.
The Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2006 is 100% Grand Cru, 2/3 from the Cotes de Blancs, 1/3 from the Montagne de Reims, and is aged nine years sur lie. They’ve only made 24 vintage Blanc de Blancs since 1959 — only producing them in exceptional vintages. 2006 was a richer, more-ample vintage, and it is well represented by this cuvée. It has rich meyer lemon, green apple, linden flavors with notes of almonds and plenty of toasty brioche. It would be the perfect pairing for cod with a creamy sauce.
Ruinart was the first house to make a rosé champagne, and today Ruinart Rosé is among the world’s most prestigious. It is currently made from 45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir, based on the 2014 vintage with reserves from ’12 and ’13. It has a very floral nose with strawberry, cherry, cola berry, great minerals and just a hint of toast. It has nice silky roundness and delicious weight on the mid palate followed by a light, very long-lasting finish.
The Dom Ruinart Rosé 2004 is also 100% Grand Cru and spends an astounding 11 years aging on its lees. It is made using the same blend as the Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, but add 19% red wine from Grand Cru Pinot Noir. It has a more linear, sharper focus than the 2006. It is very expressive on the nose, with notes of raspberries, cherries and wild strawberries, and a wonderful chalky texture and subtle toast. It has a very rich, long lasting, savory finish with dried flowers and a hint of smoke.
If you’re looking for the perfect pairing with your next high-caliber meal experience, be sure to check out the Ruinart