April 20 2011
Lucia van der Post
Champagne, as even the most recondite wine buff will tell you, is a tricky wine when it comes to fully appreciating its subtleties and complexities. I have, in my time, run tastings for some of the most distinguished palates in the land and seen them baffled and confused. If they struggle, what hope is there for the rest of us? Which is why I’m enchanted by the efforts of the champagne house of Ruinart to help us all understand how to assess its aromas and discover just what it is that conspires to make champagne such a beguiling drink.
Its cellar master, Frédéric Panaiotis, has had the brilliant idea of devising a tasting box which is designed to guide the eager fan of the House of Ruinart through the main aromas that make up its bouquet. The box has been devised with the help of a renowned “nose” at International Flavors & Fragrances, Anne Flipo. It’s a nice little olfactory test. There are eight vials, each containing an aroma that is part of the bouquet of Ruinart blanc de blancs. In the box there are also small strips of paper which should be dipped into the vials, smelled and identified.
All these are aromas that most of us will be familiar with (pink peppercorns, jasmine, citron, pineapple, ginger and so on), and yet they aren’t all that easy to identify. The box contains a card listing 18 possible aromas, so that you can try to match each vial to one of the aromas listed; a booklet then provides the correct answers.
The idea is that after having sniffed and identified all these aromas, you then go onto the real thing – the blanc de blancs, a 100% chardonnay cuvée – and as you taste and enjoy, you tease out from it the aromas you’ve just smelled in the small vials. It’s sold as a pack containing one bottle of the Ruinart champagne and a tasting box for £85. Its fun, but it’s also seriously educational.