feeling bubbly: visiting Bouzy with Andre Clouet

Nothing screams with more vibrancy during the Holiday season than my yearning for bubbles.  The sommelier will call out from the kitchen, “well what are you in the mood for?” and I nearly fall out of my chair with a sparkly response of “bubbles.”

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At our house, this almost always means Champagne, and since the sommelier has taken on this new role with Classified Wines over the past year, admittedly, we have been quite spoiled.  Time and time again, we have confessed to our love for André Clouet, a small family based producer based out of the Grand Cru village of Bouzy. This village (pronounced “Boozy”) is especially known for still red wine made from Pinot Noir, partially due to the warmer conditions, and therefore, riper grapes. While most popular Champagnes are from the same domaine region of Reims, Bouzy stands out because of the quality of the Pinot Noir produced.

André Clouet’s 20 acres of vineyards lie on the central slopes of Bouzy and Ambonnay, all Grand Cru sites in the Montagne de Reims.  The family is known for fastidiousness, and dates back to the 17th century, where the original ancestor who lived in the village house was a printer to Louis XV’s royal Court at Versailles.  In 1911, the great-grandfather of Jean-Francois Clouet created an elaborate ancien regime label as homage to the printer, which was even once painted by Edouard Manet. This label now appears on the Andre Clouet 1911.

photo (9)(picture taken by the sommelier April 2013.  pictured: Jean-Francois Clouet.)

There are three Clouet Champagnes that are recommended here, although there are a few more available through retail.  At any one time, you can say that all of them are my favorite.  Because they all are.

André Clouet Grand Cru Rose NV.  Mild salmon in color, with aromas of raspberries and strawberries, and mingled with drier, toasty complexity. Blended with 8% still Bouzy Rouge.  Excellent for pairing with all kinds of foods, especially charcuterie, shellfish, or cheeses.  Retails for $50.  (locally found at Specs)

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André Clouet Grand Reserve Brut NV.  100% Grand Cru estate-bottled Bouzy Pinot Noir aged six years, with aromas of strawberry and flavors of wheat and stone.   A touch of cream on the palate to complete the finish.  Pairs well with oysters, creamy pastas, poultry, and rich seafood.  Retails for $40.  (locally found at Specs)

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André Clouet 1911.  This Champagne reads like a novel.  Firstly, it is all also 100% Pinot Noir.  What makes this bottle so very special, however, is that it is a blend of the Clouet’s ten best lieux-dits in Bouzy, and normally from three consecutive vintages, generally half from the most recent year, and a quarter each from the preceding two.  In addition, the bottles are always hand riddled; this means someone literally turns the bottles every few days.  For the most recent release of Clouet 1911, disgorged in 2012, the Grand Cru Cuvee is a Pinot Noir blend of 1995 (25%), 1996 (50%), and 1997 (25%).  The color is gold, and the aromas are blossomy, with hints of honeysuckle and peach.  Drinks marvelously with raw oysters or steamed shellfish.  The climax? Clouet only blends 1,911 bottles per production, so if you see it on a menu or shelf, grab it. It will soon be gone.

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The Holidays are notorious for the clinking of glasses, sharing of joys, and wishing of cheer.  You might as well do it with a good glass of Champagne.  Cheers from our family to yours.  May you ring in the New Year with plenty of vibrant sparkle.

Be well. Live well. Drink well.

Champagne: it’s what’s for brunch, lunch, and… back porch dinners.

So, after many months of confusing signals from Mother Nature, summer has arrived. Once faced with daily blustery northern winds, the heat has finally penetrated our universe, and beads of sweat begin to form on my brow just thinking about leaving the house. Let’s admit the obvious: these evenings are perfect for porch sitting and grill tending. Our Sunday mornings are born for brunches. What better to soothe my ache for a refreshing summer beverage than beautiful, vibrant, sparkling Champagne?

Commonly, we will drink Champagne at Sunday brunch, not only because the effervescent nature can soothe any morning aches, but the smooth, creamy character of these wines pair beautifully with eggs, fruit, and toast. Now the majority of vintages are made with Pinot Noir, but you can also find those fermented from Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, or blends of different grapes. The Monterey in San Antonio has various selections of bubbles, but specifically, a Premier Cru (1ER) NV Godme Pere et Fils Brut Reserve, a beautiful blend with notes of berries, lemon curd, and toast, which pairs foodgasmically with the Fried Green Tomatoes, Oysters and Eggs, or even Buttermilk Pancakes. Find it at Specs for $37.

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At lunch or dinner, we frequently will start with Champagne, as the mass of appetizers will cry out from the menu, calling to us for the opportunity to plate next to a bubbling crystal glass. At L’Olivier in Montrose, recently named the best French Restaurant in Houston, country pate, lobster salad, and beef tartar have all made it to our table. And while they have an extensive and very well noted wine list, the sommelier and I covet the area of Bouzy within Champagne, so Andre Clouet Brut Silver (100% Pinot Noir) it is. A sommelier favorite, the dry personality of the style of wine also produces an earthy minerality, with citrus and green apple notes, and a crisp finish. An excellent Champagne, which you find at Specs for $42.

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The humidity in South Texas can be a killer, and a nice change from the usual beer is definitely welcomed. As of late, I have been a big fan of a Champagne fermented from 100% Pinot Meunier grapes; in the past, this grape has been widely used for blending, but recently, the small black variety has been gaining recognition as having a unique flavor. Having been noted as the “unacknowledged grape”, Pinot Meunier is made to be drunk young, when the distinctive grapes are lush and soft. One of the better producers are Martine and Pascal Serveaux, hailing from the Passy-Sur-Marne region of France. The Serveaux Fils Blanc de Noirs is made exclusively from Pinot Meunier, and is harvested by the small family run winery, which only runs around 30 acres. Slightly pinkish with hints of golden color, traces of aniseed and hay, and a bouquet of redcurrants and strawberry, the wine produces a light bubbly goodness that tingles in my mouth, and is perfect for porch observed Texas sunsets, coupled with grilled salmon and asparagus. Find the Serveaux Fils Blanc de Noirs at Specs for $60.

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What else can we ask for, other than a refreshing, vivacious way to celebrate our days? Let’s face it: whether you drink Champagne at brunch or dinner, inside or outside, this wine is a perfect bubbly component to summer. Cheers!