Wine of the Week

Four Rothschilds = One Great Champagne


If you are three Rothschild cousins and you decide to put your name on a bottle of Champagne, it had better be pretty good fizz.

This is exactly what Baron Benjamin de Rothschild of Château Clarke, Baron Eric of Château Lafite, and Baroness Philippine, along with her son Philippe Sereys de Rothschild of Château Mouton, have done.

They have made three Champagnes that are just now appearing in the American market, and in a shrewd move that is sure to enhance the brand’s image of exclusivity, distribution is limited, at least initially, to a few select retailers and restaurants in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. No discount supermarket bubbly here.

I recently sat down with Philippe in New York to taste the Champagnes and learn how this unusual collaboration came about.

“Quite a long time ago we were always thinking, ‘let’s try and do a Champagne.’ But how do we do it? Do we buy a little maison du champagne? Do we buy a brand? Do we buy both? How do we do it? So we never really went forward, until a couple of years ago we started going in the region to see what people were doing. However surprising it is, the Champagne region was very unknown to us, so we sort of tiptoed in and finally spotted a place that was the closest to what we wanted: Cave Vertus.”

Deciding that they didn’t have the expertise to make Champagne from scratch, they contracted with producer Cave Vertus to make wine for them to their specifications.

The result is three cuvées, all nonvintage: a Brut, a Rosé, and a Blanc de Blancs. I have chosen as this week’s wine of the week the Champagne Barons de Rothschild Brut ($100) because, while all three are super, the Brut (which means it is a drier wine with less residual sugar) is the most accessible at the moment. The other two need a bit more time.

The Brut is rich, with an aromatic nutty quality, beautiful balance, grace, and polish. There’s a multi-hued intricacy one rarely encounters in a nonvintage Champagne.

This is revealing. Although officially a simple nonvintage Champagne, the Brut is, in reality, a tête de cuvée, given the percentage of reserve wines in the blend, the length of time the wine has been aged before being released, and most importantly, the flavor.

When they embarked on the venture, the cousins had no preconceived idea what kind of Champagne they wanted to make, other than that “we knew we were going to put our name on it, so we had to go for the highest possible quality”

And in this they have succeeded admirably.

To find this wine near you try Wine Searcher.

When to Drink: Now, and for the next 10 years
Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary
Food Pairing: Sushi
Grapes: 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and Meunier
Appellation: Champagne
Region: Champagne
Country: France
Price: $100
Availability: Limited

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Nick_passmore
Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to Forbes.com, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town & Country, the Robb Report, Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently artisanal editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes a twice monthly column to BusinessWeek.com. He is also a judge at the annual Critics’ Challenge wine competition.

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