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Friday, May 11, 2012

An Evening of Vintage Veuve Clicquot with Winemaker Pierre Casenave!

The Lovely Lineup!
Vintage Champagne. 

This is definitely one of my favorite word combinations of all time. As a bona fide Bubbly Girl I was thrilled to receive an invitation to an exclusive winemaker dinner featuring vintage offerings of Veuve Clicquot Champagne. Let's just say it didn't take me long to accept!

Pierre Casenave, Moi & Don Derocher
The dinner took place at one of my favorite wine venues in South Florida, the Via Luna Wine Room at The Ritz Carlton, Fort Lauderdale presided over by the dapper, yet down to earth Sommelier in Residence, Don Derocher. Our special guest for the evening was Pierre Casenave, winemaker for Veuve Cliquot since 2008, who expertly guided us through the five featured vintages. Ritz Carlton Chef de Cuisine Christian Clair, also from Champagne as luck would have it, created delicious dishes to complement each wine.

Madame Clicquot at the Champagne House in Reims, France
While many people know Veuve Clicquot for their signature "Yellow Label" Brut bottling, there is quite a bit of historical significance behind this Champagne House which was founded by Philippe Clicquot in 1772. The House actually gave rise to one of the first businesswomen in history when Madame Clicquot (née Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin) was widowed at the age of 27 and took over the family business in 1805. During her life she made many contributions to the history of Champagne including the production of the first rosé champagne, the production of the first vintage champagne in 1810, and the development of the riddling table in 1816. The Champagnes of the House still reflect Madame Clicquot's penchant for Pinot Noir, Veuve Clicquot's signature grape.

Our tasting began with the 1978 Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé whose color was a fusion of copper and salmon pink with a faint bead of bubbles tracing its way to the surface. This 34-year old wine had aromas of stewed strawberry and hazelnut with conspicuous oxidative notes; it was almost Port-like in nature. Casenave pointed out that the wine's tertiary flavors might lead you to believe the wine was aged in oak although no oak was used in its production. Chef Clair prepared Shaved Prosciutto di Parma with Roasted Eggplant and Ciabatta Crostini to pair with this wine, which harmonized particularly well with the roasted eggplant.

Next was the 1985 Veuve Cliquot Brut Rosé which was an interesting contrast to the '78. The '85 was a bright salmon pink with hints of copper and an active bead. This wine had lovely, subtle aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry and spice and seemed much fresher and younger than you might guess given its age. It also had a crisp, food friendly acidity and paired wonderfully with Diver Scallops with Forest Mushroom Risotto and White Truffle Oil. The flavors of the rosé synergized especially well with the truffle notes! Casenave used the comparison of the '78 and the '85 to illustrate the distinct personality of every vintage.
Our third bubbly of the evening was the 1993 Veuve Cliquot "Gold Label" Brut which was pale gold in color with a vibrant bead. It had a delightful toasty, yeasty nose and flavors of citrus, toasted brioche, hazelnut and spice. This wine was rich and complex with lovely structure. It was paired with Seared Branzino Filet with Rosemary Polenta Cake and Tomato Caper Vinaigrette and the nuttiness of the wine beautifully highlighted the flavor and texture of the fish. 

Next was the House's tête de cuvée, the 1998 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame. In contrast to the '93 "Gold Label" Brut's richness, the '98 La Grande Dame was very delicate with aromas and flavors of white flowers, citrus, toast and minerals. It was pure and poised and exceptionally elegant. Casenave explained the first vintage of La Grande Dame was created in 1972 to celebrate the House's bicentennial and as a tribute to Madame Clicquot. While the Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Garlic Puree, Baby Carrots and Cipollini Onions accompanying the wine was delicious, I was secretly craving the simple, elegant flavors of lobster with drawn butter.

Our final wine of the evening was the 1998 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Rosé. This wine had a gorgeous, deep raspberry hue and perfumey aromas of juicy red berries, vanilla and cassis. The enticing flavors of ripe raspberry, black currant and spice were delightful and while this wine was somewhat opulent, it demonstrated remarkable balance. I didn't know whether to dab some behind my ears or drink it - so I did what any bubbly-loving girl would do: both! This fabulous rosé paired beautifully with Chef Clair's Strawberry Bavarois with Strawberry Mint Salsa and Fresh Whipped Cream.

Cheers to Don, Christian and the team at The Ritz Carlton for a most enjoyable evening! If you have the chance to stop by the Via Luna Wine Room, be sure to make the acquaintance of Sommelier Don Derocher and request a tour of his fabulous Wine Vault. 



  1. Stephanie -- Enjoyed your recap on the splendor of the evening!

  2. An amazing evening (and super photo of you, Stephanie!) and I loved reading about Madame Clicquot.


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