How far behind am I on this venue? I’m here today to tell you about a tasting from two months ago.
Good thing Terry Theise, not to mention the grower Champagnes he imports, are timeless.
And there was no doubting that this was a Terry Theise event when the master of ceremonious quaffing uttered this:
“Why are the prices [for grower and big-house Champagnes] the same? It’s PR, marketing, product placement in the latest Jennifer Anniston rom-com. Perrier-Jouet donated $400,000 in wine for the Kim Kardashian wedding. I can see the boardroom: ‘Well, we need to participate in the nuptials of a world-famous slut.’ ”
And of course, mixed in with the socio-politico-cultural observations was no small amount of wisdom about wine:
“The nice thing about wines low in alcohol is that they are high in other good things like gracefulness and transparency and acidity. … If you wanna be a boozer, don’t drink bruisers.”
And inevitably, his singular melding of the physical and metaphysical:
*[Great wine has] a consistent reiteration of certain reflections of the soil. There are components of the soils and the flavor of wines for which there is no other explanation possible. To me, the burden is on the deniers.”
Yes, Theise is a terroir guy, and it has served him well. We tasted three flights of superb “farmer fizz,” each one better than the last, while our tour guide talked about why this is “not just down-the-middle Champagne– it’s wine!” and why it has grown in 15 years from a 0.62-percent market share to 3.68 percent:
The texture: ”Champagne has beautiful flavors and in some cases intense flavors, but it’s still light on the palate.”
The chalky soil: “The Champagne chalk goes underground and over toNormandy– that’s why the apples there are so good — and to the white cliffs of Dover.”
Blenders vs. growers: “[At the big houses] so much of the wine is blended into anonymity. More consumers are tired of the uniformity of the big houses … [and] their hegemony over the Champagne business. The big guys are now aware that when they’re reading about Champagne, it’s grower Champagne.”
And a not-great trend: “A wine that has less sweetness is not more honorable or soulful or conscientious. It’s just more dry. It seems like young Champagne makers don’t want sweetness. For every one that doesn’t need sweetness there are five that do.”
Frankly, it was not easy jotting down notes while tasting wondrous wines from Jean Lallement, Larmandier-Bernier, Pierre Gimonnet and Marc Hebrart. These are singular expressions of the grapes and the growers, but mostly they’re just delicious.
They also fit in with something I’ve wondered about myself in recent months. The Twin Cities has an enormous number of swell restaurants that emphasize quality ingredients from local farmers. And while Minnesota wines are improving, it’s too early to have the “buy local” theme pervade their wine lists. But for consistency’s sake, they should be stocking as many wines from small family-owned wineries as possible.
And so should consumers who embrace this philosophy in food shopping. As Theise noted, “Conscientious people make political decisions in the market all the time. We get to make better or lesser choices with everything we do in the market.
“And with grower Champagne, it’s not only a lovely experience, but you don’t have to pay more.