As a bonus to the Veuve Clicquot “recipe” which I will be assembling for you all this week, I thought I’d also offer up a bit of instant gratification — good form for a Monday, I figure. During my time with VC, the other bloggers and I had plenty of opportunities to try plenty of different kinds of champagne. I found myself battling with the dichotomy of objectively great champagne (the stuff that’s known to be great) and subjectively great champagne (the stuff I liked regardless of its reputation) — a philosophical debacle of monumental proportions, right? At times, it was a bit overwhelmed (coming to mind immediately is the dizzy feeling I had at the luncheon we had at the Verzy Mansion right after our first morning tasting event with master Oenologist Cyril Brun)… but when in Reims, one must make the most of each flute of champagne laid in front of them, right?

After the jump are my three favorites, in no particular order. For each, I’ve included a link to explanations by the experts at Veuve Clicquot, as well my various (humble) musings…

2002 Vintage Rich.

VC’s take (link). JS’s take: It saddens me that the 2002 Vintage Rich is not available to purchase in the U.S. market, because it was perhaps the most interesting of the champagnes I tried in Reims–it displayed, at once, both amazing liveliness (effervescence) as well as a smooth, elegant consistency when paired with salty, briny shellfish and caviar, which brought out the deeper flavors in the food. It delighted just as much when paired with less spicy, more rich foods, adding complexity and a certain sweet spiciness of its own. I found that throughout an eight course meal, the 2002 Rich provided a balanced yet dynamic ride for your taste buds — a ride I will not soon forget.

1998 La Grande Dame.

VC’s take (link). JS’s take: I first tried the 98 La Grande Dame at the Plaza Athénée Hotel during our first night in Paris for our welcoming aperitif. You should have seen the smiles on the faces of the Veuve Clicquot team when the bottles were opened (I think it might be an unspoken favorite within the organization). Until then, I had not experienced what truly velvety, fine bubbles felt like in my mouth –t he initial feeling was happy, almost giddy, mirroring quite well my feelings at the time — I thought a perfect way to start the week off with new friends. Continuing to drink, I started to notice the back end of La Grande Dame a little more (understand that my palate was fresh to France at this point). It had incredible structure — floral notes, fruity notes, hints of tobacco and herbs, and — as I learned the following day — that certain mineral character that indicates strong aging potential. The 1998 La Grand Dame is one you’ll want to keep around for a while — break it out when your first born graduates high school.

1978 Rosé Reserve.

VC’s take (link). JS’s take: I, like most Americans, am new to rosé. Suffice to say, I may never again in my life taste and experience a rosé like the 1978 Reserve. It was perhaps the most complex champagne from start to finish that I tried during my time in France. Looking back to the notes I took during the tasting, I seemed to have been sufficiently satisfied with a one word explanation: WOW! I believe Cyril Brun (our teacher) said that he believes the 78 Rosé Reserve to be the best Rosé of the 20th Century – -I’ll leave that determination up to him, the expert. But what I would have done at that moment to have a bit of white truffle risotto at the table to really allow that amazing character to emerge.