Heavyweight Pedigree Creates Ethereal Bubblies
There are no precedents for this scenario: Three cousins from the famed wine powerhouse Barons de Rothschild (Baron Benjamin de Rothschild from Château Clarke, Baron Eric de Rothschild of Château Lafite and Baroness Philippine and her son Philippe Sereys de Rothschild of Château Mouton) join forces to launch a champagne under their golden family name: Champagne Barons de Rothschild.
It’s hard to know what to expect from this family that owns two of the five first-growth Bordeaux chateaux. One ponders: Will this be a “big” champagne in terms of style? How will the Rothschilds price and position their new line? How will consumers react to such a bold move?
I recently had the luxury of tasting all three of the Rothschild champagnes at home, so I had a lot of time to assess, ponder and process. I tasted without being too obsessed with the name behind the wines; my objective was just to assess the quality and taste profiles of the three bottles: blanc de blancs, brut and rosé. I read up on the Rothschild backstory for this project only after the tasting.
What about the champagne? Contrary to what one would expect, the three wines express an ethereal and austere style. Knowing that the wines are made at a champagne house in Vertus, at the southern tip of the Côte des Blancs, explains the Rothschilds’ penchant to highlight chardonnay in these wines. The brut, which is the least austere of the three wines, already is a heavy 60 percent chardonnay. Even the rosé is 85 percent chardonnay from the prized grand cru vineyards in Avize, Cramant and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. I was especially intrigued by the particularly subtle rosé.
I did a pairing experiment I call the “Apple pie test.” I tasted all three wines with a slice of apple pie to see how well they matched up with the tangy, sweet and buttery notes of the pie. Well, the brut tasted completely bland next to the pie, and the blanc de blancs did no harm but no service either. The rosé, however, maintained its own grace and character (fragrant strawberry coupled with young lemons) while still enhancing the spicy-sweet apples. It’s never easy to find a good champagne to pair with dessert, so I was very pleased by my experiment.
These non-vintage Rothschild champagnes might be ethereal in style, but their price tags are meant for barons. They start at $100 and go up!