The Perils of Blind Tasting Champagne

Nine years of wedded-hood pass and my wife has yet to kill me. Huzzah! To celebrate this survival milestone we pack the bags and baby and drive to a cabin. It nestles amongst the trees of Cape Lookout State Park south of Tillamook, Oregon. It has heating, a microwave, kitchen, bathroom, warm shower, bed, lights, and propane grill: all for less than most hotels. It also has this ocean view:

Ocean View Cape Lookout

Between fish and chips, cliff hikes, cheese, a lighthouse, salt, air museum, and diaper changes, my wife and I blind taste four Champagnes.

Well, blind as in wearing a blindfold while peaking.

I roughly know the house styles. I sell them. So, I bought seven she had never tried and stuck them throughout our Christmas tree. However, which four will she pick? Will my bias and expectation throw me? Also, they are 375ml splits. Some we have not sold in a decade. Will their advanced age trick us?


The APPEARANCE looks clear, medium gold, with minor fine fizz…hrm.

Moderate AROMAS and FLAVORS recall golden raisin, strawberries and cream that turn into almond, honey, wax, chamomile, caramel, pudding…basically a bit tired.

The PALATE feels dry, still citric, medium bodied, but flattening.

I think Pinot Noir leads the blend (strawberries), but its advanced age messes with me. It was very good (4 of 5), but a fresh example would show better. I guess it is either Heidsieck Monopole or Pommery.

My wife keeps the reveal until the end, but for antsy readers, this tired little bottle turns out to be Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top:

Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Champagne


Oof…Another golden, nay worse, amber-tinted bubbly, that, well, is not very bubbly.

AROMAS smell richly of poached red pear, cinnamon, vanilla bean husk, cocoa powder, apricot, and honey.

The PALATE feels soft, slightly sweet, still racily acidic, warm, medium bodied.

FLAVORS taste intensely but of stale bread, hazelnut spread, hard, with a herbal and medicinal finish of medium plus length.

Shoot!  This was clearly, once, very good Champagne from ripe fruit. But now it feels edgy, dying, even heat-damaged. (3 of 5). I am lost. I would drink Number 1 over it, only to find….

Perrier Jouet Fleur de Champagne 2000

Well dang: 2000 vintage, Perrier Jouet Fleur de Champagne Belle Epoque: the most expensive and oldest bottle in the bunch.

Bah! On to…


APPEARANCES look light in lemon color with rapid mixed-sized fizz: finally a freshie!

AROMAS smell moderately of delicate lemon rind, after the sulfur blows off, leading into rosy, golden, fresh pear.

The PALATE feels off dry, crisp, with medium plus acidity and a soft texture.

FLAVORS continue this pleasant, delicate ride, with white pear at the core and almond-filled croissant framing a medium length.

Number 3 is simple, delicate, pleasing Champagne that is thankfully fresh (4 of 5). My first guess is Laurent Perrier, second Pol Roger (picking two is kinda cheating, but rules are meant to be broken) and….

Pol Roger Champagne


APPEARANCES look a mild, clear lemon color with a heady white fizz: fresh!

AROMAS of petrol and sulfur burn off and morph into honeysuckle, brioche, creme brûlée.

PALATE feels off dry, with enough acidity but it remains soft, with rounded, Pinot-like sweetness.

FLAVORS mix brioche, croissant, with soft melon, vanilla icing, and lemon juice of medium length.

This is simple, a bit soft, but solidly “Champagne” enough. Very Good, 4 of 5. I guess Mumm, and…Ta Da!

Mumm Champagne

Finally, the odd coin flip went my way.

Sure, I knew ample going into this. I also hedged my bets with multiple guesses. But, it proves that half bottles and variable age can turn an icon into a conundrum.  The sixteen year old Perrier Jouet retained quality and intensity but had lost attributes that likely made it once outstanding.

We have three to go. Check back for how they fare. For now, we enjoy the mighty, wind-swept Oregon Coast.

Oregon Coast




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2 Responses to The Perils of Blind Tasting Champagne

  1. talkavino says:

    I don’t think anything can age in half-bottles. If it would be a regular bottle of Perrier-Jouet I think it would hold up much better…

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