Battle of the Champs

L.C. Prestance
Maison Vendome
All photos by Trish Beesley
To kick off the 2011 Holiday Season, I was invited to small, intimate tasting of three Champagnes at Toca restaurant, located in the Ritz Carlton Hotel.  My friend John Carlo Meli who runs Natural Vines wine agency, was showcasing a new Champagne contender to rival the big names of Dom and Cristal.  Not that you ever need a purpose to open a bottle of Champagne since it's fine anytime! The purpose of this tasting was to taste the three Champagnes blindly with Master Sommelier John Szabo. He would ultimately decide how this newbie would place amongst the three contenders.  As a blogger, I was fortunate to have also been invited along with the beautiful Angela Aiello from iYellow Wine Club.  I'm not used to tasting bubbly at 11:30 am but I could get used to it.

The battle is on!
The contestants:

Moet et Chandon 2002 Dom Perignon $229.95

Maison Vendome NV Champagne LC Prestance Grand Cru
Blanc de Blancs $350.00

Louis Roederer 2004 Cristal $286.95

I've never done a blind tasting of Champagne before so this was going to be fun. When they were all poured, I took a sniff of each one for an initial overview. When you're dealing with these types of wines, they're all good. I'd be happy to have any one of these in my glass at any given time. This tasting was to discover the subtle differences between each of these Champagnes. When you start getting up in this price category of Champagne, it really is those subtle differences that make them stand apart.

JC of Natural Vines
Well, I guessed them all correctly! My one clue was the Cristal since I've had that before. Those small, fine and very persistant bubbles is what gave me the tip. Blindly, my favourite was the Dom Perignon. It's funny because us girls preferred the Dom while the men preferred the Vendome! We had Taylor Thompson, wine director at the Ritz try them blindly afterwards and he was aboard the Prestance train as well. I mean, all of these wines were excellent! It just boils down to personal taste of those subtleties. The L.C. Prestance, made with 100% Chardonnay grapes, had a lot of baked apple and brioche notes with excellent weight where the Dom was just slightly more reserved. It was a tough one.

Myself, JC and John Szabo
I was very excited to meet John Szabo and watch him in action. With his laptop on the table, he made his way through each of the wines, sniffing, sipping, spitting and typing. I was watching him with such curiosity and wondering what was going through his mind.

L.C. Prestance Champagne
John Carlo and I sat there looking at eachother wondering if we were allowed to quietly chat or were we to sit there in silence while John constructed his tasting notes. I started to make my way through the flight in front of me. I don't know how John Szabo does this. There's a big difference between tasting and drinking. I know some of you may laugh but wine tasting is really hard work! Especially when you have to give each sample 100% focus while maintaining objective.  He's constantly tasting hundreds of wines a month. He's one of the main critics on Wine Align and his reviews are often featured also in the bi-weekly Vintages publication put out by the LCBO with newly released products.

Love the packaging!
Also available in black!

"Maison Vendome, House of Luxury and Creation, has created L.C. Prestance, the first Haute Couture Champagnes."

Maison Vendome is the official Champagne of the Cannes Film Festival. I think this was as close as I was going to get to brush elbows with the beautiful people of Cannes. The packaging of this Champagne is unlike anything I've seen before. There's a beautiful thick soft cover encasing the bottle that's a piece of art in itself. The first 1000 bottles of each collection have a glittering bow-tie attached with more than 150 diamond-cut crystals that can be worn.

Prestance (n.f): French word meaning "Presence".
Person or object looking elegant, noble and imposing.

If Maison Vendome ever wants me to spin at 
the Cannes Film Festival, I'm available. :)

Sure I'll take another!
John Szabo at work
To read John Szabo's article on this event, you'll find it on the Wine Align website. It's a great read that also includes detailed tasting notes on each wine sampled. Maison Vendome's L.C. Prestance was the winner of the day. John Szabo scored it 96. Wow! Fantastic.

The champagne gang!
Myself, JC and Angela

All photographs used in this post are by Trish Beesley of Trish Beeley Photography
Thanks to John Carlo (JC) Meli of Natural Vines for putting this great tasting together (and for bringing our lovely contestants Dom, Cristal and Prestance). Also a big thanks to Taylor Thompson of Toca for letting us use the venue.

To find Maison Vendome on Facebook:!/pages/Maison-Vendome/207592029267832

To follow Maison Vendome on Twitter: I thought this article was fitting to end 2011...with some fizz! Wishing you all a wonderful New Year's celebration and looking forward to wonderful wines in 2012. Remember, celebrate well but celebrate responsibly.