I celebrated a birthday recently. It wasn’t a milestone but after enduring a pandemic, all birthdays should be celebrated with a little something extra. “Why not order a bottle of champagne for lunch?” I asked. After all, it would pair well with the Pacific oysters and Crab Louie that would soon follow. Like picking a racehorse, the name spoke to me. As I took the first crisp sip, I knew we picked a winner.
Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.
Rodolphe Peters is the winemaker and head of the historic Pierre Peters Champagne estate. The family’s operation was founded in 1919 and is located in the Côte des Blancs region, sourcing Chardonnay grapes within the grand cru of Les Mesnil-sur-Oger. These grapes benefit from the chalk that lies beneath the region’s thin layer of topsoil.
The chalk is comprised of calcite formed from the shells of ancient marine microorganisms. Being highly porous, it acts as a reservoir that provides the vines with a steady supply of water even when the summers are dry. The chalk draws in water through capillary action and the effort required to reach this water puts the vines under just enough stress during growing season to achieve that delicate balance of ripeness, acidity, and minerality.
As grower producers, Pierre Péters maintains full control of the champagne from vine to glass. Only 5% of the champagne imported into the U.S. is considered “grower” or RM on the label, which stands for Récoltant Manipulant. This certifies that at least 95% of the fruit was grown by the estate. The large majority of champagne imported into the U.S. comes from the “Maisons,” designated by the title Négociant Manipulant or (NM). These champagne houses purchase up to 94% of their grapes from external growers.
When small winemaking families employ the arts of best practice and vinify responsibly, they inevitably produce the best bubbles. In the glass, the pale straw color highlights the tiny bubbles that create a substantial mousse. Aromas of biscuit, citrus, and honeysuckle meet the nose while the pleasant crispness of green apple, pear, and a slight presence of chalk with mouth-watering acidity linger on the finish.
“We have a lot of acidity and a lot of minerality in all our wines,” says Rodolphe Péters. “We want to build the structure of our wines around both acidity and minerality, not acidity alone.” Affordably priced at around $50 per 750ml, this sparkler outperforms the usual suspects. It’s time to celebrate.