Today marks the tenth annual Champagne Day, where wine lovers around the globe raise a glass to the quintessential wine of celebration, good cheer and toasts everywhere: Champagne. Champagne Day offers wine enthusiasts worldwide an opportunity to enjoy the sparkling wine that only comes from Champagne.
One of the most iconic Champagnes is Rare Champagne. Rare transforms the obstacles of nature, into an unrivaled Champagne. This Champagne has only been produced 10 times in its existence in “rare years”—when the weather conditions produce an exquisite cuvée.
I had the luxurious opportunity to experience back vintages of this wine during a Rare Champagne dinner at L’Appart presented by Rare’s brand ambassador Jonathan Boulangeat. Rare is a unique and profound Champagne that is suitably equipped to complement and elevate any celebration or dining experience.
L’Appart, the Michelin starred French restaurant located within the Brookfield Center in NYC, was the perfect intimate setting for this special evening with Rare Champagne. As reported by many avid diners, attending dinner at L’Appart is akin to being invited to an apartment in Paris—from the greeting and a welcome cocktail to the nature of the personal service, and the extraordinary food.
History & Background of Rare Champagne
Rare Champagne was created by Piper Heidsieck, which was founded in 1785 by Florens-Louis Heidsieck, who wanted to create a cuvée worthy of a Queen. Florens-Louis offered his first cuvée to the audacious and scandalous Queen of France, Marie-Antoinette.
A heatwave like none other struck France in 1976. The winemakers at Piper Heidsieck collectively believed that such an extraordinary event could produce an extraordinary cuvée. Thanks to their expertise and insight, the winemakers transcended the “disaster” of the intense heat to produce a cuvée of exquisite purity. Since then, Rare has only been produced in the following “rare” vintages – 1976, 1979, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2006 and 2007. Also, Rare produced a rosé in 2007, with a blend of eight crus. An incredible Champagne deserves incredible accolades. Cellar Master Regis Camus has been awarded the title “Sparkling Winemaker of the Year” eight times by the International Wine Challenge.
Experiencing these Rare vintages was like traveling into a time machine. Rare is about finding beauty in a vintage where there is difficulty and struggle. Rare is more than just a bottle of champagne – it is a philosophy of life, where you can find beauty in even the most difficult struggles.
The Rare Experience at L’Appart
Our dinner had an epic lineup, there was the 1999 and 1998 in magnum, and we had the 2007, the first Rare rosé ever made. In addition, we had the spectacular 2002, which was Rare’s most iconic vintage to date. Simply put, the wines were magnificent.
Jonathan presented to us a truly “rare” experience. It was a unique experience to taste the four vintages and styles of Rare in four different Riedel stemware. It was the first time Rare Champagne had been paired with a specific style of Riedel stemware to give a unique and profound tasting experience.
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Bordeaux, and Tulip Riedel glasses were selected. The wines were exceptionally different when experiencing them in different shaped glasses. It was a wonderful way to compare the vintages, aromas, flavors, textures and to go back to the future. Each glass revealed a picture of one year in Champagne – one year of harvest, one year of weather, one year of the people and one year of memories.
The Rare Champagne Tasting
We started with the 1999, which was an extraordinarily difficult year. A very difficult vintage, but two weeks before harvest the weather was extraordinarily amazing. Very few Champagne houses made wine in 1999. Regis Camus was very bold and audacious to produce wine in this vintage. The 1999 is rare in the true sense, only a few bottles are available in the world and currently, it is available only in NYC. In my opinion, it is worth flying into NYC, just for this Champagne. In the Pinot Noir glass, the wine is more open and the aromas are better released in this glassware. The Rare champagne ages a minimum of 10 years on less, so it needs space to open.
Next, we tasted Rare Champagne 1998, which is only made in Magnum. If you ask cellar master Regis Camus why? He says, “A magnum of champagne is the best size enjoyed with two people, especially when the other one doesn’t drink.” Rare Champagne 1998 was awarded 98 points by Wine Spectator, the highest point given to a Champagne. For the 1998 we switched to a Bordeaux glass. You are better able to admire the color through this glass. The 1998 is a deeper golden color than the 1999. On the nose, you get hints of creaminess, which is reminiscent of creme brulee. The wine is over twenty years old, but was still fresh and had a crisp minerality. Clearly, the magnum has helped preserve the freshness of this exquisite Champagne.
We then turned our focus to the Rare 2007 Rosé, which had the most delicate and gorgeous rosé color. 2007 was the first vintage that Regis Camus decided to make their first-ever rosé. Only 2007 bottles were made on this vintage rosé, again so rare and so special. When you tilt your nose into the glass (this one is served in a tulip-shaped Riedel glass), you smell elegance and notes of strawberries and raspberries. It is a very delicate and elegant bubbly, yet can pair with heavy meats like beef and duck. It is a versatile Champagne, allowing it to pair with even the most difficult pairings.
The 2002 was all about richness. It is a must-have in your cellar. It was a vintage that was marked by a hot summer and a very cold winter. This wine expresses all the dimensions of Champagnes – high freshness, high minerality, and high acidity. It was perfect at the end of our meal when paired with cheese. The 2002 Rare Champagne had rich and small bubbles, due to its extended time on the lees. The caramelized aromas were perfect with the aged Cheddar and the creaminess made it perfect with Camembert cheese.
Marie-Antoinette was given the first cuvée produced by Piper Heidsieck. Rare is a fitting tribute to Marie Antoinette, as she struggled a great deal in her life – Rare Champagne is similar, made in those difficult years. Every bottle of Rare is hand made with the shape that was created in 1785. The golden vine leaves on the bottle can be removed and worn as a Tiara, signifying a cuvée worthy of a Queen.
Rare is just one of the many incredible Champagnes that can be enjoyed on #ChampagneDay. Today is the perfect occasion for wine lovers and Champagne enthusiasts to raise their glass to the bubbles that come from Champagne, France.