We search for the great Champagne house whose product is not yet known to the everyday Rap artist, not Crystal, or Dom, or even Grande Dame....for as fine as they are, they are also, in their own superattenuated public conciousness way, a bit common, run of the mill...I mean, anyone can order a bottle of Dom or Crystal....but we are in search of something more, the great Champagne whose greatness is known to the collector, the connessuer, the sommelier of a Michellen 3 star,...the discerning , the discriminating....the search for that which is both great and distinctive and out of the ordinary.
So we arrive in the lovely little village of Urville, tucked away in the rolling hills, and the cellers of Champagne Drappier, the favorite champagne of French Presidents Charles de Gaulle and Jacque Chirac. In fact De Gaulle kept a country residence very near here. Champagne Drappier is a distinguished, exceptional champagne house making a wide variety of specialty champagnes, incuding a 100% chardonnay with no dosage (added sugar), vintage releases when merited, and a commemorative Charles de Gaulle release. This is the epitomy of what we are in search of...a grand champagne house with distinctive wines in a class by themselves, recognized and highly praised in France, and largely unknown in America.
We tour their cellers and meet the owner of the estate. We actually watch the disgorgement process (where the years of yeast and sediment is removed from the bottle after months of careful sifting and turning, until the bottles are upside down, then dipped in liquid nitrogen, uncorked - where the frozen neck disgorges the sediment in a release of gas - dosage is added - a level of sugar so it can mature to the intended taste - and the final cork and wire wrapping is added before being crated to be stored and shipped). It is an amazing and now largely automated process. Impressive indeed...and quite fascinating. The Devil Dog never truly knew what went into a bottle of champagne, how meticulous and involved it was, how varied the cuvee according to the blend of Pinot and Chardonnay grape, how a 100% Pinot and a 100% chardonay champagne differed, and what made the difference between a great blend and a great winemaker. We retire to the tasting room and proceed to indulge in each of their differnet varietals and vintage releases. As we drive off through the countryside to the little village of Les Ricey to spend the night we are buzzing with more than excitement, having had a taste of the kind of champagne that has been unmistakably worthy of French Presidents......and us.