A “bubble” of history: Ruinart
Written by Sophie Lamontagne – Sommelière au Le Coureur des Bois Bistro Culinaire
How can a celebration or romance be represented with an image? Through a thousand different ways, you would say; and I could only agree! But if I mention Champagne? A cliché? No, more so a classic! Honestly, who could refuse a magnificent sparkling wine to celebrate an event? These products have been accomplices of our most important occasions for almost 400 years. It is true for Champagne, but specifically for Ruinart, the first domain of the region.
Wine was produced in Champagne long before 1729, the year of the official creation of the domain. What it didn’t have is its sparkling character that is now associated with the Champagne terroir. The “bubble wine” as it was called back then was just beginning to be recognized with the efforts of Dom Pierre Pérignon; not much more was needed to inspire Dom Thierry Ruinart, one of his close collaborators. The Ruinart domain was already known for its noble status and for its textile trading. Indeed, the family originally planned for its wine production to be offered as gifts to its current customer base. But after seeing the success of their wines, the main business of the domain was reoriented to the production of wine. On September 1st1729, Nicolas Ruinart, the nephew of Dom Ruinart, officially created the first Champagne-producing domain of the region as we now know it.
Almost 400 years of history have allowed for the practice of his know-how; the Ruinart style is unique by its vivacity and elegance, creating wines that instantly become timeless classics. Many factors have to be thought of during the development of this profile, the first being the choice of terroir and the varietals. At Ruinart, the Chardonnay wears the crown. Mostly cultivated on the legendary terroirs of Côte des Blancs and Montagne de Reims, it is the common denominator of all the cuvees of the domain, as it is always present, even if sometimes its proportion is slightly more discreet. It translates in the wines all the typical aspects of Champagne: freshness and minerality. This is why, during the winemaking process, the liquid obtained after the slow progressive pressuring is fermented in Inox casks; by doing this, the wine keeps its expression without too much influence from the oak. The chief of production Frederic Panaïotis then completes the blends; his rigorous work allows the wine to develop and retain all of its harmony. Rippling and disgorging are still done the old fashioned way for the prestigious cuvees, and for the others, these processes are done by technology-advanced machines that are environment-friendly and offer a very low energy consumption level.
The cellar itself is magnificent: the people at Ruinart describe it themselves as an underground cathedral. At 38 meters of depth, split on three stories and covering an area of eight kilometers, these chalk quarries located near Reims host the wine in the ideal conditions for aging: consistent humidity and temperature, obscurity and silence. It is these chalk boxes that protect the cuvees that are aging, while also revealing the souvenirs of history. Indeed, aside from being the witnesses of the viticulture heritage of Champagne, these old quarries have furnished the stone for the construction of the churches and castles surrounding the area, while also revealing the secrets of the World Wars. If soldiers used these underground passages during the First and Second wars, André Ruinart opened the doors of his cellar for the population of Reims that wanted to protect themselves from the almost uninterrupted bombardments of 1914 and 1915. These quarries, listed as UNESCO World Heritage since 2015, offer a truly unique experience; just like enjoying Ruinart products does.
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs
Made of 100% Chardonnay, the Blanc de Blancs is a blended wine. The grapes used for this cuvee come from parcels of “Premier cru de la Côte des Blancs” and of the “Montagne de Reims”. The smaller proportion coming from Sézannais offers roundness to the product. If the first impression of the Blanc de Blancs is intense and aromatic, it certainly does not lack finesse. White peaches, lemon zest and jasmine; here are a few aromas that compose its elegant bouquet. The sparkling side of the product is fine, while also benefiting from an harmonious and supple balance.
Runart being the first domain that produced champagne, it is normal that the creation of the first rosé is of their doing as well. Here as well, the Chardonnay is present, sharing the blend with the Pinot noir (45% and 55% respectively, with 18% to 19% of the Pinot noir elaborated in red). The nose of the rosé is primarily fruity, with wild strawberries and raspberries being the dominant fruits, alongside exotic notes of goyave and pomegranate apples and delicate notes of roses and peppermint. The wine is rich, complex and strong bodied. It is the ideal accomplice for beef tatakis or langoustines.
Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2007
The cream of the crop. All the Dom Ruinart cuvees bring forth all the best conditions: the most beautiful grapes from the Grand cru parcels, harvest only when the vintages allow for the vine to gain all the parameters required for the aging potential. The wine is then placed in the quarries for around ten years before they are brought on the market.
The 2007 vintage is marked with a cool spring that was quite rough for the vines, alongside heavy rainfall and hail that can certainly test the nerves of the winemakers. However, if the Pinot noir and Pinot meunier suffered quite a lot, the Chardonnay has gained from these rough conditions all of the qualities required to age through time. 75% of the blend comes from the Grands crus of the Côte des Blancs, with the rest coming from the Montagne de Reims. The nose expresses itself on notes of ripe fruits such as the yellow plum, the nectarine and on scents of rifle stone and blond tobacco. Acacia and lime are also present. This fine wine is very unctuous at first, followed by a strong tension and beautiful aromas for the final. The pleasure of tasting will be multiplied tenfold if it is served around ten degrees Celsius, in non-woody Chardonnay glasses instead of the traditional sparkling wine glass.