The Ruinart Lighthouse: a tasting of Champagne and Chardonnay with Frédéric Panaïotis

champagne chardonnay

The Ruinart Lighthouse: a tasting of Champagne and Chardonnay with Frédéric Panaïotis

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Yesterday I visited the Ruinart Lighthouse, which is an exhibition and tasting being held at the Violin Factory near London’s South Bank. The focus of the three-storey exhibition space is on Chardonnay, with various exhibits and art works beautifully displayed.

The Lighthouse is open to consumers and tickets are still available for the next two days (10th and 11th February) here.  The tasting is being hosted by the smart, articulate Ruinart chef de cave Frédéric Panaïotis.

Our tasting was a little different. Frédéric had selected six still Chardonnay wines which we tasted blind alongside various Ruinart Champagnes, with a focus on Chardonnay, still and sparkling. Frédéric mentioned that there are 31 clones of Chardonnay authorised in France, and Champagne grows 11 of them. This tasting was a fascinating exercise, and I can’t think of many other Champagne houses that would think of pairing their wines blind with still Chardonnays like this.

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Champagne Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV (magnum)
This is mainly 2012 base wine and was disgorged 6 months ago. Fine pear and white peach nose leads to a lovely citrus palate that’s crisp and taut with a bit of spiciness. Very pretty and delicate with some pithy bitterness. 92/100

Bret Brothers Mâcon-Chardonnay 2013 Burgundy, France
From 35-80 year old vines from a 0.44 hectare plot. Organic farming, wild yeasts. Rich apricot, melon and honey nose reminds me of Sauternes, but the palate is quite dry with marmalade, citrus and apricot flavours, as well as a hint of grape and mandarin. Tangy and open and quite delicious. 93/100

Neudorf Chardonnay 2010 Nelson, New Zealand
Warm, spicy and powerful with richly textured fruit. Lovely complexity and precision, this is spicy and intense with a hint of reduction and lovely acidity. 94/100

Champagne Ruinart Dom Ruinart 2004 France
July 2013 digorgement, 5.5 g/l dosage. Toasty, fine and expressive with some nice nuttiness. Lovely taut lemony character: so expressive and pure. 94/100

Giaconda Chardonnay 2012 Beechworth, Australia
Appealing sweet rich peach and pear fruit. Bold and delicious with nice acidity. Has a rich core of fruit here with fine spiciness. Very stylish. 93/100

Droin Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2013 Burgundy, France
Lovely exotic sweet nose with apricot, marmalade and bold, fresh acidity. Tangerine and apricot jam flavours with a dry, mineral edge to the palate. An atypical Chablis. 92/100

Champagne Ruinart Dom Ruinart 1998 France (magnum)
Disgorged March 2009, with a dosage of 7.5 g/litre. This is drinking beautifully, with lively, spicy, toasty richness. Savoury, spicy and vivid with lovely acidity under the white peach, pear and lemon fruit. Linear and nutty, this is at its peak now. 95/100

Château de Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Poruzots 2009 Burgundy, France
Subtle, fresh and textural. Quite mature with nice pear and citrus fruit, with a mellow personality and some nut and spice notes on the finish. Subtle. 93/100

Peter Michael Cuvée Indigène Chardonnay 2006 Sonoma County, California
Sweet, rich and with some honey and spice notes, as well as hints of butter. Smooth, sweet and showing some nutty development 89/100

See also: the wines of Champagne Ruinart

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