How patience can pay off in France

Kyle Kaplan with a display of Charles Heidsieck Champagne. (courtesy photo)

Oh, well, another day at the office. How boring! I swear, if only I could get something interesting with some stability and security. You know, like selling insurance or driving for Uber. But, you do what you have to do. And, having a job is much preferred to being unemployed. So, suck it up and deal.

What’s my tedious, monotonous job? Selling high-end Champagne in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, Los Angeles.

Meet Kyle Kaplan, Business Development Manager for both Piper Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck. Prestigious Champagne houses, to be sure. For example, Piper-Heidsieck was the official Champagne of the 88th-annual Academy Awards. The poor guy has to pour bottles of this stuff every day. What a pity.

A little bit about Champagne and the producers Kyle represents.

These two historic houses of Champagne remain separate but are both owned by EPI, a French luxury conglomerate. Piper is the much larger of the two. According to Wine Spectator, Piper produces about five times as much as Charles.

Dom Perignon, a French Benedictine monk, is famously credited for exclaiming the first time he tried sparkling wine, “I am tasting stars.”

Creators of Champagne face a grueling task. First they must nourish wine grapes in an exceptionally harsh environment. The average climate in January is just above freezing. This presents the challenge of coaxing the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes to some degree of ripeness.

What you are left with is fruit that is unusually acidic. The wine maker, or Chef de caves in the Champagne region of France, then convinces the grape juice to ferment into alcohol. For Charles Heidsieck that is Cyril Brun and for Piper it’s Regis Camus. This is where these gentlemen make their reputation.

They induce a secondary fermentation in the Champagne bottle itself by adding a touch of additional yeast and sugar. Each Chef de caves and each Champagne house has its proprietary formula in performing this step. After years in the bottle resting comfortably in racks in caves deep in the earth, the finished product is released, hopefully to great acclaim. If not, then that means that sometimes decades of work have come to naught.

For example, Charles Heidsieck is just now selling its Blanc des Millenaires from 1995! Talk about being patient. During that twenty year span, Charles Heidsieck, the Champagne house, was sold and the prior Chef de caves died. Yet the bubbles sat patiently, not ready for their debut until exactly the right moment.

Kyle talks about why he fell in love with wine and Champagne in particular. “It’s the history, the romance, the flavor. It’s unique and extraordinary to Champagne.”

We recently tasted the Blanc des Millenaires. An amazing wine. With notes of citrus and brightness, it transported me to inhaling the delicious aromas of baking bread while tickling as it went down. Yes, it’s costly at $200/bottle, but it took twenty years to develop and it’s so much better than the more famous Dom Perignon or Cristal.

Still, we can’t drink $200 wine every night. For more frequent consumption, try the non-vintage Rose Reserve. Bright, sparkling, tastes of strawberries, it’s a party in a bottle.

And, don’t make the mistake of saving Champagne for just “special occasions.” It’s very food friendly, mixing wonderfully with seafood, Chinese, and anything spicy, like Mexican or Thai. It also tops off that rib-eye just off the grill.

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