I met Count Audoin de Dampierre at a small tasting that Guy LeLarge held at The Oaks Grille in TPC Valencia a few years back. I was quite taken with the man and the Champagne. I’ve since enjoyed his Champagne, in fact it’s my favorite, at Valencia Wine Company’s annual Holiday Tasting, at Valencia Wine Company, and in my own home with special guests. The Count recently e-mailed me to say hello, and I of course, was charmed to receive an e-mail from Champagne. Today I give you a taste:
1. Count, please tell Beaconeers a little history of Dampierre, the family and the Champagne.
We have been in champagne for 8 generations, except for my father’s generation. He liked being a cavalry officer instead. For the champagne, he was the missing link; he probably drank a reasonably good number of bottles, but for sure, he never made any. This means I had to rebuild and restore the traditions and, above all, the commercial links and relations indispensable for developing sales. It works…especially in sunny California where I have a few great friends.
2. How has the global recession affected the Champagne region?
Minus 20 % for everyone…. and the American Market to rebuild! We will manage! We have seen worse and there is nothing else than Champagne when you need, or, just want it.
It reminds me of a short note I read in the Wine Spectator some time ago: “No matter what you have been told, no matter what you know, the best Brut of the French market today is produced by the count de Dampierre in Reims. Tomorrow someone will make a better one but today, take advantage of it…” I loved this piece although I don’t like the word “best” as it does not mean anything – the best for you not being necessarily the best for me.
3. What is your favorite Dampierre pairing?
I have a particular taste for big shrimp and good Salmon. The first with Brut Family Reserve 2002 or 2004, and the second with a clean and fresh Rosé.
4. Where, besides Valencia Wine Company, can people find your Champagne? (In fact, as this blog is global, feel free to tell us your normal distributors.)
I used to be sold in 21 states; considering that some do not drink or drink very little Champagne, it was not bad. My strong markets are now Chicago (Heritage Wine Cellar) where you find us in the good spots and California (Franklin). California being historically my strongest place as I used to sell half my U.S. shipment between L.A. and San Francisco. I always had great support in California. This dates from a few wine dinners and superb tastings we organized with the representatives. It also comes from some fabulous reps that love promoting this Champagne Dampierre and do it intelligently: By never doing hard sales.
I have also a little follow up in Vegas where the Bellagio serves our Family Reserve of a good vintage…look for a special offer. The agent is the good and powerful Southern Wine and Spirits.
We are producing Champagne just like Aston Martin produces cars, one by one. Believe me, it shows the difference. (The Aston…not everyone has ever tried, but some have.)
5. When might you come again to our sunny little valley?
Probably November, see Guy Lelarge, I promised to host a dinner in his Valencia Restaurant.
6. Anything to say about your current release? How was that harvest?
Current release was last tasted in May (picked up September 09) very fruity but far too young, you will have the first bottles in September 2011.
What is interesting today is La cuvée des Ambassadeurs and the Family Reserve. There is a bit of both in San Jose, California.
7. If you like, tell wine beginners what the process is in making Champagne:
Far too complicated. There are 42 operations between the grape and their glass.
And a bit of mystery does not do any harm. If they want an explanation, tell them to stop over. I always have time for Americans.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com