Why do we love to toast life with Champagne?

Besserat de Bellefon provides all the answers.

We always celebrate important life milestones by opening champagne. I have never really understood that. I may have kept a bottle in the fridge for years because I enjoy drinking it but why is that the drink we turn to for major moments?

“It all goes back to clever marketing,” said Livia Gershon in an article on Jstor Daily. It dates back to the period between 1870 and 1914 where because of industrialisation and the rise of the bourgeois, the Champagne négociants, managed to sell their sparkling wine as a way to define social standing in an uncertain modern world. Not only that but some négociants linked themselves with nobility through strategic marriages. “Both the titles and the symbols of nobility could be added to the firm’s name or logo, giving it an air of distinction and evoking a connection with a preindustrial tradition that could be more comforting than the dizzying reality of the industrial world,” historian Kolleen M Guy wrote. Négociants had previously marketed their sparkling wine as a luxury for elites.

What about the myth around Dom Pierre Pérignon, a monk who died in 1715 and was resurrected more than a century later as the (supposed) inventor of sparkling wine. Livia Gershon says that “even though champagne was produced with modern, almost industrial, methods, the marketing gimmick helped present the wine as part of a stable tradition”.

And she concludes that “this cachet was just what economically and socially ambitious Europeans and North Americans were looking for in the late nineteenth century. Restaurants and public banquets were becoming the site of business deals and marriage arrangements. In these settings, champagne offered a way to project a classy image.”

All these thoughts about why we drink Champagne were in my mind while enjoying Besserat de Bellefon, the French art de vie from a bottle. A known Champagne House that was served on Concorde and poured at Moulin Rouge.

Of all the senses, the sense of touch and hearing are the least important in wine. Not with Champagne! You touch the cold bottle when you lift it from the ice bucket, then perform the ritual of removing the wire and popping the cork. The sound of the cork popping out of the bottle, then the fizz, even the clink of glasses, matter. Besserat and the excellent cuisine of the Four Seasons also reminded me that Champagne is a food-friendly wine.

That was the challenge thrown down by a certain Monsieur Degas to Victor Besserat in 1930 Paris. Degas was the director of the restaurant at Samaritaine de Luxe, the sumptuous art-deco department store that stands tall in the French capital. Degas wanted a Champagne that was sufficiently elegant and creamy so that it could accompany any meal. He even promised to order 1,000 bottles instead of 100 if Besserat could crack this food and wine matching code. Besserat’s Cuvée Des Moines was born.

The house has never followed the trend of malolactic fermentation, or the conversion of tart malic acids into softer lactic acids often used to stabilise wine. It is a technique that imparts some of the bready, brioche flavours Champagne is famous for. By not doing so, the Besserat de Bellefon house style preserves a natural freshness and fruity elegance.

The grapes are sourced from more than 50 crus, and unlike many other names in Champagne, 60 per cent of its sales are within France.
The house is also implementing organic and biodynamic practices in the vineyard. Its cuvee Triple B is made from biodynamic vines without added sulfites.

N/V Besserat de Bellefon Bleu Brut, Champagne, ABV 12.5%

45% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir. Refinement and charm converge in this blend, a classic, well-defined nose of green apple and lemon peach and Mirabelle plum, dry flowers and yeastiness meets the palate with not only a touch of creaminess but downright playful flavours of lemon meringue, orange blossoms and almonds spiced with tangerine zest, saffron and sea salt. Full round structure and smooth on the palate leads to notes of hazelnut and praline to the finish.

N/V Besserat de Bellefon Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, ABV 12.5%

100% chardonnay grapes from Avize, Chouilly, and Cramant. This is a Champagne with a steely edge of impeccable beauty and precision, toasty on both the nose and the palate with lemon and citrus bursts, dried pear and brioche announced with full clarity. Impressive depth and chalky acidity. Some nice, mature character at the finish.

N/V Besserat de Bellefon Rosé, Brut, Champagne, ABV 12.5%

40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. Vibrant with a sense of bottle age, salmon coloured with delicate, fresh and vinous nose with intense sliced pear, strawberry, red fruit, red dried cherry, floral with refined chalkiness and toast. Medium to full-bodied, dry with crunchy acidity.

2015 Besserat de Bellefon Triple B, Brut Nature, ABV 12.5%

50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier, 20% Chardonnay. Maison Besserat de Bellefon is committed to organic farming and first produced the organic cuvée Triple B Millésime in 2015. Satin yellow-copper in colour, bone dry, this Champagne is tightly crisp, with green apple fruit alongside the fresh-squeezed lemon and mandarin, dried fruit, cinnamon, and praline on the nose. Medium-bodied refreshing and dry.

2008 Besserat de Bellefon, Champagne, ABV 12%

10% Pinot Meunier, 21% Pinot Noir, 69% Chardonnay. The nose develops aromas of candied citrus fruits, honey, spice and delicate flavours of panettone and praline. On the palate, the attack is fresh and pure but generous with a multitude of fresh fruit aromas (strawberry, redcurrant, citrus) combined with a beautiful minerality typical of the vintage.

by George Kassianos
President of the Cyprus Sommelier Association

Explore our Besserat de Bellefon Selection