The First Champagne House: Ruinart

Posted November 04, 2016

Stacy Brody


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What made the sparkling wine industry possible? Methode champenoise, of course. But what good is Champagne if you can’t get it from France to my glass here in New Jersey? Not much.

Crucial to the growth of the Champagne industry was the development of glass bottles strong enough to withstand the pressure contained within a bottle of Champagne (approximately 5 to 7 atmospheres or 75-99 psi).

Long live the king!

King Louis XV loved Champagne so much so that he invested in the production of glass strong enough to get the bottles to him in one piece. He also passed the Royal Decree of May 25, 1728, which made it legal to ship sparkling wines in bottles.

The passing of this decree allowed for the establishment of the first “Champagne House” as we think of them today. Prior to this, most estates produced still wines. Nicolas Ruinart, however, wasted no time, establishing his family’s sparkling wine house in 1729, just a year after Louis’ decree.  

Bubbly sounds like more fun than textiles

The Ruinart family was one of cloth merchants. But Nicolas’ uncle, Dom Thierry, was convinced that “vin de mousse” had great potential. Dom Ruinart also convinced his nephew of this promise. A mere six years after the establishment of the house Ruinart, and in light of rapidly increasing Champagne sales, Nicolas left cloth behind, committing himself to his uncle’s promise: sparkling wine success.

That’s why Ruinart’s vintage Champagne is called Dom Ruinart.

Seeing as the holiday season is rapidly approaching (when did it suddenly become November and who moved my Halloween candy?), we recently held an in-store seminar and sampling of Ruinart Champagne. It was as much a treat for me as it was for our customers. We uncorked the Ruinart Blanc de Blanc and Brut Rose. Alas, there was no Dom Ruinart. There was also no sabering. We were joined by Ruinart Brand Ambassador Lacey Burke. 

A Champagne by any other name would smell... different

Both wines reflect the Ruinart house style, which can be described in one word: freshness. In more technical terms, it’s referred to as a reductive style, that is, one that prevents oxygen exposure to preserve the purity of flavors in a wine. Think fresh pineapple and Meyer lemon as opposed to roasted pineapple and caramel notes. The former is reductive, the latter more oxidative. Both good, just different.

Ruinart focuses on freshness and purity and also on the Chardonnay grape. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier are the big three varieties in Champagne. Whereas Pinot Noir and Meunier are recognized for contributing rich expressions of fruit, Chardonnay is known for bringing a level of elegance or finesse to a blend. According to Ruinart, Chardonnay is “the golden thread running through the Ruinart taste.”

Chardonnay like you've never tasted before

Ruinart’s non-vintage Champagnes are blends from a library of wines dating back five to six years. Their Blanc de Blanc (white of white) is 100% Chardonnay. Seventy-five percent of the non-vintage wine consists of one base vintage, currently 2013, and the remainder is two to three vintages from the library. The wine ages two-and-a-half years in Ruinart’s cellars, chalk tunnels found 38 meters below the city of Reims (and classified as a historic monument in 1931 and more fecently, UNESCO World Heritage Site). The wine offers a complexity of flavors, from juicy pineapple to sweet ginger to spicy white peppercorn. That spiciness, says Burke, keeps the bountiful fresh fruit in check.

So many pairings, so little time

If you need a reason more than It’s (insert any day of the week here) and I want bubbly to pop the cork on a bottle, consider the amazing pairings possible with Ruinart’s Blanc de Blanc. Burke recommends scallops in beurre blanc, briny east coast oysters, roast chicken, French fries (perhaps her favorite pairing). There’s no end to the deliciousness that can be indulged in once a bottle is opened.

Think pink for pork belly

If you’ll be enjoying beef carpaccio or dim sum, however, you'll want a bottle of Ruinart’s Brut Rose, according to Burke. The rose blend is 45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir. Again, it is all about freshness here: red cherries and wild strawberries, even pink grapefruit and rose petals. Achieving the triad of structure, richness and vibrancy, the Brut Rose offers amazing versatility on the table and even pairs with medium-spice Asian cuisine. Though Burke admits this Champagne might not shine alongside a charred steak, she loves it with lamb burger or duck.

Better safe than thirsty

Open bottles carefully so as not to lose precious Champagne in overflowing foam

It’s time to get those bottles open, but not before a brief safety lesson:

  1. Chill your bottles before you open them. A warm bottle is a dangerous bottle.

  2. Don’t shake your bottles. This should go without saying. We’ve all had friends shake our soda cans before we opened them (didn’t we?), and we know what happens. I don’t want any horror stories of broken light bulbs and lost eyes.

  3. When opening the bottle, hold it at an angle.

  4. Don’t pull the cork off. Rather, twist and pull from the bottom of the bottle.

  5. Do not think you can learn to saber by YouTube videos alone. Please. Pretty please.

Burke, a trained sommelier, can open a Champagne bottle with just a whisper of a sound. She has a lot of practice. Frankly, I’m not that good, but maybe you are. Try it out and share your videos with us!

Product Label.

Ruinart Blanc De Blanc

93 Wine Spectator

Item: 30632

750 mL

Retail: $81.99

$67.09 per btl

Product Label.

Ruinart Brut Rose

93 Wine Spectator

Item: 81495

750 mL

Retail: $98.99

$68.09 per btl