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Champagne: A refreshing explosion for the Fourth of July

Ron Smith, World of Wine columnist

The best, most explosive pop I've ever heard recently came from a bottle of Champagne, specifically a Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne. The bottle was properly chilled, and upon removing the muffler (wire cage over the cork) and draping a towel over the cork to begin a twist, the pressure within literally popped my toweled hand away from the bottle.

It turned out this particular experience had something else to remember this Champagne by: the incredible tasting enjoyment of the bubbly liquid within. The reason to complement a meal with Champagne doesn't have to be tied to a special occasion. For my wife and I, the reason was to enjoy a cold, bubbly drink that would put us in a talkative, relaxed mood and to boost the somewhat pedestrian dinner of grilled burgers, cowboy caviar and baked potato skins.

It was enjoyed after a hard day of gardening work in the summer heat, so all it took was one glass each and we came completely unwound. I sealed it with a stopper that allowed me to retain most of the bubbly fizz, and refrigerated it. The next night the bubbles were still there, and the wine actually tasted a little sweeter.

A standard 750 ml bottle will run around $70 or just shy of it, but splits (375 ml) can be obtained as well for about $25 to give you an economical entry for enjoying this outstanding Champagne.

It is a unique blend of 60/40/10:

60 — The number of hand-selected crus (legally defined vineyards of exceptional quality and terroir). Wine produced in the harvest year, a third for each variety, which are Chardonnay, Pinot noir, and Meunier, are vinified cru-by-cru, variety-by-variety, in stainless steel vats.

40 — A high proportion of 40 percent reserve wines, equally divided between Chardonnay and Pinot noir, and ensures the complexity of the Brut Reserve.

10 — The average of the reserve wines. This time provides maturation and refinement, allowing for the development of their aromatic range. It runs from as short as 5, up to 20 years in holding before release.

The flavors and texture of this bubbly wine are reminiscent of a crisp layer of nougatine (nougat covered with chocolate) on a velvety cream pastry filled with plump, red plums and ripe cherries. Some of the reserve wines used in the creation of this Champagne date back more than 15 years, and provide the lush taste experienced.

The impact of where this wine is cellared — in 2,000-year-old chalk caves offer a touch of vanilla which was detected during the tasting, ironically more so on the second day of drinking.

If you are into Brut Reserve sparkling wines, this one is worth a consideration to add to your tasting pallet. You will not be disappointed.

Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at