The wine cellar of a landmark Italian restaurant in New York City might seem an unlikely place to undertake a deeper exploration of Champagne, but sipping a glass of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, wine director Jeffrey Porter bubbles with enthusiasm for these wines. “We represent the finest ideal of Italian cuisine. And in Italy, all the great restaurants embrace Champagne, so we’ve emulated those lists on a grand scale by offering 208 Champagnes!”
Ruinart cellar master Frédéric Panaïotis, the man responsible for maintaining the elegant and fresh style of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, is delighted to see so many Champagnes find a home alongside the Piedmontese and Tuscan gems that grace the Wine Spectator Grand Award winning wine list that Porter oversees. “I believe that Italian food, maybe more so than French food, is great with Champagne, because it’s quite pure and delicate. In my opinion, Japanese cuisine matches Champagne perfectly for the same reasons,” Panaïotis says.
WHERE CHARDONNAY SHINES
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, literally a “white from whites,” is especially suited to these foods given its freshness and purity. “It is 100 percent Chardonnay, but the magic is in sourcing from different vineyards, different crus and different years,” explains the cellar master. In order attain the aromatic Ruinart house style, Panaïotis typically includes about 70 percent wines from the current vintage, with 30 percent reserve wines coming from two prior vintages adding complexity. To achieve the perfect blend might require 25 different parcels of Chardonnay or more. “That is the way to achieve consistency yet maintain the level of freshness for this blanc de blancs,” he beams.
With Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, Panaïotis aims for a versatile and appealing Champagne, fit for immediate enjoyment or shortterm cellaring. “The idea with the Ruinart Blanc de Blancs is to make it a bit more friendly and bright in flavor. I think that’s the reason for its success,” he says. It’s a wine Porter has eagerly shared with diners throughout his wine career, which has included restaurants such as Osteria and Pizzeria Mosta in Los Angeles, Napa Valley’s Tra Vigne Restaurant and Enoteca, and now Del Posto. Whether pairing this Champagne with fresh crudo or crispy fritto misto, Porter observes that, “It’s fresh, it’s bright, a great example of blanc de blancs and a perfect aperitif! Ruinart’s house is built upon Chardonnay.”