In the famous Déjeuner d'huîtres painting by Jean-François de Troy (1735), the diners are clearly delighted to see the foam bursting from the champagne bottle and its cork flying through the air like a rocket. "It's off, we laugh; it hits the ceiling," enthuses Voltaire in Le Mondain in 1736, several years after Maison Ruinart was founded.
Since then, champagne lovers have also developed a taste for controlling the cork and its exuberance: removing its muzzle, releasing it carefully with a steady hand applying small amounts of pressure slowly but firmly.
So which is preferable? Explosive or restrained, both methods have their own merits. We should be guided by our taste and mood.
Fruity, fresh and aromatic, these champagnes are made to be enjoyed young, no more than 2 to 3 years' old, and up to 5 years for magnums.
Note: Ruinart Blanc de Blanc bottles are made from transparent glass intentionally to highlight the Chardonnay. However, in order to preserve its aromatic integrity the wine should be stored away from any natural or artificial light source.
Dom Ruinart cuvées:
The origin of their grapes, exclusively Grand Crus, gives these cuvées a high maturing potential provided that they are aged in optimum conditions of temperature, humidity and darkness for 10, 20, or even more years depending on the vintage.
The wine will then take on more toasted, grilled and intense notes and its aromatic profile will develop as the years pass. This is a question of preference. Without exception, a Dom Ruinart cuvée is excellent from the day it is purchased.
Since sparkling wines from Champagne first appeared in the early 18th Century, they have been served fairly cold, between 6 and 8 degrees Celsius. So for over a century, bottles of Ruinart have been served in elegant little containers called "champagne coolers" or in silver or porcelain buckets that are always full of water and ice. The ice was collected during the winter and stored in ice cellars.
Around 1830, it became fashionable to drink champagne frappé: very cold, at 2 or 3 degrees Celsius. This was a time when wine had a lot of added sugar, which did not ferment, and cooling toned down its sweet flavor. The bottle was served in a bucket filled with ice but no water, sometimes even plunged up to its neck in a mixture of crushed iced and salts.
Today, we have returned to the customs of early champagne enthusiasts and enjoy our champagne between 6 and 9 degrees celsius.
The champagne coupe, or saucer, is shallow and rounded with a flared lip and a short stem, rather like a water lily whereas the flute is slim, narrow and very tall, like a tulip. With its large surface area in contact with the air, champagne in a coupe quickly loses its effervescence. These glasses were highly prized a hundred years ago, when it was popular to drink Ruinart flat.
The narrow opening of the flute preserves the wine's liveliness and bouquet. Although it existed much earlier, it was only in about 1930 that the flute superseded its broader cousin. Since then the flute has reigned supreme, even though in France it is still "Une coupe!" when ordering in a bar. On some occasions, Ruinart also prefers the standard wine glass which releases a wine's aromas unlike any other.
There is nothing quite like the sophisticated ritual of a bucket with its ice and water. Custom dictates 30% to 50% ice, the rest water. The champagne reaches the perfect temperature in 20 minutes. When time is short, two handfuls of coarse salt can be added to the water.
In the absence of a very cool cellar or an ice-bucket, then of course one will turn to the refrigerator, choosing the cold area appropriate for the desired chill level. The bottle should be laid on its side, to avoid temperature differences between the top and bottom. Plan ahead: allow 2 ½ hours for one bottle, longer for more. So always keep a bottle of Ruinart in the fridge...
Avoid the freezer at all costs. It requires more time than a bucket (40 minutes) and is much more risky as the bottle may simply explode.
The meaning of sabler? To gulp or swallow in one go, according to 18th Century dictionaries, and those of the 19th add "to drink copiously".
Sabrer? The French for "to sabre", removing the top of a champagne bottle with a sabre. The custom originated with Hussars of the Napoleonic Guard who liked to celebrate a victory with a flourish, removing the cork with one elegant, dashing blow using the back of a blade. This practice remains with us today, synonymous with celebration, festivity and panache.
Maison Ruinart was founded in 1729, well into the XVIIIth Century, at a time when a new 'art of living' was emerging in France. The previous century, that of the Sun King Louis XIV, had seen the rise of a society full of pomp and splendor. The century of Maison Ruinart saw the development of a society of refined taste for all things fine and elegant, sophisticated and rare, devoted to the pleasures of the senses and of the spirit. Sparkling wine was one of the greatest expressions of that golden age, an occasion full of exceptional moments for connoisseurs and the fortunate few. It was in this atmosphere of refinement that Ruinart met with his initial success and the Goût Ruinart, the Ruinart taste, was born. Since then, not a single Ruinart cuvée has failed to fulfill the promise of this art de vivre, the French way.
It is no surprise to find this princely name among the clients in the Ruinart ledgers.
A soldier, a diplomat and a man of the world frequenting every court in Europe, Prince Charles-Joseph of Ligne (1735 - 1814) was, above all, a man of pleasure and of wit. He was the perfect embodiment of that aristocratic 18th Century clientele, a man of unwavering taste who found in Ruinart his wine of preference.