I am always delighted to have the chance to taste any wines blind and none more so than champagne, a style of wine of which our perceptions tend to be shaped by many factors other than sheer wine quality.
This particular 1995 from the Union Champagne co-operative in the Côte des Blancs village of Avize impressed me greatly in the recent 95 v 96 blind taste-off in Epernay described briefly in wine news and in detail in tasting notes on 30 oct.
This Grand Cru stood out as one of the best-value vintage champagnes around. It was very obviously a Blanc de Blancs on the nose with its creamy developed Chardonnay characters but has greta weight and complexity too – so much so that this is a wine that you could happily pair with food. For those who find it hard to get to grips with the idea of champagne as a wine to be served at the table, I suggest sharing this, or a champagne as nuanced and attention-grabbing as this, before a meal with a few friends and something substantial enough to substitute for a first course: a gentle brandade or taramasalata on toast for example, or even a more substantial pâté.
British wine lovers can find this wine in larger Marks & Spencer stores for £30 a bottle – a sensible round figure. Those based elsewhere should try keying Orpale 1995 into www.winesearcher.com. I can't because my server Pipex is grappling with a major problem at present, which is why I should stop here – though I would point out that Dom P fans can find the delicious, if not yet ready, 1996 at Peter Wylie of Devon for just £60 a bottle, more than CostCo but no membership is required.