Reims, December 2020
Tzarina — Only the finest years
Tzarina is a rare champagne. Isabelle Tellier defines it as “a limited edition in the exact sense of the term. Since Tzarina is a wine derived from a selection of the best crus, there’s no guarantee that those crus will be available. As a result the number of bottles varies depending on the year, and there are years where there are none at all!”
The latest edition of Tzarina is a wine from the 2014 harvest, that was bottled in 2015 and has aged in the House’s cellars on the Allée du Vignoble in Reims for five years.
Isabelle Tellier recalls: “In Champagne, 2014 was a year with a magnificent spring, and then a chaotic, cold and rainy summer. But fortunately the summer ended in a hot and very dry period that was conducive to maturation of the grapes. The harvest began on 8 September. The quality and quantity of the harvest enabled us to produce vintage champagnes with freshness and fine aromatic potential.”
Isabelle Tellier gives us her tasting notes: “This Tzarina blend is made up of 58% Chardonnay, 26% Pinot Noir and 16% Pinot Meunier. The brilliant-gold color of this cuvée contains a few emerald highlights provided by the Chardonnay.
The nose is rich and has strong intensity revolving around notes of candied orange, slightly honeyed roasted apples, and a few touches of spices and nuts. On the palate the wine is ample and generous, structured around flavors of apricot and lemon, ending with a long and generous finish with a fine minerality.”
Tzarina: A rich champagne for a beautiful table
“Precise, with real stature and a good potential for ageing, this is a rich champagne. Winey, concentrated and full-bodied, it has what we call “de la matière.”
That is why I recommend that Tzarina not be drunk too cold. Served between 10 and 12° C it’s the ideal wine to accompany a meal.
I find that it pairs well with fish and cooked fruits — for example a carpaccio of scallops with mango for the starter and salmon en papillote with candied lemon, or perhaps a filet of John Dory in orange butter, as the main course. And for dessert, Tzarina will love a Tarte Tatin!”
Tzarina: Genesis of a cuvée de prestige
The first edition of Tzarina was launched in 2009. The idea was born in 2003 when the House decided to create a cuvée de prestige to develop its Tsarine line. The name “Tzarina” was a natural choice as a special tribute to the 18th-century great tsarinas Elisabeth Petrovna (1709-1741-1761) and Catherine II the Great (1729-1762-1796), and to imperial Russia.
Tzarina was conceived from the start as a limited series — a few thousand bottles only. The innovative blend comprised premiers crus — in particular the Pinots Noirs from Écueil in the Montagne de Reims and Hauvillers in the Marne Valley — and grands crus such as the Chardonnay from Avize in the Côte des Blancs. The wines are aged five years in the House’s cellars to attain perfect maturity.
Isabelle Tellier, Head Wine-Maker of the House of Chanoine Frères since 2001 and creator of Tzarina, remembers the 2003 harvest clearly: “The climate conditions had been extreme in the Champagne, with spring frost, hail in June, and a heat wave in summer. Finally, the grapes were not abundant but were of superb quality, things of beauty, that had to be selected and assembled very carefully to attain the precision and purity I wanted for Tzarina.”
For Tzarina, a bottle worthy of a fine perfume
An exceptional cuvée must have an exceptional bottle. The idea was to create something as beautiful and as refined as a perfume flacon. The famous fluted bottle, which is the exclusive shape of the Tsarine cuvées, was therefore reinterpreted. To reveal the color of Tzarina champagne, the glass is transparent and every other flute is frosted — an idea that came from the late Philippe Femel, then the House’s Director of Production.
The innovation required a two-stage fabrication process, with a specialized French glassmaker located in Cognac in the Charente handling the custom-frosting of the bottle’s flutes. Finally, in place of a traditional paper label, an engraved metal plate adds a further touch of elegance.