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Champagne Barons de Rothschild

In 2005, the three winemaking branches of the Rothschild family introduced their new Champagne Brand. The three varietals, aptly named the Barons de Rothschild Brut, Blanc de Blancs, and Ros?, mark the family?s first joint venture and the first Champagnes to enter their heavy portfolio of wines.The Champagne unites three different branches of the Rothschild family: Benjamin, a Geneva banker who also owns Ch?teau Clarke; Eric, owner of Ch?teau Lafite Rothschild and several other estates; and Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, owner of Ch?teau Mouton Rothschild.?We started in 2005 from the ground up,? says Fr?d?ric Mairesse, the affable Directeur G?n?ral of the Rothschild family?s newest wine endeavor. ?It was literally a giant hole in the ground to house the first bottles of wine.? Then came the storerooms with dozens of computerized vats to hold the reserve wines, along with blending and racking rooms and everything else, step by step. Why a move into Champagne? Isn?t it incongruous, even heretical, for a family whose name is synonymous with great Bordeaux? Mairesse?s look pretty much says: Why not? Considering the Rothschild?s stature in the wine business, and the world?s unquenchable thirst for Champagne, it might be more logical to ask what took them so long.Champagne Barons de Rothschild is based in the tiny village of Vertus, one of 17 grand cru villages on Champagne?s famous C?te des Blancs south of Epernay, named for the chardonnay vineyards spreading as far as the eye can see. ?People have been very welcoming,? says Mairesse. ?They were pleased that the Rothschilds came to their village. The name brings prestige, of course, but also the promise of long-term relationships and stability.Champagne Barons de Rothschild uses only grand cru or 99-percent-rated premier cru grapes in their assemblage, or blend. Most great wines are a blend of at least two grape varieties; in Champagne, however, blending the base wines, using chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, is raised to mathematical heights.There can be more than 50 base wines from different terroirs and different years in a single non-vintage cuv?e. The assemblage is of utmost importance, as it will define a Champagne house?s distinct character and style. For the moment, Rothschild produces three non-vintage Champagnes: brut, blanc de blancs and ros?. Aging the wines significantly longer than the legally required 18 months is important to the Rothschild house style, which Mairesse describes as ?feminine and elegant, with very low dosage [added sugar], and a long second fermentation at a low temperature, to create roundness with bright, fresh acidity?. The wines are cellared for at least four years, partly due to the preponderance of chardonnay (60% in the brut, 85% in the ros? and 100% in the blanc de blancs), whose high acidity requires longer aging on its sediments to insure greater finesse.