Santé! Sheriff of Champagne spills details on the bubbly wine

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Power Players

Top Line

Why does Champagne need a sheriff? And how can we get that job? Director of the Champagne Bureau -- a U.S. group that represents grape growers and winemakers in Champagne, France -- did not divulge the secrets to securing his job, but says Champagne does need a policeman of sorts.

"We want to make sure the world, and consumers around the world, understand that Champagne only comes from Champagne," says Sam Heitner, director of the group.

Champagne is a region about 90 miles northeast of Paris, France. About 15,000 growers and 300 houses, says Heitner, come together in a community to make the wine that is known as Champagne. Only three grapes are allowed in the exclusive, bubbly wine: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier.

When a menu includes, say, California Champagne -- as was the case on the Inaugural menu -- Heitner's group takes notice.

"We are really supportive of truth in labeling," says Heitner, "ensuring consumers know where their wine comes from." In other words, if it's not from Champagne, France, it is not, according to Heitner's group, Champagne.

If you are looking to impress a Valentine's date with Champagne, Heitner suggests trying a Rosé, such as the Ruinart Rosé. The blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay makes for a perfect color to complement the day.

"The rosé would go very well with a salmon," says Heitner. "At Thanksgiving in my house, we actually serve rosé with turkey."

Even if you go for a more traditional champagne, such as a Pol Roger, you need to know what you're tasting.

"It wouldn't be a bad idea to smell," says Heitner. You're going to have different aromas come out as you go, adds the Champagne connoisseur. "Is it light, is it citrusy, does it have fruits in it."

No matter what the nose detects, be sure to give your eyes a feast, too, says Heitner, lifting a glass of Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs to eye level.

"You always want to look at the beautiful bubbles."

For more of this tasty tour of Champagne, check out this week's Top Line.

Special thanks to Cityzen restaurant for hosting this episode. All wines used in the episode were chosen from the restaurant's wine list.