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Ruinart Champagne

I have a particular fondness for champagne, one of those rare alcohols that I’ve finally learned to appreciate. As a budding connoisseur, a neophyte, I could not resist the launch by Ruinart Champagne’s application for the iPad and the iPhone. Details follow along with a visit to the heart of Reims.

The truth is my iPhone and iPad app collections are quite complete. So an app for champagne, is quite the official nod to the luxurious brand, it is simply an ingenuous and comprehensive, featuring beautiful images of ancient wrought iron work and aged French cathedrals.

Ruinart (pronounced: [ʁɥinaːʁ]) is the oldest established Champagne house, exclusively producing champagne since 1729. Founded by Nicolas Ruinart in the Champagne region in the city of Reims, France, the label is owned today by the parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA.

An entrepreneur, Nicolas Ruinart realized the ambitions of his Uncle, Dom Thierry Ruinart: to make Ruinart an authentic Champagne House. In the period immediately following the 1728 edict of Louis XV, which authorized the transport of wine in bottles, the house was established. Prior to this edict, wine could only be transported in barrels, which made it impossible to send Champagne to distant markets, and confined consumption primarily to its area of production. Nicolas Ruinart founded the House of Ruinart in 1729. The first delivery of “wine with bubbles” went out in January, 1730. At first the sparkling wine was a business gift for cloth purchasers, as Dom Ruinart’s brother was a cloth merchant, but 6 years later Maison Ruinart terminated its cloth selling activities due to success in the Champagne business. Since then, the Maison has kept the standards of excellence of its founders.

Mark Leibowitz ad campaign for Ruinart Champagne, 2010.

With a long standing relationship with the Arts, Ruinart’s collaborations began in 1895, when Andre Ruinart asked Czech artist, Alfons Mucha to illustrate a poster of Ruinart. Today the brand remains closely involved with Contemporary Art, enjoying a role in numerous international events such as ARCO, the Foire de Bale, the Carre Rive Gauche, London Design, and Art Basel Miami Beach. Recently featured at the launch of the new art fairs in Los Angeles, LA Platform, Ruinart continues its fine art affiliation. Today’s house talent includes: India Mahdavi, creator of the “Champagne Spoon” bottle stopper in 2006, Christian Biecher, creator of the “Flower” bottle stopper in 2007, Patricia Urqiola, designer of the “Fil d’Or” bottle stopper in 2010,  Maarten Baas, named “Designer of the Year” at Art Basel Miami 2009, creator of the “Bouquet de Champagne” in 2008 and the “Melting” ice bucket in 2010, and Mark Leibowitz, whose photography successfully melded the brand with the glamour of fashion. Served in the best restaurants at prices generously over $160 a bottle, I’ve enjoyed a glass here and there at Le Meurice (Paris), De Librij (Zwolle), Mr. Chow’s (Miami), the Ritz (San Francisco), and LA Platform in Los Angeles…to name a few!

Frédéric Panaïotis, the man in charge of the champagne cellars immediately embarks on the story behind the soul of Ruinart champagne, where everything begins with a particular variety of the Chardonnay grape, the foundation grape for this grand champagne. In an instant, he presents me with samples of the R, le Blanc de Blancs, le Ruinart Rosé, le R Millésimé 2005, le Dom Ruinart 1998 et le Dom Ruinart Rosé 1996, and patiently instructs me how to respectfully appreciate the special characteristics of each vintage.

Of the prestige cuvées, Dom Ruinart is a blanc de blancs, i.e. made entirely of Chardonnay, was first released with the 1959 vintage. The Dom Ruinart Rosé, first released in 1962, resembles the Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs with the addition of 16% vinified red Pinot Noir.[1] Ruinart Blanc de Blancs is the flagship of Maison Ruinart.

The cuvées named R de Ruinart include both Brut non-vintage and vintage wines, with the non-vintage minimum 40% Chardonnay, and 60% Pinot Noir, with 25% reserve wines, while proportions vary in the vintage wine. There is also produced non-vintage Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay, and Ruinart Brut Rosé, typically 45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir.

Ruinart’s cellars, acquired in 1768, are amongst the largest in the region, and are gallo-roman in origin. Like most Champagne cellars, they are the product of ancient chalk mining, and extend 38 metres below the ground and are 8 km long. The chalk helps to keep the cellars at a constant 11 degrees Celsius. The chalk pits were classified as a historic monument in 1931. The Ruinart taste is greatly dependent on the aging in chalk pits: 3 to 4 years for non-vintages, and 9 to 10 years on average for a Dom Ruinart.

Today’s Ruinart bottle is inspired by the first champagne bottles of the 18th century.

The virtual visit is an introduction to long guarded secrets. With a gyroscopic function on the iPhone, one discovers and explores natural caves from the floor to the ceiling, and make the walls pivot, as if one were present with an actual camera on site. For such a specialized environment, it’s quite the digital experience.

For neophytes, as well as budding connoisseurs, these apps allow one to easily consult and easily review the history of Ruinart, and its founding monk, Dom Ruinart, who began the first champagne house in 1729, at about the same time as the art of stained glass reached its prominence. It’s a beautiful app, downloads surprisingly quickly.

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