The Ernest Rapeneau Brut Champagne is a $10.99 Trader Joe’s import Bubbly (this is a half bottle, 375 ml, standard bottles are 750 ml), this is a blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinot Meunier, and 20% Chardonnay grown in vineyards thru-out the Champagne AOC. Ernest Rapeneau is a 2nd generation, family owned Champagne House founded in 1927, they are headquartered in the town of Epernay, which is the main hub of the Champagne region, Moet Chandon and Dom Perignon are not far away. This is a Blanc de Noir wine which means that Red grapes were used (both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are Red grapes), a Blanc de Blanc wine indicates only Chardonnay was used (there are other White grapes approved for Champagne, but they are a very minor consideration). A half bottle of real-deal Champagne at $11 means that if you buy 2 you’re getting the equivalent of a full bottle of Champagne for 22 bucks which is seriously inexpensive for real Champagne (Champagne is not a generic term, it has to be grown and produced in Champagne to be called Champagne). As a Bubbly reminder, Champagne and Champagne-style wines are fermented twice, the first more or less like regular still wine, then the wine is bottled and before the temporary cap is attached they place a measured amount of yeast and sugar into each bottle. This Bubbly/Sparkling wine is then aged (with the spent yeast and sugar still in the bottle) for a minimum of 1 1/2 years. For comparison, with Prosecco the 2nd fermentation occurs in huge pressurized vats and lasts of weeks, sometimes up to a couple of months, so the production methods are vastly different. The alcohol content is 12%.
The color is a golden-yellow, with loads of energetic tiny bubbles heading for the surface. The nose is lemon, bakery bread, green apple, and melon. Real Champagne hits your palate in a very unique way, I am not sure if it’s from the pressure in the bottle (Champagne typically has the highest internal bottle pressure of any Sparkling wine/Bubbly) or the inherent minerality, but when you drink Champagne, you know it. This is a smooth but not creamy Bubbly, it tastes of lemons and limes, green apple, beastly bread, and melon, gee, that’s the same description as the nose, that does not happen too often. The mid-palate shows a slap of minerality and a little salt. At first I thought the acidity may be a little too much, but after the second sip things calmed down. The finish is full and long.
Now, I like all sorts of Sparkling wine/Bubbly, and there are a whole slew of Bubbles that really bring a boat-load of bang for the buck. But with that said, nothing tastes like Champagne. It is the Bubbly that all other Sparkling wines measure themselves against. And typically Champagne just plain cost too much, you could get a satisfying glass of Bubbles from somewhere else for a 1/3 of a 1/4 the price. The Ernest Rapeneau Brut Champagne Trader Joe’s kind of solves that problem, 11 bucks for several glasses of Champagne sure beats the price that a wine bar would charge. And 22 bucks for the equivalent of a full bottle of Champagne makes the Ernest Rapeneau Brut very affordable especially when compared to the price of the typical entry-level Champagne. Affordable Champagne, what’s this world coming to?