Dom Thierry Ruinart was an intuitive, visionary, hardworking, and modest Benedictine monk who lived from 1657-1709 and was a contemporary of Louis XIV. A brilliant theologian and historian, at the age of 23 he left his home in Champagne to go to the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of the most influential centers of learning near Paris. While there, he was exposed to the city and court where he gained an awareness of a more worldly life and in-particular he learned of a new “wine with bubbles,” not yet known as champagne, which was already popular among young aristocrats.
Dom Ruinart was an author of scholarly works, but also had a taste for the contemporary and his inquiring mind went hand in hand with a keen business sense. Throughout his life, he would visit his brother and home in Champagne and these diverse observations instilled in him the conviction that "wine with bubbles" produced from the vines of his native soil – also known as “vin de mousse” or sparkling wine – had a promising future. He passed on this conviction to his brother and his nephew.
In 1729, twenty years after the death of Dom Ruinart, Nicolas Ruinart, Dom Ruinart's nephew, founded the first Champagne House, Maison Ruinart, and forever ingrained his uncle's name and the house in the history books.
SEPTEMBER 1, 1729
THE FIRST CHAMPAGNE HOUSE
Nicolas Ruinart, a Reims draper like his father, started his first account ledger devoted to "wine with bubbles" on September 1st, 1729.
This ledger serves as the birth certificate for the first Champagne House ever created. The first bottles of “wine with bubbles” produced were intended as gifts for Nicolas Ruinart’s clients who purchased cloth and fabric.
However, Nicolas was a sophisticated businessman and he had adopted his uncle’s pioneering vision and ambition for “wine with bubbles,” and just six years after the initial bottles were produced he found success.
In 1735, Maison Ruinart abandoned the cloth trade to concentrate on the burgeoning champagne trade. This became Nicolas's sole occupation and growth was exponential with 170 bottles sold in 1730, 3,000 bottles in 1731, 36,000 in 1761, and onwards.
Mary Kate Charlotte Riboldi, Viscountess Ruinart de Brimont, was one of the most remarkable family members in this lineage. On the death of her husband, André Ruinart, this Englishwoman - orphaned at an early age and from a modest background – energetically took the helm of the House from 1919 to 1925, until her son was old enough to succeed her.
Elegantly, but firmly, she put the House back on its feet following the terrible destruction of the First World War.
THE RUINART TASTE
the golden thread running through the Ruinart Taste
The chardonnay is the very soul of Ruinart. The grape, mainly harvested from the Côte des Blancs and Montagne de Reims terroirs, is at the heart of all our cuvées.
With its fresh aromas, vivacity, purity and luminosity, the chardonnay is the essence of all our cuvées.
The delicate, fragile chardonnay will only display the full breadth of its aromatic richness after a slow maturation in the coolness of the Crayères (our chalk cellars): up to 3 years for non-vintage wines, and 9 to 10 years for a Dom Ruinart.
"R" DE RUINART
“R” DE RUINART IS THE EPITOME OF FRESHNESS AND BALANCE WITH GENEROUS PROPOTIONS OF CHARDONNAY (40%), PINOT NOIR (50 to 55%), AND MEUNIER (5 to 10%).
Visually, its radiance is crystalline with a shimmering yellow colour and golden hues. The nose is delicate and fruity displaying dominant aromas of fresh white pear and dry fruits such as hazelnuts and almonds, followed by white flower notes, Viennese pastry and buttered brioche.
THE ART OF TASTING
POPPING THE CORK
In the famous Déjeuner d'huîtres painting by Jean-François de Troy (1735), the diners are clearly delighted to see the foam bursting from the champagne bottle and its cork flying through the air like a rocket. "It's off, we laugh; it hits the ceiling," enthuses Voltaire in Le Mondain in 1736, several years after Maison Ruinart was founded.
Since then, champagne lovers have also developed a taste for controlling the cork and its exuberance: removing its muzzle, releasing it carefully with a steady hand applying small amounts of pressure slowly but firmly. The skill? Not too heavy a grip, but plenty of finger pressure…
So which is preferable? Explosive or restrained, both methods have their own merits. We should be guided by our taste and mood.
LAYING DOWN RUINART CUVÉES
Fruity, fresh and aromatic, these champagnes are made to be enjoyed young, no more than 2 to 3 years' old, and up to 5 years for magnums.
Note: Ruinart Blanc de Blanc bottles are made from transparent glass intentionally to highlight the Chardonnay. However, in order to preserve its aromatic integrity the wine should be stored away from any natural or artificial light source.
Dom Ruinart cuvées:
The origin of their grapes, exclusively Grand Crus, gives these cuvées, a high maturing potential provided that they are aged in optimum conditions of temperature, humidity and darkness, 10, 20 years or more depending on the vintage.
The wine will then take on more toasted, grilled and intense notes and its aromatic profile will develop as the years pass. This is a question of preference. Without exception, a Dom Ruinart cuvée is excellent from the day it is purchased.
THE OPTIMUM TEMPERATURE
Since sparkling wines from Champagne first appeared in the early XVIIIth Century, they have been drunk fairly cold, between 6 and 8 degrees. So for over a century, bottles of Ruinart have been served in elegant little containers called "champagne coolers" or in silver or porcelain buckets that are always full of water and ice. The ice was collected during the winter and stored in ice cellars.
Around 1830, it became fashionable to drink champagne frappé: very cold, at 2 or 3 degrees. This was a time when wine had a lot of sugar added, which did not ferment, and cooling toned down its sweet flavour. The bottle was served in a bucket filled with ice but no water, sometimes even plunged up to its neck in a mixture of crushed iced and potash or salts. Today, we have returned to the customs of early champagne enthusiasts and enjoy our champagne at between 6 and 9 degrees.
COUPE OR FLUTE
The champagne coupe, or saucer, is shallow and rounded with a flared lip and a short stem, rather like a water lily whereas the flute is slim, narrow and very tall, like a tulip. With its large surface area in contact with the air, champagne in a coupe quickly loses its effervescence. These glasses were highly prized a hundred years ago, when it was popular to drink Ruinart flat.
The narrow opening of the flute preserves the wine's liveliness and bouquet. Although it existed much earlier, it was only in about 1930 that the flute superseded its broader cousin. Since then the flute has reigned supreme, even though in France it is still "Une coupe!" when ordering in a bar. On some occasions, Ruinart also prefers the standard wine glass which releases a wine's aromas unlike any other.
BUCKET OR REFRIGERATOR
There is nothing quite like the sophisticated ritual of a bucket with its ice and water. Custom dictates 30% to 50% ice, the rest water. The champagne reaches the perfect temperature in 20 minutes. When time is short, two handfuls of coarse salt can be added to the water.
In the absence of a very cool cellar or an ice-bucket, then of course one will turn to the refrigerator, choosing the cold area appropriate for the desired chill level. The bottle should be laid on its side, to avoid temperature differences between the top and bottom. Plan ahead: allow 2 ½ hours for one bottle, longer for more. So always keep a bottle of Ruinart in the fridge...
Avoid the freezer at all costs … It requires more time than a bucket (40 minutes) and is much more risky as the bottle may simply explode.
SABLER OR SABRER
The meaning of sabler? To gulp or swallow in one go, according to 18th Century dictionaries, and those of the 19th add "to drink copiously".
Sabrer? The French for "to sabre", removing the top of a champagne bottle with a sabre. The custom originated with Hussars of the Napoleonic Guard who liked to celebrate a victory with a flourish, removing the cork with one elegant, dashing blow using the back of a blade. This practice remains with us today, synonymous with celebration, festivity and panache.
FRENCH ART DE VIVRE
Maison Ruinart was founded in 1729, well into the XVIIIth Century, at a time when a new 'art of living' was emerging in France. The previous century, that of the Sun King Louis XIV, had seen the rise of a society full of pomp and splendour. The century of Maison Ruinart saw the development of a society of refined taste for all things fine and elegant, sophisticated and rare, devoted to the pleasures of the senses and of the spirit. Sparkling wine was one of the greatest expressions of that golden age, an occasion full of exceptional moments for connoisseurs and the fortunate few. It was in this atmosphere of refinement that Ruinart met with his initial success and the Goût Ruinart, the Ruinart taste, was born. Since then, not a single Ruinart cuvée has failed to fulfill the promise of this art de vivre, the French way.
by the Prince of Ligne
It is no surprise to find this princely name among the clients in the Ruinart ledgers.
A soldier, a diplomat and a man of the world frequenting every court in Europe, Prince Charles-Joseph of Ligne (1735 - 1814) was, above all, a man of pleasure and of wit. He was the perfect embodiment of that aristocratic 18th Century clientele, a man of unwavering taste who found in Ruinart his wine of preference.