Based in Reims, in a magnificent estate, Ruinart is the oldest Champagne house producing sparkling wines. It is an icon among aficionados of chardonnay champagnes, and its distinctive bottle shape is immediately recognizable. The house is part of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group, which also owns other beautiful Champagne houses and which is, in my view, a guarantee of quality and consistency in their champagnes.
Nicolas Ruinart founded his house in 1729, as it was only on 25th May 1728 that a royal decree authorized the transport of champagne wine in bottles, hence keeping its precious bubbles in the wine. At that time, Nicolas was working for his father in the drapery trade. His uncle Dom Thierry Ruinart, a visionary Benedictine monk contemporary of Louis XIV, understood the promising future of the “wine with bubbles” of his native Champagne and passed his intuition to his nephew. On 1st September 1729, Nicolas Ruinart opened the very first ledger devoted to sparkling champagne. This document constitutes the official act for the foundation of the house.
The beginnings were very modest with just 170 bottles sold in 1730, with clients being essentially the same for both drapery and wines. However, as Nicolas noticed a certain decline in the drapery business, he decided to concentrate his efforts on the production of wine. The growth was exponential with 3,000 bottles sold in 1731 and the wine business kept on growing in the following years. Ruinart wines were sold in the north of France and the south of Belgium. Their clientele mainly comprised the wealthy middle class, artisans, and nobility.
In 1764, Nicolas’s son Claude joined the business and expanded the exports, traveling extensively to as far as America and Russia. The ever-increasing activity needed new storing solutions for the precious champagne bottles that had until then been stored in the cellars of private residences. Claude decided to acquire some of the chalk pits exploited by the Romans, more or less abandoned, and use them as cellars.
The Ruinart family continued to expand the business and on 12th April 1817, Louis XVIII granted nobility to François Irénée Ruinart. In the first quarter of the 19th century, the house invested in additional vineyards and opened up new markets in England and the US.
However, WW1, the crash of 1929, and WW2 had a toll on Ruinart. In 1946, there were only 10,000 bottles left in stock and only two customers in Paris; Ruinart was on the brink of disappearing. In the same year, Bertrand Mure, a family member, took over and started rebuilding the house and the brand from scratch. This is when he decided to refocus on chardonnay, which today characterizes the Ruinart style of champagnes.
After a glorious past and several vicissitudes, Ruinart joined the LVMH luxury group and has since become one of the most appreciated and respected champagne brands in France. President Frédéric Dufour heads the house since 2011.
Vineyard and Production
Ruinart owns about 17 ha, but source the vast majority of the grapes from vine growers throughout Champagne. LVMH does not disclose the champagne production volumes of each house, but estimates suggest a production of more than 2 million bottles per year. Chef de Cave Frédéric Panaïotis heads the work in the cellar, characterized by vinificatons in stainless steel vats followed by full malolactic fermentation and adequate–but deliberately not too long–aging.
Ruinart champagnes are characterized by a high percentage of chardonnay in the blends and reductive winemaking, resulting in elegant light champagnes with a distinctive smoky nose and aromatic freshness. They are very easy to drink also thanks to the addition of chardonnays from the Montagne de Reims that make them rounder than those from the Côte des Blancs.
The range is focused–the way I like it–and made of elegant champagnes that virtually everybody likes. Their non-vintage Brut R and Rosé deserve their fame, the Vintage is solid, and their cuvée de prestige Dom Ruinart (Blanc de Blancs, and Rosé) is spectacular, but their Blanc de Blanc non-vintage, their most popular cuvée, is my favorite for “everyday” consumption. Not long ago, I gulped down two bottles at the champagne happy hour at MO bar in Singapore. So easy to drink; so easy.