All posts filed under: Champagne

The Zero Dosage Dilemma – A Visit to Hambledon Winery Hampshire

Zero Dosage champagne is a dilemma for purists. On the one hand, it shows us an expression of the wine without the mask of added sugar before bottling. On the other, it can sound a bit similar to other marketing re-mixes such as Coke Zero, or perfume houses that put out so-called limited-release versions just before Christmas. Whether the finish of a sparkling wine with a sugar dose – and it is only a pipette – masks or enhances is a matter for debate.  “You either love it or hate it,” our guide at Hambledon Winery in Hampshire, Joe Wadsack explains, “It does take a while to get used to it, like jumping into a cold sea, but that shock is also what you want.”   Most people like to think they like “sugar-free” but would they if they were handed a glass at a party? To understand how dosage adds to, or takes away, from a wine, we tasted four different levels of dosage and the differences were quite apparent:  Zero dosage (Brut Nature = No added …

David Hockney A Bigger Splash

The Perfect Splash: Champagne Nathalie Falmet Le Val Cornet NV

Once in a while I taste a Grower Champagne* that could break through the noise of big brand Champagne marketing. Brilliant examples of grower Champagnes that have done this are Jacquesson and Pierre Gimmonet, producers who are not affected by anxieties about the done thing in the tightly-regulated region, producers who have singularity of vision and style. Focus for a Grower Champagne is like concentration in diving and what allows them to constantly change, somersault and twist so the end result of all this experimenting with names, blends and single vineyards – for those in the high seats cheering them on – is one perfect, delicate splash. Onto Nathalie Falmet Le Val Cornet NV. My first impression of this single vineyard Champagne is delicacy but this was quickly overcome by the bright flavours of summer: layers of freshly-cut nectarines, red apples and strawberries. All of this feels gentle and joyous, like a walk to the park for a picnic on a sunny day, until you realise the deeper notes of honey, caramel and liquorice suddenly have you in the path of a parade complete with …

Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur NV at Hook Camden

Whenever I hear of the Champagne Ayala, I instinctively move the Y-sound and think of the French fashion designer, Azzedine Alaïa. This is the designer loved by 1990s supermodels: all black, super tight, super sexy clothes. To my mind, this Champagne is not dissimilar in style: elegant, sensual yet precise. Ayala is not just a miserable step-child of Bollinger. When Bollinger acquired Ayala in 2005 it put money where it was needed and then left it alone.  It’s remained a Grand Marque in its own right. One of the original “drier styles” of Champagnes developed in the 1860s. Both Bollinger and Ayala are neighbours situated in Aÿ, an area known for its Pinot Noir, but this is where the similarities between Bollinger and Ayala style end. What is the difference between Bollinger and Ayala? To keep the 1990s fashion theme going, Bollinger is to Ayala as Georgio Armani is to Azzedine Alaïa. And Ayala (and Alaia) is less mainstream and well-known. For me, I love Bollinger but sometimes it has to be Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur NV for its slightly drier and lighter style. At Hook Camden, the lovely Dublin lads created …

Which is the best Dom Perignon vintage: 2004, 2002, 2000

“Dancing, music, champagne. The best way to forget until you find something you want to remember….” Marlene Dietrich to David Bowie (youtube, Just a Gigolo, 1978) IF you are ever in the difficult situation where you have to make a choice from different vintages of Dom Perignon, don’t be shy. Here are my thoughts: The 2004 vintage sits between 2000 and 2002. If I had to choose between 2002 and 2000 then… 2002 wins hands down. Between 2004 and 2000? I would still choose 2002. Right now, the 2000 Dom Perignon has that sherry oxidative note taking on the toasty and brioche notes. The 2004 Dom Perignon can be happily opened now but will start getting better in 2017 and stay great until 2028. Despite tasting them many times, I’m still not totally convinced it was necessary to make 2000 or 2003 vintages – neither are a classic DP experience. Unlike the 1996 and 2002 vintages, which taste fresher and brighter. These bottles can be brought out at your funeral. Your friends will love and forgive you. The …

Jacquart Champagne at Atelier Brancusi Paris

Jacquart Champagne’s new prestige cuvee 2005 alpha was launched last Tuesday evening at the Atelier Brancusi, the studio of the Romanian artist, situated next door to the Pompidou Centre in Paris. “Did his life end up okay?” I asked the museum guide, looking at the black and white photographs of him working in his studio amongst the organized chaos of marble dust and twisted metal. Everyone laughed at my question. Moving along… Not so fast.

Dom Perignon Rose 2002

I remember vividly the two types of customers who coveted Dom Perignon Rose. There was the geeky Champagne collector who had an intimate knowledge of all the vintages and variations and then there was the Warlord-types who drink it everyday and live in central London for half the year for tax (and other) reasons. Not in either camps, it was a happy coincidence to be invited to the

Waris-Larmandier Sensation

After being chatted up by a few Champagnes at a tasting, it was good to have a real conversation with Waris-Larmandier Sensation NV. The better grower Champagnes do not waste words; they have something they need and want to say. In this case, poised and radiant, it was also the way it said it. The 10% of Pinot Blanc (only possible because the vines are

2003 Dom Perignon: Dark Revelations

If fine wine can be defined by how much it develops in the glass over time, prestige Champagne is by how well it stops time. Only Dom Perignon could make the District Line in winter peak hour feel as alive as being on a yacht in the Midi sunshine. It is a long time since I felt that beautiful. I have been asked a few times since the tasting, “Is 2003 better than the 2002?” Compared to the 2002, which had powerful white florals and laser-like lightness (and I love love love), the 2003 had a different richness and density. Chef de Caves Richard Geoffroy persuaded me not to use the word broad – not that Dom Perignon could ever be a rugby player wine –  but perhaps a better word would be darker (I found out later there is a higher percentage of Pinot Noir in 2003). It is certainly a different animal to the 2002. From the first moment of candy nougat that brightly swirls to an austrian bakery character and stripes of hazelnuts it dazzled like a fun fair alley at night. The cinammon and …

New Moët & Chandon Imperial Ice Champagne

As Miles Davis put it, “If I don’t like what they write, I get into my Ferrari and I drive away”. Moët Imperial Ice is the new Champagne from Moët & Chandon, and like Miles Davis’ late experimental phase in the 1970s, the adding of ice in Champagne is more Bitches Brew than standard Kind of Blue. Personally, I start screaming if ice is anywhere near my Champagne, I am not joking, so it was with great trepidation I arrived on a sunny afternoon in May at a hotel rooftop in Mayfair for the launch.

Champagne, darkly: Blanc de Noirs

This is the time to pull out the Blanc de Noirs Champange. Blanc de Noirs literally means white from black, which, even metaphorically, seems appropriate. Generally NV Champagne is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. A Blanc de Noirs is 100% Pinot Noir. It has a red fruit depth, sometimes described as a meatiness, somewhat similar in taste to vintage Champagne. One of my favourites is from Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vigne NV, but other excellent Blanc de Noirs are Pommery Wintertime and the very special vintage Bollinger, Ay Vieilles Vignes Francaises Blanc de Noirs. One enjoyed recently is 100% Pinot Noir Secondé-Collard Blanc de Noirs Brut NV. It has the nose of a much more expensive Champagne, although one third the price of the Egly-Ouriet, with crunchy biscuity characters. The name is also appropriate, for it’s the right way to see divorce, or any significant relationship ending – as a second chance at your life. This is not the end; it is white from black, it’s a light at the …

2010 Wish List #4: Krug Rosé (half bottle)

Yes, it must be a half-bottle. Of course, it would be more practical, economical and sensible to buy a full bottle. But don’t be ridiculous. This is my wish list, and it really is not the moment to consider such prosaic things. It’s the time to dream extravagantly. So it must be a half bottle of Krug Rose and it must be in its lavender box. When it’s a half bottle, Krug Rose becomes more than just Champagne. It joins the modern consumer pantheon: objects such as the smooth black packaging of an iPod or the pale blue egg-shell expectation of a Tiffany’s box; things coveted for how they are presented as for much as what’s inside. Once you get past the pale lavender packaging – a colour that seems only to be found in very expensive cashmere – marveling how it is the same shape as the full-size version and squeal at how everything is so much smaller, you take the bottle out of its box, hold its swan-like neck and wonder: how is …

2010 Wish List #5: Inflorescence Champagne

  Coming in at number five on my 2010 wish list is Cedric Bouchard’s Champagne, Inflorescence.             “The explosive, kaleidoscopic Champagnes of Cedric Bouchard are some of the most compelling wines coming out of the region today… Readers should do whatever they can to experience these magnificent wines.” – Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate     When I read this review in Wine Advocate last April, I immediately started to look for stockists. There’s something appealing about a single-grower in Champagne in a place where every vineyard is held by multiple, usually corporate, interests. It’s the heroic story of the little guy winning against the big guys. There’s also hardly any of it around, and what was available had been snapped up, which, as you can imagine, drove me even more crazy…   Also, the word, Inflorescence – it sounds like it blossoms with marvelous bubbles. Does it live up to the name? I definitely want try a glass or two this year and find out whether it lives up to …

New Years Eve champagne

Still recovering. I know – a week after New Years’ Eve.  Drank some very good champagne – and it is worthy to note, because it happens so rarely – one after another.  Ruinart Rose NV followed by 1999 Dom Perignon, 1995 Krug with a chaser of NV Krug.  I’ve never tasted Dom Perignon beside Krug. Either it’s one or the other. The two champagnes don’t often mix in the same circles.  Yin and yang.  Dom Perignon is delicate, lacy and feminine. Krug is biscuity and masculine – although still very elegant and refined.   At least now I know why Dom Perignon is Marlene Dietreich’s favourite champagne. Let 2009 sparkle on! 

Champagne and Casablanca

As everyone is waiting, stuck in Casablanca, what else is there to do? Might as well drink more Champagne. Good idea. Casablanca is soaked in Champagne. Champagne features in nearly more scenes than the film’s star, Humphrey Bogart. I’m amazed Champagne isn’t featured in the credits as a character. From the first moment we meet Rick (Humphrey Bogart) playing chess against himself in his saloon, Rick’s Cafe Americain, he is seen drinking Champagne in a Marie Antoinette glass. But of course, he never accepts drinks from anyone else. “Waiter, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot 1926, a very good wine,” orders the Captain for the visiting Nazi Major. Then there’s the bottle of bourbon Rick drinks while he waits for an explanation from his ex-lover Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” Rick sits in the dark remembering happier times. With the arrival of the Nazis in Paris, Rick, Ilsa and Sam drink through their last three bottles of Mumm Cordon Rouge. …