Sunday, 2 April 2017


I cringe at the idea of Brexit. But politics aside there might be a silver lining for us who love our golden hued tipple.

As I have written before, the last economic farce that had half the world freaking about the word crisis, had a positive impact on Champagne. What did I do? I drank more Champagne. Yes, we have been enjoying the fruits of exceptional stock management in Champagne to present day and we will continue to do so for the next few years.

Fact is that in the next few years some of us will not be happy. I shan't be! Especially due to the fact that my favourite tipple will start increasing in price. Marginally, but still.

And just like ten years ago, the consumption of Champagne in the UK will recede and to add, the prices will go up because there will be hired tariffs put on imported goods.

And for the Champagne houses the change will be short lived just like all other crises and changes that Champagne has had to weather in the past two centuries.

And what will I do?

Well, I had more than enough of Champagne last year and I have not had anything this year yet, though there have been cravings (I admit, but I made the most out it). So this temporary resting period will come to an end. When I don't know.

Think, drink and believe Champagne!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


Normally, I would not write anything in reference to what to drink around xmas and nye, but recently the influx of opinions have put me in a position that as a Champagne drinker I have to concede and say something.

People are talking about the review of 'Which?' in relation to Champagnes best buys. Yes, I think it is a marvelous thing to impartially advise on what is good and/or what is a good buy.

I have always been following the supermarket brands of Champagnes and they all have changed. The best one I remember was actually Waitrose Blanc de Blancs which is made by Mesnil from Cote de Blanc. I have to warn you that this is not a classic Champagne! And neither is a pure Blanc de Noirs! The quality of Champagne varied, and so did the taste. This is not only because of storage, stocks, price, shipping or my mood, but inevitably trends and bottom line. I remember when Tesco did its pure blanc de noirs which was exquisite. I also remember that Sainsbury's blanc de noir was a bit dull and hard to drink.

Anyway, what struck me in the article was the declaration of what Champagne should be; whoever said it is biased and probably never listened in or been to Champagne. The rule number 1, the ultimate rule of Champagne is ABOVE ALL, balance! All champagne wines, the fizzy kind, are always balanced, that is the ultimate rule to which all Champagne houses adhere! Everyone! So whether you are Louis Roederer, Laurent-Perrier, Salon, Krug, Bollinger, Deutz, Charles Heidseick, Pol Roger, Perrier-Jouet, Delamotte, Mumm, your key mission in creating your cuvee is balance. Now, this may seem trivial, but achieving balanced cuvee in a region that is so diverse in producing varied intensities of each of its grape varieties is quite a mission. Champagne producers are so good at it, that it is taken for granted. A good example is how other regions outside of Champagne have managed to achieve balance - just to revert to my previous entries, Akarua fizz from New Zealand is a perfect example of good balance; or Graham Beck from South Africa.

The next rudimentary criterion of Champagne is a bit more elusive but it is one of the fundamental blocks in drinking Champagne. Champagne has to drink itself; by that I mean that if you are drinking Champagne with every glass you drink you want more. This is chiefly down to the alcohol content but the style plays an important role as well.

Now, one more thing you need to know. Remember that the likes of Moet, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl etc are made in volumes and I mean loads. The question of quality of grapes will be important to pose. As much as all are Champagnes the quality of the grapes is on the lower scale; save tesco, as it indicates they have a premier cru (and if I am not mistaken, Waitrose actually has grand cru).

So what to drink this year?

Well, if you are on a budget and you need to buy loads to cater for a large group of people, get the Tesco Premier Cru.  Overall, it is a good wine, good price, it has been consistent, plus it is from one of the best villages in Champagne.

Although I am going to be slandered for saying this, Lanson is on special and despite the fact that LVMH have stripped them off all the good vineyards, they keep producing consistently good wines! The NV is on special, but if you can get the vintage, or the Cuvee Noble you won't be disappointed in quality, sensation and price.

As regards, Piper or Moet, well, there is a reason why one is called Pepsi and the other Coke of Champagne.

The two Champagnes I drank in the past few months, were Bonnaire and Lalier. So if you can get your hands on those you will be guaranteed to have a sensational experience.

So, merry holidays. :)

Saturday, 10 December 2016


I was invited to a tasting of the blend of the Special Cuvee in March this year. The tasting took place mid April and you might wonder why I have not written about it. Well, for a variety of reasons: a, the tasting, as an experience, robbed me of all the words to describe it b, I was professionally involved with wine, and I didn't think to impart critical thoughts about any aspect of it publicly c, it was one the things that I never thought I would achieve, or experience so naturally, the shock from the whole thing was both, intense and long lasting c, the tasting was filled with so many new sensations that I still haven't quite reconciled my emotions about them. To be really honest, this kind of experience, was something I had always wanted but because I have always been on the periphery of the wine world, I never thought would materialise.

I am no different in recognising that Bollinger is a highly respected brand in Champagne and in the world of wine, commerce, branding, entertainment, sensation, banking, fashion or in more simple terms, Bollinger as a brand is intricately woken in everyone's fabric of life. Those that know me would argue that Bollinger is my favourite brand, but that is not true as, for instance, this year my favourite, is Ayala (incidentally, owned by Bollinger). With Champagne, it is important to understand that every house, well most at least, does endeavour to convey a unique style, and the Champagne appellation is a great platform to allow so many producers from one region to deliver different expressions, or more pragmatically, products.

So the panel consisted of me, my colleague from the shop I used to work at, a few writers, the local reps and who knows else. One thing I have to remark on, is that I was surprised how little, or ill prepared others were. We were taken through the 2015 Pinot Noir from Tauxieres, 2015 Chardonnay, 2015 Pinot Meunier and from 2014 all basic varieties, along with 2006/7/8 reserve wines stored in magnums. The magnums are a unique thing to Bollinger and I was curious how much the reserve wines contribute to the style. To add, we tasted the cepage/blend before 'pris en mouse' and aging. Naturally, it was a brilliant analysis of the process of creating the Special Cuvee, what Bollinger declares to be the vehicle, or the flag ship, of the House of Bollinger; a sort of naked tasting of Bollinger. To gloat about how unique the experience was, apparently it was the first time Bollinger did something of this kind outside of Champagne.

I wasn't the only one who was impressed with the 2015 Pinot Noir. I would call it 'Le Perfume de Bollinger' but that would be a complete lie because I would die to know what the base wines for Vielles Vignes Francaises (VVF) must have tasted like. The wine was a smack in the face and there wasn't just one 'wow'. Denis Bunner, deputy cellar master, understatedly declared it only as 'expressive'. Just to give you an idea, Tauxieres is a village in Montagne de Reims which is famous for growing the best Pinot Noir in Champagne. Its slopes are north-east, east, south-east and south facing which give the grapes differing intensities in expression. So if the Tauxieres intensity had an enormous wow factor, and it is south east facing, with added sun of south facing slope of Ay where Vielles Vignes Francaises are grown, I am very excited about what VVF will reveal in a few years time.

In Champagne blending is something of an art. It is crucial and in many respects one of the key features of Champagne as a wine. To blend variety of still/base wines from differing grapes and differing plots with differing intensities and further work with production methods to achieve a distinguishable style isn't exactly the easiest task but with a years of experience and an ongoing dialogue and honest opinions it is evidently achievable. And it is clearly achievable not only by The House of Bollinger but many others. So much so, that even a layman can tell the difference; and that is the actual point.

But that is not just what Champagne is about. :)

More some other time!

Monday, 31 October 2016


Well, well! I tasted, but didn't drink Bonnaire range in 2003 with the wine maker and his son. I asked out of curiosity when the son first drank Champagne. It was the father who replied: "The minute he was born". It was probably intended as a joke but I decided to believe it. Since then Bonnaire slipped completely from my radar, for a few reasons of course. It was practically invisible to me as hardly anyone stocked it. My  memory of it was great, and memorable but in those days a malolactic Champagnes and a straight Chardonnay weren't exactly on the top of my agenda of Champagne explorations. In those days I was fascinated by Pinot Noir expressions. Though, it would be unfair to say that about a year later I would drink Mumm de Cramant which is a village, grand cru, growing exclusively Chardonnay grape producing extremely elegant and floral Champagnes. Mumm's relic which I have not seen on the shelves for years reminded me of Bonnaire, but yet again, Bonnaire slipped my mind just as Mumm's blanc de blanc slipped from shop shelves; for years (a decade!)

Until, last Friday, it was offered to me as a gift. I was very pleased to see it! I was pleased to see they have changed the design and I was pleased to be drinking it. I was excited to finally have something as delicious as Cramant Chardonnay.

Oh and was it sensational! Round, perfectly balanced, although not a total blanc de blanc but unmistakably rich, full of fruit and long elegance. Structured almost like an Avize Chardonnay would be, and as elegant as Le Mesnil would grow. Brioche nose with light hints of honey will develop over a few years into nice hazelnut tones. And for an entry level Champagne this is an absolute BARGAIN and a total sensation!

I have a new favourite!

Buckets of it now!

Monday, 17 October 2016


I am not sure how many really care, but the question that I have been trying answer to myself is clearly on my mind, and has been for a few years.

The difference this time, is that perhaps I have found an answer to it which I feel is good enough to accept without compromising wines or houses or vintages, which may not stand out as much as some select few or worse reduce the brilliance of vintages, house styles just to a universal one. That in itself for me seemed too unjust and discriminatory, and in simple terms I just could not do something like that because, as you have probably ascertained, I experienced so many wonderful Champagnes and to select just one was a mission impossible.

I ,also, perhaps slightly hypocritically, dumped the question on my reader and between the lines the text was: 'I cannot make that decision nor will I commit to naming the best champagne so if you are a drinker who cares about that, then perhaps you should name your best Champagne'. This was a good approach, one a psychologist would apply, but in the end the question remained unanswered. And, as  friend put it, 'a Champagne expert' like me, with my own critical approach, should be able to answer the question. Because, I, too, as a drinker, dumped the question on me.

You will find that the answer is just as confusing as the question, but the story of it makes sense. The fact that even an expert, regardless who named him/her, cannot answer the question does not mean that there is no answer to it. Yes, there is no such thing as the best Champagne, in fact the oblique nature of the adjective 'the best' is in respect to Champagne wines, houses, vintages virtually impossible to apply. Without a doubt it is okay to accept that Champagne is the best wine in the world, but he who drinks it will know that, and he who does not will probably argue that so that as a question and a dilemma is practically redundant.

The answer is surprisingly simple. It is a straight forward no; there is no such thing as 'the best Champagne' but if the question is changed into something that many aren't able to articulate, we encounter a very reasonable avenue of thought and emotion to explore. And it is exactly there where the answer lies.

Those that drink Champagne genuinely love it. It is true that the current trend of dissing Champagne in favour of 'Prosecco', is best summed up as cheaper alternative but delivers a similar sensation albeit utterly incomprable. So human sensation is the answer. I can progress from processo and say with great confidence that Champagne is infinitely more sensational. I can also say that there are some sensational sparking wines from all over the world but then there is Champagne, wine and region, which produces the most sensational fizz in the world and even within that region there are more sensational Champagne than others.

Naturally then, what is the most sensational Champagne? And what is the best sensation in a human life? Love? Falling in love? Standing in Love?

So, what is the most sensational Champagne? Well, simply, the one you love, or the one you have fallen in love with! Does this satisfy me as the answer the question of 'the best' Champagne? YES!
Because I have fallen in love with a few and love many.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016



...that Louis Roederer no longer makes their Brut Premier. Nothing illegal about the fact that they do sur latte. But ethically.....

since all bottles are numbered and should not appear in supermarkets eventhough that Waitrose is an exception I wonder if the consistency remains the same.

My magnifying glass is now on it!

Magnums, single bottles, until I am fully convinced that there is small variable my scrutiny will be ruthless. Louis, I am watchful. and if you do do sur latte, and deliver a consistent product, I shall congratulate you exponentially.

fail, but can you?


Tuesday, 9 August 2016


There is a house which I always have to check the spelling of. Honestly, to present day, I really don't know where and when to duplicate the 'n's and the 'p's .

But what I know, that the house is one of my many favourites. Yes, one might ask, how does it compete in the realm of noble fizz? The truth is, that its does not!

The one thing about champagne that most people misunderstand, isn't the competition about who is the best, because, as I had suggested before, the best hasn't really got a measurable unit. Champagne is more about identity.

Philipponnat is a wicked, often too undestated a tipple, largely consumed in Italy, that is one of the greatest flirts in Champagne; the elegance, the body, the bouquet, the length, the balance the richness and classic expression makes it one of the most favourite champagnes of my life. With its traditional focus of production its identity lingers between the giants of Louis Roederer and Bollinger. I hated writing that, because it does not do Philipponnat justice in its elegance which by far exceeds that of Bollinger (and Bollinger has a 'love me or hate me' attitude), solely because it is extremely understated, and with Louis, it has far more intensity which the classic method of production brings forward.

I have tasted the entire range of Philipponnat, but I haven't really drunk all of them; after all I only have one liver.