Monday, 12 December 2011

DOM RUINART 1998 - LIVE

I am so weak! Seriously! I am so weak I can't resist the seduction of the thought that comes to my mind when there is a bottle I have not tasted. And it is that one bit more difficult if I even dreamt about it the night before.

I bought the bottle I had been thinking of and contemplating buying since 2003 and never actually found the courage to gamble the odd £100 on it. Have I ever spend more on Champagne? Yes!

Anyway, I really buckled under the weigh of the anticipation of the experience and in the few minutes I had or at least allowed myself to justify, opening the bottle I bought this morning for Christmas dinner, there was no bang but a mere seductive sigh.

I really did not know what expect. I haD tried Dom Ruinart Rose before, and it was a stunning tipple but the standard Blanc des Blancs had been on list of the most wanted for a while; 8 years to be precise.

So I opened the bottle and smelled the cork. 1st thought = hmmm, interesting! I smelt the cork again and I was almost certain that it was not corked. But you never know. My expectations of citrus, shortbread seemed slightly validated but I did not know if the classic blanc des blancs slightly sulphurous, at times a bit overwhelmingly so, aroma would be present. The cork indicated some aspect of it but it swiftly dissipated.

Dom Ruinart is a straight Chardonnay so there as some expectations and rules to which one must adhere.

My bottle is a bit colder which is ok, as the wine will develop and will continue to do so as the wine warms up.

1st glass did not demonstrate anything overwhelmingly clear. Images of lime, shortbread and something green ran through my head. I could not quite nail the green 'stuff'.

2nd glass about 10 min minutes later and the wine has slightly opened up and strated to develop a little more with more pronounced character. I am really enforcing myself to smell lemons in it as the slightly block-like yet rounded image of the experience reminds me of Taittinger non vintage with strong freshly baked baquette-like aroma and lemon juice squeezed over it. But more to the point this is definitely ONE HELL OF A CHARDONNAY! Of course it is not Salon! It is a little more creamy. I stuck my nose in the glass after swirling it for a while and inhaled to get the most out of it.

PAUSE.....II>

The delicate texture of the wine danced on my tongue and I felt as though I need to chew it delicately like a jelly with a finish that begged for more. The horrible thing with these top cuvees is that one can't really get drunk that quickly!

I do have to try it again and see how my experience measures up.

In terms of complexity it fair very well, richness and body it has its substantial weight and its meaty/muscular elegance gives it a very strong seductive character. Its citrus notes slap one's face to awaken from such seduction.

Enjoy!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

A.D.O.P.T.

How often do we stand perplexed trying to discern some smell or taste or both when tasting Champagne that some other person commented on in his/hers books about wine and Champagne?

How many of us have wondered about 'Am I any good at this if I can't smell what I am supposed to be smelling (or that everyone else says they smell)?

Personally, I try and avoid describing anything I taste in great detail. I do describe it to people to offer guidance in understanding the differences between various Champagnes but ultimately my approach to tasting is somewhat reactive. I rarely skim through books to have an understanding of what a Champagne that I have not tasted should be like. I do admit that when stripped for cash I revisit other peoples' notes on some Champagne to psychologically relive the wine and strangely, I often reminisce in such detail that it seems as though I am drinking the Champagne. What a bloody cheat! And believe it or not, often my memories of the Champagne and the notes in the books could not be more different.

My point however has always been to allow people to explore Champagne in their own way. I wish I had the wisdom of the world of Champagne, but fortunately I don't so I am still left with desiring more and desiring new discoveries. The truth is that with my excessive consumption the rate of major discoveries has diminished and that is why I am always slightly envious of those who with great interest immerse themselves in learning about Champagne and more importantly the discoveries they will make. There is a tax of disappointment in that but with time that diminishes yet even I take a risk of being disappointed. My risk taking is now much dependant on my budget which is not as overflowing as it was some 6 months ago but it is truth undisputed that the higher the price the higher the expectation.

The reasons behind my being very limited in speaking about Champagne is manifold. I often feel that my experience of it is not so adequate nor as pristine as it used to be, but in the days when it was I thought it was inadequate because it was not objective and hardly ever consonant with what the big names of wine world said about any specific wine. From innocence to prostitution I realised, what Jung worded in following, that 'any form of formal training inhibits freedom of expression' (Amen!). So as much as I was interested in taking on formal training, I reconsidered and thus sabotaged my career as a sommelier, but at least I preserved at least some form of innocence and desire to learn and in fact more so, to experience an unadulterated pleasure of drinking Champagne. Differing tastes of fruits of the same sort are just as confusing.

Some might despair in that 'Oh I wish I could taste this and that that someone has written about'. Wish for it and it might just happen, but as the old gypsy curse goes 'be careful what you wish for as you might just get it and then you ll have to pay for it'.

Red apples, green apples, strawberries, cherries, white flowers, honey, acacia flower, acacia wood, raspberries, blood oranges, limes etc etc. Ever wondered how differently they taste? or smell? When they write about all the fruits, has it ever occurred to them that when you buy strawberries they often hardly taste of anything. Or when green apples are mentioned is there any specific reference to golden deliscious or granny smith or some forgotten summer variety? In fact I really would like to meet the person that knows what acacia wood smells like! It is a childhood smell of my grand mother's barn in which she stored all the wood for winter from the near by forests plagued by acacia trees and killed all the local and original habitat. Still the scent is unmistable! And if I were to describe it my words would not correctly convey the experience in such a fashion that as such I would be able to evoke the exact or at least some convincing proximation of the image I perceive.

And the last sentence of the paragraph is exactly what happens when you read what the connoisseur is trying to say to so many yet without a shadow of doubt he fails, but succeeds in impressing. Because drinking a lot is impressive! and have tasted a lot is equally impressive!

There are invariably differences just as there are difference in experiences and in life experiences so I would never dare assume that my life experience would indicate what others ought to experience. If however, someone says a politically correct diffuser 'All Depends On Personal Taste'  (A.D.O.P.T.) well quite frankly, it does not depend on the choice but the experience so, smile and drink on your own!

Friday, 19 August 2011

8TH INTERNATIONAL CHAMPAGNE DAY (ALT+CTRL+DEL)

Being sober is such a hard work! I don't dispute that it is better to be sober than being drunk, but there are days when not only does one need to get ruthlessly drunk but literally ALT CTRL DEL, as in alter (state of consciousness, control oneself while being altered so that nothing ridiculously stupid is committed, and then, with more Champagne just delete one's unnecessary thoughts).

And hooray, that is exactly what I did to celebrate the 8th ICD by which I public admit that I got really drunk, and I really needed it.

Friday, 15 July 2011

CHAMPAGNE - TO INVEST OR NOT TO INVEST?

It is surprising that I am not often asked if investing into Champagne is feasible. Champagne is not Bordeaux, that is true but unlike Bordeaux there is no actual trend in investing into Champagne other then for consumption. Well, at least not that I noticed. I have also discovered that some people will attempt to invest into Champagne as an asset but then either end up consuming it or underselling at auctions.

So what is the problem?

There are actually a few. First Champagne is an effervescent drink and if stored for a prolonged period of time the sparkle diminishes and eventually it becomes flat/still. Second the history of Champagne and its story is not so much about investing into it, but consuming. Third, Champagne has evolved rapidly over the past hundred years from being extra sweet to being extra dry so they we suited for the trends of the time, confirming that sparkle is the key to Champagne's success. Also the history of people recognising the potential of Champagne has over the past 30 years grown exponentially, but still has not reached the fame of Bordeaux. Which is also another problem, that there aren't many people who have the chance to sample historically important vintages and therefore the knowledge of those who might have an idea of Champagne's investment potential is pretty limited.

I can tell you exactly the content of my cellar. But my greatest interest is watching the wines develop over a period of time. Yes, the best vintage worthy of substantial financial investment (I mean get few hundred bottles if you still can) is 1990 and if chance, funds and knowledge permitted me to do that I would invest in the following:
Bollinger Grande Annee
Bollinger RD
Bollinger VVF
Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne
Taittinger Vintage
Salon
Krug Clos du Mesnil (Only)
Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs (Only)
Pol Roger Vintage
Perrier - Jouet Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs
Delamotte Vintage Blanc de Blancs

and that should be enough. I cannot say I am biggest fan of the 1990 but from what I tasted, I could tell which harvests have had a long term potential and with 1990 we still have few decades.

There have been other vintages which were great in Champagne. My personal favourite is ultimately 95 but its aging potential has not been that great but some wines...are always in any year, just as much as there are years/harvests in any house, always an exception.

I also think that investment into Champagne is not so much about the return on investment in the direct sense, as in reselling at auctions (this however is potentially viable with the 1990) but also a brilliant PR strategy. How many exclusive parties specify the vintage of the Champagne consumed? Does anyone care? Unfortunately the group of people that does care, because it is so rare to find old vintages, is so niche that it probably does not yet make sense. However if we look into the biggest Champagne markets outside of France such as U.K., U.S.A. and Japan, in these countries the average consumer of Champagne is a little more discerning than in other countries (at least such is my hope) so if the trend continues not only of high consumption but also of greater education, this becomes a potentially long term strategy to which it is worth investing.

The buzz of investing into Champagne will define itself in a few decades when, the consumption will have increase and great number of people will have attached some sort of sentimental value to a specific vintage if not more so that the desire to relive 'such moment' will be more psychologically undertoned even though their desired vintage may not be the best that there was. Furthermore, there will be growing demand and also increased supplied due to changes in legislation and recent events of contemporary society which has not only seen a crisis but also a decline in consumption of vintages which are now patiently waiting in the cellars of producers (not jsut to be stored perfectly) but also to show the potential.


:) more soon!

p.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

CHAMPAGNE - THE HOLIDAY

Has it already been one year? Wow, it is either very hard to believe or the Champagne year has really come to its end at practically supersonic speed. So he we are me and you, where I am feeling a little more sentimental than usual when I reflect on the last year's Champagne experiences.

I shall begin with this. I mean this thing you are looking at. The blog.... and I hope you have followed it as it is expected. I know you were busy. I know you had other things to do, and I know that not everybody cares about Champagne the way I do. But still make it a New Champagne Year Resolution to read the odd blast of my intellectual engagement with otherwise a plain fruit salad with side effects. At least you won't have a lot to catch upon. And you think that this is a long one then you really weren't reading the blog.

We established several other things such as the Scandinavian Paradox.

You might ask: 'you drink so much do you ever exhaust the champagne and is there something new to try still?'. Oh god yes! I still have a few on my radar that I want!

The Ring of the Great Century found its way back to out hands. No we don't control the world's supply of Champagne (if only) but it still continues to cause a stir and draw sometimes disdainful comments about what it is I am wearing on my little finger.

So what was this year's best tipple? Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs is definitely the one that exceeded all expectations. The next on the list is Billercart et Salmon's Blanc de Blancs and as number 3 from all the Champagne I drank last year is Philliponnat Cuvee 1522. No that is not a vintage, well it was but 2000 not 1522. And as it looks this year, despite several favourites which were drunk on a regular basis, last year is clearly ruled by Chardonnay!

So what to prepare for 18th of August 2011 for the 8th INTERNATIONAL CHAMPAGNE DAY:
1. If you re in London and on budget go for Bollinger Special Cuvee but make sure you get it up on Kilburn High Road
2. If you re in Sydney see how well priced is Gosset in comparison to Louis Roederer and then choose as your mood dictates. Gosset Brut Excellence is like little icicles of fruit on your tongue and Louis Brut Premier has always been silky and luscious
3. For Slovak consumers if nothing else then go for Tesco's Premier Cru but if you want to splurge that one bit more actually nearly double of the price of Tesco Finest's go for Louis Brut Premier which is reasonably priced in a shop near Kempinsky Hotel.
4. In North America I won't comment this year. Choose whatever you want even Krug's Clos d'Ambonnay.
5. Stockholm go for Bollinger Special Cuvee in Magnum. Systembolaget has it cheaper than in London.
6. Oslo's and Norway's Vinmonopolet has Gosset Grande Milessimme 99 at a bargain so that is likely what I ll be having too.

So enjoy the holiday. Feel no pressure, Champagne or otherwise. And remember, some parts of the book have already found their way on here.

For now and for a while till THE INTERNATIONAL CHAMPAGNE DAY cheers and consume your fruit salads sensibly; actually why should you! it only has 90 kcal per glass :)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

SO HOW DID IT ALL BEGIN? (FOR ME)

I would like to say it began 'with a big bang' and yes an actual one because the one that we all know of as Big Bang wasn't an actual bang because in vacuum sound waves do not travel.

I think, and I really only think how it MIGHT have begun I have to turn you to Bill Conti.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypZT4lQHoK8

ORF 1 tuesdays and thursday at 18:30 CET

do laugh!

CHAMPAGNE - VILMART COER DU CUVEE

This was a birthday gift to myself from myself. I washed with it 25 rock oysters and still managed to share with a friend.

So what was the wine like? Unfortunately, the staff that sold it to me had no clue what it was about. Totally contrary to his description the wine's finesse was comparable with Rol Roger by only about 50% with evident use of wood which interestingly resembled Gosset Grand Cuvee and because it was heavy on Chardonnay I considered it a less value of Cuvee Royale by Philliponnat but only 3 times the price.

I would recommend the experience not the wine.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

CHAMPAGNE- THE GIFT OF A KING OF NORWAY

I am easy. I am not easy in that sense of the word that implies that my heart and soul are on the threshold to be stammered on by anyone: au contrair!

Nevertheless, when someone gives me a bottle of Champagne I am always happy. When someone wants to impress me with a bottle of Champagne that, unfortunately, does not happen that often. The most impressive bottle I ever got was Louise 90. I thought 'someone engaged intellectually when choosing!'. Those that know me will endeavour to give me something I either like or have not had. In both both cases success is guaranteed. With respect of Louise 90 I probed how they came to that particular one? It transpired that it was a joint venture and that everything else would be either too predictable, or too ordinary, or too bad.

There however stands out one incident that has not received an acknowledgement. Months ago when I met someone, I was gifted a bottle of Laurent Perrier 2002, which by comparison was much more enjoyable that Cristal 2002, but what struck me was that the person hardly knew me, had only just met me and chose a wine that is as close to The Great Century as it gets! What was it that prompted this individual to choose this bottle over several others? Instinct? Price? but LP is not that expensive so is that why I got a vintage?

Regardless of the motivations many thanks for it and apologies for the delay in acknowledging the excellence of the choice, and more so, the suitability for the time when it was drunk!

:)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

DELAMOTTE-SALON

Delamotte is as close to Salon as you can get. Not just in the title of this article but also physically since these two are neighbours in the no less a famous village of Le Mesnil sur Oger separated by a 15 cm thick wall. These two houses are also connected intrinsically.

Grapes that are not good for Salon in any given year are not used in Laurent Perrier cuvees but are used in Delamotte. To correct some potentially wrong assumption, Delamotte vintages stand alone and can consider themselves a player on the scene that not many know about.

For example, 1995 harvests for both were declared as vintages so in that very surprising harvest where the wines demonstrated body, structure, weight and depth of character both houses nailed it. Delamotte did not get the Salon grapes because they declare a sublime tipple themselves.

But what wines they both were!!!
Delamotte - was big, slightly older, thus richer on honey notes, but as Le Mesnil would give anyway, a slap in the face, with structure, balance, finesse and great potential for aging. I tasted it twice and at first it was a little bit shy but then bang!
Salon - WTF? I am still in awe of this wine! Someone once told me that when they tasted it was too young, at which point I wondered 'which book did you read that in?'. The wine was historically young that is true, but too young? At any rate, this wine was 'A Madamme, so chic, and seductive, elegant and so powerful that no one on the planet would ever dream of contesting her'. In a less dramatic sense this was such a power wine, I nearly felt like biting into it not just drink it. At one point I actually caught myself, 'don't bite the glass, drink it' and I had to restrain myself infront of the lady that was showing me around Salon and Delamotte respectively and all I could utter was WOW!. Few years later, as I got a whole case to myself on the day I visited Salon, I must admit the wine fell asleep, the creaminess had disappear but the lean elegance was sublime, there are a few bottles still in my cellar but perhaps for my 60th.

95 is my personal favourite. :)

psst! the closest thing to Salon 95 WTF! was Gosset's Grande Millesime 96!

CHAMPAGNE - THE BIG BOYS AND THE BIG BUCKS

The fact is that most people are confused about Champagne. The fact is that most people think of Champagne as one wine. It is also a surprising fact how little people actually know about Champagne; I don't blame them. To know about other wines makes people disregard some, sometimes fundamental facts of Champagne. I decided to focus solely on Champagne as there is probably the most consistent progress in vintages and definitely not much progress in styles. For a new producer to develop a distinctive style in a short period of time is pretty slim.

The fact that people don't know much about Champagne makes some people pretty big bucks.

For example: Cuvee Dom Perignon. The problem with this one is that it is actually DP, that is the oldest cuvee de prestige as made famous and made by Moet et Chandon. It is produced in millions of bottles and essentially is the bench mark for any cuvee de prestige. Well, was.

Or, Krug for that matter. There I wonder why? well why is because it is Krug. A monosyllabic word that says nothing except we are big and therefore we can charge a lot. But in the end I have no intention of paying, like eveR, for it. Even when a bottle is gifted to me, I politely accept but I feel nothing extra.

Cristal, is, well Cristal. Sadly it is the brand and the reputation of Cristal that made the label so powerful despite the fact that Brut Premier is much more enjoyable and the Blanc des Blancs is intrinsicly sometimes, superior. Fortunately this is a small house.

As is Bollinger. Fortunately, Bollinger has placed itself on the market in a fantastic position. The Special Cuvee can rival for instant vintage Veuve. La Grande Annee is marketed as a cuvee de prestige as opposed to a standard vintage so naturally rivals Cristal, Krug, DP. But is at least 50% cheaper and it used to be much cheaper. The rest is so different to anything in Champagne that it became a trailblazer in the region. RD and the VVF are just incomprable. But many try.

Not many know or recognised Comtes de Champagne by Taittinger. Good, at least that keeps the price a little more inviting.

Grande Siecle by Laurent Perrier is by far better than DP but for a lot less if in duty free or on special.

Belle Epoque by Perrier Jouet is pretty much the same although it seems to lag behind a little.

Cuvee Winston Churchill, I could not be less overwhelmed. But the vintages can be very very very surprising.

Gosset with its Celebris, it is a bit of a hit or miss, but with the Grande Milessimee bring it one!

Oh Salon, costing a fortune but worth every penny.

And I shall leave it at these.

:)

Monday, 6 June 2011

CHAMPAGNE - THE MISCONCEPTION

When I start talking about Champagne I often encounter resistance, condemnation or in a better case just envy, but rarely yet it still happens, I meet someone who either loves it or is open to experience it.

The misconception I normally clarify with the following statement: I have everything you want and nothing you have. You want what I have but I am not interested in what you have.

People usually think that I have everything and I have Champagne, to get the record straight, I don't have anything, I only have Champagne.

No I don't have a mortgage. No I don't have student loan to pay off. No I have no commitments/offsprings. No I don't have a trust fund. No I don't have a house. Which is why I am free to roam around the world as I please......and drink Champagne.:)

....:)))

Monday, 30 May 2011

THE CRISTAL CLEAR DISAPPOINTMENT OF 2002

The flare, the patent of the label and all the fuss this iconic bottle wine comes in a glass bottle just like any other.

Let´s not assess the peculiar history but reflect on our last and very recent experience of it.

I am lost for words. 

...............there is a strange void of what should be filled with impression of this ......drink.


just get someone else to buy it for you.

cheers.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

CHAMPAGNE LOUIS ROEDERER BLANC DE BLANCS

When I first heard of this cuvee I dismissed it because it was a straight Chardonnay and at that time I had no great interest in wines of this spec. Nevertheless I had bought it and several years later I managed to get a bottle of the 1988 and drank it in 2005. The one resting in my cellar was a 1996, sublime vintage, so a year later I was expecting a return of the greatness I experienced with 1988. 1988 was divine, lush, soft, elegant, no sign of age, ripe but not too big, mousse just perfection and seductive like a nice blonde. So invariably my expectations rocketed and the 96 was chilled and in the summer of 06 I opened a bottle only to notice the difference between the two vintages. Unlike 88 the 96 was robust, rich, opulent and strangely almost explosive. Very citrus driven, with hints of limes and minerality. The minerality was present in the 88 but in character it was far more seductive and just downright happy whereas the 96 was like a shocking slap in the face. Then I tasted the 2000 and I found it similar to the 96 but the last bottle I tasted the 02 I was back on the ride of seductive elegance, soft tickling of fragrant citrus and jolly enthusiasm of happiness and carelessness....so how can anyone ever have a favourite Champagne I ask?

:)

PAUL DETHUNE EXTRA BRUT

Sometimes I do analyse and some times I could not give a rat´s arse about whatever comes my way in any way or in form of Champagne, so when I was in Oslo looking for dinner drinks I found Dethune Extra Brut purely by coincidence and by some stroke of luck cheaper than in London. So naturally as was no conflict to purchase there it was in the basket.

As it turned out I paired it with Salmon tartar which I admit was not the best of decisions but I did not reproach myself for it. It tasted great and that was good.

So the wine itself had less sugar than the standard cuvee, and I would be daring to say that with its being a Grand Cru it really did not need any dosage at all but as I could not do much to change that I enjoyed. The ripe apples that are distinctive in the normal cuvee were slightly less pronounced as the acidity threw me a little for the better. The mousse just tickled my palette and washed down effortlessly ending with a nice craving for more.

A perfect Champagne but I wonder what it would show were it on lees a few years more....would the toastiness and wood show nicely as an extra brut? Would a little more dosage be required to balance the nose with the palette? I dare only speculate!

Skol!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

EGLY OURIET BRUT TRADITION - AN INEBRIATED VIEW

So another bottle of bubbles went down like there was no tomorrow. Yes I was in a bit of a state, but at a dinner party which I organised and the company I was, it probably did not matter. On reflection, I thought once, that I probably made a total arse of myself, but my consolation was that I was in a state and that I must have made an arse of myself before and I am to date a happy man.

So I delved into literature on this tipple and Juhlin stated that this wine was supposed to be the best copy of Bollinger Special Cuvee. Really? In Stevensons´s World Encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling wine this producer does not even feature. Anyway, think I can live with that.

So what was it like? Well, I have described a grand cru Champagne from Ambonnay before but from a different producer and just as such this is also a Pinot Noir dominant cuvee yet not just that but balanced by Chardonnay. No it was not a copy of Bollinger Special Cuvee because Bollinger followed afterwards but it was similar in the body which is characteristic of Pinot Noir. The aromas were unfortunately a little restrained to the point where I thought ´Does actually have any?´ but at some brief moment I conditioned that if this is similar to Paul Dethune Blanc de Noirs then, my conclusion will be drawn on the quality and character of the location from which the grapes were sourced. And therefore, limited as this may sound, Ambonnay as a Grand Cru so far has not been able to stand alone. The taste which was indicative of a Grand Cru and Pinot Noir had more weight than aromas. It was delicate, soft, ripe and danced just as lightly as I expected but in all honesty I did not have to fasten my seatbelt.

Try and enjoy. It is enjoyable, but not too memorable.

Monday, 16 May 2011

CHAMPAGNE - THE SCANDINAVIAN PARADOX

Ever wondered where one gets the best deal on Champagne?

Years ago I was made aware of one peculiar fact. When I visited Stockholm I noticed that Champagne was surprisingly accessible and even more so at Duty free. Mind you this was almost 10 years ago (god I am old), and since than Champagne unlike my wages have kept fashionably ahead of inflation.

But who would have thought that Norway, Sweden would sell the best priced Champagne in proportion to their wages and in proportion to my wages. Undeniably the fact that occasionally I sniff out a good deal is a given but constantly and on premise of regulatory supervision in Norway and Sweden even Champagne has been somehow made for 'everybody'. How egalitarian!

The reason why this is so, is that in Norway just like in Sweden, the biggest buyers of Champagne are their respective governments which, from a business perspective, and given the economy of scale, get the best deal, with little interest to make more money on those who already pay enough high taxes so...Viva Scandinavia!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

THE EFFERVESCENT REDEMPTION

The past two months have been a hell!

Work was a nightmare! Entertaining delegations from all over the place, visiting friends in other places, recruitment of new staff, finalising plans to relocate and a lot more have taken a minor toll.

 Fortunately, the sun started to rise earlier, which in turn had somewhat beneficial result on my life, however, since I have a very photo-sensitive sleep unless we quickly come to summer solstice, I will be up so early that I'll probably beat an elderly person who needs, for the sake of the argument, only about 4 hours of sleep. No disrespect to the elderly, but to convey my point the dreaded thought and its acceptance, that of becoming older, is increasingly validated by a variety of means. The intensity of solar radiation in the morning may be one but there has been another which is even more disturbing; AB FLAB!

Understandably, once the stress levels increase, and mine increased to such an extent that I got my rash back, the appetite diminished not just for food but for fizz as well (not to mention.....). I have been so tired and looking it too that when I looked at myself in the mirror I thought I had fallen of the shovel of an undertaker.

But one Sunday afternoon I was redeemed (only for that afternoon, the whirl resumed on Monday morning) by Fortnum and Mason's special deal on Billecart et Salmon cuvees. The rose was a briliant bargain so one bottle landed in the basket without hesitation. However since it was only about 3pm I thought: 'I can't just sit on one bottle!' thus, I purchased a long awaited Blanc De Blancs. And what a drop that turned out to be!

Pure citrus fruit, dash of white flowers, balance of taste and perfect bubbles! AB FAB!

even the AB FLAB could be tolerated!

Monday, 21 March 2011

CHAMPAGNE BLISS Vs FAMILY BLISS

Virtually everybody wants a Champagne Life!

You return from work feeling you need something to boost your mood after a hard day's work where. Your boss shouted at you for no apparent reason. The ride on public transport seemed endless with all odours being involuntarily inhaled because there is no airconditioning and the efficacy of the deodorant has long diminished and it is not entirely excluded that some individual was kind enough to remind you of their lunch alternatively the dinner in one way or another.

This is where I shall continue with two options; One of Champagne Bliss and the other of Family Bliss.

They say that children are life farts because you can tolerate only your own. However, even that is often not true. Some can barely tolerate their own offspring. I don't blame them. A child, god forbid if you have many, is worse, more expensive, more demanding than a mistress. Unlike her, children need new clothes and shoes more often than every season. Sometimes it seems that even though you finish one job with an abusive boss, the work at home does not finish but you get a second helping which at some point involves dealing with somewhat similar odours than those on the public transport from which you just got off. To add to that, you have no money, because those small sods don't have an income yet so if you want to indulge in a glass of something lovely you a/don't have the money, b/by the time you sit down you won't have the energy to enjoy the 'something lovely'. I shall say no more!

Champagne life, is slightly different. Yes the chores of domestic cleanliness are a given. But, after the arduous return from work there is only one thing waiting for you; a bottle of something lovely which you can enjoy uninterrupted and it is still cheaper than an offspring. So you'll be smelling, honey, white flower, red berries, and taste pretty much the same things...so no wonder that Champagne Bliss is so wanted. However, it does wear out.

Nevetheless, since we do have the privilege of choice we are responsible enough to make the right choice for us.

Bottoms up!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

CHAMPAGNE - CHECK MATE

Once one utters the words 'check mate' a defeat is on the way. At least for me because I'm terrible at chess, but I am not quite sure I can play it.

In my understanding, it is a point at which there is no other choice but to resign on one's efforts and accept the situation for what it presented itself to be: a conclusion. Having said that, I am not convinced that a defeat is the only outcome but generally it may be seen as such.

One day, a day that was a day on which I would reward myself for working hard I went to my usual shop and thought 'I should buy a bottle' but I did not. According to the staff at the shop I surprised them, and subsequently, they declared 'we underestimated your will'; I went to the shop and bought nothing and that evening I drank nothing either.

The board was set on my first visit to the usual shop and for nearly 3 years I played my part with bottles of Champagne to my best ability, only to realise that all that time the wine was winning but that one evening I thought: 'let's just pop in and say hello' and felt no impulse to buy anything and none of the bottles spoke to me.

Was the game over? Who was the winner? I moved the last piece to say 'I am done here'.

p.s. thanks Majid.

Monday, 7 March 2011

THE BOLLLINGER INDEX (1 BLG = GBP 30.00)

Whatever money I earn I either spend on Champagne or travelling and often both. I cannot say that drinking Champagne and travelling is particularly exciting as my ideal flight drink is a good old G&T but I shan't deny that I have done it the noble way too. The fact is that in retrospect a flight to Sydney from London is about 25 hours long and being infused on Champagne is actually a little worse on landing then being infused on Gin. On the minus side, the good stuff is only served in the premium cabins and often it is not what I would like to drink anyway but gin is on tap in any cabin. So for me a Sydney trip is never too long as it is not 25 hours but 15 G&Ts that I have to deal with; more importantly, you don't want to be drinking Champagne you don't like just for the sake of it.

The point is that having visited a few places I could tell that the prices of Champagne wines do vary from place to place. Somehow I always settled on looking at Bollinger but, believe it or not, this is not available everywhere. Nevertheless, everytime I relocate the first shop I go to is a wine shop and I check the prices of Champagne wines. Of course I convert ever single one of them most of the prices are not that difficult to remember.

Classic example has become Bollinger Special Cuvee where the variable is pretty high. For instance a bottle of it costs in London is anywhere between GBP25.00 - GBP 44.00 mostly I buy it for GBP 30.00. In Sydney the same will go for AUD 100.00 which with the current rate of exchange amounts to GBP 76.92. In Dublin a bottle is at EUR 55.00 so with the horrendous rate of exchange again this translates into GBP 50.00. In Paris the prices are little bit more humane reflecting the higher end of Londons' shops. But the biggest surprise is where you would expect it the least: Scandinavia!

The Bollinger Index (1BLG = GBP 30.00) establishes how expensive certain places are to live in and subsequently whether or not I could/would live there. So Sydney and Dublin I am, for the given reasons, ruling out but Scandinavia here I come!

The other aspect of The Bollinger Index is related to prices but not necessarily of Champagne wines but more generally. Good example is rent. London or anywhere. For a studio in London you would cough up about GBP 250.00 which translates into BLG 8.33 meaning that you could get 8 bottles and 2 glasses of Bollinger for it. As another comparison is lets say a pair of cuban heeled boots from YSL priced at GBP 620.00. For that amount of cash you ll get 31 bottles of Bollinger Special Cuvee so The Bollinger Index would read BLG 31.

Just to be even  more peculiar I divided 1 BLG into 6 units as there are 6 glasses in each bottle and named it RDL as in 6 Riedels.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

ROSE - THE STYLES

When I started with my intellectual immersion in Champagne, I was determined to try them all, but some, after tasting weren't as captivating as others. I have in mind Rose (pink) style.

It was too sweet, it was too plain, it was too pink and that was enough to make me dislike it. In the earlier days there weren't many Roses. The few I can recall were almost unattainable and my reasoning validated spending money on the white more premium wines; just as any sensible student would do!

Krug Rose, was so expensive I just thought it was a completely different virginal extract a tipple to dip a nipple in. Bollinger Rose was not really on the market in its NV option. Laurent Perrier had been already an icon but not really that famous to make it to the top shelves of posh shops in Sydney. Billercart et Salmon? Who the ..... was Billecart et Salmon? and many others.

Anyway, several years later, I had the pleasure of tasting quite a few; in fact, I did not just taste them, I actually drank them! Fyi I am Mr. Swallows.

So here follow the most memorable Rose Champagne and those that were so, hmmm, you will see...

Laurent Perrier Rose NV
- Superb aromas but restrained;

Ruinart Rose NV
- Raspberry Cheesecake

Dom Ruinart 1990 Rose
- (WOW!!!) Peach pie which has just been taken out of the oven overwhelming anyone with the sweet yet burnt juices of the peaches on the baking tray.

Krug Rose
- What the...?

Billercart et Salmon Rose
- Blood oranges

Bollinger Rose 1988
- Dead!

Bollinger Rose NV
- A basket full of freshly picked sun-kissed strawberries. (quite syrup like)

Gosset Rose
- Summer berries (mostly raspberries, and red currants) slightly restrained in taste.

Louis Roederer Rose 2002
- Yum! Slightly spicy and earthy.

Cuvee Dom Perignon 1992 Rose
- £300 a bottle, thank God I did not pay for it!

So this is it if you have any question feel free to ask.

If you want to invalidate my comments on the premise 'all depends on personal taste', unleash your passion with no restraint.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

CHAMPAGNE - THE BEST?

The best? Hmmm, what a myth!

I am often asked 'What is the best Champagne?' and I am stuck, at least I have been stuck to answer this question for a long long long time.

I originally thought that the best did not exist, but even now I don't think it can be defined in simple terms, but the best is something elusive inasmuch as would be the best song in the world.

Speaking of songs; I will always love you by Whitney Houston is the best selling single EVER! On par, with the sales of the howling female, in Champagne Moet et Chandon would be the equivalent which certainly is no wonder that in Champagne Moet is regarded as the 'coca cola' of Champagne. (fyi Pepsi is Piper Heidsieck) Personally, I would not even bathe in Moet. Once I received a text from a friend in Sydney: 'Drinking Moet and it won't be the same without you'; last time I was at his house I was jet lagged and I washed his windows so naturally, I thought, 'is he washing his windows?'....and with the Moet? To cast a light of difference, I do admit that Whitney was a brilliant vocalist, inasmuch as Moet must have been a very good Champagne about 150 years ago. I do dare drink Cuvee Dom Perignon but not every vintage rocks my boat.

Were I to consider the best on the premise of quality my bold declaration would be in 4 letters: KRUG; but even here I am chuckling and confidentely declaring that there are better Champagnes than the K one.

Each to their own. I am lucky enough to drink a lot! If that can ever be regarded as lucky, but you get the gist.

One can even ask 'What is the best style?'. My answer would not be any clearer!

Champage is the BEST DRINK, which many will argue, but I can't say that highest sales figures, superior grapes, inflated brands, unique vintages or who knows what else can give anyone an idea what is the best.

I have had my few love affairs with a few wines and on reflection the styles, the grape classifications, the vintages the wines could not be anymore different; nonetheless, I think I do have an old time favourite...

... and the wine that is my favourite, has been regarded by many bona fide critics as their favourites as well...

... and no it is probably not what you might think...;)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

CHAMPAGNE Vs ASSIGNATION

How do you decide between pleasures? Which one to take first? or both? Choices, choices, choices choices....wouldn't it be just simpler if there was only ONE form pleasure, even if it entailed swinging from the ceiling anticlockwise?

I face this dilemma all the time. I spend almost an hour in a shop looking at bottles or boxes of Champagne hoping that in that time one will speak to me in such a way that it would make me choice it over the other 30. They don't.

Most of the time I have had them all from the normal selection, so those I have not had are pretty easy to choose especially if the price tag is inviting. The latter however does not happen that often.

As much as I mentioned that I would wish a bottle to speak to me, it is me that leads an internal monologue about the styles, the harvests, the houses, prices and anything else against my current mood or what I may feel like drinking in the next 4 hours.

I get so hyped up about one particular style that I fly into a shop get a bottle and just wash it down as if it were water and I had just got back from a tour around a desert. This too does not happen often.

There are times when I work my appetite up for a specific bottle that is given to me. I have received a lot of bottles  in my life, but still I have purchased far more so I am still stuck with the dilemma.

So the truth is, that whatever I choose I have to accept the responsibility of the consequences of my choices and at times gifts are a relief but in the end if that is not an option all I need to do is to K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid).

Bottoms up!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

2003 BY BOLLINGER; 2003 PAR BOLLINGER

This entry has nothing to do with the previous one. Although I'll presenting not only a legendary house but also a legendary year. These, however are not quite that legendary to make an entry into the essay on the myths and the legends.

2003 was year to remember. Not just that I officially graduated from University but also that I returned to my parent's house after an educational 3 years abroad but also that somehow the year turned out to have been quite interesting on the personal front.

Viticulturally, and as you will probably read in a variety of mags, was everything but normal. I was in Paris and Chamapagne that spring only to notice an early onset of foliage on the trees. Little did I know that 2003 would be the hottest year on record for over a decade. I ventured to the north of Sweden in May 03. Leaving Slovakia's 35+ degrees centigrade and arriving in the Umea to only about 7 degrees with ice still flowing in the local river and crocuses just about to bloom. I spent the summer in Ireland which felt like a sea side resort not the emerald island. God it was hot hot hot hot and hot hot hot hot and hotter! The one regret I will always have of that summer is that I should have bought the Dom Ruinart Rose 88! Too late I guess.

So once I left Ireland only to find myself with a 15kg rucksack wandering through Champagne on foot covering 160km of the region's famous villages, vineyards and towns. As much as the region produces the best drink on this planet the region in itself is not that compelling. In fact it is actually down right dull.

Anyway; 2003 was so hot that the grapes were harvested in August as opposed the normal harvest time of September and because the weather continued to be hot well into September this had a suprising effect on the left over bunches on the vines which also reached maturity of sugars and acids. This meant that 2003 had 2 harvests. Excessive heat is never really a good thing. It increases the sugar content in the grapes at the expense of natural acid content. The perfect year would have the rating of equal acid and equal sugar content in the grape around the value of 10 (I think it is actually 10 mol per gram, not sure though) The most perfect years that I know of were 1990 and 1996 where 1990 was praised as the best since 1928. So 2003 would be nowhere near those wanted values.

So Bollinger decided that since they had two harvest and the year was so exceptional they would release something other than the standard range. It would have been too early to release the vintage as La Grande Annee and for the Special Cuvee it would be just lost. Thus I think that the 2003 special release was a brilliant marketing move.

When I first heard of it it was in 2007 so by then it was already disgorged meaning that it only had around 3 years on lees. I bought the first bottle in January 2008 and then on in May 08 one in Dec 08 one in May 09 and the last one few days go.

Initially the wine was 'green'. As it developed in the bottle it reached a very nicely fragrant acacia wood and honey tones but the last bottle was just fine and the body and power has almost disappeared. When I saw the bottle my dilema was resolved immediately as I thought that this cuvee was now extinct so my debit card took the pain. But I was wrong. There are two more bottles in the shop awaiting my purchase. Since the wine has gone 'to a tunnel' I won't be too eager to cough up £50+ for a another bottle. I don't think it is worth the try anymore. :(

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

CHAMPAGNE - THE MYTHS AND THE LEGENDS

Since in the last post I threw in a few names and in fact some names have been mentioned here I have decide to share my thoughts and experiences with some houses and of the wines they produce.

I have a very relaxed attitude about any Champagne and with those that I have not tried I normally have a blank sheet on which I write my thoughts and impressions. Strictly on purchase basis, that is that I drink the whole bottle myself to see how the wine develops while it is being drunk and see how my attitude change while I am getting drunk. This philosophy resulted in some interesting discoveries.

In the course of 'a nearly a decade' of drinking but more importantly thinking about Champagne I have reviewed a few hundreds of wines. Of course I am nowhere near Richard Juhlin's 8000+ champagnes, of course not, but I have always been interested not only in just wines themselves, and their intrinsic value, but equally importantly the reputations of the houses making their wines, their philosophies, their missions, the peoples' perceptions, the peoples' thoughts, affections and more surprisingly I witnessed the formation of my own opinion of the houses and wines respectively.

Like in many the word Champagne evoked certain feelings in me, it compelled me, it disappointed me, it made me question, ask and further probe what is the big fuss not necessarily just about the drink but as later proved, about the reputation of some houses where the wine failed to live up to the expectations which were laid either by the promotional campaigns in magazines, price tags, previous experiences of other cuvees from the house, magazine reviews, sommeliers, shop assistants, books, encyclopaedias etc etc.

The undisputed power of names such as Bollinger, Krug, Cristal, Dom Perignon, Taittinger, Laurent -  Perrier, Moet et Chandon, Perrier Jouet, Pol Roger, Vueve Cliquot, Lanson, Salon and many more have all  some stigma attached to them, and it was interesting to see which were contrived and which evolved as a result of a great product.

I will provide my most sincere thoughts on the houses and their wines while abstaining from giving you catalogue like descriptions of the wines of dull historic fact of the houses. For those you may want to look to Juhlin, Sutcliffe, Stephenson or just the website of each of the houses or if unsure just use wikipedia. This article will reflect the journey of discovering the quirky aspects of Champagne, facts or things usually dismissed, overlooked, or as it happens absolutely wrong.

Learning of the myths and the legends in connection to Champagne has proven to be quite an exciting journey. So you do have something to look forward to.

....to be continued.

BLANC DE NOIRS - PAUL DETHUNE

So pay day was yesterday and I did not get as much as I was expecting as by the looks of it the accountant made a mistake; I think I should be able to breathe this one through!

...and as the pay day came, I committed to getting the bottle of the highly anticipate 'newly' discovered producer.

I rushed from the office to make it to Fortnum's before they shut and grabbed a bottle as if it were Olympic torch to start the feast of sporting excellence. Totally unrelated to the subject, but hey, came out like a pearl from a dead or old (nearly dead) shell.

So the tipple was very Pinot Noir! Interestingly fragrant, with melon-like richness but it was a little bit 'flat' (I don't mean less effervescent but sort of like unripe or insipid water melon) in taste and the mouse was aggresive. I thought that this cuvee must have been a total monocru (grapes only from one village in Champagne) and to be a little more brave I would suggest that this one was even a single plot. There are a few phenomena in this cuvee: a, monocru the likes of which are made famous by Salon from Le Mesnil Sur Oger (priced at about £250 a bottle); b, single grape of Pinot Noir which was made famous by Bollinger Vielles Vignes Francaise (priced at £400 a bottle; which since 2003 is also a monocru); if I am right in that it is a single plot then we have the following examples that are technically on par: Krug's Clos du Mesnil (cca £600) and Clos du Ambonnay. To make this even more interesting, Krug Clos du Ambonnay costing around £2500 per bottle is actually in the same village as Paul Dethune's operation is and is the same village in which the vines grow of the discussed grapes and cuvee. So this is the blurb. I trust it makes sense and I am going to draw a little matrix of comparisons.

                                       Grape Variety       Wood used          Cru               Plots      Price
Paul Dethune                     Pinot Noir                Yes           Ambonnay           1(?)      £43
Krug Clos du Ambonnay   Pinot Noir                Yes           Ambonnay           1          £2500
Bollinger V.V.F.                Pinot Noir                Yes                 Ay                 2          £400
Salon                                Chardonnay              Yes         Le Mesnil s/Oger   N         £250
Krug Clos du Mesnil         Chardonnay              Yes         Le Mesnil s/Oger   1          £600

N = grapes from multiple plots were used; the exact number is not known to me or may vary from year to year.

I am fully aware that some words may not be clear but I would spend too much time writing the explanations for everything that there is to be said about 'Cru', varietal properties and characteristics, Cru characteristic etc. It is much easier to see just the basic tech specs. There are other things which must be taken into consideration but about those later.

With this matrix you can see the similarities and the differences, limited as they may be. As much as I am a passionate drinker I would find it very hard regardless of how much money I might have, to spend or to justify either £600 let alone £2500 on a bottle of Champagne and to be even more specific on Krug (my Krug experience has always been 'disappointing').

But the point is all the Champagnes I have compared here, have not only different price tags but also taste differently. I drank a few bottles of Salon, VVF and one of Paul Dethune's Blanc de Noirs and I can say with perfect confidence that they could not be the same. I shan't bore you with details for now as there would be too much to dissect. I am happy that I had the pleasure of Paul Dethune's Blanc de Noirs as in conclusion I would not say that this wine is an ideal candidate to stand on its own (monocru and single plot - if) but it would be interesting to see, and keeping it still a Blanc de Noirs, how other crus i.e. Verzy or Verzannay or Ay for that matter, could contribute to this wine to give it more zest, life, finesse to convey something that would be a virtually unheard of in Champagne for nearly 100 years, and that is new style. Dethune himself may be restricted with what plots in what crus he owns or can source his grapes from. So lets just see what the future will bring if it does we have a new and a reasonably priced bombshell!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

CHAMPAGNE - REWIND THE VHS

The title in itself makes me shudder! The fact that I remember what 'rewind' button and the acronym of VHS mean back fired spectacularly during my Christmas break.

Anyway; since Champagne holiday has not begun I see no reason to reminisce over what 2010 brought. Nevertheless there is one thing that is worth mentioning.

Paul Dethune; a small producer from Grand Gru with Pinot Noir dominant blends which have powerful body, soft acids, ripe flavours of baked apples. I have only had the NV but I have been eyeing the the blanc de noirs. Fortunately, Fortnum's stocks it!

Bring it on!

...may my pay day come.