Sunday, 27 February 2011


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


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


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


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. be continued.


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!