Wednesday, 23 September 2015

CHAMPAGNE THE BEST - WHO KNOWS?

This is the black hole of any wine maker, critic, and consumer. And trust me, not even a bubble can escape it.

Is there such thing as the best Champagne?
The process of understanding what 'the best' may be I have already addressed and in conclusion I was no clearer.

But since, years have passed and I had the chance to ponder again.

I realised that it is nobody other than merely the consumer that declares the BEST CHAMPAGNE. And this means that there are many, and not just one.

Admittedly there are conventional attitudes toward this definition but they are only relevant as far as motivation to drink it is concerned. And the experience? is unique to every individual.

So what is your best Champagne?

p

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

FORTNUM AND MASON - HOUSE - BLANC DES BLANCS, GRAND CRU.

How many times have I actually been at Fortnum's?

I don't know! I suppose I lost count!

I have always been a bit reticent to buy 'house brand' Champagnes, but since Fortnum's seems to be the brand of excellence, I had had my eye set on their range. But I never committed to buying a bottle.

Why? Perhaps distrust to house labels!

I have always been wary of recommending Champagnes; chiefly due to the incomprehensible power of the word 'Champagne' and moreover the expectation that the word induces. And I was no different.

But back to Fortnum's; if it weren't for my ex boss, now a very dear from mine, I would probably never taste the house stuff from them. It happened because chocolates not Champagne but once my friend produced the box, it was clear who would get what! She got chocolates and I got Champagne. We shared of course but....

So what was it like?

Hmmmm, if you roam around the shop on Piccadilly it is not difficult to ascertain the mood, and I think the Champagne embodied the 'mood' of the shop. It was soft, lingering, enticing, non-confrontational, somewhat plain but in its own simplicity a memorable tipple. I will have to ask if the Champagne is expected to manifest the ideological heritage of the shop.

Chances of my buying it? Quite slim, but when chance permits I will be looking out for it.

A good experience nonetheless.

Peter

Saturday, 5 September 2015

CHAMPAGNE - THE DRIFT AND THE SHIFT

How long has it been? 13 years that I actively decided to explore Champagne? In fact I have always been fascinated by it. There are things I can't explain and some I do not want to. Once I said, 'love, genius and beauty are incomprehensible' and this applies to Champagne, with exaggeration, ten fold. 
In the previous entry I indicated that objectifying can be more damaging than helpful, in fact, I had per-pended for years how relevant it actually is. I have always been reticent to dictate to anyone what a wine tastes like. To taste this and that might serve a purpose but over the years and with the expansion of 'trained noses' the message that is often conveyed is like a code of something that is indeed incomprehensible. I recall reading Metro at my usual wine shop and read in amazement that comparative assessment of three rose Champagnes was a selection of the same words in different in different orders. And how on earth is the reader supposed to orient himself in that? My professional experience of the wine professionals wasn't the best. I don't intend to be bitter, but I think that cashing on ignorance is rather unfair. From my entries it is apparent that my assessment of wines from Champagne is reduced to a distinctive characteristic. Take for instance Louis Roederer; its silky and fruity character lingers in all its wines. For Pol Roger I can only say that it is a fine (I mean refined) Champagne. So as much as I will be condemned for it, everyone's experience is a unique one and reduce it to objects deprives us all of the enjoyment of the experience. I drifted from the objectiveness, although, I had attempted it, but now I shifted toward describing the experience of the wine rather than reduce it to a few words. And this is where my policy of one bottle person, on one's own is the best place to experience the wine. I don't like mixing emotions from the environment with the emotions that the wine induces. Champagne is art, and so is poetry and when we describe our experience of poetry we describe the emotions it evoked. More on this in the book! p.

Friday, 4 September 2015

POL ROGER 2004

When I first had Pol Roger, I was not very impressed. Why? I suppose it was too opulent too round and with aggressive bubbles. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps, I was inexperienced. But that was over 12 years ago and since then I tasted a few vintages and other products from the Pol Roger range. And over those 12 years I have selected a few producers whose vintage releases I follow religiously to taste the expressions of the year in which they are released. I am happy to say that Pol Roger Vintage is one the new additions to the club. So what was it like? The vintage 2004 in Veuve, Bollinger, showed similar signs as 1995. Great, and I mean grand, chunky, rich, lean in taste and expressive on the nose. Typically pinot noir based wines, and rich oxidative character this year and the wine have a very down to earth character. Where 95 was elusive, almost esoteric with Bollinger, structured and bodied in Veuve they both showed exquisite potential for aging with almost eternal elegance. 2004, is slightly old for its age in the bottle, but bearing in mind that the wine had a lot more on lees than 95 it is only to be expected. In 2006 I tasted it as R.D. and I could draw very interesting parallels without compromising the expression of the house styles. Anyway, I highly recommend it. I am reticent to ambush you with my 'objectified' notes on it because I stopped making them and started to focus on spontaneous expression. Cheers Peter

12TH INTERNATIONAL CHAMPAGNE DAY

I am almost a month overdue on writing the entry of an event that I invented. I also completely broke the tradition of highlighting the best Champagnes of the year past and failed to issue recommendations on what would be the best tipple. This year's ICD was for lack of a better word, and in fact when you think about it, an oxymoron, quite modest (modest Champagne? ehm!). I spent it in the company of friends who this summer almost adopted me as a member of their family as my own family seemed to have disowned me. So I celebrated it with the best of the modest Champagnes and that was nothing more but Bollinger Special Cuvee. Peter p.s. the list of Champagnes that I have yet to cover is growing very thin. I do have a few things that I want to share.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

LA GRANDE DAME - ROSE 1988 - THE PINK CHANGE!

At long last! The pinnacle of Rose/pink expression by the house that invented the style. Years I had been lusting to try this but the price has always stopped me. Sacrificing £360 for a single bottle and gamble on top of that wasn't exactly my true commitment to the wine. But as it happens by random chance which is a result of many being at the right time at the right place I found a rare bottle of this marvelously prestigious wine in the middle of nowhere and at only £100. Having a general knowledge of Champagne wines I was acutely aware that the wine would be old but that did not prevent me from coughing up the money. So what was it like? Well, old. Not dead as acids were quite interestingly alive. Colour was like polished copper and the nose slightly waxy and powdery. With minor notes of coffee and caramel the wine was clearly a dead end with no future anymore. And this is always the gamble with champagne which exacerbate the thrill of buying and add to the expectation of the wine. They either exalt the experience or completely ruin it. Won't be rushing to get another one. :)

Sunday, 28 June 2015

CHAMPAGNE - THE PINK CHANGE

I could not overlook the pink change of the recent days. I do not wish to address the worldwide craze of the pride, but profoundly more social, cultural change that is the result of unprecedented international and cross cultural change that homosexuals have finally succeeded in. I will also address a long lasting affair with the two that were still left. I am not a child of revolution but a child of conforming. But in my life I have experienced, first hand, several revolution; sociocultural and at first political. Naturally, I cannot discount my own revolutions and revolts against all odds. The notions, which is far from quantifiable, is also the driving force of those who have contributed to the pink change even in the most negligible way. Without reducing the weight of it, an argument with parents, has contributed what we have noticed in the past 6 weeks. It is not just the Irish referendum, but the efforts and the changes in the world that culminated in what many of us may find hard to accept. The presistence, assiduity and relentless pursuit, that no single individual could pull this off. Yes, the success of it has a few death in it way, which makes if for a marvelous dramatised version of it but I would do it no justice if I were to sum it all up in one paragraph. I will, however, say, and in a way, reiterate, the cost, not just fiscal, but time, effort, energy and lives. And as such all this is a result of 30 years of brazenly lobbying for attention and validation. A fight, and an effort not likened to anything in the history books. I am trying to draw attention to the international co-operation, collaborating effort that can be overlooked. In January I had ho idea what this will be like. In April, walking through the forests I looked around and with strange certainty I exclaimed that 2015 will be a year to remember. Of course, I had Champagne in mind. We will not know for a few years to come and when the vintages from the most acclaimed houses reach the shop shelves we will look at them with great pleasure of the memory of something great. So in other words, the symbolism of Champagne as a celebratory drink and the acute social triumph will only add to the value of Champagne. I am crossing my fingers for a good technical spec of the harvest. I WILL WRITE MORE ABOUT THE RECENT CHAMPAGNE SOON. JUST TO SAY, IT IS ONE OF THE GREATS. PETER

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

CHAMPAGNE VERSUS PROSSECO

Is this even a question? Champagne of course! I know that I will be condemned for saying that Champagne is better and I will also be called a snob, but there is a reason why Champagne is Champagne. Yes Champagne is expensive. In fact it is more expensive than when I started drinking it but one can be very lucky to find a good deal here and there. I also said that if you want to learn to appreciate Champagne you have to drink a lot, often and not the same. I won't lie that I had always drunk Champagne, nor will I say that I have not tried Prosseco or other fizz.I will say though that Champagne is altogether a superior drink delivering wines that are at extremely reasonably prices if you consider them as expressions of the varieties from which it is made. For comparison, Burgundy a good bottle of burgundy fares around £300 and you can get a decent expression of Chardonnay from Champagne at around third of the price, for example Comptes de Champagne by Taittinger. I refer to Champagne as wine. Champagne is also the first letter in my drinking alphabeth 'C' and the second one is 'B' for Burgundy. When it comes to Prosecco I see as just a sparkling wine and not an artistic expression of the grape varieties it is made from. But then that is just me. Champagne as we know it now is a fairly new thing, only about 100 years old and who knows what Prosecco will be like in 100 years. As I am unlikely to experience that I will continue to drink the best drink in the world as it is. Sometimes 3 times as expensive as Prosecco but then I don't feel the need to nurture an alcohol addiction. May be just enjoyment addiction. So for me, Champagne is still the best drink in the world. :) Peter

Thursday, 12 March 2015

CHAMPAGNE - BESSERAT DE BELLEFON

My gym was shut! But it was not some planned refurbishment but a police raid. I cycled back only to ponder the eternal question of drink and ab flab. Shall I indulge again? Did not take long to see that the mission of reducing the 15% of body fat to about 9% would this evening be a complete failure. I decided to have a date with my long time love affair, Champagne. Strangely, I was somehow set on a bottle anyway, and in fact on a bottle that I had not had before, but I was not sure what to have. Have you ever thought 'Oh Bollinger? Not again!'? I did! And I did it about an hour ago! I think the jaws of my friends have sunken in awe of uttering those words. Anyway, I chose something that has been looking at me for a while though I had seen in other shops. And strangely enough it was what I thought, and what I was happy to drink and in fact, how bloody rare, I actually felt like drinking, A straight Chardonnay. So what is it like (as I am still drinking it)? Clearly it is not a grande mousseux, as the bubbles are slowly popping out and the pearl threads are quite leisurely streaming through the wine. On the nose, I dare say, hint of cream (clearly an MLF except that it is toasty not brioche like; hmmm may be I can't smell well as I am at the end of a terrible cold or a clear example that I have not tasted anything interesting for while) and lemon juice. Now the lemon juice is a tertiary note I would comment on but on the palette the taste of lemons is accentuated. As a wine it is well rounded cuvee with citrus baseline structure so the acids drive the length of the wine. Hmmm, I would compare the wine to Ruinart's BdBs but at the begin more with Dom Ruinart rather than the standard version. The next balanced chardonnay from Champagne that comes to mind is Billercart and Salmon. Both however, do share similarities, but the nose here stands out. May be this is just a good wine with no identity. Will finish and try again, how soon I do not know. peter

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

NON CHAMPAGNE ENTRY.

As you probably know Champagne uses, predominantly, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunieur as their basic grape varieties to produce their legendary drink. I have been following Champagnes for over 10 years, and aside the wines from there I have always, although with a slightly more tepid enthusiasm, various expressions of the aforementioned varieties. I spent some time in Slovakia and tasted some of the wines there. Pinot Noir is extremely popular though I fear that it has reached its excellence as the producers are able to produce 'nice, good wines'. I also must conclude that it is unlikely to pass that anyone will develop a truly exquisite wine with an outstanding character that will stand out in the entire world of wine; amongst wine professionals and amateurs alike. Chardonnay wines however, can be quite oily or just too ripe or too round but this could be due to MLF which unless avoided will always give the wine slight feminine character, with hints of cream. I found one sparkling wine which I thought was quite impressive. Regrettably not at its best, but the composition of eighty per cent Chardonnay and twenty Pinot Noir was a classic expression. And naturally it was quite an interesting one! Although I think that the product was rushed on to the market to meet some, non-existent demand, but more like push it onto the market to offset the production cost. I only conclude those point because the taste of the wine was similar to grapefruit with slight bitterness and that the wine was very fruit driven on the nose. In case of the former this is indicative of young vines and in case of the latter it is a result of short exposure to sediments. But I was impressed! I certainly taste worse Champagnes. I would like to see how this wine develops over the next few years, so I will keep a watchful eye. :)

LE MESNIL - BLANC DES BLANCS

Oh here we go again. It has been a while since I wrote something for which I do apologise to my beloved reader. Every since I got a smart phone I rarely used the laptop that I used to have and thus did not really use a proper key board. I admit that my Champagne intake diminished too, but I cannot say I have been entirely sober. The usual dilemma is often exacerbated by an expectation that I am trying to meet, in fact more candidly, exceed. It is my curse to have drunk so much. It is also the curse of drinking so much that what once seemed thrilling now seems ordinary. I see no point in digging deep to discover why that is so, because what I am about to say is that I discovered an extremely reasonable but very nice, and at long last a 'classic' Champagne. A stroke of folly, or luck, made me chose a bottle that looked rather dull. I bit the bullet and I was very impressed. Because the village is so famous for its big Chardonnays I was expecting something with weight and quite ripe with good balance of sugars and acids. It was still a non-vintage so I had my raving reigned in. On opening, all my expectations were met. The wine was big, bold, balanced, with character, aged in oak, elegant, seductive and marvellous to drink. I sighed of relief that this was, at last, A CLASSIC Champagne. Toasty notes mingling with candied fruits, yet on the palette lively acids added to elegance, making it luscious. I have not had one for a while so I think I should go back, get a bottle and see how I feel about it now. p.