Tuesday, 20 December 2016

XMAS SPECIAL - CHAMPAGNE

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

CHAMPAGNE BOLLINGER - SPECIAL CUVEE - BASE WINE TASTING

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

CHAMPAGNE - BONNAIRE - TRADITION

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

CHAMPAGNE - THE BEST? - AGAIN - THE STORY OF FINDING THE ANSWER

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

CHAMPAGNE LOUIS ROEDERER - BRUT PREMIER

RUMOUR HAS IT....

...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

CHAMPAGNE - PHILIPPONNAT- THE GREATEST FLIRT IN CHAMPAGNE

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.

:)


CHAMPAGNE

What is Champagne if we discard the ever-so-confusing concept of it?

From my experience, Champagne largely delivers, and in fact to be brave, it exceeds our expectations; regretably OFTEN. Worse, however, is, that Champagne sets the bar so high, which it OFTEN naturally exceeds it, that our disappointment of it, should it fail to deliver, deepens profoundly.

My initial phrase is altered, albeit borrowed from Leo Tolstoy, who questioned: What is art if we discard the ever-so-confusing concept of beauty?

To ruin the allure, to ruin everything I knew of Champagne when I found out what it was, I realised, that Champagne isn't really just a drink but it is people! This however, made my quest to undestand it a lot more difficult; instead of understanding Champagne, I had to learn to understand people; through Champagne.

Although with great disdain of myself I must confess that Champagne became somewhat secondary, and my interest in understanding people's motivations to drink it, to slander it, to rave about it to succumb it deepened beyond expectations. I had absolutely no clue, that through Champagne I would be exploring peoples' motivations to drink it, to love it and ultimately create the myth and the allure around it.

But why is it so, that Champagne, discarding the bubbles still holds such a profound place in our lives? Yes, marketing aside, because Champagne became bigger much before marketing was even an option of business, it does make me wonder if Champagne wasn't actually the birth place of both, marketing and brand identity development.

My intention is to keep my reader in suspence; partly because I want to add value to the discovery, but to be realistic, it is crucial to understand that Champagne as a drink is totally subject to our views, not the other way around.

Think, drink, believe Champagne.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

CHAMPAGNE - VERY SPECIAL THANKS FOR THE 13TH CHAMPAGNE YEAR

Without a shadow of doubt I am thrilled about a few things this past Champagne Year and unlike normally, when I do all the hard work, this year I have a few very interesting people to thank for their contribution to my Champagne experience.

My former colleague and, now, a friend Agniezska Nemiec I should like to thank for being so brave and selfless of running the risk of depriving herself of the greatest experience of her life, which happened to turn out to be one of my longterm ambitions and she knew how much it meant to me. 

Mr. Bertrand Verduzier of Gosset for being so wonderfully patient with me and my questions when I was at Gosset.

Elodie (I have forgotten her surname) of Joseph Perrier for enabling me to understand another Champagne house a lot more.

Sonya (also forgotten her surname) of Bollinger for a wonderful trip through the cellars and managing to organise, at last minute, visit to Ayala

Philipponnat and Ayala, I have to put in one bucket - completely my fault - because I have forgotten the names of the ladies that did the tours for me. But what a blast! Thank you!

Mr. Dennis Bunner of Bollinger for his extensive knowledge to which I was lucky enough to tap for a very short period of time and have many of my uncertainties clarified.

Thank you all for contributing to what I now call 'my Champagne renaissance'.

 

13TH INTERNATIONAL CHAMPAGNE DAY - CHAMPAGNE HOLIDAY - 365 RECAP

So here we go. Another year down and another year to look back and think what was so astonishing to drink!

The 13th year started for me with the notion that the likelihood of my drinking excessive amount of champagne was coming to an end. I was ambitious, and I was more interested in just cutting down on booze full stop.

I failed, in certain respects. Especially when it comes to Champagne. But where I failed I realised that the silver lining was in experiencing my own Champagne renaissance, as well as comprehend a few more things about it.

I have tasted a few very interesting Champagnes. I have also drunk a few of those as well, only to realise that tasting is no good for me, and I don't think tasting, God forbid spit, is the right way to appreciate Champagne. Even if one has years of experience, one bottle is the perfect size for one person to actually have the best chance of appreciating the wine.

The 13th year also gave me the opportunity to assess people's motivational choices. My sample was quite small (in psychology this would probably be deemed sufficient) and perhaps a little too mono-cultural but through that I had made some very startling discoveries of that one particular culture. Obviously, various cultures have different attitudes toward Champagne. About that I will talk about in the book. I had the pleasure of talking to other nationalities but one, surprisingly, astonished me. Perhaps in my convoluted manner I made my point addressing my findings in previous entries so I shan't polute this article with it.

So, Philipponnat, Bollinger, Ayala, Gosset, Pierre Gimmonet, Drapier, Pol Roger, Joseph Perrier, Charles Heidsieck, Moet et Chandon and about 20 small producer were all the wines I had the great pleasure of tasting and some of them I drank.

And who stood out of it all? An you will be surprised!

1. Moet et Chandon - this must be the worst Champagne I have ever had. I really don't remember it being so revolting. Why on earth would anyone want to spend money on this? There are better sparkling wines at half the price!

2. Drapier Brut Nature, no sulphites - Blanc des Noirs - WOW! What a wine! Big, bold, beautiful, elegant. Elegantly combining power of pinot noir and rocks a lengthy elegance! These sort of the words I would normally reserve for Bollinger La Grande Annee, but this wine, truly set me back. I have had the vintage and the non-vintage wines from Drapier this year, but the straight pinot noir ROCKS!

3. Ayala really surprised me this year. When I first had it, 10 years ago, I had just found out that Bollinger had acquired the house. The bottle I drank in 2006 would have been put on lees around 2003 and Bollinger had no influence, but when I went to Ayala in February, I could not be more surprised at how high the quality had become. Yes, Champagne tastes slight better in Champagne, so I got a bottle in Dublin, only to discover it was the old label. Normally this is fine, but as I later relayed to the Irish importer, Ayala, needs to be drunk fresh and not bottle aged - age kills the delicate white fruits and lovely flowers!

4. Gosset -Petit Doucer Rose - Extra Dry - This wine encapsulates what I used to dislike about Champagne - pink and sweet. But I have changed and so has my appreciation of Champagne. Nevertheless, I was taken aback by how perfectly balanced, how wonderfully flirtatious, lively, and addictively drinkable this wine was! This wine is most definitely one of the greatest surprises ever since my Champagne records began. Oh Billecart - Salmon Rose has in this wine a serious, a very serious competition!

5. Gosset - Grand Blanc - Blanc des Blancs - I have reviewed this wine shortly after it came out on to the market and in fact I did a dual 'tasting' (drinking morelike) with Vilmart. But how stupid, perhaps too enthusiastic or passionate, was I! I knew that with Gosset I might need to wait a few years for the wine to show its potential just as was the case with my first Celebris but only years showed me how well the wine developed! One of the greatest expressions of Chardonnay I have ever tasted. Burgundy - MOVE OVER!

6. Joseph Perrier - Rose - NV - what are fruity surprise was this! A profound strawberry galore! Nothing more to add! Enjoy!

7. Bollinger - This is not a deliberate attempt to leave the best for last! Bollinger this year ignited the spark of my own Champagne renaissance. And it was Bollinger that sparked my own 'naissance' in Champagne. I might have experienced 'love-at-first-sip' myself with Grande Annee 1995 (that year did not have the definite article) which is of course unforgettable, but when at Bollinger, I notice that one of our company experienced the same. I was chuffed to have  noticed it, but now, I just pity the person. To have such a profound life experience and have no other choice but to relegate to memories is a sad state of affairs. This should be enough about Bollinger, although, not entirely wine related entry, but since in retrospect this experience in and of Champagne stood out it would would be unfair to just shelve it.

8. Lanson, Millessime 2000, Blanc des Blancs - One word: SUPER!

THINK, DRINK, BELIEVE CHAMPAGNE!

Peter




Monday, 25 July 2016

CHAMPAGNE - WHERE YOU WON'T BE RIPPED OFF.

It is always difficult to find a decent shop that consistently provides the same range at a reasonable price.

I have lived in a few places but I can only vouch for a handful of shops that have the best selection for the best price and consistently.

Here is the list of wine shops that meet my criteria:

1. Vinmonopolet (Vika) - Oslo, Norway - in all honesty this is ultimately the best shop with the best prices and best selection and even the staff occassionally know what they are talking about.

2. The Vintage House (Soho) - London, United Kingdom - this is my favourite shop which almost always has something interesting on the shelves and all are very well priced.

3. Celtic Whiskey Shop - Dublin, ROI - an unlikely place to find a good wine shop but for 10 years this place has provided with a very good selection with very good pricing.

4. The Newport Bottler - Newport Beach, Sydney, Australia - almost as good The Vintage House in Soho, but still great selection with some very rare and very interesting vintages.

5. Clontarf Bottle Shop - Clontarf, Sydney, Australia - the greatest thing about this shop is that you can drive inside pick up a bottle and drive off. The selection is very good but not extremely extensive but still very well priced.

There are so many wine shops I have been to, and so many I have frequented but these 5 genuinely stand out.

So wherever you might be, I am sure you will, of course I shall, find a bottle of something for the next, International Champagne Day.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

CHAMPAGNE - THE PRICE

You can look at this problem from the one and only angle and that is money.

It is true that champagne is not cheap, and in fact it is quite expensive. Would I invest all the money into again if I had it all again? If I knew how it would enrich my life, I would, without any hesitation. But I don't think people set out to drink Champagne to learn something; in that I was probably one of the very few. Drinking gave me what no degree ever will; the experience and even though I studied, the drinking was a discovery and to my loss the discoveries left for me are too few now.

I am one of the few who geniunely wanted to discover Champagne and in the course of the years I realised that I had to choose. I could not have it all, so I stuck to Champagne.

When it comes to money, one thing is for sure and that price will determine the extent of satisfaction.

There is an age old saying 'Champagne taste, but beer budget'; in order to have a champagne taste you need to drink champagne so this does not really hold true. In a marginal way, yes, there is a compromise, and it is called prosecco, but I will leave it to those who care about it. I don't. There has been an increased number people who wants champagne but don't want to pay for it. Even though they could afford it.

If I take my ratio of free bottle versus number of purchased bottles, you are looking at 1 to 100 and that is an optimistic estimate.

So in very simple terms, if you want champagne you have to buy it and if you want to drink champagne daily you have to buy it daily. And just in case a reminder is needed, all hobbies are costly.

Cheers!

POL ROGER 2006

I think I have to give this wine a third chance in order to come to some sort of conclusion. Whilst 2004 stood out by far, actually similarly to 1999, and to be honest I don't think I drank their 2002, the 2006 wasn't as sensational.

Maybe I am insane to commit to getting another bottle but it is Pol Roger after all.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

CHAMPAGNE AND BEYOND - BUT WHERE?

I cannot deny the effects of global warming. I won't condemn it and nor will I praise its benefits. I shall, however, gladly, accept just sitting on the fence and watch what happens.

Although Champagne region is getting progressively warmer and 2015 is year to remember, it is interesting to see how some Champagne houses experiment with producing fizz outside of Champagne.

The fact that Moet et Chandon has been involved in making fizz outside Champagne, often surprisingly superior quality than their standard Brut Nectar, NV, in probably the most famous regions of the world is somehow an established norm. But there are some very interesting regions where considerable influence from Champagne is beginning to make its mark.

Recently I found out that Taittinger is tying up with Hattingey winery in England. Louis Roederer has been often attempting to find a new region able to produce high quality of grapes is also quite known largely due to resounding success with Roederer Estate (in Europe it is called Quartet) and its somewhat less successful effort with Jansz in Tasmania. One of the very recent wines I tasted, were what I would say a follow up tasting with remarkable results; Simmonsig, Graham Beck both from South Africa; Wiston Estate, which actually made me think (because their stuff is so good) about the future of fizz outside of Champagne!

Not too long ago I wrote an article that some Slovakian fizz was beginning to show are very nice potential. I still think the producers there are very compromised in trying to define their styles. I do have hopes and may be plans for Slovakian wines; but as far as the plans are concerned, I am getting cold feet, a bit.

Whilst Tasmania, seems to show a great potential and we can only hope what is next coming out of it.

I mustn't overlook the great potential of Yarra Valley especially in respect of the Chardonnays, but that is hardly news.

I have been keeping an eye on one region because of its immense potential for Pinot Noir; Central Otago, and Akarua is the perfect example that not only is the new kid on the block but a serious player on the market. The wine has its slight disadvantage and that is the price point, but this is always the case with a great fizz outside of Champagne.

As we know that Champagne is such a small place with such diverse character expressions the rest of the world does not have yet, but I hope that Central Otago has the potential to be the cradle of new fizz expression of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes that is yet to reach its heights!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

CHAMPAGNE - THE GOLDEN AGE

Luck is unreliable! Truth is unbelievable! And reality unknowable. Then there is Champagne. Strangely it combines the unreliability of luck, the ignorance of reality, and it is the most potent truth  serum in the world because a detector of lies will only encourage you lie more successfully.

Champagne needs luck, though it can't rely on it, to be so unbelievably good, hidden behind the curtain of enigma.

Champagne as we know it, is not an old age thing, it is fairly new in the world of wine. But I am not here to address the past but to look into to the future.

What many of us don't realise that we do live in, perhaps the second*, Golden Age of Champagne. Champagne now combines not only the viticultural expertise of around 200 hundred years of trial and error (method of learning, I, unofficially, deem as the most expensive ever - yes, I learnt from my own experience), advances not only in technology which unreservedly are now practiced in Champagne as a given (the likes of giro palettes, and more importantly the invention of puppitres which was no miracle but an act of genius), the resilience of the spirit of the champenois people (both the wars and Champagne was right in the centre of it all as well as the Champagne revolt), their adaptability and zeal has always shaken off the horrors of the past to persevere to make the best drink, or more simply to make Champagne, the science which combined with the intuitive knowledge accrued over the 200 years, the trends which has gone and some have stayed and, perhaps, some are returning. And that is not all!

The luck of the 90s and the success of the naughties. The stock in the cellars takes usually 3-6 to deplete, and in contemporary times that is a long long long time (just think how many new phones with new cameras were released in 3-6 years, and how many system updates we faced - the frustrations!)

It is true that the global warming has an impact to an extent and it is very likely that we will be experiencing considerably more and more warmer years and bigger, perhaps more stressed vintages, but we mustn't overlooked that Champagne is still the most northern wine region of France and snow, hale, frosts, storms are very normal in that part of the world and that's were luck comes to play its most important part. Although validated by intuition and now scientific records, plus the creativity and adaptability of the people that make it, the wine of Champagne is now at its absolute best. And it looks like it is going to be for another decade. And then?

and then.... re-read this article and engage your brain, because to enjoy Champagne you need brain, not a phone app.

* I said 'second' in reference to The Golden Age, although in my time I am convinced that that is my first, but historically the first Golden Age from my perspective would be the beginning of the 20th century - belle epoque, Maxim's, Perrier Jouet, Pommery, Alfons Mucha, the roaring 20's and many other names and phrases synonymous with that period. I did not live then, so I can't really pass a valid judgement, but I am happy to instill a healthy doubt to my point anyway.

THINK, DRINK, BELIEVE CHAMPAGNE!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

BOLLINGER - COTEAUX CHAMPENOIS - LA COTE AUX ENFANTS 2009

Yes this is Bollinger. In a way, again! But not again the usual way.

Red wine, Pinot Noir, that makes up a tiny proportion of the blend for La Grande Annee Rose. It is also released in its still expression as the wine does stand out.

For years I thought, that the essence or, if you would have it, Le Perfume, the essence, of Bollinger was its Vielles Vignes Francaise, but I wasn't willing to accept that. Somehow, I just wasn't ready or comfortable to make the comparison and the declaration.

Bollinger is one of the few houses that are horizontally consistent in style. Laurent-Perrier being another one, just for comparisons. By that I mean, that certain characteristics of its wines are always manifest in its entire range of wines with, of course, some variable in intensity. With Bollinger, La Grande Annee Rose had always thrown me off course.

So in a nutshell, the viticultural expertise and the practices of Bollinger, its vines express what I have always been saying best manifest the style of Bollinger, and that is plums. This tipple however encompasses and is the basis of Bollinger's every fizz's variable intensity. From plums to prunes, to coffee. Their red Pinot Noir is rich, big, bold, elegant and tastes and smells of backed plums on a thick crust sourdough base pastry.

BOLLINGER LA GRANDE ANNEE 2005

At last I finally managed to taste this tipple! It had been a very long time since I had Bollinger, and if it weren't for my latest trip to Champagne the likelihood and the chance to taste or drink it on my horizon would have been very slim; not improbable though.

I realised though, that I had been very lucky! To have tasted the likes of 1990, 1995, 1996 as my first experiences of Bollinger and of Champagne, on reflection I understand that the bar had been set extremely high and so many grand and great and exquisite Champagnes had paled in comparison. Worse, and to add, was, that at the time, fortune smiled at me brilliantly with La Grande Annee having little competition and whatever there was, rang the loud bells of the likes of Cristal, Krug Grand Cuvee, Dom Perignon, La Grande Dame. 

There and then, I was right at the beginning of the new millennium and more interestingly at the rebirth of Champagne and at the rebirth of Bollinger's vintage wine from mere vintage to a cuvee de prestige. And what better harvests to mark this transition?

When at Bollinger, the grand daughter of Charles Heidsieck with a sigh commented on 1996 La Grande Annee as 'the pact between God and Bollinger'. I don't disagree.

After the 1997 vintage release, doubts have started creaping up and I had longed for the experience of 96, 95, 90 of which the most memorable was that of 95 but I was  aware that in terms of vintages my luck was running ashore. The new millennium was dawning and with it so was the global warming along with new socio-cultural trends which, as I later found out, contributed to some fundamental shifts in Champagne. 

I do need to reflect on my experiences of 02, 03, 04 in order to offer some justification.

In one of my previous entries, I mentioned the comparisons of those harvests on the backdrop of previously tasted vintages from the 90s. I must add the almost-forgotten harvest of 1992, not purely for the record but this vintage has been surprisingly important for the naughties than the sensational 95, 90, 96. 

And the 92, was the expression of Bollinger's highest low; exceptional style, ok harvest, exceptional wine but nothing divine. 

And those are the words that best describe 2005.

When I tasted 02, 04, 03, 05 my reluctant but acute disappointment had something to say. I thought, 'Something isn't right here', and my doubts were confirmed when I found out that La Grande Annee had been subjected to malolactic fermentation which made the wines rounder and slightly creamier.

I would be both unfair and unjust, if I continued to rant on with my disappointment. La Grande Annee as a wine is a style that charms many, it consumes other peoples' souls like no other Champagne does, there is something intrinsically visceral to it that binds human souls to it in an inexplicable way. Perhaps it is the viticultural androgyny that the wine manifest, being at once a fizz, and a red wine of incomporable character, depth, elegance and style and it is no wonder that in Champagne, Bollinger is one of the most respected brands.

And I don't need address again the effects of the word: BOLLINGER.