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!