By champagnediscovery, Oct 31 2018 04:06PM

On Monday 29th October, we were privileged to attend the first ever organic champagne tasting held in London, presented by the Association des Champagnes Biologiques – the group whom host the “Bulles Bio” tasting during Champagne Week in April. Held at the famous Lord’s Cricket Ground, it was an excellent opportunity to taste some truly excellent wines from eighteen inspiring producers.

Being less of an intense and hectic experience that some of the salons can be during Champagne Week, it was great to be able to chat at length to winemakers to get an in-depth review of their year and in particular the 2018 harvest as well as the lowdown on all of their wines. Of course, it was also a good opportunity to catch up with friends, whilst tasting fifty-seven extraordinary champagnes, wines and ratafia.

The producers present at the event were: Robert Barbichon, Barrat-Masson, André Beaufort, Laurent Bénard, Jérôme Blin, Colette Bonnet, Bourgeois-Diaz, Vincent Charlot, L&S Cheurlin, Vincent Couche, Éliane Delalot, Pascal Doquet, Fleury, Val Frison, Olivier Horiot, Lelarge-Pugeot, Elemart Robion and Yves Ruffin.

This event has really whet the whistle for April’s tasting salons and perhaps reminded us that there are a few more wines needing to find a place in our collection!


Lee and Gita

By champagnediscovery, Sep 27 2018 10:59AM

Following on from two difficult years, many vignerons are hailing 2018 as the harvest of a generation. The long warm summer enjoyed across Europe was particularly evident in Champagne with some of the highest sugar levels recorded in the grapes. It was also a bountiful year with many growers recording their biggest crop – so on the face of it, there would appear to be both quantity and quality.

Acidity levels were lower and this was due to a low diurnal range – the difference between temperatures of night and day. Champagne is naturally a very acidic wine due to the fact that the normal climate is regarded as cool. This doesn’t seem to be an issue for many of the top growers and houses whom are confident that they will be able to produce great wines from this uncharacteristically hot year.

It wasn’t always plain sailing – it never really is. There were in places almost drought-like conditions causing the vines to go into hydro stress. Ideally, vines require some hydro stress so that they concentrate all of their efforts onto the berries but of course too much will be detrimental. Due to the high levels of sugar and heat, grapes were often becoming dehydrated and turning into raisins on the vine. What the dry conditions did ensure were healthy grapes with very little signs of disease, rot and mildew – issues that were prevalent in the last couple of harvest.

Once again, parts of the region and in particular the Aube were subjected to summer hail storms with large hailstones causing severe damage to the grapes. Here, problems with rot and mildew did become an issue and whilst these storms were often localised; it had a huge impact on those whose small estates were affected.

Overall 2018 does have the potential to be a seriously good year, but of course; only time will tell!

The photo below is of the very last grapes (Pinot Noir) of the 2018 harvest going into the press at the superb domaine of Lelarge-Pugeot in Vrigny.


Lee and Gita

By champagnediscovery, May 9 2018 10:17AM

Once again this April’s “Le Printemps des Champagnes” gave professionals and keen amateurs alike the opportunity to taste a multitude of new cuvées from many of the region’s top producers. It is always an exciting to time to meet up with friends, taste and discuss the wines which grabbed our attention. Whilst there were many, here are 20 of our stand-out champagnes…

Barrat-Masson – Les Volies

Laurent Bénard – Vibrato 2012

Etienne Calsac – Clos des Maladries 2014

Corbon – Les Bacchantes 2009

Doyard – Révolution

Charles Dufour – Bulles de Comptoir #6 La Benjamine 2.0

Valérie Frison – Portlandia 2014

Pierre Gimonnet – Œnophile Non Dosé 2012

Olivier Horiot – Arbane

Laherte Frères – Les Longues Voyes 2013

Emmanuel Lassaigne – Le Flacon de l’Incertitude

Leclerc Briant – Abyss

Lelarge-Pugeot – Honey Harmony

Rémi Leroy – Les Crots Rosée de Saignée

Mouzon-Leroux – L’Ascendant

Pierre Péters – Réserve Oubliée

Timothée Strœbel – Triptyque brut nature

Other highlights included tastings with famous houses and some memorable champagnes were…

Drappier – Quattuor Blanc de Quatre Blancs

Charles Heidsieck – Blanc de Blancs 1981

Krug – Grande Cuvée 163rd Edition (in magnum)


Lee and Gita

By champagnediscovery, May 9 2018 06:52AM

Champagne is quite rightly famous for its sparkling wines and we have found great pleasure in discovering the immense diversity of cuvées from so many World Class vignerons. What the region is less famous for is its still wines, known as “Coteaux Champenois”.

Red, white and rosé wines are created by many of the talented producers whom are crafting champagnes of the highest quality. These wines are often overlooked by visitors to the region and experts alike; such a pity as they can be truly excellent in their own right. We would agree however prices can sometimes be prohibitive with many Coteaux Champenois challenging renowned Burgundy villages in the cost stakes; some red wines being placed firmly in the market alongside Pinot Noir from Gevrey Chambertin and whites alongside Chardonnay from Meursault. It is inevitable to draw direct comparisons with price and grape variety, especially from adjoining regions but there are always other factors which need to be taken into account including production costs and even rarity; take these wines on their own merit and they really can stand alone. In an edition of Decanter magazine, the “Cuvée des Grands Côtes” from Egly-Ouriet was rated as Highly Recommended when reviewing the World’s best Pinot Noir (outside of Burgundy), it comes with a pretty serious price tag.

April once again saw the annual Champagne Week which now lasts considerably longer and has subsequently been rebranded as the Printemps du Champagne. Here numerous associations of vignerons host tasting sessions of champagnes, coteaux champenois and vins clairs – the still wine produced after initial fermentation.

This gave us the opportunity to taste many more still wines from Champagne. Once again, the Académie du vin de Bouzy session was a chance to try a large number of Bouzy Rouge wines. Bouzy – famed for its Pinot Noir is perhaps the most well-known village for red wine production. Once more the wines produced by Pierre Paillard - this year the 2015 "Les Mignottes" and Benoît Lahaye's 2015 were excellent. Our first taste of Gaston Collard’s wines in 2016 had us suitably impressed and they were very good once again with the 2015 and 2016. A new name and wine which caught our attention in 2017 was from Georges Remy. His lieu-dit “Les Vaudayants” 2013 was brilliant as was the 2015 version this year albeit still a little young. The 2008 from Paul Bara was gorgeous as was the 2004 from Barnaut and the "Clos Barnaut" still rosé 2008. from the small walled vineyard from the heart of the village. Camille Savès was on form again with a delightful 2011 and an intriguing first taste of the elegant 2016 from Arnaud Moreau.

Staying with rosé and moving down to the southern reaches of Champagne and into the Aube where Olivier Horiot crafts wonderful Rosé, Rouge and Blanc from the village of Les Riceys. We visited at harvest in 2017 and were lucky enough to taste his entire range. We have fallen head over heels with his champagnes and still wines. He produces two single plot Rosé de Riceys: “En Valingrain” and “En Barmont”, along with a blend of the two “Ésquisse Number 2” (Our “Champagne of the Month” November 2017). They are simply stunning wines. His Riceys Rouge “En Barmont” and Riceys Blanc “En Valingrain” are mighty also and could easily draw comparisons to Burgundy but these are wines from a village which deservedly should be on the map in its own right. They also have good ageing potential as a 2004 Rosé des Riceys En Barmont proved, especially when decanted. We also tried some vintages of Rosé des Riceys from Champagne Jacques Defrance which were of very good quality.

Champagne week also gave us the chance to taste Franck Pascal’s superb Confiance and David Lélapart’s lovely Trepail Rouge.

In Vrigny, on the Montagne de Reims, Lelarge-Pugeot produces a red from Pinot Noir – the 2012 is particularly good, and two whites, one from Chardonnay, the other from the black Meunier grape. New for 2018 is an intense red from Meunier.

The production of Coteaux Champenois isn’t just limited to the smaller domaines/grower-producers as famous houses such as Bollinger, Henri Giraud and Bruno Paillard produce still wines.

So the next time you are in Champagne why not try some champagne without the bubbles? A (not exhaustive) list of producers whose wines have gained a good reputation can be found below:

Jean-Marie Bandock: Bouzy Rouge

Robert Barbichon: Pinot Noir rouge

Baron Dauvergne: Bouzy Rouge

Herbert Beaufort: Bouzy Rouge

Barnaut: Bouzy Rouge Millésime and Clos Barnaut Rosé

Bérèche: Ormes Rouge Les Montées

Bollinger: La Côte aux Enfants

Françoise Bedel: Blanc Vin Cent Bulles and Meunier Blanc

Brice: Bouzy Rouge

Paul Clouet: Bouzy Rouge

Jérôme Cœssens: Rouge Vendange Egrappé

Gaston Collard: Bouzy Rouge

Roger Coulon: Vrigny Rouge

Jacques Defrance: Rosé des Riceys

Déhours: Les Rieux (blanc) and La Croix Joly (rouge)

Benoît Déhu: La Rue des Noyers (rouge and blanc available)

Egly-Ouriet: Cuvée des Grands Côtes (rouge)

Gatinois: Aÿ Rouge

René Geoffroy: Cumières Rouge NV, Pinot Meunier

Pierre Gerbais: Rouge and Cuvée Marie (rouge)

Henri Giraud: Coteaux Champenois Blanc

Gonet-Médeville: Ambonnay Rouge Cuvée Athénais

Gosset-Brabant: Aÿ Rouge Vielles Vignes

Olivier Horiot: Riceys Rouge, Riceys Blanc, Rosé des Riceys En Barmont, En Valingrain and Esquisse No. 2

Benoît Lahaye: Bouzy Rouge

Laherte Frères: La Troisièe Vie Meunier

Larmandier-Bernier: Blanc Cramant Nature and Vertus Rouge

Jacques Lassaigne: Coteaux Blanc

David Léclapart: Trépail Rouge

Larmandier-Bernier: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Lelarge-Pugeot: Blanc 2012, Blanc de Meuniers and Rouge

Aurèlien Lurquin: Rouge Les Crayères, Les Forcières Meunier, Blanc de Noirs Meunier and Chardonnay Blanc

Robert Moncuit: Chardonnay

Flavien Nowack: L'Arpent Rouge 2015

Bruno Paillard: Blanc Mesnil Millésime

Pierre Paillard: Bouzy Rouge Les Mignottes and Les Gouttes d’Or (blanc)

Franck Pascal: Confiance

Thomas Perseval: Blancs Le Pucelle and Le Village

R. Pouillon: Mareuil Rouge

Georges Remy: Bouzy Rouge – Les Vaudayants and Le Chapeau de Fer

Camille Savès: Bouzy Rouge

François Secondé: Pinot Noir

Timothée Strœbel: Le Vin Tranquille blanc and rouge

Alfred Tritant: Bouzy Rouge

Jean Vesselle: Bouzy Rouge

Maurice Vesselle: Bouzy Rouge


Lee and Gita

By champagnediscovery, Dec 8 2016 03:00PM

Œnothèques and oddities:

Older wine and for that matter champagne can be a delightful tasting experience, albeit one which so often passes us by. A lack of suitable storage and more often than not, a lack of patience can interfere with many an enthusiast’s collection.

Whilst it is possible to purchase older vintages and prestige cuvées; you either have to take a risk via a well-known online auction site where storage conditions may be debatable; or alternatively stump up the high premiums demanded from reputable dealers or auction houses.

Another option is to look out for re-released – late disgorged wines that some producers make available. These can be a more reasonable and less wallet busting introduction to the joys of well-aged champagne and have the advantage of additional ageing in the bottle where the wine remains in contact with the lees.

Bollinger are famous for their late release vintage RD (recently disgorged) cuvée which retails for around €275 per bottle. The excellent Jacquesson et Fils however re-release their numbered non-vintage range (single harvest plus reserve wines) as Dégorgement Tardif, retailing at a very reasonable €78.

Some producers would rather wait for as long as it takes until they feel the vintage has attained the ideal point of maturity before releasing, such was the case with Corbon and their sublime 1996 which has been afforded a mere 20 years. Others, such as Michel Loriot will give you a glimpse of old vintages like the unforgettable tiramisu in a glass that was their 1959 Pinot Meunier, disgorged a couple of days prior to our 2015 tasting. A 1985 Corbon, tasted 30 years later was incredibly fresh, vibrant and just beginning to develop some gorgeous tertiary aromas.

Over the years, we have invested in electronic wine cellars (not having access to a real cellar) so as to protect our treasured collection. My parents on the other hand developed a unique way of aging an old bottle of ‘R’ de Ruinart 1993, purchased during a visit to the house in 1999.

For several years it was stored in the kitchen before being transferred to the garden shed with all the climatic and temperature fluctuations such storage brought about, before spending its later years in an old fridge in the same garden shed. Despite all of this and no doubt testament to the quality of the Ruinart Chef de Cave, when drank at Christmas last year; it showed particularly well. Some oxidative notes to begin with (unsurprisingly), soon gave way to a beautifully rich, honeyed and intense character. It was both a surprise and a real treat. It had led a stressful and completely unorthodox life when compared to bottles stored in ideal conditions but despite this, had still managed to grow old gracefully!

N.B. We do not advise ageing champagne in garden sheds!


Lee and Gita

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