"Buy my book about the Roussillon wine region (colour paperback or eBook) on Amazon UK HERE or Amazon USA HERE. Or order it direct from me (UK & EU only). Also available in the US from Barnes & Noble in hardcover, paperback or eBook. For other countries, tap/click on the link over the cover photo (below right)." Richard Mark James

Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Champagne. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Champagne. Sort by date Show all posts

30 July 2012

Sparkling wine: France, England, Germany, Spain, Chile, Oz, Italy, S Africa...

THE LATEST VERSION OF THIS PAGE CAN NOW BE FOUND IN THE PAGE ARCHIVE HERE.
 
A gratuitously fizzy post simply to create one central URL for a handy 'wine words' side-bar link (below right) to all pieces on sparkling wine... Updated: from June 2015 posts and features on Champagne are now appearing on a special page HERE.

Gusbourne Estate, Kent

23 December 2019

Posh Armagnac, Calvados, Cognac, Marc de Champagne, Marc de Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Armagnac - Château de Laubade

My modest holiday home. Not.

Château de Laubade is the largest estate in the Armagnac region (lying in deepest south-west France, south of Bordeaux and Bergerac, the main town is Auch) with 105 hectares of vineyards, which they claim allows them not to have to buy in any grapes or spirits from outside of the property. Laubade is considered the centrepiece of the Lesgourgues family business run by Arnaud and Denis Lesgourgues.

17 May 2004

Pass the Bolly or "If it's the 85, you were expecting me..."

Notes and views on the Champagne market and the art of blending, based on a presentation to MW students on 17th May 2004 by Ghislain de Montgolfier from Champagne Bollinger. After the text, you'll find a few ecstatic tasting notes and reviews (well, Bolly is pretty good, no?) of the 'finished product' including Special Cuvée, La Grande Année 1990-95-96-97 and the incomparable one-off 1985 RD ("if it's the 85, you were expecting me," as 007 might have said...).

Despite all the smug reports of doom and gloom surrounding the French wine industry, somehow the Champagne just keeps on flowing. The French themselves remain the thirstiest consumers of the world’s most famous sparkling wine. In 2003, the Brits (the no. 1 export destination) set a new record by buying 34 million bottles, thereby eclipsing the pre-millennium frenzy of 1999. Americans managed an impressive 19 million (considering they make quite a lot of their own sparkling wine) closely followed by Germany, avid fizz drinkers as they are (Sekt, Cava, Asti…), with 12 million bottles. Stats for this year so far indicate a continuation of this mood.

Of the ‘multinational’ Champagne groups, which are mostly listed companies, the big daddy of them all is luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, whose brands include world leader Moët & Chandon, Mercier and Dom Pérignon totalling 60 million bottles. Rémy owns Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck (a personal favourite by the way) representing 8 million bottles, about the same figure as British giant Allied Domecq with Mumm and Perrier-Jouët. Laurent-Perrier group is no slouch with sales of 10 million bottles, plus a further ten counting recently acquired Malakoff/Oudinot. Taittinger may give the impression of being a bit niche yet accounts for 4 million bottles. (In addition, Marne et Diffusion – essentially the 6 mill+ Lanson label – should really also figure here, but I don’t think they were mentioned).
The next batch could be termed ‘new players’, meaning recent mergers or acquisitions rather than new on the block. The names brought up include Vranken-Pommery, Martel, Duval-Leroy, BCC (De Venoge, Boizel etc.), Thiénot (Joseph Perrier, Canard-Duchêne), sales of which take place mostly in France and via supermarkets. The remaining companies are family owned, such as Roederer & Deutz, Bollinger, Pol Roger, Gosset and Bruno Paillard, who tend to sell through specialist channels (wine shops, restaurants etc.).

The Champagne ‘appellation’ is home to 15,000 (rather wealthy I’d imagine) growers who own 89% of the vineyards; 100 Houses, including the above, make up the other 11%. There are three increasingly important co-operatives emerging, and about 1000 growers now produce their own labels, another burgeoning trend. These small growers each have 2 hectares (ha) or less planted at a density of 8000+ vines per ha, i.e. very compact and all worked by hand; so you can appreciate where the real power lies. This is reflected in the price of land in the region, now around a staggering €1 million per ha!

The current surface area in production has reached the permitted limit of approx 35,000 ha, so the outcome could be shortages. The ‘Echelle des Crus’ (pricing scale of grapes from the different vineyard hierarchies) system set by the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins de Champagne), which determines the base price, could become irrelevant as growers are charging higher than established prices. Putting this in context with sales and production helps to explain these developments.

Total Champagne sales (including France) in 1950 were 33 million bottles; in 2003 this stood at 291 million with a peak of 327 million in 1999. Yields averaged 5,400 kg/ha from 1950-59 but in 2000 they came to 12,539. However, this isn’t a bad thing per se: 1970, 1982, 1990 and 2000 are examples of high yielding yet very good quality vintages; others such as 1987 were low in both because of poor weather. 290 million bottles of Champers are currently quaffed around the world, showing growth of 2-3% per annum. Maximum production of 295 million has already been attained, so scarcity could rule if the above continues (I detect an element of clever 'panic' marketing here).

The Négociants (merchant companies who trade in grapes and wine) usually buy 60% of the harvest and thus influence prices, which are particularly competitive for the best ‘crus’. Increasingly, growers are organising themselves into co-ops to make ‘vin sur lattes’ (wine sold before disgorgement), although I believe by law this is due to stop. The co-ops are, therefore, selling less and less grapes, and more still wines are available. As a result, there’s arguably a “danger of Champagne styles merging,” according to
Montgolfier. Bollinger say they won’t buy wines, as this would affect consistency of style and quality. Grape prices in 2003 were €4.25 per kg plus premiums of up to 20% for Grand Cru. In comparison, this is 15 times the price for Cava grapes, 6x Touraine and 5x California.

Moving on to Bollinger itself starting with a few facts and a bit of philosophy. The brand accounts for less than 1% of global Champagne sales, so the spotlight is clearly on quality. Independence through family ownership allows them “no compromises and a long-term financial view,” a fortunate luxury in these times of consolidation. For example, just four cellar masters have worked there in 60 years to maintain uniformity. Their focus is on the best possible grapes and trying to control supply. They buy grapes only in the main regions of the Marne and only Premier Cru (PC) and Grand Cru (GC) level.

Owning 160 ha of vineyards – 83% on PC and GC sites – supplies 2/3 of their needs. This means they don’t have to purchase from co-ops and work with contracted growers to influence decisions in the vineyard. Pinot Noir forms the backbone of the blends. PC and GC grapes make up min. 80% of the Special Cuvée and 100% of Grande Année and RD (Recently Disgorged); optimal maturity is required. In addition, ‘Bolly’ (Ghislain coined this nickname himself, so the House appears fond of the Ab Fab publicity) is not used on any other product; and no Bollinger sparkling wine is produced elsewhere (a little dig or a touch of jealousy perhaps, given the quality of e.g. Moet's Australian Chandon wines or Roederer's in California?).

Reserve wines play a very important role in the house style and quality of non-vintage Champagne (it’s actually illegal to blend any into vintage wines, which should be 100% from the year declared – Bollinger “doesn’t” but allegedly some do). The company holds more than five years worth of stock, as if they had to use too much in poor vintages to balance out, it’d mean less available for following years “to the detriment of quality.” More on reserve wines to follow.

Quality: the key areas are origin of grapes and variety, selection of musts, control of acidity, first fermentation, reserve wines (see I told you) and yeast lees ageing. The vines planted in Bollinger’s vineyards amount to 100 ha of Pinot Noir (mostly PC and GC), 41 ha of Chardonnay and 19 ha of Pinot Meunier. Special Cuvée is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardy and 15% Pinot Meunier. Grande Année is often at least 65% Pinot Noir (30% of it from the village of Aÿ) & 35% Chardy. Pinot Noir from the GCs gives “backbone, vinosity (does that word exist in English? I guess it means winey mouth-feel) and complexity”; Chardy offers “elegance and finesse”; and Pinot Meunier adds “freshness and lightness”. Bolly only uses the ‘cuvée’ or first pressing (the first 2050 litres of juice from 4000 kg of grapes), which also has the lowest pH (see acidity below), and sell the second and third pressings. Some cast-offs, huh.

Control of acidity is the cornerstone of balance in the wines and their ability to mature. In a good year, the ‘cuvée’ has a pH of 2.9 – 3.1, i.e. pretty acidic. The first fermentation in cask is the next step in this process. Bollinger doesn’t use new casks and have their own cooper, but also buy 4-5 year old Burgundy barrels of 205 litres capacity. The GC and part of the PC (Chardy) musts are barrel-fermented, so 100% of the reserve wines and Grande Année plus a fraction of the wines for Special Cuvée are also barrel-fermented. In cask, the malo-lactic fermentation (MLF: the secondary bacterial fermentation that converts malic acid to softer lactic acid) is prevented (although some MLF is sometimes done for Grande Année – still with me?!), whereas the wines in vat do undergo MLF. The reasoning is preservation of malic acid (normally decreases during vinification leaving mostly tartaric acid) levels for longer ageing ability.

So balance of acidity is maintained by lower pH of wines in cask (due to no MLF - lactic bacteria struggle to do their thing in a high acid environment - and presence of protective sulphur dioxide) and higher total acidity (TA) in grams per litre (the usual measure) in tank, despite doing the MLF in tank (which in fact reduces TA); meaning therefore, they put the wines higher in acidity in tank. As for yeasts, the same ones are used for musts in cask and tank, and Bollinger buys good quality selected yeasts rather than develop their own strains, as some houses do.

Tasting of the constituent parts (1-4 all from 2003):
1. Pinot Noir Aÿ (fût = cask) – very light tinge of pink in colour, quite toasty with a touch of milk chocolate and aromatic too; shows reasonable weight with nice creamy red fruits set against quite firm acid structure and length, yet it’s fairly soft and rounded at the same time.
2. Pinot Noir Verzenay (fût) – creamy and fruity displaying attractive aromatic esters plus a hint of toasty yeast in the background, has higher acidity than 1 with sharper mineral finish yet still offers rich roundness too. Wines from Verzenay are known for their ageing potential.
3. Chardonnay Mesnil-sur-Oger (fût) – shows clean fragrant peach and butter notes with subtle lightly bready characters, nice elegant fruit contrasts with fresh acidity and greener notes, yet still soft-ish and fruity on the finish.
4. Pinot Meunier Venteuil (cuve = tank) – fragrant, floral and peachy with rounded fruit v crisp acid structure, lighter and more one-dimensional in the sense of linear palate focus.
5. Aÿ 1998 (reserve wine with no dosage, stored in magnums) – fairly rich and buttery tinged with yeasty pungency, very firm acid framework leading to creamier rounder finish, green edges v weighty mouthful, tight and long. Reserve wines lend overall balance and also balance out the cru wines depending on the vintage.
6. ‘Assemblage’ (final blend) for Special Cuvée (mostly parts 1-4 + another 25 or more + a small proportion of 5 then 3 years lees ageing in bottle) – nice balance of fragrant red fruits, light yeast and creamy grapey characters too, complex lingering nose; soft concentrated fruit with greener acid backbone, notes of chocolate and red fruits too, rounded v tight finish.
Richard M James Sept. 2004

My notes and scores on various Bollinger Champagnes (with a bit of techy info to start just to set the scene), tasted after this seminar and on other occasions as indicated:

Special Cuvée (7.7 grams per litre (g/l) total acidity (TA), pH 3.05 and dosage of 7 to 9 g/l residual sugar; blend of two vintages with 5-10% reserve wines and 3 years yeast lees ageing = twice the average for NV Brut, by the way) - Lovely balance of fresh floral fragrant fruit and light toasty notes, complex yeasty baked bread underneath; similar characters on the palate with additional creamy and lightly tropical fruit v fresh acidity and yeast intensity, 'winey' viscosity builds to focused length. Impeccable balance and style. May 2004. 91
And previously (among other occasions): Aged and rounded palate with nice tangy yeast character, shows the usual classy subtle balance of intensity, concentration, age and freshness; finishes very dry and long with beautiful firm acidity. Class, pure and simple. Safeway Champagne tasting July 2002 (under reconstruction...).
90

1996 La Grande Année (70% Pinot Noir & 30% Chardy; 9.2 g/l TA and dosage up to 10 g/l) - Yeastier than the SC with baked malt bread undertones yet at the same time lovely and fresh & fragrant, floral and also showing ripe red fruits, addictive aromas; gorgeous fruit and weight, yeast intensity, super concentration leading to fine tight structure set against seductive roundness and 'sweet' ripeness; offers mouth-coating weight and length v elegance and real class. Very good indeed: needs another 5-10 years in bottle, still tastes young. May 2004. 95

1995 La Grande Année - Much more golden than the SC with riper smokier nose, also has more tropical fruit and fatter 'sweetness' (not really sweet with only 8g/l dosage coupled with very high acidity), quite rich and concentrated yet elegantly balanced; shows creamier development on the palate with weighty length and yet again tight acid structure. Still youthful really, will be fab over 5-10 years. March 2002. 94

1995 La Grande Année - A touch of oak and aged maturity on the nose, very yeasty and concentrated in the mouth developing to a tight finish with bite of acidity on its huge length. Far too young at the moment, wow... Safeway Champagne tasting July 2002 (under reconstruction...). 93

1997 La Grande Année - Closed yet complex Champers showing green fruit edges contrasting nicely with subtle toast and cream, very tight fresh palate and length; needs more time to develop. October 2004. 93

1985 RD (65% Pinot Noir & 35% Chardy; 8 g/l TA, pH 3 and dosage of 3-4 g/l (very dry); disgorged on 10/9/03 i.e. aged in bottle on the yeast lees for nearly 18 years!) - Deep golden colour; mushroom, coffee and chocolate, very ripe and very yeasty yet still shows underlying freshness combined with a creamy yoghurt character too, such a wild complex nose; wow: super rich and concentrated yeasty flavour, toasty maturity v tight acid framework, uncompromising richness and style, mouth-filling flavours. Extraordinary stuff although not for everyone. May 2004. 97

1995 Grande Année Rosé - Fairly full pink colour, scented red fruits and chocolate on the nose, nice ripe floral fruit set against zingy crisp stylish length; rounded, very fruity and weighty yet showing impeccable balance and panache. March 2002. 94

1990 La Grande Année - Arguably the best of the superb 90 vintage, this just keeps getting better as it lounges in bottle. It's very rich and concentrated but still showing fine balancing acidity on the finish; try with food too. No wonder James Bond switched (back?) to Bolly. One of my Home Magazine wines of the month (under reconstruction...), January 2000 issue. 94-96

23 August 2012

New wine tasting evenings in Belfast and Bangor - updated

In addition to the 5-week courses and Saturday wine workshops already scheduled in the RMJ / Wine Education Service program, I'm planning on running these informal tutored tastings in Belfast city centre over the next few months:
Thursday 11th October "Classic Grape Varieties" - £25
"A mini world tour tasting and talking about popular favourites such as Chardonnay and Merlot, but also looking at wines made from perhaps lesser-known varieties such as Grenache, Viognier or Sangiovese."
Wednesday 14th November "Classic Wines of Southern France" - £30
"An exciting tasting taking in a swathe of 'the Big South', ranging from classics from Bordeaux to more obscure deep southwestern France, down to the Spanish border on the Mediterranean, through the Languedoc and eastwards to Provence..."
Wednesday 5th December "Champagne and Sparkling Wines" - £35
"A fizzy world tour starting in France with Champagne and other fine sparklers, then comparing with the ever popular Cava (a premium example), Italian 'new kid on the block' Prosecco, passing through the southern hemisphere (e.g. Australia, New Zealand) and ending up in England!"
Tastings run from about 7pm to 9pm and eight different wines will usually be sampled and talked about at each event. Full details of all courses and tastings and how to book on this page:
Or send me an email or book with Paypal (see below). Previous info and dates posted on my other blog:
www.winewriting.com/2012/07/wine-education-service-courses-tastings.html

UPDATED 30 AUGUST

I've also penciled in two wine tasting & supper evenings at the Ava in Bangor (Co. Down):
Thursday 25 October 7pm - Mediterranean wine tasting with tapas £30
"We'll taste and talk about six wines from Spain, Italy, southern France and a couple of surprises too, followed by a tasty selection of Mediterranean style tapas accompanied by a glass (or two) picked from the tasting wines."
Thursday 29 November 7pm - Christmas Champagne and sparkling wine tasting & supper £40
"A mini world tour tasting of six fine sparkling wines including classic Champagne and other French sparklers, Spain, Italy, the New World and perhaps an English surprise too! Followed by a supper selection of tasty nibble dishes and a nice glass of fizz from the tasting."
Please email me for more info and booking or click on the Wine Education Service Belfast link as above or book now using PayPal.co.uk! This button takes you to my Paypal secure payment page (click here for more about card payments etc.):

Select tasting:





New wine tasting evenings in Belfast and Bangor - updated

In addition to the 5-week courses and Saturday wine workshops already scheduled in the RMJ / Wine Education Service program, I'm planning on running these informal tutored tastings in Belfast city centre and Bangor over the next few months:
Thursday 11th October "Classic Grape Varieties" - £25
"A mini world tour tasting and talking about popular favourites such as Chardonnay and Merlot, but also looking at wines made from perhaps lesser-known varieties such as Grenache, Viognier or Sangiovese."
Wednesday 14th November "Classic Wines of Southern France" - £30
"An exciting tasting taking in a swathe of 'the Big South', ranging from classics from Bordeaux to more obscure deep southwestern France, down to the Spanish border on the Mediterranean, through the Languedoc and eastwards to Provence..."
Wednesday 5th December "Champagne and Sparkling Wines" - £35
"A fizzy world tour starting in France with Champagne and other fine sparklers, then comparing with the ever popular Cava (a premium example), Italian 'new kid on the block' Prosecco, passing through the southern hemisphere (e.g. Australia, New Zealand) and ending up in England!"
Tastings run from about 7pm to 9pm and eight different wines will usually be sampled and talked about at each event. Full details of all courses and tastings and how to book on this page: www.wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast.html
Or send me an email or book with Paypal (see below). Previous info and dates posted on this blog: www.winewriting.com/2012/07/wine-education-service-courses-tastings.html

UPDATED 30 AUGUST

I've also penciled in two wine tasting & supper evenings at the Ava in Bangor (Co. Down not Wales):
Thursday 25 October 7pm - Mediterranean wine tasting with tapas £30
"We'll taste and talk about six wines from Spain, Italy, southern France and a couple of surprises too, followed by a tasty selection of Mediterranean style tapas accompanied by a glass (or two) picked from the tasting wines."
Thursday 29 November 7pm - Christmas Champagne and sparkling wine tasting & supper £40
"A mini world tour tasting of six fine sparkling wines including classic Champagne and other French sparklers, Spain, Italy, the New World and perhaps an English surprise too! Followed by a supper selection of tasty nibble dishes and a nice glass of fizz from the tasting."
Please email me for more info and booking or click on the Wine Education Service Belfast link as above or book now using PayPal.co.uk! This button takes you to my Paypal secure payment page (click here for more about card payments etc.):

Select tasting:





12 November 2013

Champagne & Sparkling wine tasting Dec 3 Belfast

From www.champagne.fr
Don't miss the bubbling-with-excitement Wine Education Service NI Champagne & Sparkling wine tutored tasting evening, rolling out and upwards on Tuesday December 3 (7 to 9 pm) at the Ramada Encore in Belfast City Centre. Your fizzed up host RMJ will take you on "...a fizzy world tour through France with classic Champagne and other fine sparklers, then comparing with the ever popular Cava (something different and better than usual though...), Italian 'new kid on the block' Prosecco, passing through the southern hemisphere e.g. Australia, New Zealand, and ending up in England..." (you'll be surprised if you haven't tried top English fizz). Tickets are just £30 per person and can be booked via the link on this page: wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast, where you'll also find the detailed program for the first half of next year. Or pay by PayPal using the button below (and for other tastings next year too). And if you're a regular user of Local Wine Events.com, you can get in touch with me from this page: www.localwineevents.com.


Select tasting:


Next year's scheduled WES NI courses and events include: Essential Wine Tasting five-week course and Grape to Glass one-day workshop (Feb 2014), Tour de France tasting (March), Wines of Italy Sat. workshop (April), Aus & New Zealand tasting (May) and Syrah/Shiraz tasting (June). More info: wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast.

09 December 2013

Champagne & sparkling wines: festive fizz

Cava - Catalunya
Updated 11 December:
Conde de Caralt Rosado (Trepat, Monastrell, Garnacha) - lightly yeasty nose with milk chocolate biscuit edges, ripe red fruity palate with oily texture vs quite crisp and off-dry. DWS (Belfast) £9.25, Cases Wine Warehouse (Galway) €14.95
Enric Nadal (Torrelavit) 2007 Gran Reserva Brut Nature (Parellada, Macabeu, Xarel-lo, 12% abv) - rich toasted yeast and chocolate cake aromas, maturing nutty savoury flavours with still fresh and fizzy contrast, tangy finish with dry bite vs plenty of lush flavours. Yum. £15 / €25 James Nicholson
Juvé y Camps Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2009 (12%) - same trio of Catalan grapes as above, similar in style although a bit less rich and toasty perhaps, nice nutty honeyed flavours and crisp dry finish. Wasn't hugely fizzy, perhaps it didn't enjoy sitting in the warm duty free shop at Alicante airport and the flight home! €13.50
2010 Mas Miralda Rosado Vintage Brut (Monastrell, Trepat, Garnacha and Pinot Noir; 12%) - one of Asda's own label "extra special" range, nice and red fruity with light biscuit touches and frothy off dry finish. £6 on offer.
Loads more Cava HERE (links to intro to my 12-page mini-guide, now available for £2.50 or free to subscribers).

Prosecco - northeast Italy
La Jara organic rosé (grape variety = Glera, 10.5%) - attractively light and delicate, fruity rosé fizz with nice frothy lively mouth-feel and sweet vs crunchy red fruits, fairly crisp and medium-dry. Swig Wine £10.95 (9.95 if you buy 6).
Col de l'Utia 2012 Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene, Spumante Extra Dry (Prosecco grape, 11.5%) - similarly light and refreshing, has background yeasty biscuit notes and light almond and apple flavours, crisp and off-dry finish. Not massively exciting but a good example of elegant easy-drinking Prosecco. Naked Wines £10.99 (Angel's price: see here for more about that).

South Africa
Cape Fairtrade Sparkling Brut Rosé 2009 Du Toitskloof (12.5%) - good value with lots of flavour for the money: quite toasty with chocolate and aromatic ripe red fruits, rounded and easy-going vs fresh bite, nice style. The Co-operative £7.99


From facebook.com/DigbyFineEnglish
England - Sussex, Kent, Hampshire
Although made at this winery in West Sussex, the fruit is sourced from selected growers across southeastern England (not unlike how most Champagne houses operate) by winemaker Dermot Sugrue. Watch out for my in-depth supplement on English sparkling wines, including a fuller profile on Digby.
Digby Fine English 2009 Vintage Rosé Brut, Wiston Estate Winery (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay; 12% abv) - Delicious mix of ripe strawberry/raspberry vs toasty and chocolate biscuit, lush rounded and fruity vs fresh acid structure, showing depth and class. Yum. £38-£40 from their on-line shop or at Selfridges, Vagabond Wines and Wine Pantry; which is fairly dear, obviously, but no more so than other similar quality English rosé sparklers or rosé Champers for that matter.
Digby 2009 Reserve Brut (two-thirds Chardonnay + the two Pinots; 12%) - Elegant mix of citrus vs buttery fruit vs yeasty oat biscuit flavours vs crisp and refreshing, quite tight and structured still with nice fruit and light toast. A tad drier and crisper than the rosé with apple and citrus vs yeasty notes, good stuff again with a touch of class, more vintage Champagne like. £31.49

Champagne - France
Louis Chaurey NV Brut (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier; 12%) - tried this last year (goes there) on a similar "half price" deal at Marks & Spencer, and it's just as good this year too. Pretty classic non-vintage Champers with nice fizz, a bit of creamy body vs crisp refreshing bite vs yeasty oat cake flavours, quite long. Good for £16, I wouldn't pay £32 though.
Franck Bonville Prestige Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs Brut (Chardonnay, 12.5% abv) - Made from 100% Chardy grapes from top-rated vineyards in the village of Avize; shows some real class with lovely creamy buttery fruit, delicate mouthwatering length, nice depth of flavour, rounded and toasted oat-y vs structured and quite serious food-demanding style. Marks & Spencer: £28 at the moment, usually £39.

Australia
McGuigan Black Label Premium Release Sparkling Shiraz (13.5%) - Just for fun and oddity factor, sparkling reds like this take a bit of getting used too (some won't), with lots of spicy ripe berry fruit, tannin and alcohol; has a more refreshing side though with ripe dark fruity finish. Try with chocolate desserts or mature cheeses. Wine World / Wine Flair £9.89

I've added / might add more good fizz to this post before the end of December. In the meantime, here are some links to even more fizzy posts HERE.

17 July 2013

Wine Education Service NI autumn/winter program

The next wave of wine tastings and courses scheduled from late September to April next year in Belfast city centre (and run by RMJ) are as follows:
Essential Wine Tasting course - £125 for 5 sessions. Tuesdays 7 to 9 pm from 24 September 2013 to 22 October and 4/02/14 - 4/03/14. More info on this five evening course here:

Wine Education Service NI autumn/winter program

The next wave of wine tastings and courses scheduled from late September to April next year in Belfast city centre (and run by RMJ) are as follows:
Essential Wine Tasting course - £125 for 5 sessions Tuesdays 7 to 9 pm from 24 September 2013 to 22 October and 4/02/14 - 4/03/14. More info on this five evening course here:

16 May 2013

Wine Education Service NI events May & June


The next tastings and courses running in Belfast city centre are:

ESSENTIAL WINE TASTING course - £125 for 5 sessions on Tuesdays 19.00 to 21.00 starting 28 May to 25 June. More info on this five evening course here: wine-education-service.co.uk/introductory.
The Wines of Spain - Thursday 30 May - £30 or two for £50
"Around eight Spanish red, white and rosé wines will be tasted and talked about, including classic examples from northern Spain - e.g. Penedes, Priorat, Rioja, Navarra, Galicia - central Spain - e.g. Ribera del Duero or Toro - and southern Spain - e.g. Valdepeñas, Valencia & Jerez..."
Le Tour de France one-day wine workshop Saturday 1 June: £80 for the day including lunch, about a dozen wines for tasting and 'discussion', course notes and tuition. More details about this and other workshops here: wine-education-service.co.uk/workshop.
Thursday 27 June - Champagne & Sparkling Wines - £35 or two for £60
"A fizzy world tour starting in France with classic Champagne and other fine sparklers, then comparing with the ever popular Cava (a good one, of course), Italian 'new kid on the block' Prosecco, passing through the southern hemisphere (e.g. Australia, New Zealand) and ending up in England!"

Full details and on-line booking: www.wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast.
Or pay for Spain and Sparkling tastings by PayPal:


Select tasting:


Wine Education Service NI events May & June


The next tastings and courses running in Belfast city centre are:

ESSENTIAL WINE TASTING course - £125 for 5 sessions on Tuesdays 19.00 to 21.00 starting 28 May to 25 June. More info on this five evening course here: wine-education-service.co.uk/introductory.
The Wines of Spain - Thursday 30 May - £30 or two for £50
"Around eight Spanish red, white and rosé wines will be tasted and talked about, including classic examples from northern Spain - e.g. Penedes, Priorat, Rioja, Navarra, Galicia - central Spain - e.g. Ribera del Duero or Toro - and southern Spain - e.g. Valdepeñas, Valencia & Jerez..."
Le Tour de France one-day wine workshop Saturday 1 June: £80 for the day including lunch, about a dozen wines for tasting and 'discussion', course notes and tuition. More details about this and other workshops here: wine-education-service.co.uk/workshop.
Thursday 27 June - Champagne & Sparkling Wines - £35 or two for £60
"A fizzy world tour starting in France with classic Champagne and other fine sparklers, then comparing with the ever popular Cava (a good one, of course), Italian 'new kid on the block' Prosecco, passing through the southern hemisphere (e.g. Australia, New Zealand) and ending up in England!"

Full details and on-line booking: www.wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast
Or pay for Spain and Sparkling tastings by PayPal:


Select tasting:


31 December 2012

A couple of Champagnes "of the moment" (and a classy Oz one...)

Updated Feb 2013.
"You may already have cracked open some Champers over Christmas with all the usual seasonal special offers floating around; and if you're looking for some last-minute New Year Eve's sparkling pleasure, here are a couple I've enjoyed recently, which are widely available in the UK (and Ireland for the first one). Mind you, there are some good deals on e.g. vintage Cava and other sparklers from around the globe too that look equally / more tempting perhaps (just don't buy the cheapest one as that's what you'll get). Or look to Australia for a touch of surprising class (see below)..."

Premier Cru Champagne Tesco Finest (12.5%) - made by leading co-op winery Union Champagne selected from their Premier Cru vineyards (classified as higher quality) with around 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, based on 2007 vintage wine although a non-vintage blend plus nearly one-third 'reserve' wines (small batches held back from other vintages and blended in to maintain the house style and quality). Quite fine fizz actually showing attractive aged toasted yeasty nutty aromas and flavours, nice fresh bite vs richer and rounder with bready cake-y notes on the finish. About £15 / €29, half-bottle on offer on-line for £9.99.

Champagne Louis Chaurey Brut M&S (12%) - fairly classy blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier resulting in an attractive subtle mix of lively and fruity vs toasted yeasty baked bread notes, not too dry (nor too sweet like some of them) but has nice crisp appley touches vs richer toastier oaty flavours. Good buy at £15 (supposedly half-price although I don't think I'd pay £30 for it), but this offer might well end today!

Added Feb 2013:
Croser Sparkling Wine 2007 Adelaide Hills, South Australia - came across a neglected note on this lovely wine sampled last year, one of Australia's finest sparklers (along with e.g. Pirie from Tasmania), which could be thrown up against the two Champers above and comfortably hold its own. A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a fair amount of bottle age, this has toasty honeyed almond biscuit notes, quite rich on the palate vs crisp tight refreshing finish, classy and delicious. €20+ in Ireland (imported by Gilbeys in Dublin), $31.50 in Aus.

More Champagne & other sparkling wine HERE.

22 September 2011

Champers vs English fizz

From gusbourne.com
Another idea for a mini-theme came to mind while sampling some nice fizz at London-based wine merchant Armit's recent tasting. They import the rather superlative Champagnes of Pierre Gimonnet et Fils and had them lined up alongside an English sparkling newcomer - relatively, their first "commercial" vintage was 2006 which wasn't released until the end of last year - from Kent called Gusbourne Estate in Appledore. And the verdict? Well, as you'll see below, my notes and "scores" on the excitingly simple 1 to 3 scale for all five wines are pretty much on a par. So, well done Gusbourne especially since they've only been making "Champagne style" fizz (same varieties, same ageing methods I'd guess) for six vintages, including the one they're probably picking now or about to. Classy wines although, as is the "problem" with these very small production, new-kid-on-the-block boutique English sparkling wine houses, the prices are more or less the same as the Gimonnet Champagnes. Not really a criticism - good luck in the current retail climate - just an observation, as I'm sure they've invested a lot of money into the estate and winery. Must go there sometime...
This reminds me to focus a bit more on English sparkling wines; it's been a while since I tried e.g. Ridgeview, Nyetimber, Camel, who all produce lovely fizz. There's a newish "does what it says on the label" website too covering the whole 'topic' with handy on-line shop: sparklingenglishwine.com


Cuis 1er Cru Brut NV ChampagneGimonnet - classic balance of bread-y yeasty notes, a bit of roundness and texture vs nice steely bite. 2 £30
Gastronome Brut 2006 Vintage Champagne, Gimonnet - toastier vs tarter profile, fine and tight style with long tasty finish, still seems quite young really. 2+ £32
Fleuron 1er Cru Brut 2005 Vintage Champagne, Gimonnet - delicious bread-y nose with oat cake tones, rich vs tight mouth-feel with fresher acidity vs more of those enticing biscuit flavours. 2+ £36 


Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2006 (100% Chardonnay) - bread-y and lightly toasty vs nutty crisp side, subtle balance style and length. 2 £25-£30
Gusbourne Sparkling Rosé 2008 (Chardy, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) - toasty with hints of chocolate and sweet red fruits vs crisp bite and dry texture, quite toasty finish but it's very tasty and different. 2 £25-£32

LATEST ON ENGLISH WINE HERE.

22 November 2014

France: Champagne Dumangin

This quirky independent Champagne house was created and has been run by the Dumangin family since the 1880s. Quirky in that their Champagnes are much drier than most of the big brands and own-labels – the dosage levels (added to all traditional method fizz, except for 'Brut Nature' or 'Zero' styles, as a sweetener essentially) in the five I've reviewed below have from just 2 to 8 grams/litre residual sugar, whereas 10 to 12 or more is the norm for a so-called dry 'Brut'; and each dosage 'liquor' is lovingly “aged in perfumed oak casks,” which I'd never heard of before. The company also still does the 'riddling' by hand apparently - the process where the bottles of Champers undergoing second fermentation in bottle are slowly shaken and tilted upside-down, before the yeast sediment is 'disgorged' – which is generally done by mean machines called 'gyro-palettes' nowadays. More: www.champagne-dumangin.com photo: facebook.com/ChampagneDumangin.


La Cuvée 17 Brut (1/3 each Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) - Lightly nutty and yeasty notes, elegant and crisp mouth-feel, pretty dry (this was the 'least' dry of the five actually) with subtle tasty finish.
L'Extra-Brut (50% Pinot Meunier, 25% each Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) – Very dry and mouthwatering with nutty and subtle yeast biscuit flavours, pretty intense and crisp finish but it works well. Like it although probably too dry for some.
Le Vintage 2004 Extra Brut (54% Chardonnay, 46% Pinot Noir) – A touch richer and fuller, more complex flavours, crisp long finish, well balanced; very nice stylish Champers.
Premium Blanc de Blancs 2006 Extra Brut (100% Chardonnay, single vineyard) – Enticing ageing characters vs still intense palate, concentrated and classy; lovely fizz.
Premium Rosé de Saignée 2008 Extra Brut (50% Pinot Meunier, 25% each Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) – unusual rosé sparkler, cidery notes mixed with understated floral / red fruit flavours.
Available from Yapp Brothers in the UK for £29-£39 per bottle, in Australia and quite widely distributed across the USA.

27 November 2013

Languedoc: Jean-Louis Denois, Roquetaillade

I posted comments and info back in April about Jean-Louis Denois' "no added sulphite" wines from his northern Roussillon vineyards HERE, including a little background on the man, how these wines came about and what attracted him to the St-Paul and Caudiès de Fenouillet area. I've since added a few new notes to that profile too on other wines sourced from these Agly valley plots, such as two vintages of his smart Saint Louis Syrah. This time, the spotlight focuses in on some of the sparkling, white and red wines that have helped build his south-of-France reputation, which come from his elevated 'Upper Aude valley' vineyards in the lost villages of Roquetaillade (called la Borde-Longue) and Magrie (la Métairie d’Alon) lying within the Limoux appellation (he doesn't label all of them as that though for various reasons). This is where Jean-Louis' Languedoc 'adventure' began, as the story goes...
Born into a long-established Champagne family, Jean Louis studied winemaking and business, then went to work for Boschendal in South Africa making 'Cap Classique' fizz. He also travelled around Australia, New Zealand and the US to take in what else was going on in the wider wine world. When he returned to France, he created a sparkling wine brand sourced from just outside the Champagne area that was big in the USA apparently. He bought his first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards in Limoux country in the late 1980s, followed by planting Champagne clones of Pinot in the early 90s to make fine sparkling wines. This expanding estate was to become the now relatively famous Domaine de l'Aigle, which was sold to Antonin Rodet and now belongs to the Gérard Bertrand group. This cooler spot, with some vineyards lying at over 300 metres above sea level, was also considered a good place for making later ripening finer styles of Cabernet (both) and Merlot; and are part of a total of "57 parcels," as Jean Louis describes his patchwork estate, including the aforementioned Roussillon sites. More @ www.jldenois.com.

Domaine de la Borde-Longue (Roquetaillade) – 'Haute Vallée de l'Aude'
2011 La Bourdette Cabernet Franc (13.5%) - nice 'sweet/savoury' fruit, berries with 'soy sauce' tones; dry and firm vs rounded too with a touch more obvious oak than the Syrah say. 2nd day – that oak has blended into the wine better, ripe rounded texture vs structured and 'fresh' tannins, well balanced and quite elegant with a little weight and light coconut grain. Also needs a bit longer to open up.
2010 La Bourdette Cabernet Sauvignon (14.5%) - enticing dark cassis and cherry with earthy liquorice notes vs maturing savoury vs coco oak edges, lovely concentrated fruit with light coco vs dark choc texture, sweet vs savoury too with a fair kick and dry vs supple tannins. Long balanced and quite elegant / classy despite that alcohol, tightens up with a touch of freshness, light dry bite and lingering dark liquorice vs savoury fruit. Lovely wine, drinking well now although should improve a little more. €12
2008 Reserve Merlot - a bit oaky to start (surprising after 5 years) although has nice smooth tannins, quite rich plum and chocolate flavours, dry vs rounded profile; was even okay with a Chinese pork dish. Turns more savoury after being open, showing liquorice and a wilder earthy fruit side, nice tannin texture and depth of fruit vs chocolate oak edges; more 'volatile' and oxidised after two days open (not surprisingly).

2006 Pinot Noir brut Vin Mousseux de Qualité élaboré en Méthode Traditionnelle' (12%). Intricate toasted nut and Fino notes on the nose, baked oats straw and honey vs floral red fruity mix, chocolate and bread tones too; rich toasty nutty and yeasty flavours, concentrated with fine tight acid structure still, fresh and dry vs all those lingering complex aged flavours, delicious and classy. Maturing vs still young, will keep longer yet it's lovely now; tastes like Vintage Bolly.
JLD Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut (50-50, aged 2+ years on the lees, 'disgorged' Oct. 2012, 12.5% abv) - lovely elegant mousse and yeasty biscuit nose, rich vs elegant mouth-feel, tasty oat biscuit and toasty nutty flavours vs subtle crisp dry finish with mouthwatering bite. Yum, very elegant and drinkable. €11
Chardonnay Extra Brut - very fizzy, less toasty and dry maybe than the Pinot Chardy, fruitier and more honeyed with delicate biscuit honeysuckle and nutty tones; nice fruit with light yeast notes, quite crisp and delicate with a bit of roundness and 'sweet/savoury' oat flavours. €10

2009 Grande Cuvée Limoux rouge (65% Merlot + both Cabernets & Malbec, 14% abv) - chocolate and coconut tones vs maturing savoury fruit, prune liquorice and leather vs sweet berry and cassis. Quite lush with ripe dark fruit vs cedar notes, concentrated and powerful yet showing fairly fine balance, rounded chocolate texture vs dry bitter twist and a hint of freshness, ripe and maturing vs still lively and structured. Drinking well now - good with venison steak - but will keep too as it's quite big and firm still vs 'sweet' and rounded. 2nd day - a touch more rustic and savoury/meaty, oak is more integrated with nice ripe dark berry fruit, full-on yet rounded, good bite yet developing. €10
2010 Grande Cuvée Limoux blanc (Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, 12.8% abv) - quite oaky vs nice nutty and aniseed notes, rounded vs fresh with medium body, oily honeyed side vs crisper white peach and citrus vs nutty toasty oaty flavours. A few hours open: gets oilier and nuttier with appley crispness still vs ripe and rounded. €10
2010 Sainte Marie Limoux (single site Chardonnay, 400m altitude) - toastier and richer than the Grande Cuvée, coconut honey and oatmeal with light grainy texture vs nutty and rounded, quite concentrated with a little bite and exotic ripe fruit (pineapple, peach) vs dusty coconut oak and fairly big mouthful. Quite coconut oaky but has rich honeyed fruit and lees-y buttery depth with nutty development. €15

2012 Les Oliviers white Sud de France (blend of mostly Chardonnay plus a little Muscat from the Fenouillèdes and some Chenin from Roquetaillade; 11.8%, organic) - nice aromatic nose, floral and grapey vs peach and citrus, dry crisp and elegant palate with attractive simple tasty fruit and zesty 'chalky' finish. €7
More of his wines from the northern Roussillon HERE.

12 November 2013

Champagne & Sparkling wine tasting Dec 3 Belfast

WineWriting.com Richard Mark James' wine blog: Champagne & Sparkling wine tasting Dec 3 Belfast: "Don't miss the bubbling-with-excitement Wine Education Service NI Champagne & Sparkling wine tutored tasting..." CLICK ABOVE to view details on my other blog. Will probably include a fine sparkling Limoux...

'RED'

'Red is for wine, blood, revolution, colour... Time-warped slices of mystery, history, fantasy, crime, art, cinema and love...' Buy the e-book or paperback novel on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Click here to view the RED blog!