Tag Archives: champagne

Henri Krug dies

Henri Krug

by Ian Blackshaw

I have just learned that Henri Krug of the famous Champagne House died at the beginning of March at the age of 76, and, as a Champagne aficionado, I thought that a few words to mark his passing might be appropriate, even though, generally speaking, I cannot afford to drink his famous products.

The Champagne House of Krug was founded in Reims, the capital of the Champagne region, in 1843 by Continue reading “Henri Krug dies” »

Champagne: For Good Times And Bad

by Ian Blackshaw

We have just got back from two glorious and sunny days in Champagne country.

We stayed at a rustic and comfortable chambres d’hôtes in the heart of the Champagne vineyards of the mountains of Reims, about 10 miles from Epernay, where we sampled Madame’s delicious jams for breakfast made from the white and red Champagne grapes.

Pierre Paillard ChampagneWe visited our favourite Champagne house – Pierre Paillard – in the appropriately named Champagne wine village of Bouzy to sample and buy his latest offerings. The problem with the Champagne region is that there are hundreds of producers to choose from, ranging from the well-known grand houses of Moet et Chandon and Mercier – a visit to their caves in Epernay, which are 30 metres underground and extend to over 100 kilometres of tunnels, in a laser guided train is a must! – to medium-sized and smaller lesser-known houses. Apart from trial and error, one needs to rely on recommendations from fellow aficionados of Champagne.

At Pierre Paillard, who have been producing Champagne since 1768, we met Antoine Paillard, the eighth generation of the family. He had recently been in Hong Kong for six months to check out the Asian market, which he told us was very different from the European and American markets. It seems that the Chinese, despite their high disposable income, have not yet acquired a taste for Champagne – they prefer French reds, especially well-known clarets from the Bordelais wine region. Apparently, the Chinese palate is not yet used to the acidity of good Champagne.

Caves Champagne Pierre Paillard

We tasted his latest Rose Champagne – a blend of 2006 and 2007 pinot noir (23%) and chardonnay (70%) grapes, to which has been added a small quantity of the famous Bouzy Rouge (7%). The Rose was excellent, with tangy raspberry notes, and we invested in a number of bottles. We also bought some of his 2005 Bouzy Rouge, for which the village is also famous and which has just been released, and which he described as ‘not a bad year’! We also came away with several bottles of his brut-grand cru Champagne, made from a blend of pinot noir (60%) and chardonnay (40%) grapes, again from 2006 and 2007, which is very zesty. Nicely chilled, it is just the sort of tipple to be enjoyed on a warm summer’s evening. We have actually toasted the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee during this past long weekend with this rather special and excellent sparkler!

We asked Antoine about this year’s vintage and he told us that things were going well so far, but that August and September are the critical months weather wise, which could make all the difference between a good and a bad vendange.

Champagne house Pierre PaillardWe also asked him how the Champagne business was going in the current recession and with a Gallic shrug of his shoulders and perhaps typical of his understatement style replied: ‘not bad’. Adding that he was selling more to hotels and restaurants, despite the news that many of the French are having to tighten their belts and, amongst other things, are foregoing holidays this year. But, when it comes to food and wine, the French, generally speaking, are still in the front line and do not hold back!

I, for one, will raise my glass of Champagne to that!

Champagne: The Wine of Kings and the King Of Wines

by Ian Blackshaw

We have just received our Spring Newsletter from the Champagne House of Goutorbe-Bouillot, which is a timely reminder that Easter is approaching, and that means it is time for one of our visits to the Champagne region.

There are hundreds of Champagne growers and producers, ranging from the leading Houses, such as Moet et Chandon, to the smaller ones, spread over many villages in the region. So, one is spoilt for choice. Indeed, which Champagne House do you choose? Fortunately, in our case, we had a very useful and, as it turns out, very good introduction to Goutorbe-Bouillot, from our eldest son, whose accountant, when he ran his own business selling shellfish to France, was the niece of the proprietor of this Champagne House. We had sampled and liked their products, and so we visited them a number of years ago and have been visiting and buying from them ever since!

Last year (2011), Goutorbe-Bouillot, who are located in Damery, north of Epernay and on the banks of the Marne, near to Hautvillers, the birthplace of Champagne, where Dom Perignon first elaborated this fine sparkling wine and which is well worth a visit, including the Abbey Church, where the renowned Benedictine monk served as cellar master, celebrated their centenary.

However, it may be noted that, before these two Champagne growing families came together through marriage in 1911, they had already individually been producing Champagne for six previous generations.

Such is the tradition in the Champagne region. And, indeed, the future of this particular House is assured, since the son of the present owners, who had been working in Harrods’ wine department in London for a number of years, recently came back to France to join the family business. Also, as he will be marrying at the end of this month, hopefully, a further generation will be born and will secure the future of the House.

Goutorbe-Bouillot produce a range of Champagnes to suit all tastes, including rose, which is very good and quite fruity. But their best-selling cuvee (blend) is their ‘Carte D’Or’, which they offer as a brut or demi-sec. Retailing at €13,90 a bottle, this Champagne is of a high and consistent quality, made from the classic blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes. In my opinion, this Champagne, which is exhibits a fine balance between acidity and fruitiness and is very smooth, represents very good value for money.

Furthermore, if you are not able to visit them yourselves, then they will deliver their Champagnes to you within France, and have kept their transportation costs at the same level as last year (2011). However, if you are able to visit them, you will not be disappointed, as they have a very fine and interesting sampling salon, which includes prints, photos, maps, documents and other artefacts showing how Champagne is made and also illustrating the history of their Champagne House. All very informative.

And, incidentally, they are very generous with their samples and you will also receive a very warm welcome from them, as they are particularly anxious to show off and for you to enjoy their versions of what they call ‘The Wine of Kings and the King of Wines!’

Veuve Emile Champagne ~ recommended for Christmas and New Year

by Ian Blackshaw

When I am frequently asked by friends what wine to serve to celebrate Christmas and bring in the New Year, readers of my wine articles will know that there can only be one answer to that question and that is: Champagne. My favourite tipple!

There are many Champagnes on the market to suit every taste and pocket. But, in these economically challenged times in which we are living, most people are looking for one that is not only of good quality, but is also at a reasonable and affordable price. Look no further! Take my tip and plump for a ‘Veuve Emile’.

This is the in house/own brand of the Auchan Supermarket Chain. No, I do not have any shares in Auchan or any other financial interest in them. My recommendation is purely a gratuitous one. Auchan, I have found over the years, have some very good sommeliers, who know what and where to buy!

Down the years, I have tried – and, I must say, enjoyed – various Champagnes, from the ‘grandes marques’ (such as Moet et Chandon) downwards, and also bought direct from several of the Champagne Houses, especially the smaller ones, but I have always found a ‘Veuve Emile’ very satisfying.

Veuve Emile’ is produced in different styles: brut; demi-sec; and rose. There is also an up market ‘premier cru’ version, which, as one would expect, is a little more expensive.

The main styles retail for around €13 – €15 a bottle and, at this time of the year, are often on promotion.

The Champagne normally comes from the old established Champagne House of Chanoine Freres of Reims. You will find the source in small print at the bottom of the bottle label. The Champagne, which is non-vintage, is a typical blend of the three traditional Champagne grape varieties of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier; and the brut style is particularly fresh and zesty with a good acidity.

The rose is also satisfying with a lovely robe and lends itself particularly well for drinking and adds some interest on a festive occasion!
For those with a sweeter tooth, the demi-sec is acceptable; but not for my taste. I find it rather cloying, even if served with calorific desserts, and it is also lacking in bite!

However, wine, as I have said on many occasions, is always a matter of personal taste and preference; and thank goodness that it is and always will be so.

Try some ‘Veuve Emile’ for the upcoming Christmas and New Year festivities and I do not think that you will be disappointed! Being a lawyer, however, no guarantees are given!

In any case, this will be my last Frogsiders wine article before Christmas and the New Year, so may I wish you all, dear readers, the compliments of the season and good and safe drinking!

English “Champagne” : As good as the real thing?

Our eldest son recently got engaged and was given as an engagement present by some wine- loving friends of theirs a bottle of English ‘Champagne’. Now, I know that such a wine grown and produced in England cannot properly be described as Champagne, as its provenance is not from the Champagne region of Eastern France, where the growers and vignerons jealously guard and protect their well-earned Appellation Controlée.

Chapel Down Winery, Tenterden, Kent

So, how does the English version compare with French Champagne, which readers of my wine articles will know is my favourite drink?
My son and his fiancée have just been over for the weekend and brought us a bottle to try! I have to say that I was not disappointed. And the bottle of Chapel Down Non-Vintage Reserve Brut English Sparkling Wine, as it must legally describe itself, compared very favourably indeed with its French equivalent.
The production method is the same as French Champagne and the soil in Tenterden in Kent, where the grapes are grown and the wine produced, is chalky as is the soil of the French Champagne Wine Region. The Kent climate is quite similar too! Both regions have their fair share of sun and rain!

Grape harvest time at Chapel Down

The English Chapel Down (part of the English Wines Group) ‘Champagne’ is a blend of Rivaner, Reichtensteiner and Pinot Noir grapes and makes a very good aperitif, with its crispness and freshness on the palate.

Writing in the English Independent on Sunday newspaper on 17 April, 2011, Terry Kirby, a respected wine and food journalist, had this to say about this product:

“… this is a sophisticated wine that should not be confused with cava or prosecco and holds its own against comparatively priced champagnes, with bright, herbal, lemony, biscuity flavours.”

I would entirely with him and venture to suggest that at £16.14 a bottle it is not only a find but also a snip for a quality ‘Champagne’ and, in my opinion and in its category, as good as the ‘real thing’!

Try it for yourself and see whether you agree with me!

  • Anglican Church in Boulogne

    On Sunday May 1 at 10.30 we shall be having our first Eucharist at our new location.

    Monastère du Carmel – 2, rue du Denacre – 62280 SAINT MARTIN BOULOGNE – Tél : 03 21 31 66 63 – Fax : 03 21 91 75 01 – courriel : carmelites.stmartin@wanadoo.fr

    We shall be serving a celebratory glass of bubbly after the service.
    Also note that exceptionally, for May only, we shall be having a second 1030 service on Sunday May 15 instead of the scheduled 530 service – we hope to see as many as possible.

    Pink Champagne for Valentines Day

    by Ian Blackshaw

    With St Valentine’s Day – Le Jour d’Amour as the French, stereotypically, prefer to call it! – looming on the horizon, I thought I would pen a few lines about Pink Champagne, which is a favourite drink to celebrate the day – not only in France, but throughout the world!

    Pink Champagne is made in the Champagne wine region of France by one of two methods.

    Pinot Noir grapes

    Either red wine is added to white wine until the preferred color is reached; or the skins of the black grapes – champagne is usually made from two-third black grapes and one-third white – are left with the juice after pressing, which dyes it a light red, or pink, colour. The latter method – using the grape skins as a kind of dye – is the most commonly used one and, indeed, is, generally, the preferred method for producing pink champagne – also, more correctly, known as Rose Champagne.

    Most Champagne Houses produce Pink Champagne, so there is a wide variety to choose from – ranging from the great names – ‘les grades marques’ – to the lesser ones, to suit, of course, one’s pocket.

    One of the great names to conjure with is Laurent Perrier, whose Rose Champagne is excellent and, apparently, the favourite tipple of Prince Charles – presumably Camilla likes it too! It is also liked very much by our two sons, who order it on every conceivable celebratory occasion at, of course, our expense!

    Incidentally, Laurent Perrier was the first Champagne House to use the Chardonnay grape in the production of champagne. As far as Pink Champagne is concerned, Laurent Perrier uses only the Pinot Noir grapes, which are picked by hand and only the ripest.

    This gives the wine its characteristic fruitiness, and some Champagne lovers find it too sweet. However, some producers of Pink Champagne are able to vary the sweetness.

    The wine is kept in barrels for four years before being bottled. And the distinctive bottle used by Laurent Perrier dates from Henry V times.

    So, go one, spoil yourself and indulge in some Pink Champagne in the name of St Valentine, whose existence, by the way, is surrounded by mystery and myth, apart from the fact that there may well have been at least three St Valentine’s to celebrate!

    Cheese and Wine

    by Ian Blackshaw

    In my younger days, cheese and wine parties were de rigueur. And they seem to be coming back and regaining popularity. During the Festive Season, for example, we were invited to a number of them.

    Of course, their success depends upon matching the cheese with the wine. It is a myth to suggest – as some commentators do – that cheese and wine were made for one another – a sort of marriage made in heaven! That is not so. For example, fine reds lose out ‘big time’ with strong cheeses. In fact, contrary to the generally accepted wisdom, white wines tend to go better with cheese. However, cheese and wine do have this in common: they both have an extensive and prestigious history; they both are created naturally; and they both tend to age well. Not bad for starters!

    The general rule of thumb to be followed in choosing the right wine for the right cheese is this: the harder the cheese, the more tannin that is required in the wine; the creamier the cheese, the more acidity the wine needs to make the perfect match.

    At Christmas, we enjoyed a good Stilton with a glass of 10-year Tawny Port. As far as blue cheeses go, a good Roquefort goes well with a Sauternes – the sweeter, and, therefore, older, the better!

    Here are a few other suggested pairings of cheese and wine for you:

    • Mature English Cheddar with a Sauvignon Blanc
    • Camembert with a Chenin Blanc.
    • Boursin with a Gewurztraminer, which also goes well with Goats Cheese (Chevre) – so also does Sancerre.
    • Maroilles, our local cheese, with a Cahors or a Muscat to match the saltiness.
    • Tomme de Savoie with a Chardonnay, especially a spicy Chablis, or a Pinot Gris from Alsace.
    • Chaource, which comes from the town of the same name in the Aube and is produced in the Champagne-Ardenne region, and which we tend to serve at our dinner parties, goes very well with a fruity St Emilion – perhaps my favourite red.

    And, last by no means least, Champagne goes very well indeed with a mature Brie (say a Brie de Meaux). All those who read my wine articles will know my penchant for Champagne, and will not, therefore, be surprised that I just had to include Champagne in this article! And, incidentally, a Rose Champagne and cheddar shortie cheese biscuits (home made, of course!) together make a wonderful aperitif.

      Christmas Wines

      Selected by Ian Blackshaw

      I am often asked by relatives and friends to suggest wines for the Festive Season, especially to be drunk before, during and after the Christmas Dinner. So, here is my selection for this year, which I very much hope you will enjoy!

      Of course, Champagne, my favourite wine, has to figure in my selection. Champagne is such a versatile wine that you can serve it as an aperitif, or during the meal, or afterwards. This, of course, is entirely a matter of personal taste and choice. I prefer to serve it before the meal, so that the Christmas Day Dinner gets off to a bubbly start and puts everyone in a festive mood, and ready to pull crackers and put on paper hats! And, generally, enter into the spirit of the occasion. I prefer a good brut (dry) to open up the palate and stimulate the taste buds for the Christmas Feast that is to follow; rather than a demi-sec, which goes down very well at the end of the meal.

      We usually have smoked salmon as a starter, and, continuing the dry theme, I usually serve a Pouilly-Fume from the Loire – the 2008 vintage is a good suggestion. Or, if you prefer to change the colour and opt for a full and dry Rose, you could hardly do better than a Tavel Rose, from the Avignon area – again, a 2008 would be a good choice.

      With the traditional Christmas Turkey – which we always import from Norfolk via Tesco Waitrose or Sainsbury! – I would recommend a good claret. A 2005 St. Estephe from Chateau Merville has just been released onto the market, and is a very good, full bodied red and a snip at €9.90 a bottle. This wine will complement the rich flavour and juices of the Turkey with all its trimmings, and that is what I shall be serving!

      As for the Christmas Pudding – we always omit the cheese course on Christmas Day, which is something to be eaten with the leftovers on Boxing Day! – how about a Maury, my younger brother-in-law’s favourite, which is a red pudding wine (vin doux naturel) – with attitude – from the Roussillon wine region in the South West of France? The 2006 or 2007 vintage is drinking well, and, if you can get it, a Maury produced by the Mas Amiel vineyard is a real treat.

      After all that, we usually have an eau de vie – as a digestif – with the coffee and the petits fours. I would recommend, again, if you get it, a Marc de Bourgogne, or a Poire William. Our local farmer’s pommeau – made with apples from our garden and calvados – also goes down very well, followed, of course, by a post prandial nap in front of a roaring log fire!

      Bonnes Fetes de Noel!

      Old wine to go in new bottles

      According to Champagne producers, the traditional bottle in which the wine goes through its long production process, is shipped, sold and served, was designed by Dom Perignon in the 17th century.

      Its weight and strength are necessary to withstand the pressure of the gas that gives the wine its characteristic “bubbliness”.  But now the traditional bottle is to undergo a redesign to make it lighter and less bulky.

      The industry claims that shipping billions of gallons of champagne around the world currently creates a carbon footprint of some 200,000 metric tonnes – the equivalent to the yearly emission of some 100,000 cars.

      The heavy and bulky traditional bottle contributes a great deal of this carbon footprint on its own.

      “It’s far too big and we had to do something about it,” said a spokesman for the Continue reading “Old wine to go in new bottles” »

      Scientists? Masters of the art of statement of the bleeding obvious

      “Scientists in France have reported that pouring bubbly in an angled, down-the-side way is best for preserving the taste and fizz of the champagne.

      Scientists say "Chill and pour at an angle" Quelle surprise!

      The study also reports the first scientific evidence confirming the importance of chilling champagne before serving to enhance its taste, the scientists say.

      Ge?rard Liger-Belair and colleagues note that tiny bubbles are the essence of fine champagnes and sparkling wines. Past studies indicate that the bubbles – formed during the release of large amounts of dissolved carbon dioxide gas – help transfer the taste, aroma, and mouth-feel of champagne.

      The scientists studied carbon dioxide loss in champagne using two different pouring methods. One involved pouring champagne straight down the middle of a glass. The other involved pouring champagne down the side of an angled glass.

      They found that pouring champagne down the side preserved up to twice as much carbon dioxide in champagne than pouring down the middle – probably because the angled method was gentler.

      They also showed that cooler champagne temperatures (ideally, 39 degrees Fahrenheit) help reduce carbon dioxide loss.”

      Their report appears in ACS’ bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. (ANI)

      YOU DON’T SAY?