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Contents Explore Features

12 14 16 20 24 30 36 40 44 54 58 66 68 70

Champagne and Australia

History of the Region

History of the Wine

It’s from North-East France

Appellation D’Origine Controlee

From the Vine

The Grapes – The Three Amigos

Echelle des Crus

How it is Made

Reserve Wines

Styles of Champagne


Cork Ageing

Champagne Houses

72 76 78 82 84 108 110 112 150 152 154 156 208

The Bottle and the Label


Serving Champagne

How to Taste


The Protection of Champagne

Elisabeth Drysdale



Visiting and Touring Houses

Cellars and Caves

Where to Stay

116 120 122 124 125 126 128 130 136 138 144



Champagne Jacquart

Champagne Delamotte

Champagne Henriot





Champagne Pommery

Champagne Taittinger


Champagne Bottles

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Explore Story

26 104 106

Sparkling Houses

168 170 176 178 Explore Food Pairing 180 90 182 Explore Sommelier 184 100 186 Explore Glassware 188 102 190 Explore Sparkling 191 158 192 194

Dom Perignon

Bottom of the Sea


Livingstone and Stanley

Grant Burge

Jansz Tasmania

House of Arras


Food Pairing

Sommelier Tips You, Pip Anderson

[yellow tail]

Italian Sparkling



Evolution of the Champagne glass

Spanish Sparkling


Sparkling Wines

German Sparkling


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Explore Occasions

196 198 200 202 204 206

Formula 1

Mother’s Day

New Year’s Eve


Spring Racing Carnival

Valentine’s Day

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“I only drink Champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not” – Coco Chanel

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EDITOR Rachel Stevenson

explore Champagne & Sparkling is published by Hip Media

RACHEL STEVENSON born and bred in London, made the move across the pond, settling in Sydney where she now calls home. Having completed a Masters degree in Journalism, Rachel is a keen writer and always looking for the next new trend. After spending months researching, editing and writing for Explore, Rachel has a new found passion for the world of Champagne and sparkling; one that she will now continue to explore.


169 Blues Point Road, McMahons Point, NSW 2060 Ph: 02 9492 7999 www ABN: 42 126 291 914 The views expressed in explore Champagne & Sparkling are of the respective contributors and are not necessarily those of the magazine or Hip Media. Copyright is held by Hip Media and reproduction in whole or in part, without prior consent, is not permitted. The images depicted in explore Champagne & Sparkling are for editorial purposes only and not necessarily representative of the final product.

KEN GARGETT is a former lawyer, winner of the vin de champagne award (which he credits as being a ‘long time ago’) and freelance wine writer. He also dabbles in the lucrative world of writing on his favourite topics such as wine, spirits, cigars, travel and fishing.

Other Hip Media products include: drinks trade magazine drinks yearbook drinks guide Drinks World Asia BYO Barfly MasterChef Live Better Homes and Gardens Live Grand Designs Live Design Build Hip Media was the winner of Small Publisher of the Year at the Publishers Australia Awards of 2010

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“Champagne! In victory one deserves it, in defeat one needs it.” Napoleon Bonaparte

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There’s something about bubbles. How much do you know about what’s in your glass of bubbles? If there’s one thing many of us do know it’s that we like it. Australian’s rank among the world’s elite when it comes to enjoying our fair share; we consumed over six million bottles of Champagne alone last year and plenty more Sparkling, Cava and Prosecco; it seems we have embraced opportunity to celebrate with bubbles on a more regular occasion. There’s something about the bubbles, the pale amber colour and the elegant flute that screams celebration; but often that’s where our knowledge stops. Do you still call it Champagne just because it has bubbles, or do you consider Prosecco just a sweeter version? There are varying opinions, tall stories and some wonderful myths that follow Champagne and Sparkling wine through the centuries; in the next 200 pages we debunk some of those and, hopefully, give you a new appreciation for bubbles. Of course all Champagne is Sparkling wine, but not all Sparkling wine is Champagne; titles such as Champagne have been reserved for wines made from the region itself. It has long been equated with quality; hence the region’s keenness to protect the name, but often belies the provenance that comes from other wines such as Prossecco from Italy and Cava from Spain; and most of all, sparkling from Australia explore Champagne and Sparkling will walk you through the background to Champagne (the region), the grapes, how to taste and serve bubbles, some food matching and debunk some myths around how Sparkling wine came about. There can be few more enjoyable pursuits than exploring the world of Champagne and Sparkling wine, but as you do you’ll come across a variety of different quality and styles that you enjoy. While regionality and grape styles are important, when working out what you enjoy, an added layer of complexity for sparkling wine is the secondary fermentation, which adds significant cost to the process. Whether completed in the bottle, method champenoise or traditional method as in Champagne, or in vats as in Italy for Prosecco, the styles will influence your enjoyment and, ultimately, your hip pocket. Australia has more recently joined in with world-class bubbles – so when exploring keep an open mind for some of the exceptional sparkling wines being produced from South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, the later now hailed internationally as having wines the equal of anything around the world. The next 200 pages are dedicated to the wonderful world of Champagne and Sparkling wine; imported or from Australia, tank fermented or method traditional – we trust you’ll find something special in explore Champagne and Sparkling and with New Year’s Eve right around the corner, the one night most associated with bubbly, we encourage you to toast your increased knowledge with some of the great wines you’ll find in this book – responsibly of course. ❧ Cheers,

Ashley Pini

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“Remember gentlemen, it is not France we are fighting for, it is Champagne!” Winston Churchill

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“Champagne should be dry, cold and free.” - Winston Churchill “Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of champagne; knowing him was like drinking it” - Winston Churchill

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NO WINE ANYWHERE ELSE CREATES such a thrill, such expectations, when we hear that cork pop. No wine is so closely associated with celebrations and special moments – weddings, christenings, ship launches, Christmas parties, romantic dinners (whoever proposed over a glass of port?), sporting victories, family reunions and so much more – than Champagne. No wine uplifts the spirits or brightens a dull day in the way that a glass of Champagne can; it is truly inspiration in a bottle. Think of this; you are told that you can only take one style of wine with you to drink for the rest of your life – your desert island wine, if you like. Only one. How many of us would not hesitate? Surely Champagne is the obvious choice. If there is a downside to being seen as the world’s choice for celebration, then it is simply that too often, those enjoying the wine don’t take a moment to appreciate just what a great wine Champagne can be. The finest Champagnes sit comfortably alongside the great Grand Crus of Bordeaux, First Growths of Bordeaux, venerable old Vintage Ports, and anything else you might like to throw at it. They are brilliant, extraordinary wines and no cellar is complete without them. The Champagne region is a joy to visit – nowhere else on this globe of ours does hospitality like the Champenoise. No one else comes close. Visiting Champagne

Houses is a joy – there are the great wines to savour, the extraordinary crayeres to visit, the history to absorb. Champagne is a defined region of around 34,000 hectares, approximately 4 per cent of the total vineyard area of France (and a mere 0.4 per cent of the total vineyard area in the world). It is now effectively fully planted. The majority of this great region, around 90 per cent, is owned by growers, most of whom sell their grapes to the Houses and the cooperatives (more and more growers are making their own Champagnes as well as selling grapes – one of the most exciting developments in the region in many years). The Houses may only own around 10 per cent of the land of Champagne, but they produce and sell about 70 per cent of all Champagne and 90 per cent of the Champagne which is exported. It really is a curious region. All up, there are about 300 Houses, 150 cooperatives and almost 16,000 growers. Champagne is exported to almost 200 countries around the world. Even though sparkling wines are made in almost every wine-producing region on the planet, not only do none match the ultimate quality of Champagne, but 13 per cent of all sparkling wines consumed on earth still come from Champagne – a figure that has been largely steady for the last thirty years. Production in 2014 was a staggering 337 million bottles. Remember also that there are many, many

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more millions of bottles quietly maturing in the cellars beneath the streets of the cities and towns of the region – like Reims and Epernay. Estimates put the quantity of champagne held in stock at nearly 1.5 billion bottles. In other words, there is an extraordinary amount of joy in those cellars, just waiting to work its magic. Sales in 2014 were 307,136,564 bottles of Champagne, around the world. 215,093,681 of these were made by the Houses with the remaining 92,042,883 bottles made by cooperatives and growers. 162,266,302 of these bottles were sold in France (89,659,070 from the Houses and 72,607,232 by the cooperatives and growers – a split of 55 per cent to 45 per cent), 53 per cent of all production. The remaining 47 per cent, 144,870,262 bottles, were exported (125,434,611 bottles having been produced by the Houses with the remaining 19,435,651 by the co-ops and growers – it is obviously far easier for the small growers to sell their Champagnes locally than to export them – a split of 87 per cent to 13 per cent). The United Kingdom is the preferred export market, taking 32,675,232 bottles. The United States, with just under 20 million, is next, with Germany third, bringing in over 12 million bottles. Japan and Belgium follow, with Australia in 6th place, with more than 6.5 million bottles – a great achievement when viewed on a per capita basis (also worth mentioning that

within Australia, Queensland is usually the leading market on a per capita basis). Italy, Switzerland, Spain and Sweden round out the top ten export markets in that order. While sales of 307 million bottles is impressive, in 1999, the total topped 327 million. This was largely in anticipation of millennium celebrations. The world stocked up! It was a record at the time, though it did dull the market for a few years following, as the markets worked their way through the leftover stocks. The following year, 2000, shipments dropped to 253 million bottles. The all-time record was set in 2007 with 339 million bottles.

It hasn’t always been such exciting times and the build to today’s heady sales has been slow and steady, for the most. In 1950, shipments totalled a mere 32 million bottles, while only 10,500 hectares, of the potential 34,000 hectares, were planted. A decade later, that had increased to 50 million bottles. We can see how the region was battling the rise of sparkling wine from other areas. By 1985, Champagne sales, now around 200 million bottles annually, represented 12.4 per cent of all sparkling wine sold in the world. In 1960, even with a much smaller production, that figure was 33 per cent. Even in 1975, it was still 25 per cent.

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By 1996, plantings were nearly reaching saturation point, with 30,700 hectares planted. In 2011, a ‘plot-by-plot’ appraisal of the Champagne vineyards was commenced. Plantings now totalled 33,344 hectares. While we wait to see what the future holds for the region, one thing is surely without doubt; Champagne will continue to brighten the lives of millions of people around the world. It is the finest sparkling wine on the planet and the first choice whenever we need to celebrate. Champagne – nothing else comes close! ❧




THE REGION WAS FIRST FORMED INTO A political entity in the 10th century, under the House of Vermandois, and then was ‘acquired’ by the House of Blois and divided amongst its family members. An alternative theory as to the name of the region comes from the number of Celts who settled here, with the Celtic ‘kann pan’ meaning the ‘white country’, a reference to the exposed chalk seen so often throughout the district. The region leapt to prominence thanks to the visits of various Kings and especially as a result of their coronations – Clovis I in 496 (a pagan warlord who promised his Christian wife he would convert if he could vanquish his foes, a promise he kept) and Hugh Capet in 987 in the Reims Cathedral (or at Noyon depending on the authority). Regardless of exactly where his coronation took place, 37 of his successors underwent their coronation in the Cathedral at Reims, the final one in 1825 – Charles X. With that, the tradition of monarchs visiting the region was established and confirmed. Needless to

say, this gave their wines a boost – in those days, light pink wines made from the Pinot Noir grape. In 1125, Thibaut IV, who later became ‘Thibaut II, the Great of Champagne’ reunited the various counties, however, there was endless conflict between Champagne and the Kings of France, notably Louis VI and Louis VIl. Marriage between various heirs and Kings eventually ended the conflict, and in 1314, France and Champagne were united with Louis X as King.  The great disadvantage, and advantage, enjoyed by the region is that it is often described as being at the crossroads of Europe. For centuries, it has been traversed by everyone from tourists and travellers to merchants and armies. For several centuries, it was the hub for commercial fairs, attracting visitors from across Europe, especially France, Germany and Italy. It soon became one of the key mercantile centres of the continent. The Hundred Years’ War and the development of new

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trade routes diminished its importance. Textiles and wines helped the region survive economically, but by 1790, “Champagne” was abolished as a separate entity. For the next few centuries, the region was largely dominated by an extensive series of Wars – the Habsburgs, the Battle of Valmy and especially the First World War and the Battle of the Marne – taking over from the parade of Vandals, Goths and Huns who had played away in previous centuries.  The Second World War was also a very difficult time for the region, though perhaps not to the terrible extent that was suffered during its predecessor. Notably, though, it was in the city of Reims where the German commander, Alfred Jodl, confirmed the unconditional surrender to the Allied Commander, General Dwight Eisenhower, on May 7, 1945. The signing was inevitably accompanied with Champagne – half a dozen cases of Pommery 1934. ❧

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History of the Wine

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Britain has been crucial in both the development of Champagne as a style and its popularity around the globe.

LIKE A NUMBER OF THE GREAT WINE regions, the monks played a crucial role, the Benedictines in this case. Vineyards were largely the preserve of the monasteries and the wine from them consecrated. There was much more to it, of course. As they say in the world of property – location, location, location. In 496 AD, Clovis was crowned as the first King of France. It took place in the Cathedral at Reims, as did so many subsequent coronations. The bishop anointing Clovis lived near Epernay, amidst the vines. Consequently, the wines used for the Consecration were from Champagne. A tradition commenced and a region was born. The link was strengthened, several centuries later, when the Countess of Champagne married the then King of France. Champagne, again, was used for the consecration, served at the celebrations and given to Royal visitors. Its reputation grew and it began to be enjoyed far beyond its boundaries. It remains the wine of celebration for the world, no matter the event – weddings, christenings, coming of age, sporting victories, international treaties, launching ships and so much more. It is claimed that in the last moments of his life as he awaited execution in the Concièrgerie prison, Philippe d’Orléan’s last request was for Champagne – truly the wine of kings. Of course, in its earliest form, Champagne was not the sparkling, crystal clear gem we enjoy today. It was a weak, pinkish wine, devoid of any fizz, and the vignerons of the day fought hard to keep it that way, though they did want more colour. One devastating description of the wine was “grey”. There are even tales of winemakers in Champagne adding elderberries to improve the colour of their wines. Champagne’s location, north of Burgundy, always meant that the wines would be lighter, more acidic and

with less body than the wines emerging from their southern neighbour. There was a fierce and enduring rivalry between the two regions, with Burgundy holding an advantage as it was able to get far better colour in its wines. Champagne however, returned serve with its location, especially as the trade route from Paris to Burgundy went directly through Champagne, enabling the locals to offer cheaper alternatives to the wines of Burgundy. Over time, many local winemakers moved to making the less popular white wines, but they found the best examples of white wine came from red grapes, such as Pinot Noir. Pressure within the bottle was also causing a problem; if the cold weather in winter had stopped the fermentation, as often happened, there was the danger that as spring brought warmer days, fermentation would kick off again in the bottle. This would leave unsightly dead yeast cells in the bottle and cause unwanted fizz through the carbon dioxide created from this fermentation – the bubbles were considered a fault in those days (contrary to popular myth, the monk, Dom Perignon, worked hard to prevent his wines from having any bubbles – hardly what one would expect from someone alleged to have “invented” Champagne, though his contribution to the development of Champagne was extensive) – and most dangerously of all, greatly increase the risk of exploding bottles. The problem was exacerbated in Champagne cellars as if one bottle exploded, it was not uncommon for it to set off a chain reaction. A House could lose a significant percentage of its production in the blink of an eye. Inevitably, where barrels or bottles of these wines were transported long distances, there was an increased possibility of these problems, to French dismay. In one market,

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however, this was not an issue. The British were developing quite a taste for bubbles in their wines. It was a taste especially enjoyed by royalty and, after the death of Louis XIV, adopted in France. Louis XV lifted the restrictions on transporting wine in bottles, which had held back sales until then. Now, the aim of the vignerons was to create wines with sparkle. Unfortunately, most had no clue how to do this and even if they did, there was still the problem of exploding bottles – not a big positive for sales! Britain has been crucial in both the development of Champagne as a style and its popularity around the globe. This dates back centuries; the earliest record of wine from Champagne landing in England is a shipment of wine from Aÿ, received in 1518 by Henry VIII’s chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. The British preference for bubbles is traced back to the exile of the popular Marquis de Saint-Évremond, a well-respected epicurean, to London. He was a devotee of Champagne, and tireless promoter, though his preference was typically French at the time – for the still version. As local nobility adopted his passion for the wines of Champagne, orders increased and large quantities of wooden barrels of Champagne were soon crossing the Channel. Local merchants bottled the wine in London but they still faced the same issue of weak bottles exploding where fermentation had kicked off again in warmer temperatures. But what was successfully bottled often had that inimitable sparkle. It was this time that some of the major problems facing these wines were overcome, most notably exploding bottles (it still happens in the Champagne cellars today, though it is much, much rarer and consumers need have no fear that it will happen to any Champagne they buy). English glass makers were using coal-fired

ovens, while the French persisted with woodfired ovens. The difference was that the English could produce stronger glass bottles, just what was needed to prevent unplanned explosions. The English also revived and improved the use of cork as stoppers. It meant that when Londoners opened their Champagne, it sparkled. They loved it. The English scientist, Christopher Merret, conducted various tests and prepared a report on this phenomenon, as far back as 1662. It is believed that British merchants were adding sugar to the wine, before bottling, in order to create ‘sparkling Champagne’, even before the French had cottoned on. References to foaming Champagne appear reasonably regularly in writings – poems and plays – of the day. Back in France, after Louis XIV passed and Philippe II became the Regent of France, sparkling Champagne enjoyed a huge boost to its popularity as Parisians followed the Duke’s lead. Even with this, it is estimated that by the end of the 18th century, at least 90 per cent of the region’s production was still, slightly pink and fairly unexciting wine. It was now that we began to see the emergence of some of the Champagne Houses we know today. 1729 saw Ruinart open its doors. Gosset had been making still wine since 1584 and they also moved to sparkling. In 1743, Claude Moët established what was to become the most famous House of all. Other household names with long histories include Taittinger in 1734, Veuve Clicquot in 1772, Louis Roederer in 1776 (though it did not take its current name until 1833), Heidsieck (in its initial incarnation) in 1785, Perrier-Jouët in 1811, Mumm in 1827, Bollinger in 1829, Krug in 1843 and Pommery in 1858. The major advance, and without it Champagne would likely be little more than a curiosity today, was riddling/remuage, which solved the issue of removing dead yeast from the bottles. This happened in 1818, at the hand of Madame Clicquot and her kitchen table, or more likely her cellar master, Antoine Muller, depending which account one wishes to believe. In 1836, the invention of a device to measure the level of sugar in wine allowed winemakers to add the amount of sugar necessary to create the fizz, but not

so much as to induce the bottle to explode. This was crucial, although it took some fifty years before these calculations became commonplace. Then came the legendary Louis Pasteur and his discovery of the role yeasts played in fermentation. In 1854, the national railway system finally connected Reims with the rest of the country, most importantly the ports. Champagne was now linked to the world and production reached the dizzy heights of 20 million bottles annually during this decade, up from a mere 300,000 bottles in 1800. It was the beginning of a golden age for Champagne, but the region has certainly had its ups and downs since then. Some of the more difficult events include two World Wars, phylloxera, the economic devastation caused by events such as the Russian Revolution, the Great Depression (and the GFC) and Prohibition, and the riots in 1911. The railways were to have an unforeseen impact, as large quantities of much cheaper grapes from other regions could now be shipped in, made in the region and passed off as Champagne. With tough economic times upon them and the scourge of phylloxera, many Champagne growers were in deep financial trouble. The 1910 vintage,

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beset by hail and floods, saw the loss of 96 per cent of the crop. The riots of January 1911, were inevitable. They led to the government passing legislation which defined where Champagne must come from, but they excluded the Aube region, ensuring further future turmoil, not least from the growers in the Marne who were dismayed that the Aube was eventually included as part of Champagne. Then came the utter devastation of WWI, where the region lost half its population, not to mention the damage caused to wineries and vineyards. In 1919, the government passed legislation to bring about the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system, often referred to as the AOC – which enshrined boundaries and also established and regulated winemaking practices.  Through the unbeatable combination of sheer quality and brilliant marketing, Champagne has become a household name and the immediate choice for celebration. There are many great sparkling wines around the globe, but none which can match Champagne in all its glory. In 2014, 308 million bottles were sold, at a value of 4.5 billion Euros. ❧




CHAMPAGNE MUST COME FROM THE designated region. Nowhere else in France, or indeed any other winegrowing district in the world, can make ‘Champagne’, though plenty have tried. The authorities in Champagne will strenuously defend and protect their name and reputation and it is not uncommon for them to take legal action to do so. The delimited region consists of approximately 35,000 hectares (35,280 to be exact). Roads, buildings and their ilk take up a small percentage, leaving around 34,000 hectares for vines. The five main growing districts are the Montagne de Reims, the Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sezanne, Vallee de la Marne and the Aube/Côte des Bar. The major towns in the region are Reims and Epernay (Sir Winston Churchill once famously described the location of his favourite House, Pol Roger – 44 Avenue de Champagne in Epernay – as “the most drinkable address in the world”). The region is divided into 320 villages/ crus, of which 17 are considered Grand Cru and 42 Premier Cru. There are hundreds of thousands of small plots – the best growers do not so much think of the characteristics of a full vineyard or indeed, whether it is Grand Cru or Premier Cru, but rather the character of small individual plots throughout their vineyards.

The Montagne is not so much a mountain, at its highest it is always under 300 metres, but more an elevated plain. It enjoys the largest concentration of Grand Cru villages with 9 – Bouzy, Ambonnay, Louvois, Verzy, Verzenay, Mailly-Champagne, Sillery, Puisieulx and Beaumont-sur-Vesle. The Premier Cru villages here are TauxièresMutry, Trépail, Villiers Marmery, Ludes, Chigny-les-Roses, Rilly-la-Montagne, Pargny les Reims, Jouy les Reims, VilleDommange, Sacy, Eceuil, Chamery, Les Mesneux, Bezannes, Villier-aux-Noeuds, Villiers-Allernad, Troi Puits, Montbré, Taissy, Billy-la-Grand and Vaudemanges. The majority of vines are Pinot Noir, with 56 per cent. 28 per cent is devoted to Chardonnay with the remaining 16 per cent Meunier (some authorities place the percentage of Meunier higher, at the expense of Noir). This is a region where the two black grapes shine though the variation of soils throughout and the differing aspects mean considerable variety. If the Montagne is the spiritual home of black grapes, the Côte des Blancs is heaven for white – Chardonnay. 96 per cent of the vineyards are planted with Chardonnay (3 per cent and 1 per cent for the Noir and Meunier respectively). The prized Cretaceous chalk soils, which form the overwhelming majority of the soils here, tend to be situated

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in the lower and mid-range of the slopes, much as is found in the Montagne, and also Burgundy. There are six Grand Crus here – Oiry, Chouilly, Cramant, le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger and Avize, with these latter four Crus especially revered as producing some of the finest grapes in all of Champagne. The Premier Crus are Cuis, Vertus, Bergèresles-Vertus, Voipreux, Etréchy, Coligny and Villeneuve-Renneville Chevigny. The slopes face to the east and the southeast. The Vallée de la Marne is sometimes considered the workhorse of the region, with its emphasis on Meunier. 63 per cent of the region is devoted to this grape. 27 per cent is planted to Pinot Noir and just 10 per cent to Chardonnay. The soil is cretaceous chalk under limestone, marl, clay and some sand. The final two Grand Crus are found here – Aÿ and Tours-sur-Marne, though some feel that Aÿ and the Premier Cru of Mareuilsur-Aÿ really should be considered as part of the Montagne and not the Marne. The Premier Crus are Hautvillers, Cumières, Dizy, Champillon, Mutigny, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Bisseuil. Hautvillers, Dizy and Cumières are considered the pick of the Crus. The Côte de Sézanne is more cretaceous chalk mixed with marl and sand patches. It is dominated by Chardonnay (70 per cent). The remainder is divided between Noir and Meunier, 21 per cent and 9 per cent

respectively (other authorities suggest slightly less Chardonnay and much higher Meunier, at the expense of Pinot Noir). Around 2,500 hectares, some see the Côte de Sézanne as a continuation of the Côte des Blancs, though with riper, fuller, more fruity, more forward and less refined wines. There are no Grand or Premier Crus to be found here. Finally, the Côte des Bars – often called the Aube – has long been seen as a bit like the red-haired stepchild of the region (a description I have used before and recently discovered that others were describing it in exactly the same way). Far too often, even today, visitors to Champagne ignore the region. This is a shame as not only are there many superb Champagnes coming from here, it is also some of the most scenic countryside in all France. Heavily devoted to Pinot Noir (85 per cent) with 8 per cent Chardonnay and 7 per

cent Meunier, we mostly depart from chalk to a more ‘limey marl’. Almost 1/3rd of the Champagne region is found here. Many of the early problems came from here. Other producers wanted it excluded, as its soils have little in common, while the locals claim that history demands their inclusion, not least because the regional city of Troyes was Champagne’s first capital. A century ago, many of the vines were not the “famous three – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier – but rather such ‘lesser’ varieties as Gamay, Arbanne and Petit Meslier. Champagne did not want them as part of the region (and nor did Burgundy – something that is often forgotten). After the government of the day excluded the Aube from Champagne, riots followed. It was not until 1927 that the Aube was finally welcomed back into the fold. It does offer something that is unique; in one of the better local villages, Les Riceys, they have

the only place in all France where wine may be produced under a choice of three different appellations – Champagne and two still red wine appellations, Rosé des Riceys and Coteaux Champenois. In 2008, after an extensive review on all aspects pertaining to Champagne, the INAO (Institut National de l’origine et de la qualité, formerly the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine, the French governmental entity which regulates agriculture) received a proposal for the revision of the Champagne region, prepared by five experts, in the areas of history, geology, agronomy, geography and phytosociology, who had worked on this for three years, at the behest of the CIVC. Their recommendation was that the number of villages included in the region be increased to 359, with two to be removed. There was the predictable >>

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outrage, though it has been pointed out that the region is not a simple mass with neat borders, but rather a land mass spread across a much larger region and hence, this was more a consolidation than a process of cynical enlargement. The new vineyards will occupy gaps within the current perimeter of the region, but which were not originally included as part of Champagne’s designated area. It will bring great rewards to farmers who find their land included within the new boundaries. Estimates suggest the value of a hectare would skyrocket from approximately 5,000 Euros to at least a million euros. It is a contentious and lengthy process, but it does seem reasonable that there are potential vineyards not currently included within the region which could grow grapes of sufficient quality. Their original exclusion may be for any number of reasons which were pertinent at the time but no longer apply. The location of Champagne ensures that the region enjoys both oceanic and continental climatic influences. The average annual temperature is 11°C (some authorities suggest an average of ten degrees is the minimum that can support vines). The continental influence ensures sufficient sunlight during summer – an average of 1,650 hours annually, compared with just over 2,000 for Bordeaux and just under 2,000 for Burgundy, though in the hotter years in Champagne, like 1976 and 2003, it can rise to over 2,000. The trade-off is that the region can suffer severe, even catastrophic frosts – such as in 1957 and 1985. The oceanic influence brings rain but it also helps maintain consistent seasonal temperatures. Local forests are also considered to assist in maintaining consistent temperatures, which in turn assist the gradual ripening of the grapes. Naturally, with such an extensive region,

there are varying soil characteristics throughout, though the chalky soils are undoubtedly famous and considered as an essential contributor to the character and class of the wines. The subsoil is mostly limestone and even the outcrops are also predominantly limestone, with chalk and marl. Chalk is, at its most basic, a ‘variety’ of limestone. It ensures excellent drainage, essential for growing first class grapes. Some also believe that this helps impart a minerally note to the wines, though there is considerable debate as to whether this is “possible”. More specifically, the Montagne de Reims sits over a large bed of chalk (the chalk of Champagne is considered to be more porous and finer than the limestone found in other winegrowing regions of France); the Côte des Blancs and the Côte de Sézanne are both over outcrops of chalk; the Marne Valley tends to the marl and clay with the chalk and limestone found deeper, while the Côte des Bar is on soil consisting mostly of marl/clay – these are the oldest soils in the region, dating back to the Jurassic period and they are mostly the famous Kimmeridgian limestone, perhaps even more famous as the soils of Chablis. It is these soils which have led to a grudging acceptance that the wines from the Aube are of a lesser quality, though today, we are seeing more and more thrilling Champagnes from here – one example is Cedric Bouchard, one of the most exciting young names in all of Champagne today. Many large and well-known producers buy large quantities of grapes from here for their wines, even if they are not quick to admit it. Plantings here have greatly increased over recent decades and this has allowed for an increase in the average vine age, and commensurate increase in quality. Its position, more southerly than the rest of Champagne, also allows more reliable

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ripening. On the other hand, the lack of chalk means that the absorption of any excess rains is more difficult and can lead to waterlogged vineyards. There is little doubt that this chalk is crucial to the quality of Champagne. It is mostly granules of calcite based on the shells of marine micro-organisms – the region was covered by ancient oceans some 70 million years ago, give or take. It is porous and hence able to store considerable quantities of water, enough to battle the effects of even the fiercest and driest of summers. Another feature of the region is the slopes on which the vineyards sit. At this latitude, slopes which face the south and southeast make a significant difference as they are able to gain full benefit from the intensity of the sunlight. Recognition of the value of the slopes is not new – centuries ago, wines from this region were actually called ‘vin de coteaux’, meaning ‘wine from the slopes’. Any visit to the region reveals densely planted slopes at every turn. The slopes were created by the repeated freezing and thawing and the subsequent breaking down of the region during the Ice Age. It was pushed up some 10 million years ago by the earthquakes which occurred throughout the region. Even with these endless undulating slopes, Champagne is relatively flattish for a winegrowing region. Most of these slopes are relatively gentle, the average gradient being 12 per cent, though they can be a little more severe. The steepest is noted at a serious 59 per cent. Even the slope for Philipponnat’s ‘Clos des Goisses’ vineyard is only 30 to 45 per cent, throughout, though walk up and down it and one wonders how vineyards can get much steeper – a visit to Germany will show just how extreme vineyards can be. All of these factors combine to help create the unique terroir enjoyed by the region of Champagne. ❧

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CHAMPAGNE, IN PARTICULAR, NEEDED a firm hand. The reasons for the riots which tore the district apart in the early part of last century have been discussed elsewhere, but they were just the tip of the iceberg – phylloxera, the toxic relations between Houses and growers, horrendous economic conditions both locally and abroad, too many poor vintages, the use of grapes from other regions by some of the less honourable Houses and more, were all factors tearing the world’s finest sparkling wine district apart from within. With the granting of AOC status in 1936, the region finally had the formal recognition it craved and so desperately needed.  Phylloxera had led to the establishment of the Association Viticole Champenoise (AVC) in 1898. As part of the fight against the destructive aphid, there was extensive

replanting – replacing the diseased vines with grafted ones. The region’s vineyards dropped from 60,000 hectares to 12,000, allowing for the selection of the better sites. Vine density was reduced from an astonishing 40,000 vines per hectare to 8,000. Take a moment to consider how much juice 60,000 hectares, with a vine density of 40,000 vines per hectare, must have been providing. Throw in all that which came from outside the region and it is not hard to see why so many were struggling to make a successful living as grape prices were unsustainably low. In 1904, the Fédération de syndicats (Federation of Champagne Unions) was formed to battle the forces of fraud. They sought the demarcation of the region and in 1927, legislation was passed to define the territory for the production of Champagne and also to provide regulations

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for quality production (following on from a 1908 decree). Within a few years, though, unsustainable increases in production with slumping sales, and the inevitable drop in grape prices, saw further regulations passed in 1935. Elsewhere in France in that year, the system of the AOC was established (Champagne was hardly the only region with issues), along with the entity which was to regulate it all, the INAO (the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine, which later became the ‘Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité’ but retained the same acronym).  Finally, in June of 1936, Champagne was decreed as an AOC (the laws of 1919, 1927 and 1935 were all ratified at the same time). The INAO was reformed in 2007 and the Champagne AOC became subject to those regulations in late 2010. ❧

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Dom Pérignon The Famous Monk WORDS KEN GARGETT Mention the name, ‘Dom Pérignon’, and almost everyone, even those with no interest in Champagne, will have heard of it. Many will think of it as the name of perhaps the most famous Champagne of all, even if they have never seen or tried a bottle. Others might, erroneously, recognise him as the man which legend suggests ‘invented’ Champagne. This is not so – in fact, he tried hard to rid his wines of bubbles. Some believe he was blind – it is thought by some that he did lose sight in his later years, although other authorities are convinced that this was a myth which grew up around his habit of tasting his wines masked (the wines, not the monk, a practice often referred to as blind tasting). Even his famous quote, “Come quickly, I am drinking stars”, seems more likely to have been lifted from an advertisement made in the late 1800’s and incorrectly attributed to him. The truth is, as so often happens, stranger than fiction. Pierre Pérignon was a Benedictine monk who spent most of his working career at the Abbey of Hautvillers, not far from Epernay. He was crucial in the development of the sparkling wine of the region of Champagne, but he did not ‘invent’ it. No one man did. He was, however, a brilliant winemaker, of such standing that the wines he made, much in demand, were not known by the name of the region but under his own

name, ‘vins de Pérignon’. He was the rockstar winemaker of his day – no one else came close. Born in 1638, near the ChampagneLorraine border, Pierre Pérignon was the son of a judge’s clerk, and the youngest of seven children. His family did own vineyards in that region and it is likely he gained some experience here. Young Pierre entered the Benedictine Abbey at Verdun, taking his vows when he was twenty. Nine years later, he was ordained, and the following year, 1668, he transferred to the Abbey at Hautvillers, where he was appointed as the treasurer and cellar master. At the time, he was one of only about a dozen monks at the Abbey. Dom Pérignon remained there for almost half a century, until his death in 1715. Originally constructed around 650 A.D., this Abbey had been most recently rebuilt after the Religious Wars in France – it was destroyed several times in its history. The monks planted over ten hectares of vines on the Abbey’s land (over time, Dom Pérignon increased this to 25 hectares, some of which are still in use today), and they were also the beneficiary of tithes, in the form of grapes harvested from nearby vineyards. Some of these were from vineyards, which had earned a reputation for high quality. Naturally, a cellar master was needed. Pierre Pérignon was highly respected by his colleagues, who were impressed

by his hard work and his devotion to the task, both in the vineyards and in the cellars. The Abbey’s vineyards were home to an array of different varieties. Pérignon, who during his lifetime was only ever referred to as ‘Dom Pierre’ or Dom Procurer’, believed that Pinot Noir gave the highest quality wines and he was keen to restrict the wines of the Abbey to that one grape. He believed it was less ‘volatile’ – less likely than white varieties to start bubbling in the Spring. Despite popular belief, Dom Pérignon saw bubbles as a fault. The issue, of course, was that the cold winters would put a halt to fermentation but then as Spring warmed up, the fermentation would complete – and hence, bubbles would be produced. This could be a problem where the wine was already in the bottle – explosions were very common. Dom Pérignon worked hard to prevent this. In the vineyards, he was an advocate of lower yields leading to quality – very much a man ahead of his time. Picking grapes was restricted to the cooler mornings and he was insistent that the grapes be handled very carefully once harvested, to avoid splitting. Dom Pérignon rejected damaged grapes (he even went so far as to use donkeys instead of horses as he believed that they were less excitable and so less likely to damage the grapes during transport to the press houses). He was also an advocate of pressing the grapes as quickly as possible >>

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“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” – Dom Perignon French Benedictine Monk, (1638 - 1715) when he first tasted his newly created Champagne.

as he was keen to avoid the colour that might come from skin contact. He was aware of the different levels of quality that came from the first pressing in comparison with later efforts. For Dom Pérignon, the aim was to produce white wine from red grapes, though he also excelled at good red wines from Pinot Noir. It is debatable as to whether or not he was the first to produce a clean, limpid white wine – almost certainly not – but there seems no question that he was the first to do it from black grapes. Dom Pérignon is also attributed with inventing the traditional Champagne press, still in use today. He pushed for the use of the stronger English glass in the manufacture of bottles (at the time, the French used oak casks for the storage and transportation, and also as a vessel from which to serve their wines). He is also considered to have reintroduced the use of cork as a stopper. Corks had been used in Roman times but, when the Romans left France around the 6th century, they disappeared from use. Prior to Dom Pérignon reintroducing

them, small wooden plugs which were wrapped in hemp, the hemp having been soaked in oil, were the stoppers du jour. Just how Dom Pérignon came to be using corks is not known. There are suggestions he spent time in a Spanish monastery and saw them being used there (other legends have him spending time in a monastery in Limoux where he supposedly discovered how to make sparkling wine). Another suggestion has travelling Spanish monks stopping at Hautvillers. These monks were drinking from water bottles stoppered with corks. Dom Pérignon allegedly saw this and arranged for cork to be imported for him to use for his wines. We do know that corks were not in common usage in France at the time but that they were used by Dom Pérignon, some old bottles with corks having been dug up at the Abbey in the 1970s, during renovations. Perhaps above all, Dom Pérignon was known as a consummate blender, bringing together various vineyards to achieve the best possible result. Records from the day suggest that, while he was not the first to blend vineyards and grape varieties, he was the first who took various

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components and consistently produced a wine which exceeded the quality of any of the individual elements. There are suggestions that it was Dom Pérignon who would blend his components every year to create a wine which was consistently the same as he offered the previous year. This was, of course, a development which has underpinned the entire Champagne industry for a couple of centuries. There was one difference, however. These days, winemakers blend the various still wine components which have been made as discrete entities. In Dom Pérignon’s day, he blended the grapes from the different vineyards before they were pressed and fermented. Such was the respect for Dom Pérignon that, after his death, he was buried in that section of the Abbey traditionally reserved for the Abbott of the day himself. Today, he is honoured in the famous wine, almost always one of the very best of each vintage, which is named after him – ‘Dom Pérignon’ – the first prestige cuvee. If the CIVC ever decide to create a ‘Champagne Hall of Fame’, there is no doubt that the first inductee would be the famous Benedictine monk. ❧




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THE CHAMPENOIS START WITH A sparkling advantage – their terroir. Terroir is that almost indefinable concept of soil (very much a major component), climate, aspect, altitude, wind, exposure and much more, including the human input (but any assessment of that contribution is for later). It is pretty much everything that affects the growing of the vine. It gets even more complicated when one considers that terroir, in theory at least, can apply to a single vineyard or an entire region. Champagne has terroir, individual villages have terroir and discrete vineyards in those villages also have their own unique terroir. The Champenois have also instigated a rather unique system of classification for their vineyards, which relates directly to the reward for growers for their annual efforts.


Books could, and have, been written on terroir. Terroir is something on which every wine lover has an opinion. In Champagne, the key word is chalk. When someone says that they can detect a chalky note in a Champagne, is that the chalk in the soil or simply the power of suggestion? It hardly matters. Chalk is king in Champagne. Of course, the soil varies across such an extensive region and we do not see the same influence of chalk in the Aube. That aside, the subsoil of the region consists of up to 300 metres of white chalk in places. Chalk contributes an elevated level of lime, which in turn lowers the pH in the grapes. In other words, there will be an increased level of natural acidity, a key component of great sparkling wine. Easy to see why the Champenois have no doubt that their terroir is largely responsible for why they make the best sparkling wines on the planet. In

addition to the chalk, there is a thin layer of topsoil, largely consisting of clay, sand, marl and lignite. Such a description is, of course, basic in the extreme – like defining humans as creatures with two arms and legs who stand upright. That might be correct, but there is so much more to it. The location of Champagne is critical to the success of their wines, as this is one of the most northerly winegrowing regions, and hence, viticulturally precarious regions in the world. The average annual temperature in the towns of Reims and Epernay is a mere 11°C. Below this, it is difficult to ensure the vines will survive. Climate change may be moderating the impact of the regular cool seasons which make growing grapes here such a risky business, but it is this edge that helps Champagne, as it often (‘often’, as nowhere is perfect), produces ideal grapes for sparkling styles.  This location, 160 kilometres east of Paris, means that Champagne enjoys both maritime and continental influences. The maritime effect ensures steady rainfall and also moderates temperature variations. The continental influence means that there is sufficient sunlight in summer, though it literally pales in comparison with other regions. Sunlight hours in Champagne average 1,650 hours annually. Compare this with Bordeaux, with over 2,000 hours and Burgundy with over 1,900. The downside of this influence is that it can bring winter frosts, which can be catastrophic. On average, more than 40 per cent of the vineyards are devastated by frosts once every twenty years. In the last 140 years, 55 of them saw more than 1 per cent of the Champagne region devastated. It might not seem a lot, but if you are a grower and see your entire years work destroyed in minutes,

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you may feel differently - life on the edge, indeed! The key period in the vineyard is that from flowering through to harvest, which is traditionally a period of approximately 100 days – it does vary up to around two weeks either way. Every year is different. Some may approach ideal, while others encounter major issues. These may include the occasional heatwave, though hail and cold have been more common. Rain, of course, variations on humidity, but the greatest danger to the vines is frost.  We are seeing more and more warmer vintages, thanks to climate change (with the greatest respect to any deniers out there), though it remains to be seen just what the long-term impact will be. It is possible that some of the effects can be offset by avoiding malolactic fermentation and/ or lowering the dosage. Curiously, climate change or not, the ‘analysis and figures’ for this century have much in common with the decade of the forties, a famous time for Champagne.

IN THE VINEYARD As is common across Europe, thanks to that calamitous little aphid phylloxera, most vines in Champagne are grafted. Almost all – the rare exception are the vines used in making Bollinger’s ‘Vielle Vignes Francaises’, an extraordinary Blanc de Noirs, first made from the 1969 vintage and a wine almost never seen. VVF is made from two tiny vineyards (it was three, but sadly in 2005, phylloxera finally destroyed the third vineyard – Croix Rouge in Bouzy), Clos St-Jacques and Chaudes Terres, both in Aÿ. The common misconception is that these vines are pre-phylloxera (which would suggest that

these vines were planted back in the 1800’s – not impossible, but incredibly unlikely in Europe). They are not. They are from vines descended from ones that were not destroyed by phylloxera and hence not grafted – in other words, their ancestors are those vines planted back in the 1800’s. It is believed that the vines are protected because they are in a walled vineyard (a clos), while others have opined there must be a greater percentage of sand in the topsoil or nearby – sand being a barrier to movement by the aphid. All harvesting in Champagne is by hand – mechanical harvesting is not permitted. Picking the very best time to harvest is crucial – harvest usually commences in the first half of September, though it varies depending on conditions. Too soon and the

grapes will be unripe; too late and the wines can become clumsy and heavy, maturing too quickly. It sounds easy, but consider the poor vigneron facing impending storms prior to the grapes reaching the level of maturity desired. Do you take the risk and leave the grapes, hoping that they survive and that there is no more adverse weather allowing the grapes to reach their optimum, or do you play it safe and pick, knowing you’ll have a crop, though it may not be the quality that they might be? Decisions will be made by each grower and/or House as to which varieties to plant in their vineyards (also taking into account various clones), planting density (usually around 8,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare), trellising, timing and extent of pruning, replacement of vines (will happen

if the vine becomes diseased; otherwise, as vines get older, they do drop production, though the quality can be high, meaning a balance between quality and quantity must be struck). Should a grower practice green harvesting or not (the practice of dropping a number of grape clusters per vine, in order to concentrate the sugars/flavours in those remaining)? Then there is the question of the move to organic or biodynamic vineyards. We are seeing more and more growers take the plunge, though it is hardly something that happens overnight.


The échelle des crus (ladder of growths), is a system that has been developed to suit Champagne, though there are some who feel >>

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it’s outdated and of little use. Still, it is the system they have and those doubters need to learn to live with it, at least until changes are made. This is a system that has evolved over many years, since the Riots of 1911. It is a combination of geographical and economical imperatives, different to the classification system in use in regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy. In Champagne, villages are rated by percentage and grape prices then determined on a pro-rata basis. The first attempt rated villages between 22.5 and 100 per cent. After World War Two, the system was revamped and ratings were set at between 80 and 100 per cent, with the exception of a few villages in the Marne, a few more in Aisne and all of the Aube. These sat between 70 and 80 per cent. In 1981, a further revision saw all villages rated between 80 and 100 per cent.  A number of villages have been rated at 100 per cent. These are the Grand Cru villages and there are 17 of them – originally 12, but five were added in 1985. Under 9 per cent of the vineyard land in Champagne is rated Grand Cru. Premier Cru villages are rated between 90 and 99 per cent. There are 44 Premier Cru villages, occupying just under 18 per cent of the Champagne region. Other villages will be rated at a figure under 90 per cent, though rarely less than 80 per cent. There are well over 200 of these.  The CIVC set an annual price per kilo of grapes. Those villages which are considered to be the very best, the Grand Crus rated at 100 per cent, will receive the full 100 per cent of that set price. Occasionally, one will see ‘Grand Cru’ on a label. This is only possible where all of the material used in that specific Champagne is from Grand Cru vineyards. Usually, no mention is made.  Vineyards located in Premier Cru villages will receive the percentage of that set price,

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which equates to the échelle rating awarded to that village. Hence, if a village is rated at 96 per cent, then grapes sold from vineyards in that specific Premier Cru will receive 96 per cent of the set price. Few quality Houses would seek to purchase any grapes from vineyards rated below 90 per cent, though a few may know of undiscovered gems. Of course, if the grower or House which owns the vineyard is using those grapes for their own wines, then it is less relevant. In recent times, many Houses have accepted that the system has its flaws. A vineyard in any Cru may be an overperformer or under-performer and a House may reward the grower accordingly (not surprisingly, it is much more difficult to convince a grower to accept less than the awarded amount and demand for grapes meaning that in practice, this is unlikely in the extreme). Some Houses seem to feel that the system is more useful as an indicator of price, rather than a rigid requirement.  The perfect example is the vineyard providing the grapes for Philipponnat’s ‘Clos des Goisses’, though the grapes from that vineyard go to their famous champagne, rather than the market. This vineyard is in the Premier Cru village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, yet no one would ever imagine that these grapes would sell for anything less than the highest price – in practice, this is one of two villages with a 99 per cent rating (the other being Tauxières-Mutry), so it is not far off. A further example, to have the entire Cote des Bar condemned to a uniform 80 per cent seems almost political, rather than genuinely reflective of the quality.  It would come as no surprise to see some significant tinkering, if not a major overhaul, of the entire échelle des crus system in the coming years. Don’t be surprised if that focuses on individual vineyards, rather than villages. ❧



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CHARDONNAY IS THE GRAPE OF WHITE Burgundy, as well as so many wonderful still white wines from around the globe. Around 30 per cent of the Champagne region is planted as Chardonnay (up from 24 per cent in the early 1980’s), but it really shines in the Côte des Blancs. Estimates suggest that the percentage of Chardonnay in Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards increases to around 45 to 50 per cent. Chardonnay is a much leaner beast when planted in Champagne than it is in other regions. The flavour profile offered by Chardonnay naturally varies depending on where in the region it is grown, but look for delicate florals, such as white jasmine, alluring aromas, stonefruit notes (especially with wines that have the benefit of some time in the cellar), a range of citrus flavours and often a minerally note. With time, the flavours move to the deeper stonefruit characters and tropical notes. Orange rind, rockmelon, mango, passion fruit and even pineapple. A pleasing toasty touch can also creep in. A ‘peaches and cream’ character, similar

to a great Chevalier Montrachet, can sometimes be seen. Many consider that Chardonnay is the variety most suited to ageing, whether as a component or bottled solo. The grape’s natural high acidity level contributes to this. It is why we see old vintages of Champagnes, aged Blanc des Blancs, like Salon and Taittinger’s ‘Comtes de Champagne’ age so well. If one is grape suited to bottling as a single variety, it is Chardonnay – the famous Blanc des Blancs – but whether solo or part of a blend, Chardonnay is the grape that provides finesse, refinement and elegance to Champagne. Pinot Noir is largely planted on the Montagne de Reims and in the Côte des Bar, where it accounts for 38 per cent of the vineyards – it was a mere 28 per cent in 1982. The ying to Chardonnay’s yang, it is the great grape of Red Burgundy. A far more difficult and temperamental vine to grow than Chardonnay, susceptible to frosts and rot but benefiting from the chalky nature of the region’s soil, Pinot Noir is considered to

provide the spine for good Champagne. It is a key component to a Champagne’s structure. Pinot Noir can provide a luscious, plusher, fleshy character. It will contribute to the complexity of the wine. Flavours can tend to be vegetal if they get out of control, but usually will be in the fruity end of the spectrum, especially red fruits – raspberries, strawberries and cherries. The vintage of 1985 was a great year for Pinot Noir in Champagne and many of the best wine had a noticeable, and delicious, black cherry character. Great Pinot Noir will contribute beneficially to the ageing of a Champagne, though not quite to the same extent as Chardonnay. Pinot Noir can be made into a still red wine in the region, as can Meunier, and they can also both, either individually or in combination with each other, be made into Blanc des Noirs. Pinot Meunier – or perhaps now simply Meunier as early documents suggest that was its original name – is seen as the lesser of the three varieties, the workhorse, the red-headed stepchild if you like. >>

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This is grossly unfair and an image that is quickly changing, as Meunier is a key component of most Champagnes. It accounts for 38 per cent of the plantings, though in 1982 it was 47 per cent, and is mostly located in the Marne Valley. It is considered an ‘offshoot’ of Pinot Noir. There was a time when Houses would insist they used no Meunier, owned no Meunier, purchased no Meunier, and made absolutely no mention of Meunier in their promotional material, even though it was well known that this might have been a case of certain Champagne Houses being somewhat economical with the truth (yes, it has been known, though the better Houses have put those days behind them). The reason for this lack of love is partly because this variety is a grape that lacks the complexity, length and ageing potential of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It can be broader and more simple, and for these reasons it is rarely used in the Prestige Champagnes from many producers. Of course, because it is not included in these top wines, it then gets a bad rap – all part of a rather circular argument. It is clear that Meunier does have positive attributes as well. After all, the legendary House of Krug uses a considerable percentage in their wines. Even the Champagne regarded by many as the greatest ever made, the 1928 Krug, had quite a high proportion. It lasted for decades and still brings massive prices at auction on the very rare occasions it appears. On a more accessible level, the always superb Non-Vintage from Pol Roger has 33 per cent Pinot Meunier and can be reliably cellared for a long spell. So too, the Meunier dominant wines of

Jose Michel. There are a great many more examples, so Meunier should never be dismissed. It makes a vital and unique contribution to the wines of Champagne. Meunier provides a fruitiness and easy, immediate appeal – remember, not all Champagne is destined for decades in the cellar. There will be red fruit flavours and florals. There can also be a slight earthy note, which is very similar to the toastiness from autolysis. A further advantage of planting Meunier is that it ripens earlier than the other varieties, thus making it more likely that it will avoid frosts. Hence, it can act as a form of financial ‘security blanket’ for growers, and in a region on the cusp of vinegrowing, where locals can usually expect problems in several vintages each decade (climate change will certainly have a say here over the next century), this can mean the difference between bankruptcy and survival. It is also a higher yielding variety than either Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Other Grapes – Inevitably, there are some exceptions to the rule. There are a number of varieties from which Champagne can be made, though it is illegal to plant them. However, as they were previously planted and still existing, it is permissible to use these grapes from these vines. They include Gamay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc (sometimes called Pinot Blanc Vrai), Petit Meslier and Arbanne. Although Champagne made from these varieties is very rare, there are some examples. It is worth considering that the reason these varieties are no longer authorised is simply because they are not as good, or as capable of making as important a contribution as the three great grapes of the region. ❧

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BASICALLY, THE SYSTEM RATES VILLAGES on the quality of the vineyards – all 318 villages have a rating between 80 and 100 per cent. The Echelle rating (it means, ‘ladder of growths’) is then used to determine the percentage of the set price per kilogram that will be paid to growers for their grapes. All 17 Grand Cru vineyards automatically receive a 100 per cent rating, meaning that if the price is set at 10 euros per kilogram, they will receive 10 euros for every kilogram sold. The Grand Crus represent less than 10 per cent of the vineyards of Champagne. They are divided between the Montagne de Reims (9), Côte des Blancs (6) and Vallée de la Marne (2). Prior to 1985, there were only 12 Grand Crus, but that was increased with the addition of Verzy, Chouilly, Oiry, Oger and Mesnil-sur-Oger. The 44 Premier Crus are rated between 90 and 99 per cent, while Deuxiéme Crus, 257 of them, are between 80 and 89 per cent. So, if a grower has a Premier Cru vineyard that is rated at say 96 per cent, he will receive 96 per cent of 10 euros for every kilo he sells – 9.60 euros.

The system was put in place in 1927, as part of the response to the riots earlier that century. Prior to its implementation, the growers believed that they were largely held to ransom by the Houses. As the growers were not in a position to make their own wines at the time, they had little choice other than to sell to the Houses at whatever price they could get. To increase their income, certain Houses had been going beyond the borders of the region; buying whatever grapes they could without regard to the source. The growers, outraged at this, lobbied the government. They did get legislation requiring that grapes used in the production of Champagne had to be at least 51 per cent from the region itself, but this in turn meant that supply exceeded demand. The commissionaires, who negotiated with the growers on behalf of the Houses, were known for their shabby treatment, even violence and intimidation, of the growers. Houses were ignoring the laws and the growers were still trying to get past the effects of phylloxera. It was a tough, and ultimately unsustainable time for the growers and it led to riots in 1910 and

1911. More was needed from the authorities if further issues were to be avoided, but tensions continued to rise. The Échelle system was part of the response from the authorities. The system has its critics; many believe that moving to a structure closer to that in use in Burgundy, where the rankings apply to vineyards more than villages, would be fairer (in Champagne, we often hear of vineyards being referred to as Grand Cru or Premier Cru, but in reality, all this means is that it is a vineyard situated in a Grand Cru or Premier Cru village – the rating is for the village and not the vineyard). With the everincreasing interest in terroir, this would allow a more accurate reflection of the differences in quality throughout a village. Inevitably, in any attempt to restructure the system, anyone who is demoted, and presumably some who do not achieve promotion, would not accept this without a fight. However, if the authorities do not rectify the situation, it will not be long before it becomes irrelevant and indeed, a hindrance. It is all too easy to find examples; the highly regarded village of Montgueux, >>

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found in the Cote des Bars, has a rating of just 80 per cent, yet the Chardonnay from its vineyards is in great demand. In any revision of the system, it should surely be elevated. As for discrete vineyards deserving better, stand in Olivier Collin’s ‘Les Roises’ vineyard in the village of Congy, with its 60 year-old Chardonnay vines, giving tiny berries. A few rows away, neighbours’ vines have blown out into berries at least twice the size. The level of attention given to each vineyard could not be more apparent. Yet this is the village of Congy. Congy is not Grand Cru, nor even Premier Cru. Few people seem to have heard of it, though as most of the grapes hailing from here are average at best, that would hardly seem to matter. Yet the Champagnes Olivier is making are something very special – from this vineyard and his other equally unheralded sites. He does sell grapes, an economic necessity at the moment, and whether he gets a deserved premium for them, I do not know, but it does highlight the potential absurdity of the system. In a fairer system, Olivier’s vineyards would be recognised, admired and appropriately rewarded. Another grower has been quoted as saying that while Grand Cru vineyards provide superior grapes overall, he has Premier Cru vineyards which can offer better grapes than those from the lesser parts of his Grand Cru vineyards. Of course, it is not so simple. Champagne is the land of the blend. The House of Pierre Gimonnet has extensive vineyards in the Côte des Blancs, including significant holdings of Grand Cru vineyards, twelve in all. And yet they produce no Champagne that they can call “Grand Cru”, even if

they wanted to. They believe that their best wines are made from a blend of their Grand Cru vineyards and those which are rated as Premier Cru. That is the road they have travelled. It cannot have been an easy decision. If they made wines which were “Grand Cru”, they could attain greater prestige and prices, yet they would know that the wines they would be making could be even better. Another debate is that Champagne does not take full advantage of its Grand Crus (and by extension, the Premier Crus). Look to Champagne’s neighbour, Burgundy, and the wines almost always indicate the highest available designation. Any wine coming from a Grand Cru vineyard will almost certainly say so on the label. In turn, they are in great demand the world over, often at extraordinary prices. Yet in Champagne, a bottle made from grapes sourced only from a Grand Cru vineyard might, in a few cases, specify that on the label, but there will almost certainly be no indication of just which Grand Cru. Also, it is quite possible that should you find a bottle marked ‘Grand Cru’ on the label, it could come from a number of different Grand Cru villages and not just one – something that would never happen in Burgundy. This makes it useless from the perspective of anyone keen to see what a specific Grand Cru offers – it simply reveals that this is a Champagne made from grapes from vineyards in one or more of the villages awarded Grand Cru status. Some argue, not without justification, that Champagne’s much larger area means that their Grand Crus will not have the same cache as the much smaller crus from Burgundy. The Grand Cru of Chouilly is

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over 500 hectares in size. Romanee-Conti in Burgundy is less than two hectares. It does seem likely that in the future, the focus will be heavily on individual vineyards and if there is greater emphasis placed on the best terroir within the crus then the region may fall into line with Burgundy. But this is the region of the blend and that will always play a significant role. Not all of the larger Houses feel restricted by such classifications. Billecart-Salmon has a single hectare in the village of Mareuilsur-Aÿ, which is called ‘Clos Saint-Hilaire’. From it comes the brilliant Blanc de Noirs of the same name, one of the region’s most expensive wines. They clearly have no misgivings as to whether or not the vineyard is rated Grand Cru or Premier Cru. Is Champagne missing a marketing opportunity (something one rarely hears about the Champenoise)? It seems very likely that much of this will change in the future, though there is a feeling among some growers that, as they feel the current system, flaws and all, benefits the large Houses, there is little likelihood of change. Today, the system is still in place, but some growers/ Houses use it more as a guide than as a strict decree. This allows for a fairer recompense for those vineyards which are especially good – in other words, great terroir and skilled viticulture is rewarded, as it should be. The better producers in the New World have long entered into arrangements with the top growers to buy grapes on quality, not yield or any antiquated system locking everyone into a cycle of mediocrity. Expect the same to happen more and more until the current Echelle system is nothing more than a nostalgic curiosity. ❧




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PRESSING Unlike many grape growing districts around the globe, in Champagne it is not necessary to take the freshly harvested grapes all the way to a designated winery. Pressing centres are scattered all through vineyards throughout the region. It means that the grapes can be pressed quickly and efficiently, without losing freshness, whilst preventing their breakdown and the oxidation of juice that might happen if they had to be transported long distances. Remember also that every grape must be handpicked. Pickers use 50 kilogram containers to minimise any potential damage to the grapes that might occur in larger receptacles. Champagne understands how important it is that the grapes arrive in the best possible condition.

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Grapes will start coming in as soon as harvest begins, usually around early to mid-September, though climate change may impact on this in future years. The date for the commencement of harvesting will vary each year, depending on conditions. The aim is to ensure that the grapes have sufficient sugar to produce at least 10 per cent alcohol after fermentation, while also maintaining the requisite level of acidity. It can be a very fine line and, in some vintages, the decision must be made to go one way or another, as the grapes simply won’t reach both optimum acid and sugar levels. Picking will continue until all grapes are harvested, usually a few weeks to a month or so after commencement. During vintage, the region will be invaded by many hundreds of casual

workers, from France and further afield, to assist harvesting – some estimates place the number as high as 100,000. They will start at dawn each day – another method of protecting the grapes from any excessive heat. That helps prevent an early and unplanned fermentation. Strict criteria regulating pressing and press houses have been in place since 1987. On arrival, every 4,000 kilogram lot (or more accurately, every lot of whatever size – 4,000 kilograms is the quantity used in the regulations in respect of pressing), is fully recorded alongside details of the variety, source and likely destination (as in whether the juice will be retained or sold). The grapes undergo testing to ensure they meet the minimum alcohol content that has been decreed for that specific vintage.  The grapes are then gently pressed in either traditional or modern Champagne presses, both of which are usually low and wide, allowing the grapes to spread out evenly. The presses, whether wooden basket presses or an automated style, take varying amounts, but the region works on the figure of 4,000 kilograms, from which the Champenois can obtain a maximum of 2,550 litres – considerably less than in most other regions.  The presses may be the traditional wooden presses or the more modern automated presses. Except for the largest producers, most presses today are still manually loaded – in other words, workers from the House will shovel the grapes into the press. This enables an even distribution. Presses will range from 2,000 to 12,000 kilos – that will mean percentages are appropriately adjusted for cuvee and taille.  The Champenois consider the tenets of successful pressing to be ensuring that the grapes are pressed immediately after they are harvested; that the pressing is of whole clusters; that the pressing is done by a gentle and gradual increase in the pressure; and that all this results in low juice extraction. An exception to immediate pressing may be made

for Rosé, where it is produced by skin contact method. The most prized juice is the free run and first press. The first 2,050 litres to emerge from the pressing are called the cuvee and this is the best juice, richest in levels of sugar and also acidity. Many of the top Houses will use nothing else. Even so, the first 50 litres of the cuvee are often separated, as this helps wash out any dust or other material. The final 500 litres is the taille or premier taille (the first fifty litres, if they are not included with the cuvee, are usually tossed in here). Houses are allowed to press another 2 per cent, the ‘la rebêche’, which can be used for Ratafia, while the skins and stalks may be distilled for Marc de Champagne or even ethanol. The cuvee is considered to produce Champagnes with the greatest finesse and subtlety, as well as long term potential. Taille will have a lower acid content and will result in much fruitier wines for immediate drinking.  In the past, a further pressing called the deuxiéme taille was permitted but this is now banned. At that time, the cuvee was 2,050 litres, the taille 410 litres and the deuxiéme taille was 205 litres.  After pressing, the juice will be sulphured and then set aside for around half to a full day to enable it to settle (this is known as débourbage). This allows any solids to drop out of the juice. It will then be racked into vessels for the first fermentation. These vessels will be tanks or barrels, depending on the House style.

FIRST FERMENTATION The primary fermentation is the process, which effectively turns the juice into wine. The grape juice is known as ‘must’. This first fermentation is, of course, an alcoholic fermentation, which differs from the malolactic fermentation (a process described below, which will provide a softer wine). Fermentation is simply the process where the yeasts consume the sugars in the grape juice, resulting in the production of alcohol and carbon dioxide (and heat, which is carefully monitored as too much

can result in the undesirable evaporation of flavour compounds). The yeasts are, in effect, committing suicide by this process, as the alcohol they produce will eventually kill them. They can only tolerate a certain level of alcohol (there are a great many different strains of yeasts and they have varying tolerances to alcohol). While yeasts will exist in the vineyards and the wineries, winemakers will add their preferred strain. The addition of the sulphur immediately after pressing kills any yeasts that may be present, ensuring that when the winemaker adds his preferred strain, he will get the desired outcome. Native yeasts, or wild yeasts as they are sometimes known, are terribly trendy in the production of wines such as Pinot Noir, with good reason, but Champagne producers are keen to avoid any potential off-flavours or characters they may imbue in their wines – always a possibility with wild yeasts. The dead yeast cells will sink to the bottom of the fermentation vessel and later, the wine will be racked again to ensure that this sediment is removed (racking is simply syphoning off the wine to another vessel to leave any sediment behind). An understanding of this is important, as it plays a role in the production of Champagne when we come to the secondary fermentation.  Depending on vintage conditions, the must may be chaptalized after racking. Chaptalization is the process whereby sugar is added to the must. The intention is to increase the level of alcohol in the wine after fermentation, not to make the wine any sweeter. The extra sugar means that there is more sugar on which the yeasts may feed, meaning a slight increase in the alcohol level. The aim here is to reach an eventual level of at least 11%. The process of Chaptalization is named after the French chemist who developed it, Jean-AntoineClaude Chaptal. While legal in Champagne and many other wine regions, it is not permitted in many others, Australia being one of them.  A few Houses, notably Billecart-Salmon and Pol Roger, undertake débourbage à froid prior to fermentation, a process whereby the must is allowed a second settling but >>

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at a much lower temperature, around 5°C. This assists in removing wild yeasts and also coarser sediment and lees. Given the elegance, class and longevity of the wines from these producers, it is perhaps a little surprising that a lot more Houses do not follow their lead. In Champagne, most producers put the must through this primary fermentation in stainless steel tanks, though some still prefer the traditional method of fermenting in oak, whether large casks or more standard barrels. Tanks will also vary greatly in size. Perhaps the most famous Houses to ferment in oak are Bollinger (for vintage wines) and Krug, but others do so as well – Jacques Selosse, Ulysse Collin, José Michel, Alfred Gratien and others. It is considered that fermentation in oak allows for a slightly higher/quicker degree of oxidation. Oakfermented wines are usually seen as richer and fuller than those from tank – but as with so much to do with Champagne where techniques can vary widely, there is no one right way, but rather differing methods creating an array of styles.  At this stage, the must being fermented will be kept separate by vineyards, vintages and varieties. Time for fermentation will vary, but is usually around a couple of weeks.  The wine may also undergo malolactic fermentation at this stage (see below). After fermentation, the wine must undergo clarification. At this point, it is finally ready for blending.  


It is easy to understand just how important blending is in Champagne if a story I have heard several times is true (even if an urban myth, it still conveys a strong message). Apparently, the chef de cave (basically, chief winemaker) of Moët et Chandon and his two key assistants are not allowed to fly on the same plane at any time, much like the American President and Vice President. The reason is that these men have so much irreplaceable knowledge of the House style, and how to achieve it in their heads

that if all three were suddenly lost, Moët would struggle to be able to replicate their Non-Vintage and much more. Whether true or not, it emphasises how vital the process of blending (assemblage) is in making great Champagne. Great Houses have great blenders. It is crucial. We are seeing the emergence of grower Champagnes and single vineyard wines, but the vast majority of Champagne is a blended wine. With vintage and prestige cuvees, careful blending is necessary to ensure the wine is as good as it possibly can be. With non-vintage wines, it is essential in order to ensure that the House style is replicated, year after year. The chef de cave will ultimately be in control but it is usual for the exercise of blending to be a team effort. Assemblage will usually take several weeks, if not longer.   The process is not simply checking to see if a couple of tanks can combine well. Some Champagnes are blended from an extraordinary array of components, more than 100, even 200 in some cases. It means endless testing. The chef de cave must combine wines from the various different vineyards and crus to which the House has access, remembering that there could also be further options from the different varieties. He may also have to work around ‘House requirements’. For example, Pol Roger has traditionally used equal amounts of all three varieties in its Non-Vintage. If they encounter a vintage where one of these grapes struggles then the chef de cave has the added burden of ensuring that his blend will incorporate sufficient reserve wine from that variety to maintain a cepage of equal thirds, as well as maintaining their high standards. Of course, the chef de cave could encounter the opposite problem of a vintage where the quality of one variety clearly exceeds the others, though in that case, expect the House to maintain a greater quantity of reserve wines from that variety for the ‘offending’ vintage. That tends to be a ‘problem’ Houses love!  In non-vintage wines, they must also include various reserve components in the final blend. Consider the difficulties facing

the chef de cave if he has, say, the base wine coming from a hot, ripe year for this vintage and then the following year, a cool, wet and acidic harvest. He needs to have knowledge of not only the House style and how to achieve it, but which reserve wines, from which vineyards and in what quantities will ensure that the two wines are identical. This really is where science meets art. Remember also that the chef de cave is doing this with young, neutral, still and usually quite acidic base wines and that the finished product will not hit the market for perhaps half a decade or more. In other words, he must know how these blends will turn out many years ahead, and factor in the various procedures the wine is still to undergo, such as the second fermentation, ageing on lees, dosage and disgorgement, all of which impact on the final Champagne. It takes rare talent and there is no substitute for experience.  Having tasted these base (and rather ordinary) wines on numerous occasions and seeing these winemakers turn them from the proverbial ugly ducklings into glorious swans, if ever there was an apt time to use that old saying – greater than the sum of its parts – this is it.  Of course, for almost every House, the chef de cave must make a range of Champagnes – non-vintage, vintage, rosé, prestige, blanc de blancs and so forth. Hence, he has to keep in mind what he will need for the other wines – not rob Peter to pay Paul, if you like. He has to know where potentially hundreds of components will best fit across his entire range.  More and more, winemakers need to know their vineyards, and those of the growers from which they source grapes. It not only assists in ensuring that the quality of the grapes is optimum but, where they understand the character of vineyards, or even differing parts of vineyards, it is a positive benefit to the ultimate blending. Sometimes, especially for the larger Houses, they will need to understand the characteristics of 300 or more vineyards.


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remove the crystals. This procedure will prevent the formation of any crystals in the wine at a later stage – possibly after sale, which could be disastrous. The same effect can be achieved with the use of ‘cream of tartar’ crystals. Older consumers may recall these crystals in white wines, often cheaper German Rieslings. They are harmless, but anything solid and floating in a wine is not a good look. A clever marketer assisted their cause by dubbing them ‘wine diamonds’, but that only went so far. With today’s technology, it is very rare to encounter these crystals in any wine.  The wine is now ready for the next step – bottling and the secondary fermentation, though regulations do not actually permit bottling until the January following the harvest.


Once the decisions as to the final blending have been made, all components will be combined in the largest tanks available – at this stage, the wine is called a vin clair and is simply a rather unremarkable and usually rather acidic wine that would excite little interest if bottled and sold as is.

At this stage, the wine undergoes the process of cold stabilisation. This is where the wine is chilled prior to it being bottled, in order to induce the crystallisation of tartaric acid. It will sit at around –4°C for a week or longer. Of course, a clarification will be needed to ensure the clarity of the wine and to

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Prior to bottling for the secondary fermentation, Champagne may undergo a ‘third fermentation’ – a malolactic fermentation, which is a biological fermentation, not an alcoholic one. This is the process where the malic acid, which occurs naturally in the grapes, is turned into lactic acid. Some Houses encourage it, some prevent it, and some leave it up to the wine, meaning it might or might not happen. That said, the majority of Champagnes have gone through a full or partial malolactic fermentation. For consumers, the result is simple. Malic acid is the acidity most usually associated with apples. Lactic acid is that of dairy products. So a wine which undergoes malolactic fermentation moves from the crisp clean freshness, reminiscent of a green apple, to the softer, creamier texture of milk or butter.  Houses that wish a malolactic fermentation to proceed can assist by warming the wine during the primary fermentation, while those that desire to prevent it can do so by adding sulphur at low temperatures. To induce ‘malo’, as it is often called, the temperature in the cellars will be maintained a little below 20°C and the tanks will be inoculated with lyophilized bacteria. This form of

fermentation will usually take between a month and a month and a half. The effect of malolactic fermentation is to make the wine softer and more approachable in its youth. Champagnes without this form of fermentation can be a little fierce, piercing and foreboding when young, but the payoff is that they can often age beautifully for many years. Some Houses will consider the process on a vintage by vintage basis. If a year provides wines of low acidity, then many Houses will be reticent to allow their wines to undergo malolactic fermentation. Conversely, in a vintage giving acidic wines, more will look to soften their wines in this manner.  Krug is usually considered to be a producer, which leaves malo up to the wine itself. Piper Heidsieck was a House that prevented malolactic fermentation in its wines for a long period, but has altered its style in recent years. Gosset has only just modified its stance on malo, now allowing it. Some Houses will blend non-malo wines with those which have undergone malolactic.  Philipponnat, Charles Ellner, Lemaire, Jose Michel and Lanson are Houses which prefer to avoid malo. Some Houses will release some wines which are non-malo, even if they are traditionally not seen as complete devotees of the style. For example, Louis Roederer includes percentages of wine which have not undergone malolactic fermentation in their blends, but their new non-dosage wine, Brut Nature 2006, is fully non-malolactic. 

BOTTLING/SECONDARY FERMENTATION It is now time to bottle the vin clair for the secondary fermentation. It is in this very bottle that the wine will remain until ultimately opened and enjoyed. Certain cheaper sparkling wines made in other regions may not necessarily stay in that same bottle – beware ‘fermented in the bottle’ as opposed to ‘fermented in this bottle’, the practice known as transvasage. Transvasage is prohibited in Champagne.  At this time, a small quantity of a solution, known as the ‘liqueur de tirage’,

is added to each bottle. Over the years, this liqueur has varied – rumours suggested that in the past, anything from top Cognacs to honey have found their way into the secret recipes of the Houses. These days, it is still wine with sugar, either beet or cane sugar, certain additives and a strain of yeast selected by the chef de cave. Beet sugar tends to be popular as it is cheaper, with beets being cultivated locally. The sucrose in both is the same, so it should, in theory, make no difference. The quantity of sugar usually sits around 20 to 25 grams/litre. The yeasts will feed on the sugars, just as happened in the first alcoholic fermentation. This will result in a tiny increase in the level of alcohol, but more importantly, will give off carbon dioxide. This is what gives Champagne its fizz. Unlike the primary fermentation, the carbon dioxide cannot just disappear off into the heavens but rather, it is trapped in the bottle. This creates considerable pressure – around 5 to 6 atmospheres (the same as a London doubledecker bus tyre). No surprise then, that corks can fly out of the bottle with deadly force. When the bottle is finally opened, the carbon dioxide tries to escape from the wine, creating the bubbles.  The additives mentioned above are included in order to make the sediment inside the bottle heavier. They usually consist of bentonite or bentonite-alginate. The reason for this is to assist in the riddling process, as heavier sediment will have an easier time sliding down the side of the bottle.  The bottles will now be sealed with a stopper very similar to the crown cap better known as a beer bottle cap, with plastic insert. This provides an almost airtight seal. A few Houses will still use cork for this process. It is known as an agrafe cork and it will be held in place by a large clip which fits under the lip of the bottle. Bollinger is one House still using this system for their vintage wines. A tip for those who indulge in blind options games, if you are being served a champagne which is masked, if you can get a look at the top of the bottle, the vast majority will have a rounded lip which takes the seal – just as you will find

on every beer bottle. If it does not, and has a square edge and large ring, then it is very likely you are being served a vintage Bollinger (though they are not the only one), or possibly a Champagne with considerable age. The sealed bottle will then be taken to the cellars where it will rest until the time for disgorgement – the secondary fermentation will take around two months, or a little less. After that, the bottles simply age on their lees (explained below). They are stacked ‘sur latte’, meaning on their sides, top into punt, and will remain there untouched for such time as the House decrees.  It is worth mentioning a practice called ‘sur latte trading’, though good luck getting anyone in Champagne to confess to it, even though it is legal (only in Champagne, not in any other region of France). Producers are allowed to sell Champagne that has been bottled but not yet disgorged (so, in effect, not yet finished – disgorgement is described below). It is referred to as ‘sur latte trading’ as it is when they are lying, sur latte, in cellars that they are sold. The House buying them can label them under their own brand. So, House XYZ may have a much loved House style for say, their Non-Vintage, but may be running low on stocks. They can buy Non-Vintage, sur latte, from another House, which may have an entirely different House style, and sell it under their label. While it happens, no one wants to admit it (or rather, many producers are happy to admit to selling Champagne sur latte, usually to get rid of Champagne they deem to be either not up to their usual standards or surplus to requirements, but no one admits to buying it) and quite why, when the region has done so much to improve standards and fights so hard to protect its image and reputation, this should be allowed is extremely puzzling. At the very least, if it is allowed, Houses should be forced to identify those bottles.  


The time spent in the cellar, after the secondary fermentation, is referred to as the time spent ‘ageing on lees’ and is >>

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extremely important in the development of the Champagne. Lees are dead yeast cells. In the first fermentation, the dead yeast cells will fall to the bottle of the tank or barrel and be removed when the wine is racked. Of course, that cannot happen when the wine and yeast is trapped within the bottle – their removal, known as disgorgement, happens later. Meanwhile, they remain in the bottle and contribute to the complexity of the maturing wine. The process of the yeasts consuming the sugars in the wine and then dying and decomposing is known as autolysis. Many experts believe that autolysis imbues the wine with a toasty, brioche-like note. How long the wine spends on lees will depend on what the chef de cave intends and what style the wine is. There are minimum requirements – 15 months for non-vintage (more correctly, fifteen months in the bottle prior to sale, with 12 months on lees) and three years for vintage Champagnes – though the better producers will exceed these periods, often by lengthy periods. As a rule of thumb, the better non-vintage Champagnes will have spent between two and four years on lees, while the better vintage Champagnes will spend four to ten years on lees. There are Champagnes that have spent a couple of decades on lees.  Although the seal is usually described as airtight, there is a school of thought that it does actually allow for the minute ingress of oxygen, while a tiny amount of carbon dioxide will escape. Where this occurs, there is a very small and slow oxidation occurring. It is considered to add to the complexity of the wine.   Visitors to Champagne are able to tour some of the great cellars in Epernay and Reims. Aside from the amazing chalk carvings, it is an extraordinary feeling to walk these dimly lit (often it seems as though the oldest thing in the cellars is the electrical wiring that is draped throughout) and chilly corridors, past millions of bottles resting silently. These tunnels are called crayeres and are the result of chalk pits dug back in Roman times. They are important as they maintain consistently

low temperatures, usually between 10 and 12°C, which allows the second fermentation to proceed at a slower pace. A gradual, gentle fermentation increases the aromatics, supposedly creates smaller bubbles and adds to the ultimate complexity.


Eventually, it is time for the Champagne to be ‘finished’ and sold, a decision hopefully made by the chef de cave and not the accountants, though harsh reality often means that a House will move to the next vintage when the latest is sold.  Of course, at this stage in the Champagne’s development, it is still sitting in the cellars with dead yeast lees inside the bottle. Removing them is essential and the method used is attributed to a stroke of genius by one of Champagne’s most famous women, the widow Clicquot, in 1816. It is claimed that she came up with the idea by turning her kitchen table on its side and drilling holes in it. Other reports suggest that her cellarmaster at the time, Antoine de Müller, is due the credit. Whoever was responsible, the process transformed Champagne, as no longer was it sold with unsightly sediment in the bottle – now, it was crystal clear. The result was the process known as riddling, or remuage. These days, it is usually done by a machine, though some Houses still use riddlers, called remueurs (no sign of Batman).  Basically, the bottle is inserted into a hole on a wooden panel – in practice, two panels full of holes will lean against each other in an A-frame formation, called a pupitre. A bottle is placed in each hole where it will be parallel to the ground. Over a period of around six weeks, the riddler will come by once or twice a day to give the bottle a short, sharp twist and rotation. In doing so, slightly increase the angle to the perpendicular. The bottle is able to go from the horizontal to the vertical because the panel is on an angle. The twist moves the bottles anywhere between an 1/8th and a ¼ of a full rotation. If you have ever encountered a small daub of chalk on the bottom of the bottle, the reason it is there is as a point of reference for a riddler. By the time the riddler has finished, the

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bottle will be inverted vertically (called ‘sur pointe’). The reason for this is that the quick twist helps to dislodge the lees, which can be quite sticky. If the riddler was simply to move the bottle direct to the vertical, some of the lees would stick to the sides of the bottle. A good riddler will adjust around 40,000 bottles every day (there is an old saying in the region – you can spot a riddler by his huge biceps, and you can spot a blender by the lack of teeth, the acid in the young wines having worn them away). It will take something like two dozen twists for the bottle to be ready for disgorgement. Most Champagne now undergoes remuage by machine. The bottles are placed in a machine called a gyropalette. The cage will take 504 bottles. The machine, controlled by a computer, then takes the place of the riddler, making the small movements as necessary. Extensive tests have confirmed that there is no discernible difference in the quality of the finished product from the two procedures. Gyropalettes have the advantage of being much faster and more efficient, as they can ‘work’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It reduces the time for remuage from a couple of months to a single week.  Some Houses will then allow their Champagnes time in the cellar to age further, sur pointe. Others move more quickly to the next step – the disgorgement.  


By now, whichever method of remuage is employed, all of the lees are sitting in the neck of the inverted bottle and the bottle is ready to be disgorged. Disgorgement is the process where any sediment, most notably the dead yeast cells, is removed from the wine. It is almost always done by machine these days but can be by hand.  Hand disgorgement is rare. Usually, it is only done as an exhibition of days gone by, though there are still certain cuvees where it is necessary. Larger, and indeed some smaller formats might not fit the disgorgement machinery of a House. It is also used where a House still seals the bottle for the secondary fermentation with an agrafe cork. Disgorgement by hand is called à la

volée. The bottle will be held pointing to the ground, the seal will be flicked off and the bottle swung up so that the sediment is quickly forced out, thanks to the pressure which has built up within. The trick is in knowing when to bring the bottle upright, as too soon will leave unwanted sediment in the bottle, whereas too late will cause some of the precious liquid to be lost. The freezing brine solution (described below) can be employed here to make it easier for the removal of the icy plug of sediment. Equipment used for à la volée includes a curved blade and pinchers. Dosage will then be added and the bottle recorked. Needless to say, hand disgorgement is time consuming, potentially wasteful, laborious and inconsistent. It is also a much riskier operation, and those undertaking it wear leather aprons and face masks. Mechanical disgorgement, called à la glace, is a much more efficient, speedy and precise operation. To remove the sediment by the usual method of mechanical disgorgement, the neck of the bottle is dipped in a brine/ carbonate solution designed to quickly semifreeze the inch or two in the inverted neck, turning it into a sludgy, icy blob (and may I save anyone silly enough keen to try and test the brine solution by sticking their finger in it the trouble – I can assure you that it is indeed unbearably cold). This plug includes all the lees. The temperature of this solution is usually around –27° (estimates seem to range between 15 and 30°C), but is important to ensure it is not frozen solid as it needs to be able to slide out of the neck of the bottle. To prevent it being frozen solid, appropriate chemicals are added. The bottle goes in the solution for anywhere from a couple of minutes to near half an hour, depending on what is needed and the temperature of it.  A machine then removes the seal and, because of the pressure within the bottle, the frozen plug shoots out into a protected trap. Dosage will be quickly added and the bottle corked.  


The dosage added to the Champagne during the process of disgorgement is critical, as

it can completely change the nature of the wine. It will determine how dry or sweet the Champagne will be. Dosage is effectively the process of adding the ‘liqueur d’expédition’. Liqueur d’expédition is a small amount of liquid, which has been sweetened to the degree necessary for the style. This is also the opportunity for the winemaker to ensure that the Champagne will be properly balanced. The liqueur will usually contain 500 to 750 grams of sugar per litre. The styles of champagne created by the differing levels of sweetness are described elsewhere. Obviously, the liqueur added to a nondosage, zero dosage or sans dosage Champagne (there are numerous names for this style, where the Champagne receives no extra sweetness at all), is unsweetened. It is still necessary to add some liquid, even to this style, to make up for the small amount lost in the disgorging process.   The liquid used is usually the same wine as is already in the bottle, but a House may take this final opportunity to further increase the complexity of the finished product. They can do this by using a specially selected reserve wine as the dosage liquid, to be mixed with the sugar. Even in this tiny amount, the flavours of a wine may be improved (or, if they get it wrong, diminished) and complexity increased. Most winemakers will not have just one dosage liqueur. Rather, they will experiment extensively to ensure that they have the perfect dosage for the specific Champagne. As a rule of thumb, the longer the wine has spent ageing on lees, the less dosage it will receive.  In years gone by, Houses would often use a different level of dosage (as in, differing level of sweetness in the dosage liquid) in the same Champagne where it was destined for different markets. As an example, it was always considered that America had a sweeter tooth than European markets – hence, they were dosed with a higher level of sweetness. All the Houses will assure you that this practice was stopped many years ago.  The trend, and it has been the trend for a very long time, is for drier Champagnes,

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hence a lower dosage. One wonders if many Houses merely paid lip service to the move to drier wines in the past (although if one goes back a century or so, the wines were indeed much sweeter), but they have certainly taken it on board recently. A fine example is Moët et Chandon. Chef de Cave, the very talented Benoît Gouez, has gradually been making their Non-Vintage into a slightly drier style than it was in the past. The wine is all the better for it. Indeed, for such a large volume wine, the quality is extraordinary. Gouez has done this very gradually, fully aware that any major change in the wine is likely to alienate many consumers.


The corking is the final step in preparing the Champagne, other than labelling and selling it. The cork, prior to insertion into the bottle, is a cylindrical section of reconstituted cork granules, which will have two small slices of natural cork attached at one end. It is partially inserted with two heavy blows. The end with the slices of natural cork goes in first. Leaving a section of the cork out of the bottle provides the famous mushroom shape with which we are all so familiar. The name of the ‘Champagne Appellation’ will be printed on the cork and, if relevant, the vintage. The cork will have a small metal cap, usually identifying the House, attached on the top of the cork and the entire thing is then held in place, attached to the bottle by the wire cage known as the muselet.  The bottle will then be shaken vigorously (poignettage) in order that the dosage will be fully integrated into the wine. A final check of the bottle, called the mirage, is undertaken to ensure the wine is limpid. Poignettage is sometimes practiced prior to disgorgement in order to prevent the lees from sticking to the sides of the bottle. Labelling the bottle is covered elsewhere.  We now have the finished product, ready to be enjoyed. ❧




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RESERVE WINES ARE IMPORTANT IN maintaining consistency of the non-vintage wine of a House, enabling them to preserve the House style. Every House will have its own manner of storing these wines, of the quantities they keep and the percentages used. It is usually an area where the larger, older producers have the advantage over small growers. Keeping large stocks of reserve wines, sometimes for over a decade, is a financially draining requirement and the bigger Houses are usually much better placed to handle this. Reserve wines were originally held back in order to overcome poor vintages. This is less necessary these days, though occasionally we still had a (shocking) 2001 or a (far too warm) 2003. Consistency was, is and will for a long time to come, be key. Reserve wines allowed Houses with a talented chef de cave to blend with the current base wine and come up with the ‘same’ Champagne every year. Customers appreciated this, as they wanted to know what they were getting when they purchased a bottle from one year to the next. They liked a House to be reliable. Reserve wines had the additional benefit in that they provided the Champagnes with extra richness and complexity. This, in turn, allowed the wines to be drunk at an earlier age. The percentage of reserve wines used each year by any one House varies enormously – it will depend on their stocks, the quality of the vintage and the House style they seek to achieve. It can be as high as 50 per cent. Conventional wisdom tells us that the higher the percentage, the better the wine, but that is not always true. It will depend on the quality of the reserve wines, the quality of the base vintage and the skill of the chef de cave. As an example, Laurent Perrier have

been reported as using 30 per cent of reserve wine with the base from 2001. Their normal percentage sits around 10 per cent. Just having access to a well-stocked library of reserve wines will never guarantee the quality of the final product. That will largely come down to the skill of the chef de cave, but it is a good start. Also, some Houses want youth, freshness and vitality as the hallmarks of their wine. There can be less need for large percentages of reserve wines in that case. Others want more complex, deeper styles and hence, will require a larger percentage of reserves. Houses known for using considerable percentages of reserve wines include Krug, Bollinger, Champagne Mailly, Charles Heidsieck, Bruno Paillard and Louis Roederer, but there are many more. It is often claimed that the use of a higher percentage of reserve wines, as a generalisation in Champagne, is yet one more reason why the region is the home of the greatest sparkling wines on the planet. In practice, this may be true, but there is no reason that the better regions around the world for sparkling wine can’t use similar percentages (it is very much a ‘producer to producer’ decision, both in Champagne and elsewhere). That may improve their wines, but it does not mean they’ll be able to match those from Champagne, simply because of an increase in the amount of reserve wines used. An example of the importance of reserve wines is seen with the stratospheric ascent enjoyed by Charles Heidsieck over the last thirty years, during which they have lifted the contribution of these wines to around 40 per cent of the blend. Many of their reserve wines have nearly a decade of age. This has played a strong role in the reason why their non-vintage is universally considered to be one of the very best in the region;

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wonderfully complex and more than a match for the prestige cuvees of many Houses. Charles Heidsieck introduced the ‘mis en cave’ program in 1997, a well-intentioned but ultimately confusing attempt to educate customers about reserve wines. The program named the base wine on the label. The problem was that a great many customers, and more than a few sommeliers, despite what they might tell you, mistook this for the vintage. It is not, of course. They eventually moved it to the back label. For me, I’d love to see information like this on the back label of every Champagne, but putting it front and centre, as they did, simply led to confusion (I have had a number of ‘discussions’ with representatives of Charles Heidsieck, whose wines I adore, and it would be fair to say that they take a very different view of this to me, which they have expressed very firmly, but I saw the evidence of the confusion too often to doubt it). Louis Roederer maintain their stocks of reserve wines in large oak casks, each with an average holding capacity of 6,000 litres. They have somewhere between 150 and 200 of these, providing them with a little under a million litres of reserve wines. It is a priceless resource, though an extremely expensive one for Roederer, and these large oak casks contribute to the texture and to the complexity; part of the reason they are seen as one of the most thrilling Houses of all. Needless to say, the method of storage imparts its own characters to the finished wine. In Roederer’s case, these large casks do not contribute any oaky notes. The use of wood for storing reserve wines is not limited to Roederer. Other Houses known to use oak, in an array of sizes, include Agrapart, Devaux, Veuve Fourny, Ulysse Collin, Philipponnat and Joseph Perrier, though this

is far from an exhaustive list. Others use tanks of varying size, temperature-controlled receptacles and even bottles. Gimonnet is one producer using bottles, while in Bollinger’s case, the choice is magnums – they are reputed to hold 600,000 to 650,000 magnums of reserve wine in their cellars, all under the agrafe cork. Where bottles are used, a very weak secondary fermentation is usually undertaken, to ensure freshness. Krug did hold reserves in a combination of magnums and concrete vats but has moved to temperature-controlled tanks. It is worth noting, for those who were concerned that the purchase of the estate, by LVMH from the Krug family, would lead to a diminution of quality for this revered House, the first investment was to increase the stocks of reserve wines. They now hold three times the amount they did at the time of the sale. By now, it will be obvious that in the better Houses, the chef de cave has potentially hundreds of different reserve wines available to him. For some Houses, this can exceed 200 different wines. As well as wines from different vintages and different grapes, remember that the Houses will keep the reserve wines from different crus separate. This is a blessing in many respects – what Chef de Cave would not want access to hundreds of reserve wines when building his non-vintage? – but it also means that he will have to make literally hundreds of trial blends to work his way through to what will eventually be the final combination, which can take weeks of work by the entire team. The decision as to whether or not to hold back wines for use as reserve wines in later years is up to individual Houses. It can mean a trade-off. No one was ever going to be rushing to keep large quantities of 2001 or 2003, though both have their uses (the high

acidity in 2001 could be used to lift low acid years/blends while the 2003 offered the reverse). The better years naturally deliver the wines that everyone wants as reserves, but the problem is that they are also in demand as base wines. Often, a House will bite the bullet. Charles Heidsieck missed the glorious vintage of 2002, amongst others, in order to increase stocks of quality reserve wines. We may bemoan the fact that there was no 2002 vintage from that House, but we can celebrate with their wonderful non-vintage wines in years to come, knowing that they are even better because of that sacrifice. Krug have made a similar decision with the highly touted 2012 vintage; they have declared that there will be no 2012 but rather, the wines from that great year will go into their reserves. I have no idea how much that will impact on their bottom line, and we will all regret not having the opportunity to drink a Krug 2012 in a decade, however, it is a decision not taken lightly; it will be to their financial detriment, but it will ensure they maintain their stellar standards. Krug are reputed to use up to 200 different reserve wines in their Grand Cuvee in some years, with reserves up to a decade old. As an example, it was reported that Krug, for the Grand Cuvée based on the 2010 vintage, used 42 per cent reserve wine in the blend and that the final combination includes 140 different wines. As Chardonnay was seen as the least successful variety in that vintage, most of the Chardonnay used in the blend was reserve wine. A few producers, notably Pierre Peters, Francis Boulard and most famously, Jacques Selosse, are using a solera system, similar to that made famous in Jerez with the production of sherry. Selosse is usually credited with instigating this idea

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in Champagne. Others are maintaining a solera system, which they use for a percentage of their blends, though it does seem that this method is an either/ or proposition. A solera system is ideal for maintaining consistency; a certain amount is removed each year to undertake the second fermentation and effectively, ‘become’ a Champagne. This is replaced by a similar amount from the most recent harvest. It is a little surprising that more Houses are not experimenting with this method, as it seems an ideal way to achieve that much desired “consistent” Champagne. One effect of an increase in the use of reserve wines, according to some Houses, is that a lower dosage is required to create the same impression in the final wine, as reserve wines can bring richness to years overimbued with acidity and freshness in warm, clumsy vintages. In the past, higher dosages were used to cover cracks. Bruno Paillard was reported as increasing their already high 33 per cent of reserve wines to 50 per cent in the hot vintage of 2003, in order to return their wine to balance. Among the reasons given for the increase in stocks of reserve wines are the financial health of the region and the greater use of temperature control. Others feel that the encouragement of the CIVC has played a role. In certain vintages, producers were allowed to build their reserves, indeed it was actively promoted. It, in turn, allows Houses to then use greater percentages resulting in better wines. The CIVC carefully monitor and regulate this aspect of production (and pretty much every other aspect). They allowed increases in 2015 due to overall sales increase for the preceding year. Still wine stored in the cellar it might be, but reserve wines play an integral role in the production of non-vintage Champagne. ❧



Styles of Champagne WORDS KEN GARGETT

NON-VINTAGE At its simplest, a non-vintage Champagne is a blend of two or more years, but there is, of course, far more to it than that. Non-vintage Champagne is the moneymaker for almost all Champagne Houses. No matter how much attention is paid to different vintages and prestige releases, there is hardly a House which will not tell you that their most important Champagne is their non-vintage – not only in terms of volume, but as the wine which best represents them. Small growers with limited resources and a few specialist producers such as Salon may have a slightly different perspective. It is believed that approximately 80 to 90 per cent of all Champagne is nonvintage, with some estimates as high as 94 per cent. The importance of this style is that it defines the House. Champagne lovers think of the elegance of Billecart-Salmon, the pristine freshness of Taittinger, the weight and power of Bollinger, the richness and complexity of Krug, and so on, not for their vintage wines but because this is the House style, reflected and repeated year after year in their non-vintage wines, which can then be expected to follow throughout the range. You know that if you buy a bottle of Moet et Chandon non-vintage in London or Lima, Madrid or Miami, this year or next, that wine will be exactly the same. That is down to the skill of the Chef de Cave and his team. They ensure that, year after year, the non-vintage wine will be the same. It is, however, far more difficult than you might think and requires great ability. To achieve the desired result, the team will take the base wine – this is wine from the latest vintage – and add to it reserve wines from previous vintages. Some Houses, such

as Veuve Fourny, have a formula whereby up to 40 per cent of reserve wines are added and these reserves come from the two vintages preceding the base wine. LaurentPerrier also use a base wine and two reserve vintages for their flagship, ‘Grand Siecle’, though they are not necessarily consecutive years. Others will use up to ten or twelve previous vintages as reserve wines. Charles Heidsieck is one of many good examples. Remember also that these Houses do not have just one reserve wine from previous vintages, but will have many, representing different crus from all over the region, depending on what they need to replicate their style. Some Houses will take from more than 60 different crus, for both the base wine and the reserve wines. Throw in the added complication of the three different varieties, and it means that the chef de cave and his team will test potentially hundreds of combinations, before they finally have their blend. The reasoning for this dates back many decades. In those days, there were far fewer vintages which reached the quality of what would be considered ‘vintage worthy’. The Houses knew that they could not make a wine of sufficient quality to release on its own every year. It meant that part of the wines from these years were kept for future use as reserve wine and part was used as the base for the next non-vintage. It was the only way a House could ensure that they would have a wine to release annually. It does, however, require tremendous skill. Imagine that a vintage is cold and wet while the next one is hot and dry. In the first instance, the chef de cave must balance the cool/wet base wine with reserve wines to replicate the House style. The following year, they must do the same, but this time they start with a completely different wine.

Good, bad or indifferent, each House is required by law to retain at least 15 per cent of each harvest for use as reserve wine. More recently, increased winemaking expertise and improved technology, and especially climate change in the region, are creating conditions which are more conducive to vintage declarations. As a result, some Houses have released vintages on a far more regular basis. Dom Perignon is an example. Others have not, often citing the opportunity to retain these wines as future reserve wines and thereby increase the quality across the board. Veuve Clicquot has made the decision to limit vintage releases. Just as with their own unique style, there is no right or wrong in such a decision. It is simply what best suits an individual House. Some Houses, and also some consumers, assume that the term, ‘non-vintage’ is in some way derogatory, but that is certainly not so. Indeed, Krug refuse to use the term and instead uses the more appropriate ‘multi-vintage’. Technically, non-vintage champagne must spend 15 months in the bottle before sale, 12 of those on lees. In practice, good Houses will often have their non-vintage Champagnes spend much longer on lees. Finally, although many Houses insist that their non-vintage is at its peak on release, wines from the better Houses will age and improve, often for many years.


Vintage Champagne is simple. The wine needs to be 100 per cent from the vintage named on the label. From a technical/regulatory perspective, a vintage Champagne must spend three years on lees, but in practice, most top Houses will >>

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leave their vintage Champagnes on lees for considerably longer. A decade is not uncommon. Why a vintage? It is a way for the House to exhibit the wine from a year that they consider to be exceptionally good. If a vintage wine is ‘declared’, in practice, we find that most Houses will offer one, but it is not compulsory. Hence, one House may feel that their vineyards produced top notch fruit, allowing the release of a vintage. Possibly the conditions suited them, but not neighbours. This often happens where one House favours of the use of, say Chardonnay, while another is known as a ‘Pinot’ House. So if the year suits Pinot over Chardonnay, we are likely to see the Pinot House with a vintage release but not the other producer. In the past, if there had been a number of good vintages, a House may have made the decision to skip a year

for commercial reasons. Less so these days – indeed, a cynic may feel that commercial reasons play a major role in the decision to release a vintage, or not. Perhaps a House may feel it needs the grapes for reserve wines and so eschews the opportunity to make a vintage. Charles Heidsieck did not, and do not plan to, release vintage wines from such years as 2002 and 2004, saving them for reserve material. While we may regret missing the opportunity to see those vintages from a first class producer, we can take comfort in the fact that their nonvintage wines will continue to be stellar. It is possible for a House to make a vintage wine but not name it as such, releasing it as a non-vintage. Why, you might reasonably ask, especially as a vintage wine usually attracts a higher price? Ulysse Collin has done this on occasion, as have others. The reason is usually that

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the wine in question is a small production wine and a particular year may be special, resulting in the release of the wine with it being from a single vintage. However, the following year may not be so special and is made as a non-vintage, with reserve material to boost the quality. This would require the wine to be released as a nonvintage and could lead to confusion in the market. Better to maintain consistency. We are seeing more and more vintage releases, partly because of the commercial value that is perceived from these, partly as winemaking, viticulture and technical expertise continue to improve, and partly because climate change is actually favouring these once marginal vineyards. However, some Houses, such as PerrierJouet, have stopped making a vintage Champagne altogether. They offer vintages under their exceptional Belle Epoque series,

their flagship wines, but not a ‘standard’, a little sad/ironic as they made some of the very earliest vintages. An 1825 Perrier-Jouet was opened and sampled a few years ago. Vintage Champagne does age exceptionally well, in good conditions. A few Houses known for brilliant vintage wines include Pol Roger, Bollinger, Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Moet et Chandon and a great many more.


Simply, ‘white of white’, that is, in the case of Champagne, wine that is made from Chardonnay grapes only. Neither of the Pinots get a look-in. A very popular style, often ethereal and elegant, with great persistence of flavour. The better examples of Blanc de Blancs Champagne have the ability to age superbly over many years. The

fruit for these wines is often sourced from vineyards from the Cote des Blancs, hardly surprising given the quality of Chardonnay from the region. It is believed that the term ‘Blanc de Blancs’ was coined by Eugene-Aime Salon, when he founded his eponymous House, a House which even today only makes vintage Blanc de Blancs and nothing else. In the early days, Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc could also be included in a Blanc de Blancs, though not for several decades. It is a far more popular style than the much rarer Blanc de Noirs. For many years, Blanc de Blancs was considered by many, especially Americans, as the finest Champagne of all. Unquestionably, they can be brilliant, but it is not automatic that they exceed all others. It is believed that this came about because in Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, 007 was often seen

drinking Taittinger’s ‘Comte de Champagne’, leading many readers to assume that, as Bond would touch nothing but the best, it meant this style was superior to all others. Whether a true story or not, there is no doubt that great Blanc de Blancs is one of the most exciting styles of Champagne. Some of the very finest Blanc de Blancs Champagnes are the rare Salon, Taittinger’s ‘Comte de Champagne’, Krug’s ‘Clos du Mesnil’, Ruinart’s ‘Dom Ruinart’ and Pol Roger – which was once known as ‘Blanc de Chardonnay’ but now conforms as a Blanc de Blancs.  


Much rarer than the far more popular Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs (‘white of black’) is Champagne made from Pinot Noir and/ or Pinot Meunier. In some cases, it comes >>

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about because small growers simply have no choice, their vineyards being one or the other or both, sans Chardonnay. They tend to be richer in style and weightier than most and often have a slightly deeper colour. One of the reasons that Blanc de Noirs is so rare is that most of them are a little clumsy, often lacking the finesse the region is so famous for. They are, however, often ideally suited to richer foods, such meat and game dishes and even those featuring truffles and mushrooms. The most famous Blanc de Noirs, and indeed one of the most famous, rarest and most expensive Champagnes of all, is Bollinger’s ‘Vieilles Vignes Francaises’ – “VVF”. A more recent addition to the ranks is the Krug ‘Clos d’Ambonnay’, surely the most expensive Champagne of all. Nearly as difficult to find, though a fraction of the price, is the Ulysse Collin ‘Les Maillons’, another very fine example.

NON-DOSAGE Non-dosage Champagne is a bone dry style. At the time of disgorgement, after the second fermentation, the wine is topped up by the addition of what is known as the liqueur d’expedition. This is necessary as a small volume is lost when the dead yeast cells are removed at disgorgement. Traditionally, the liqueur d’expedition includes a small amount of sugar but, if the Chef de Cave wants to make a completely dry style, that can be omitted and the bottle is simply topped up with wine. The style is known by a number of names – sans sucre, non-dosage, brut nature, ultra brut, brut integral, brut zero and brut sauvage being some of them. Some authorities work on the basis that wines, which range between zero grams and 2

grams/litre qualify for inclusion in this category, but most work on the notion that the wine must have zero grams dosage for inclusion. Others find zero to six grams acceptable for wines labelled ‘Extra Brut’. This style tends to come in and out of fashion and lately, it is very much ‘flavour of the month’. Two possible reasons for this are that many consumers will claim that they want to drink dry (in practice, this is often more lip service than reality as many will gravitate to wine with at least a little sweetness) and also, no added sugar means that the wine holds a lower level of calories, making it more attractive to those on diets. It is, to be blunt, unlikely to be as a result of the overwhelming quality found in the category. While there are some very fine examples, in general, the problem with non-dosage Champagnes is that they, like all wines (and this includes the sweeter styles), must be in balance. And very often, this style struggles to attain the requisite balance. It is not impossible to achieve it, but it happens less often than one would wish. Dosage, even a small amount, will assist in balancing the high acidity that most sparkling wines have and need. Dosage adds body and increases the complexity of the wine. Often, the late disgorged styles will have minimal dosage, sometimes none at all, as they have the benefit of extra ageing on lees and a level of complexity beyond that of many ‘standard’ offerings. The migration to lower dosages is to be applauded, as it has undoubtedly led to higher quality wines, however, as humans are so often wont to do, the pendulum has swung a little too far. There is another advantage of a little sugar – it helps cover any cracks in the wine. Those without that benefit are left

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naked, with any tiny fault fully exposed. They are, however, wines that do benefit from bottle age. This style has been around for a long time, even if often there were only a few practitioners at times. Laurent-Perrier was offering a sans-sucre Champagne as far back as 1889. They are still considered one of the better exponents of the style, re-launching their Ultra Brut back in the early 1980’s. Light at the end of a very dry tunnel comes from the first new wine created by Louis Roederer in decades, their ‘Starck Brut Nature 2006’. The ‘Starck’ refers to the designer of the label, famous artist Philippe Starck. It comes as no surprise to discover that this House went about the making of a non-dosage wine in precisely the correct manner. A vintage (2006) was selected, which was warm enough to provide the style of grapes that would suit a non-dosage wine (the next release will be the 2009). It was not, as often happens, the reserve, where a House sees a plot of grapes and decides to go the non-dosage route. The majority of the wine is made from Pinot Noir, which was harvested in conjunction with the Chardonnay, all from their own biodynamic vineyards in the village of Cumiéres. The wine has been made with only around 3/4s of its usual pressure, giving a softer and more approachable texture – reminiscent of the old Crémant approach. Roederer’s Champagnes usually have a dosage of around 10 grams, quite low in the scheme of things, but they believed that this one needed none at all. It is undoubtedly an emerging star in this genre and anyone wishing to dip a toe to explore the nondosage style could do much worse than start here.

HIGH DOSAGE The standard Brut Champagne sits at around 6 to 12 grams/litre of dosage. Only a decade or two ago, most Champagnes were more likely to range from 10 to 15 grams. The trend to drier styles, and especially improved winemaking techniques, have seen the averages drop. Undoubtedly, the wines are better for it. A great example is Moet et Chandon’s Non Vintage. Chef de Cave, Benoît Gouez, has the wine looking better than ever, an incredible achievement given the massive volume involved, and part of the improvement has been by way of a gradual, near imperceptible, diminution of the dosage. We have previously looked at the current ‘flavour of the month’, non-dosage Champagne, but there are also consumers, admittedly fewer and fewer, who openly embrace the sweeter styles. Many years ago, almost all Champagne was much, much sweeter than it is today. The turning point came when Madame Pommery decided to take the plunge and made her 1874 vintage in a much drier style for the London market, where it was a smash hit (it would still have been sweet to today’s palates but nothing like what was the norm of the day). So famous was this individual wine that it was even referenced in songs of the day. After we move from the Brut Nature category of zero dosage and accepting that a wine dubbed ‘Extra Brut’ can have up to six grams, we come to the very popular category of ‘Brut’, which can cover any Champagne with residual sweetness of 12 grams/litre or less. It is worth noting that, although we all differ, the average level of sweetness that can first be perceived by humans is considered to be around four grams/litre. Anything below that would

seem to be effectively completely dry to most people. Even at four to six grams, many will struggle to identify much sweetness in a wine. At 12 grams, the wine will certainly be on the drier side. The next category is ‘Extra-Sec’, 12 to 17 grams/litre. We are moving to the off-dry styles here. ‘Sec’ is 17 to 32 grams and, while not overly sweet, especially if well balanced, will certainly be noticeably so. ‘Demi-Sec’ is 33 to 50 grams and will definitely be sweet, while anything above 50 grams/litre is called ‘Doux’ and will be seriously sweet. Veuve Clicquot is one of the few Houses which today offers sweeter styles with their ‘Sec’ and ‘Rich’. They are Champagnes which demand an appropriate dessert.

PRESTIGE CHAMPAGNE. The best of the best. Call them flagships, cuvee de prestige, luxury, de luxe or just simply great Champagnes, these are the pinnacles. They usually consist of material from Grand Cru vineyards and will have had extended time on lees. Their packaging makes them the birds of paradise of the wine world. What is inevitable is that these are the most expensive wines the region has to offer. Flagship wines are usually vintage wines but not always – Laurent-Perrier’s ‘Grand Siecle’ is just one non-vintage example. These wines should be the best on offer from any producer, though that is not always so, as personal taste always plays a role in preferences. Houses debate which was the very first prestige cuvee. Moet et Chandon is generally considered to hold this honour, with the 1921 Dom Perignon, which was not released until 1937 (some authorities suggest 1936,

but with all these dates, the years are often a little fuzzy). These days, although they share ownership, Moet and Dom are largely separate entities. Originally, Moet obtained ownership of the Dom Perignon marque in 1930, from the House of Mercier, who were not using it. Some authorities suggest that they purchased the marque from Mercier, while others claim it was part of a wedding gift to the family of the day from the family at Mercier. In any event, it was well after that first vintage. It meant the original wine was made well before they even had a name for it, but no matter. Others claim Salon deserves the honour – their first Champagne was from 1911, but as it is the only wine produced by the House, some feel it may not fall into this category, though one would search high and low to find a Champagne devotee who did not consider it on a par with any flagship wine. Louis Roederer also has claims. Cristal was available to the Russian Czars at least as far back as the 1870’s, but it was not commercially available. Not surprisingly, the Russian Revolution put an abrupt end to sales and it was not until 1928 that Cristal was made again – and made available around the same time as the first Dom was released – this time for the world. Other authorities suggest that Cristal was not commercially available until the 1945 vintage. It hardly matters which House was first, just that today we have a myriad of options of exceptional wines. These days, most Houses will offer a flagship – some will offer alternatives, such as Perrier-Jouet with three different Belle Epoque releases (the original, Rosé and Blanc de Blancs), while others offer none at all, relying solely on their range. That normally applies to smaller Houses or growers who simply do not have the resources, but a House such as Krug also claims not to make >>

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a flagship wine, though some might argue that they have several, with the various Clos releases and their Rosé. When it became almost de rigueur for every House to include a flagship Champagne in their range, Madame Bollinger supposedly famously declared that her House would not be doing so. She noted that they had told their customers for years that their wine was the best that they could make. How could they then turn around and say that now they would make a better one? Her team successfully negotiated these tricky waters by introducing a new wine as a tribute to her, the RD (récemment dégorgé or ‘recently disgorged’). They pioneered this technique, basically leaving the wine for an extended period on its lees before disgorgement and thereby increasing complexity. They were also able to tell Madame Bollinger that they had not made a new wine, while in practice introducing their new flagship. A prestige Champagne might usually be a vintage wine but it is not compulsory. They can also be non-vintage, come from a Clos or other single vineyard, be a Rosé or late disgorged style, be blanc de blancs or blanc de noirs – it is entirely up to each House. The most important criteria is that they be the very best the House can offer.


In simplest terms, this is Champagne with a pink hue. Rosé Champagne has suffered a rather chequered history, often seen as the least of the styles, but it has also enjoyed periods of great popularity. Recent years have been a time where the style has been on an upswing. In the past, such acclaim can often be attributed to the colour suiting the times. More recently, it is fair to suggest that increases in quality have

been responsible for newfound appreciation. Even certain Houses who declared that pink Champagne would never find a place in their cellars have entered the market. It certainly has a long history with records suggesting that Veuve Clicquot first produced a rosé Champagne as early as 1775. French AOC regulations forbid the addition of red wine to white in order to make rosé, whether sparkling or still, with one exception – the region of Champagne. Hence, winemakers here have the option of the more traditional method of skin contact – wine gets its colour from spending time the skins of grapes as almost all grapes have clear juice; the amount of colour depending on the length of time the wine is in contact with its skins, though certain grapes, and Pinot Noir is one of them, have less intense colour in their skins than most – or from the addition of a small amount of red wine. The colour can vary enormously. Some will be the merest pale pink, onion skin or partridge’s eye – hardly deeper than a normal wine, which has a little age. Others can be almost neon pink or even deep red – look to the rosés from Houses such as Jacquesson and Piper Heidsieck for examples of this latter style. The decision rests with the House. The advantage of the addition method is that it enables more consistency of colour over the years and, providing one has quality red wine (which must, of course, come from the region), it is probably an easier way to proceed, though producers might not acknowledge that. The addition of red wine is usually between 6 and 20 per cent, depending on the style and colour required by the House. The red wine usually comes from Bouzy or another suitable Pinot Noir producing village in the region. Needless to say, Houses will argue that the method they champion provides the best

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results, but in practice, it is impossible to distinguish between them. Most Houses utilise the method of adding red wine. Laurent-Perrier is probably the most famous producer to use skin contact. Nicolas Feuillatte, with their Palmes d’Or Rosé, is another. Rosé Champagne has suffered from an image problem for many years. The pink colour has led many to believe that these are frivolous wines that are not serious. Try a Dom Perignon Rosé or Louis Roederer’s Cristal Rosé and see if you think you can find a more serious Champagne? Good luck! As an aside, the entire first vintage of the Dom Perignon Rosé, the 1959, was sold to the then Shah of Iran for a celebration. Rosé Champagnes have also been condemned to be used to match desserts. One assumes that this is based purely on colour as there is no reason they would work better with a dessert than any other champagne, which does not have an elevated level of sweetness. They can, however, work brilliantly with dishes such as game, lamb, truffles, duck and so on, but are rarely given the opportunity. Finally, the perception is that Rosé Champagne must be drunk quickly and not aged. As they can be slightly softer, with a smidge less acidity than blanc de blancs, for example (Pinot Noir usually providing a little less acidity than Chardonnay), they can give an impression of being drink-now wines. Again, this will come down to the style the House desires, but in general, Rosé Champagne can age well, some exceptionally so. Personally, I have always found the Bollinger Rosé to impress after it has had a decade or so of age, more than it does on release. Rosé Champagne is as serious, and can be as exciting, as any style. ❧

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THERE IS, HOWEVER, LITTLE POINT IN keeping Champagne (or any wine, for that matter), if it is not stored properly. The key is to understand and accept that no matter how much you tell yourself that the cupboard under the stairs or the nice cool room under the house is suitable, it is not (this is a sin of which I am as guilty as anyone and which I have learnt the hard way). If you do not have refrigerated, or at the very least, air-conditioned, storage then you should use a professional outfit. Otherwise, unless your wines are consumed shortly after purchase, you’ll be doing them, and yourself, a disservice. The keys are a consistent, low temperature; darkness; and a lack of vibration. It is also important to ensure a reasonable but not excessive level of humidity. Light harms wine. Direct sunlight is obvious but even dim light can be harmful. Full darkness is preferable. This is why Champagne, as with so many wines, is bottled in dark green bottles. An exception is Louis Roederer’s

Cristal, which is, of course, in a clear bottle. However, these come wrapped in yellow cellophane to avoid the impact of ultraviolet light. If you are so fortunate as to have Cristal in your cellar, do not remove the cellophane until you intend drinking the bottle. Also, if you have bought in quantity, leave the bottles in the case whenever possible. As Champagne does not enjoy the benefits of a screw cap closure, humidity is a potential concern. A certain level is necessary to prevent the cork drying out and allowing the ingress of oxygen, but too much can cause mould. The labels can also be damaged by excessive humidity – how much of a concern that is depends on the individual, especially if resale is being considered, but it is preferable to avoid. The level recommended varies but most consider something around the 70 to 75 per cent level to be ideal. There is often debate about leaving a bottle in the fridge for a lengthy period. It might be fine from the perspective of temperature, but some

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experts consider that the low level of humidity found in fridges to be damaging in the long-term. Other experts contend it is not an issue. The ideal temperature for storing Champagne seems to vary with every expert, some even going so far as to insist slightly different temperatures for different styles – for example, higher or lower for vintage than for non-vintage. What is agreed without debate is that whatever temperature is selected, it should be consistent. Varying the temperature damages the wine. It can cause pressure on the cork, forcing it in and out, even if only minutely, which in turn allows the ingress of oxygen. Not a good thing! It is believed that changes in temperature can also force chemical reactions within the wine, damaging it. The range suggested usually sits within the range of 10 to 15°C (50 to 60°F). Lower temperatures ensure that the wine ages more slowly, and in a perfect world, 10 to 12°C would be the aim.

Vibration has been studied to a far lesser extent than other potentially damaging effects on a wine, but all anecdotal experience confirms that a wine subjected to constant vibration does not show as well as one that has remained steady. Conventional wisdom suggests that Champagne should, of course, be stored on its side, as with all wines not under screw cap (a slight angle is usually also acceptable). There is research pertaining specifically to Champagne which

contravenes this, including some from the CIVC, suggesting that Champagne stored on its side ages quicker than bottles stored upright, as oxygen can sneak in when the elasticity in a cork fades after contact with the moisture from the wine. It is an area that needs more investigation. It is wise to avoid storing other items in the cellar if there is any chance that they may give off odours. Items such as tins of paint or turpentine. There is always a possibility of these odours inveigling their

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way onto the cork or even into the wine and spoiling the bottle. Finally, ensure a good system of recording what you have in your cellar and make certain you keep track of what has gone. While it is always nice to find a forgotten gem after many years, there is little more frustrating than coming across prized bottles long after their optimum drinking period has passed, or searching high and low through boxes for a bottle that you are sure you still have somewhere. â?§




AS AN EXAMPLE, BOLLINGER WILL release, say, their 1990 vintage in the usual course of things. It will have spent a period on lees before disgorgement, labelling, resting and sale. Shall we say eight years, which is a lengthy period but certainly not unknown for the top Houses. Anyone buying this wine will have a fantastic Champagne, which will drink beautifully from the moment the customer purchases it. It will, if cellared, continue to develop, gaining maturity and complexity. The customer may prefer mature Champagnes of this style and so decides to put the bottle away in their cellars for a decade or possibly more. This is an example of cork ageing and will provide a wonderful and complex Champagne when it is eventually opened. Meanwhile, Bollinger will have retained stocks of their 1990 vintage in their cellars, which are still on lees. They may leave it on lees for another decade, possibly longer, and then disgorge and release it to the market. This will be as their “RD” (Récemment Dégorgé or «recently disgorged»). Please refer to the section on ‘Late Disgorged Champagnes’ for a more thorough discussion of this style.

Our customer could then purchase the 1990 RD. if he does so, he will then have what was once the same wine but has now diverged and is a different creature altogether. There will be two distinct styles, even if the wine started out as one. It all comes down to personal preference, though it is important to note that if the customer does not have proper cellaring conditions, he would be wise not to try and age his own wine. This will mean that these two wines reach their ‘peak’ at different times. Of course, one man’s peak… While on lees, the Champagne is undergoing the process of autolysis. This is effectively where the dead yeasts contribute flavours and characters to the wine – think warm bread, toast and fungal notes (in the most positive way). It also helps to prevent oxidation. While still in contact with the lees, any ageing is a very slow process. Remember also that a late disgorged wine will eventually require a lower, or perhaps no, dosage at the time of disgorgement, as it is better balanced and more mature. The late disgorged wines will have a certain freshness that may not be present in the “standard” release, but it seems

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likely that it will then continue maturing at a much quicker rate. It is believed that this happens as the ‘older’ wine is more fragile and more delicate and that this allows oxidation to proceed at a faster rate. Opinions differ on this and some believe it makes no difference. With certain wines, the “standard” release will have developed wonderfully complex notes, often truffly and nutty – there can be an extraordinary array of tertiary flavours. Part of the period where the wine is ageing on cork is the rest period after its disgorgement and prior to sale. Some in Champagne feel that there should be a mandatory period for a wine to rest before it can be offered to the market. Others believe it is a decision best left to individual Houses, who will know just how long their wines should sit. This period of time can vary between a few months to a couple of years. Champagne is an extraordinary wine and one which can reach new dimensions when given extra ageing, whether on cork, on lees or a combination of both. If your experience with Champagne is only of fresh, newly released wines, then it is time to broaden your horizons. ❧

joeborg /

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Champagne Bottles CHAMPAGNE IS A HIGHLY REGULATED REGION, EVEN DOWN TO THE SIZE OF THE BOTTLES. THE APPELLATION ALLOWS A WIDER ARRAY OF BOTTLE SIZES THAN ANYWHERE ELSE IN FRANCE AND THEY RANGE FROM THE TINY ‘QUARTER’ OR ‘PICCOLO’, JUST 20CL, WHICH IS LARGELY USELESS FOR MANY VARIED AND OBVIOUS REASONS, TO THE MASSIVE AND RARELY SEEN ‘MIDAS’, WHICH HOLDS 30 LITRES, THE EQUIVALENT OF 40 ‘STANDARD’ BOTTLES. WORDS KEN GARGETT THE STANDARD CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE is 750ml. What is crucial in purchasing Champagne is to know that it comes in a bottle which allows the wine to have been made in the traditional method – fermented in that very bottle. Tiny bottles, and very large ones (only a few Houses ferment in the bottle if it is bigger than a magnum), are usually filled by Champagne being transferred into that awkward size. It might be the ‘same’ wine, but it will simply never be quite the same quality and freshness. It is why those tiny piccolos on flights so often disappoint. The next most popular size is the magnum, 1.5 litres. Many think it is the ideal size, not just for drinking, but for maturing the wine while it is on lees. As with so much to do with Champagne, they have managed to take the mundane – bottle sizes – and weave extraordinary stories about them. The names, for an example. Biblical tags have been attached to most sizes, though this is far from unique to Champagne. Perhaps the most fascinating surround Sir Winston Churchill – as so many of the best Champagne stories do, which is hardly surprising given it is alleged that he drank around 42,000 bottles over the course of his life, a great many of them from his favourite House, Pol Roger. For many years, some Houses also offered their Champagne in Imperial

pints. Whether true or simply an urban myth (enough authorities suggest it is true to make one feel that it really is), one often hears that Pol Roger was induced to start bottling their Champagne in this size, just for Churchill. It is said that his wife, Clementine, disapproved of him drinking a full bottle before lunch and Churchill himself, disapproved of half bottles, thinking them a waste of time. The Imperial pint was the compromise. Sadly, European bureaucrats put the kibosh on that size, making them illegal. Houses could make and sell them in many markets around the world today, but not in Europe. Hence they are never seen. Quite what the bureaucrats achieved by this, other than earning their weekly paycheck, is not clear. The names associated with these bottles are, as mentioned, not restricted only to Champagne. It is worth noting that these sizes are not consistent across France and they do vary from region to region. The origins of the Biblical names are often argued over – authorities will occasionally claim different reasons as to their history. Those given below seem the most popular/ likely, but there is every chance that with some of these sizes, we will never know the exact reason or background. The names have been in use for a great number of years. There are references to ‘Jeroboam’ as a bottle containing the equivalent of four standard bottles, as far back as 1725.

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THE SIZES ARE – QUARTER/PICCOLO – 20cl. HALF – 375ml. Sometimes called a demi. STANDARD – 750ml. MAGNUM – 1.5 litres (two bottles). JEROBOAM – 3 litres (four bottles). In other parts of France, a Jeroboam holds 4.5 litres. The larger size usually applies to still wines. Jeroboam was the name of several of the Kings of Israel, including the King considered to be the founder of the city and the one most likely after whom the bottle is named. REHOBOAM – 4.5 litres (six bottles). Only so named in Champagne and in practice, effectively never, as this size offends bureaucrats in both Europe and the USA. Named after the son of Solomon. METHUSALEM – 6 litres (8 bottles). In Bordeaux, often called an Imperiale. This size is named after the famous Biblical character from Genesis (Genesis 5.27). It is claimed he lived to the grand old age of 969 (40,000 bottles of Champagne only got Churchill into his 90s – how many might Methusalem have enjoyed?). As his descendant, Noah, was supposedly

1/4 1/2 Bottles

Bottle 1

Magnum 2

Jeroboam 4

Rehoboam 6

the first man to plant vines, there is a nice connection. SALMANAZAR – 9 litres (12 bottles). There are a number of different spellings of this name/size. There are five Kings named Salmanazar, so it is anyone’s guess to whom the honour belongs. Salmanazar III, a great builder, is considered the most famous, so perhaps it was him. BALTHAZAR – 12 litres (16 bottles). This one is delightfully confusing. Many authorities assume it is named after one of the three Magi, but others have pointed out that Scripture does not name the three wise men, nor actually confirm that there were three (I’ll take their word for it). Apparently, the only Balthazar in the Bible is a King of Babylon who lived some 500 years before Christ and was keener on dancing than fighting, to the ultimate detriment of his Kingdom. NEBUCHADNEZZAR – 15 litres (20 bottles). Another Babylonian King, one who pre-dated Balthazar and was known as ‘Nebuchadnezzar the Great’. He supposedly turned Babylon into the cultural centre of the known world at that time, and also sacked Jerusalem. Those last three are quite rare, and often, almost always, Houses will use the

Methusalem 8

Salmanazar 12

Balthazar 16

Nebuchadnezzar 20

transfer method to fill them. The final four are rarer still. SOLOMON – 18 litres (24 bottles). Solomon was, of course, the King of Israel and son of David. SOVEREIGN – 26.25 litres (35 bottles). A size I have never encountered, but apparently one created in 1988 by Taittinger, to celebrate the launch of what was then the largest cruise ship in the world, the ‘Sovereign of the Seas’. PRIMAT – 27 litres (36 bottles). Primat is, I was surprised to learn, another name for Goliath. Not inappropriate, given the size of this bottle. MIDAS – 30 litres (40 bottles). Also called a Melchizedec. By this stage, the empty bottle alone will weigh near 100 kilograms and be over a metre tall. According to Genesis, Melchizedec was the King of Salem who blessed Abram and provided him with bread and wine. Midas is, of course, the Greek King who turned everything he touched to gold. That is perhaps also appropriate as the only producer I have encountered of this Champagne is Armand de Brignac, who use a gold-coloured bottle.   To remember the larger bottles, between Magnum and Nebuchadnezzar, some in

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Solomon 24

Sovereign 35

Primat 36

Midas 40

the region use the following mnemonic device – “My Judy Really Makes Splendid Belching Noises”. Perhaps the most famous standard bottle in Champagne is that of Louis Roederer’s ‘Cristal’. Roederer had a huge market in Russia back in the time of the Tsars. Cristal was first created for Alexander II in 1867 and when it came to his famous ‘Three Emperors Dinner’ (a famous dinner held at the Café Anglais in Paris in 1867 with King William I of Prussia, Tsar Alexander II and also his son, later Alexander III and Prince Otto von Bismarck), there were some instructions for Roederer. The bottle must be clear. He was keen to see the bubbles, but more importantly, he wanted to be able to see that no bombs were hidden within. The flat bottom was supposedly so no potential assassin could sneak broken glass or other dangerous foreign material into the bottle, where it might not be noticed as it slid down the side of the punt. Roederer commissioned a Flemish glassblower to make the clear bottle – authorities debate whether this first release was made from “lead glass” or “crystal” (as apparently, there was an easy swapping of the terms and the two substances being quite similar, it hardly matters as anything more than a technicality), but it quickly became known as ‘Cristal’. ❧




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OVER THE YEARS, CHAMPAGNE BOTTLES have been refined and improved. In the early days, the pressure within was both a blessing and a curse; a blessing, as the pressure/bubbles is the very thing which has created this wonderful sparkling wine, but a curse as the bottles were very often not able to hold the contents. They were simply not strong enough and explosions were common. Indeed, there are stories about how, in the early days of production, workers in the caves would wear protection, not too far short of a suit of armour or something akin, to protect themselves from flying glass. Even today, if you walk the cellars past the millions of bottles happily maturing in the cool, you will often see an occasional hole in the neat stack where a bottle has not been up to scratch and has exploded. Fortunately, it is much rarer today. Improvements came about as the technology of today allows for far stronger glass, while punts assisted in strengthening the bottle. Punts also assisted in stacking bottles, end to end. Some cynics have suggested that punts were introduced as they took up some of the volume in the bottle, thereby allowing a bottle to appear to have more contents in it than it actually did. Another improvement was the mechanism to hold the cork in place. In the early days, corks were tied down by string. This method was later changed to the much more effective wire cage, known as a muselet, allegedly invented in 1844 by Adolphe Jacquesson. Not that I ever remember to test it, but there are those who believe that every muselet is constructed so that it takes six half turns to open. The wire cage was a great improvement as eventually it could be attached by mechanical methods and not laboriously by hand, but especially because string created a problem in the cellars. Rats were rather partial to it and would gnaw through it, allowing the cork to explode forth. Flying glass was not the only thing that one needed to dodge in the cellars in days gone by.

There had been an attempt to circumvent this issue by the introduction of a capsule over the top of the bottle. This protected the string at the time, but more importantly, as this was the era of hand-disgorging, it was a clever way to prevent customers seeing exactly how much was in each bottle. Hand-disgorging gives a less precise result than happens with a machine. Finally, the capsule today has become an integral part of the marketing of a bottle of champagne. Champagne bottles are the birds of paradise of the wine industry, some exquisitely beautiful, while others are gaudy beyond belief. Which is what really comes down to personal taste. There are two classic Champagne bottles, instantly recognisable around the globe. Louis Roederer’s ‘Cristal’, is immediately appealing (the story is told elsewhere), as is the amazingly unique design for Perrier-Jouet’s ‘Belle Epoque’. The first vintage of Belle Epoque was the 1964. The exquisite bottle used for it was based on an original design created in 1902, by the famous French artist, Emile Gallé, who was inspired by Japanese art. The white anemones adorning the bottle are instantly recognisable around the world these days, but this icon nearly was never to be. Gallé passed away in 1904, from leukemia, and his business folded soon after and with it, the extraordinary enamelling techniques he had developed. Back in 1902, each bottle had to be hand made, making the cost prohibitive for the production of Champagne. When it was decided to use Gallé’s design for the new wine, the search was on to replicate the process and to ensure it could be produced in much greater volume. It took five years of trial and error before a Parisian glass studio was able to achieve this. The process involves relief enamelling, during which it is necessary to heat the bottle to 600°C. A Champagne label should provide the customer with all the information necessary, at least in theory. In practice, they fall short. A House such as Bruno

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Paillard, and more recently others, include the disgorgement date of that bottle. This is critical information to the discerning purchaser and one hopes that in the not too distant future, it is mandatory. There is a great deal of information that most Champagne Houses do not share with customers.

SO, WHAT DOES A STANDARD LABEL REVEAL? Every region in France must have the appellation clearly indicated on the bottle – for example, “Appellation Pauillac Controlee”. The exception is Champagne, which is allowed to simply have “Champagne” on the label, without reference to ‘appellation controlee’. Details of the producer – the name, together with the commune where the producer is registered (technically, they also need a trading address, if that is different) and, of course, there must be mention of France. The brand. As an example, in the case of Pol Roger’s finest, ‘Sir Winston Churchill’.  The level of alcohol, expressed as a percentage by volume. The size of the bottle. The style of the wine, in terms of sweetness. Hence, an indication if the wine is a Brut or Sec or... The vintage, or if appropriate, an indication that the wine is a non-vintage wine, together with details of the type of champagne, such as Blanc de Blancs, Rosé or... There will be an indication of the category of the producer (discussed elsewhere), shown by two initials, followed by the registration and code number. This is issued by the Comité Champagne. A batch code, though this is often stamped on the bottle. Allergens, such as sulphites, though these are usually indicated on the reverse/back label. There is scope for the inclusion of “the Green Dot symbol”, which references the collection of waste. Finally, the House may wish to include other information in respect of the cepage (basically, percentage of each grape in the blend), the character of the wine and any

other promotional information it deems fit. As mentioned, Bruno Paillard include the disgorgement date.

THE PRODUCERS If you look closely at a Champagne bottle, you’ll see an innocent little code – it is to be found on the label of every single bottle of Champagne sold. There will be two initials followed by numbers. The numbers, issued by the CIVC, are a code to the name and address of the licencee. It is possible that this ‘licencee’ may be an entirely separate entity to the brand on the label (not that any House wants you to know, or is likely to admit it, despite no illegality being involved, but there is a trade in unlabelled Champagne bottles, on occasion). For an example, Marne et Champagne is considered to be the second largest producer in the Champagne region, but good luck finding a bottle under that name. The two initials denote the type of producer. The CIVC figures indicate that there are

approximately 16,000 growers and 320 Houses in Champagne. Those growers own around 90 per cent of all the vineyards in Champagne, but a quick exercise in maths will reveal how little, on average, they each own. Founded in 1904, the growers union is the ‘Le Syndicat Général des vignerons de la Champagne’ (SGV). It also represents co-operatives. The growth of grower Champagnes has been a phenomenon over the last decade or two. To promote their interests, a further organisation was formed in 2001 – the ‘Les Champagnes de Vignerons’. This entity represents 5,000 growers and grower co-operatives. The Houses represent approximately two-thirds of all Champagne produced and 90 per cent of exports. Producers are divided up as follows – N.M. (Négociant Manipulant): All of the larger Houses fall within this group. This is the group of Houses or shippers who buy grapes, grapes must or even wine in order to make Champagne on their own premises and subsequently market it in their own name. They also may own their own vineyards as well.

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R.M. (Récoltant Manipulant): This refers to growers who grow their own grapes and then make and market their own Champagne. They are also permitted to sell grapes to others. C.M. (Coopérative de Manipulation): A co-operative of growers who produce and market Champagne under their own brand or brands. R.C. (Récoltant Co-opérateur): A co-operative member who sells a co-op produced Champagne under his own brand. S.R. (Société Récoltantes): A family firm of growers, making and marketing Champagne under its own label, using grapes sourced from family vineyards. N.D. (Négocant Distributeur): This refers to a distributor who buys in already made bottles of Champagne and then labels it on their own premises. M.A. (Marque d’Acheteur): Buyer’s own brand. This is an “own brand” wine label which is owned by a third party, whether a supermarket, wine retailer, celebrity or other entity. The Champagne for this ‘label’ will be made for them. ❧




DEBATE PERSISTS ABOUT WHETHER one uses the sharp edge or the blunt side – the latter usually considered correct. There is actually a special sword, a sabre à Champagne, which is made specifically for the single purpose of opening Champagne bottles in this manner. Usually reserved for ceremonial moments, sabrage is quite easy to do, provided you know the trick – if you do not, then please do not attempt this! Sabrage gained popularity with Napoleon’s officers who were attempting to impress a young widow, none other than Madame Clicquot herself. The world record for most bottles opened in this manner by one person in a single minute was set in Sweden early in 2015 – 55 bottles! ❧

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DESPITE CERTAIN NEWSPAPER REPORTS from so-called experts, do not serve your Champagne at room temperature (unless you live in an unheated basement in a castle located within the Arctic Circle). It should be chilled. Around 7 to 12C is ideal. Many would suggest an even narrower window – 8 to 10°C. Some insist on 6 to 8°C. If one wishes to be a little pedantic about this, the fresher and younger the Champagne, the more chilled it should be. Older and more complex Champagnes benefit from not being quite so chilly, though certainly that does not mean room temperature. Think chilled, but not ice-cold. Remember, the cooler the wine, the less forthcoming it is. Cold mutes flavours, whereas the warmer the wine, the more it reveals itself. But if too warm, it will look blousy, dull, clumsy and lose its finesse. Chilling the Champagne is usually done by placing it in the fridge (depending on the temperature of your fridge, somewhere between three to six hours will suit), or an ice bucket (at least 30 to 40 minutes) well in advance of opening. Make certain the ice bucket contains a near-equal mix of ice and cold water – far more effective than just ice. In emergencies, soak a tea towel in cold water, wrap it around the bottle and then place it in the freezer, though gentle and gradual chilling is always preferred. It is not unknown, though certainly not recommended unless as an absolute last resort, for some drinkers to put an ice-cube or two in their fizz to chill it. To be honest, if you are

at that stage, put your good Champagne aside for another time and grab a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc . If in a restaurant, feel free to ask the sommelier to bring an ice bucket if your Champagne needs an extra chill or to ensure it stays cold. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to have the sommelier remove it from the ice-bucket if it is too cool – some sommeliers have a bad habit of shoving the bottle deep into the ice every chance they get. To open the bottle, remove the foil wrapping and then carefully remove the wire cage – six rotations will do it. During this procedure, make absolutely certain that the bottle is, at all times, pointed away from yourself and away from everyone else in the room (and from the bitter experience of friends, aim away from any lights in the room – an errant flying cork smashed a fluorescent light over the table upon which their Christmas dinner had been laid out, resulting in every dish ruined by shards of glass). As you remove the wire cage, keep hold of the cork, no matter how tightly stuck it might seem. The figures for serious eye injuries and even blindness, resulting from flying corks, are staggering. Statistics confirm that, in France, most eye injuries are caused by flying Champagne corks. I’m sure that is the case in many other countries as well.  To remove the cork, hold it and twist the bottle – the cork is far less likely to break off if you do this – until you feel it coming loose. Then ease it out gently.

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The Champagne should make very little noise – ‘a contended sigh’ is one famous description. A loud pop might be festive, but it is inevitably followed by a foaming rush of the precious liquid all over the floor. Unless you have just won a Formula One race, this is best avoided. Let’s be honest, Champagne is not cheap – why waste it? If you are having trouble getting the cork out, putting a towel over it for better grip can help. If, for any reason whatsoever, you take your hand off the cork after removing the wire cage, no matter how solidly jammed in it might seem, then make certain that there is a tea towel or rag placed over the cork. That won’t save any Champagne, which happens to foam up and out, but it might save an eye.  Most crucial of all in serving Champagne is the glass; it is crazy to spend a fortune on great Champagne (and this applies to wine as well), and then drink it from a sub-par vessel, which inhibits the glories that the Champagne can offer. Buy the best glasses you can afford, and if that means you have a little less to spend on the fizz at the moment, don’t worry. You will be rewarded in the long-term.  First, ignore anyone who suggests you should pre-chill your glasses. It will diminish the sparkle and is to be avoided.  Also to be avoided are the atrocious coupe style glasses – they are better left to nostalgic 70s-themed prawn cocktails. They are allegedly modelled on the breast

Champenois are starting to serve their sparklers in white wine glasses as the larger surface areas give more aromas, complexity and a creamier texture

of Marie-Antoinette (the cover of Patrick Forbes’ excellent book, ‘Champagne’, has a photo of the last remaining ‘original coupes’ from the four originals – at the time of publication, it was in the possession of ‘The Antique Porcelain Company of London and New York’). The original coupe was around a few centuries before the Queen of France offered her services as a model – perhaps she simply wanted a suitable vessel from which to drink her Champagne while she enjoyed her cake. Although, today, the coupe is rightfully considered to be the closest thing to a crime against humanity for use in drinking Champagne, centuries ago the wine was far less effervescent, meaning that it was not quite such a travesty to use a coupe to drink it from. This leads us to Champagne flutes; there are many slight variations, but flutes and tulip-shaped glasses are the ideal receptacles. The flat coupe allows the sparkle to dissipate very quickly, rendering your precious Champagne flat and lifeless. The much narrower flute traps much more of the bubble in the wine, releasing it far slower, ensuring the Champagne retains its fizz for longer. Too narrow and the aroma of the Champagne, often a highlight, has nowhere to go, which is why tulip-shaped glass has advantages. You can even go with a standard white wine glass, if absolutely necessary. What is key is that the opening is not quite as wide as the bowl of the glass as this assists in concentrating the aromas of the wine.

We are seeing considerable debate amongst authorities as to the best glass. Famous glassmaker, Georg Riedel, has been quoted in ‘Drinks Business’ as noting that the “Champenois are starting to serve their sparklers in white wine glasses as the larger surface areas give more aromas, complexity and a creamier texture. Flutes are too narrow and don’t allow the aroma and richness of the Champagne to shine as there isn’t enough air space”. This view is reflected in the glasses the producer offers for Champagne and other sparkling wines. The head of the House of Taittinger, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, has expressed a slightly different view, seeing the move to wine glasses from traditional flutes as a conflict with marketers.  One interesting thing to consider, which the boffins amongst us assure me is correct, is that if the glass sides of a Champagne flute are perfect, without the slightest imperfection, you will end up with no bubbles, no matter how fresh the Champagne. The carbon dioxide needs something on which to form – hence, when you look at a glass of Champagne, the lines of bubbles forming the bead all seem to come from the exact same spots on the side of the glass. Those spots indicate tiny imperfections. True? Yes, according to the boffins. There are stories that certain high quality stemware makers will have a tiny scratch etched into the bottom of their Champagne glasses to ensure that there will be fizz!  All that said, if your Champagne is flat, it is not necessarily the fault of a ‘perfect glass’. More likely, the glass has

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not been properly cleaned. It is always wise to avoid cleaning your top flutes and tulip-shaped glasses in the dishwasher or, if you must, ensure that they are then thoroughly rinsed in hot water. Any trace of dishwashing liquid, even so much as the merest film, can flatten a glass of fizz instantaneously. So hand washing, hot water, thoroughly rinsed and then left out to air dry is the best way. Polishing the glasses over a source of steam, with a cotton cloth, is another way of ensuring your glasses will be in prime condition. Be careful of glasses that have been stored away in a box for too long as they can develop an unpleasant mustiness. If you intend to use glasses which have been in long-term storage in a box, again, rinse thoroughly in hot water. When pouring, hold the bottle by the base, not the neck. Pour gently. Some authorities insist the glass should be upright but a slightly angled glass will ensure that there is less agitation of the liquids and the bubbles are retained for longer to pour. And if the Champagne is foaming up, don’t be afraid to pour in several steps. In fact, that is recommended. Ideally, the glass should be no more than one-third to a half full.  Remember that is easy for a glass to warm up if served too cold (even a quick cupping of the bowl in the hands will assist): much more difficult for the reverse, to chill a warm glass, once it has been served.   All that remains is for you to toast and enjoy! ❧



How to Taste THE FUN PART! TASTING CAN BE AS SIMPLE AS enjoying a glass with friends or family, sharing a celebration such as a wedding or festival, or it can be as serious and as much of an intellectual exercise as those participating wish. Whatever the occasion or event, there are ways to ensure one gets the most from the glass in your hand. As with all wine tasting, it comes down to eye, nose and taste.  To begin, the ‘eyes’ have it. Champagne should be clear – yellow/green/gold – with a bead, but older vintages can be much darker. There should be no sediment or cloudiness and if the wine is dull, questions should be asked. Extremely old vintages may have barely a bubble and some may even appear flat to the eye, though may still offer a little tingle on the palate, but these are rare. Rosé champagne will range from the barest pale-pink tinge to an almost neon, incandescent pink-purple. Blanc de Noirs is likely to have a deeper, bronze-gold hue, while a young Blanc de Blancs will be near gin-clear.  Check the bead and mousse of the Champagne. Tiny bubbles tend to indicate quality, while big frogs’ eye-like bubbles are indicative of much cheaper sparkling. There are suggestions that Chardonnay dominant wines have smaller bubbles than others. In the mouth, the mousse should feel lively and persistent (an exception might be made for older Champagnes) with tiny bubbles.  When smelling the bouquet of Champagne, it becomes clear why a suitable glass, which helps to trap and direct the fragrances and allows for a gentle swirl to release the myriad of aromas previously trapped within the wine, is necessary. Both taste and smell are personal attributes, which will differ from individual to individual. Also, the level of each person’s expertise and experience will contribute to

what one can take from every sniff and sip. After it is poured, give the champagne a moment in the glass before sticking your nose in it. That immediate release of the effect of the carbonation can be a little like a punch in the nose. A few seconds is more than enough.  The initial sniff should provide further clues as to whether the Champagne is a fresh, young wine or a mature, aged and complex offering. Older Champagnes often have a wonderful truffly, toasty character, often attributed to autolysis. Whatever the wine might reveal, it is always worth taking a moment to enjoy it. Far too often, drinkers will take their glass and start quaffing it, missing so much of the glory that is before them.  There is a school of thought that if you must favour a nostril, and some do, make it your right nostril. The left hemisphere of your brain is considered to be the important side when assessing aromas and fragrances. The receptor signals from the nostrils cross on their way to the brain, hence your right nostril is the key to improved smelling.  Moving to tasting, don’t just sip and swallow. Swirl the wine around in your mouth and take in some air to help open it up. This will assist in revealing so much of what the Champagne in your glass has to offer.  Then we come to questions of flavours, style, structure, complexity, balance and length. All of these should be answered by nosing and tasting the wine. Levels of sweetness and acidity are detected on the tongue. Are there any faults in the wine – although things are better than they were, there are still too many bottles of champagne affected by cork taint. How much fruit is there – less and less as the wine ages. What is its potential?  There are endless questions and answers to be found in every sip. The most important

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question is very simple; do you like it? From there, if you are half serious about appreciating your Champagne as much as you can, take some notice of the styles and the Houses that you really enjoy. Champagnes differ far more than most realise and House styles can be chalk and cheese.  A few other things to remember. If you are tasting with food, and the ideal situation is to enjoy your Champagne with friends, family and a good meal, the food will impact on the taste. It is extraordinary to conduct tastings where participants taste Champagnes on their own, and rate them. Then, they are served with various foods. The results can vary widely, with some showing far better and others seemingly diminished.  If you have a cold, your tasting ability is adversely affected. Make sure that no one is wearing heavy perfume or cologne (and that can be a touchy subject to raise, but it does make a difference). Smokers think they are doing everyone a favour, ducking outside for a quick cigarette before returning to the tasting. While it is certainly a better option than lighting up mid-tasting, and we’ve seen that on occasion, they don’t seem to understand that as they return inside, they bring with them the smell of stale smoke and ash.  Don’t be afraid to scribble down a few notes when tasting. There is a time and a place, of course, and sometimes it will not be possible, but it does help. You might think you’ll remember which Champagne you preferred and what it tasted like, but you’d be surprised how difficult that can be the next day, especially if there are a few bottles.  All of the above usually comes down to a little common sense, but it all helps you to enjoy your Champagne that little bit more. ❧

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FOR THE ‘VINTAGE’ WINES, IT IS obviously as important here as elsewhere, and we have discussed how different vintages contribute in different ways to the non-vintage wines, via the blending process. Assessments of vintages begin the moment the harvest commences these days – in Champagne as in most every region. The difference here is that the method used to make Champagne means that final decisions are delayed and should a vintage not prove worthy for release as a ‘vintage’, it can be considered for inclusion in the non-vintage wines. In addition, we have to wait far longer to make a final decision on the success or otherwise of a vintage than elsewhere.  Several other matters for consideration; some years are seen as Pinot vintages, while others are considered as advantageous for Chardonnay – some, of course, are good (or possibly poor), for both varieties. A recent example is 2005, not seen as a great year but one which does favour Chardonnay. In 2002, the angels were on the side of Pinot Noir. More mature examples – both the large 1982 and tiny 1985 were considered great years. In 1982, it was the Chardonnay which was especially good, while in 1985, Pinot Noir was the pick.  We are seeing far more ‘good’ years than ever before and there are two reasons for this; in all regions of the world, expertise in both viticulture and winemaking have greatly increased (there have been commensurate improvements in associated technology as well). This has meant that many years which, in the past, might have been largely unsalvageable, now produce perfectly serviceable wines. Secondly, climate change might be a

concept which strikes fear around the globe, but in those winemaking areas which are on the viticultural cusp, such as Champagne and parts of Germany, climate change is looked on with a great deal more fondness. The increase in regional temperatures might be slight (at this stage), but they have resulted in considerably more vintages of quality. So much so that a really poor vintage is almost a thing of the past – not quite, as 2001 will prove (many include 2003 in that category, but it is a much more divisive year, with both detractors and supporters). Finally, it is worth noting that although the reputation of vintages in all parts of the globe ebb and flow, in Champagne, it can take years to confirm the quality of a year, or realise it will never match the hype. Sometimes both. 1996 is a great example. Right from harvest, it was touted as one of the all time greats, and so it seemed in the early days. After a considerable period of time, it was felt that perhaps there were issues and that the wines simply were not as exciting as was once believed. The pendulum has swung back and most now still see many 1996 wines as yet to reach the heights to which they are surely destined.  This was a lesson I learnt from my early visits to the region. At the time of my first visit, in the early 1990’s, everyone was raving about the glorious trio – 1990, 1989 and 1988. There was universal acclaim for 1990 as one of the great years of the century; 1989 was considered a close second; and while 1988 was popular, it was the runt of the litter in most eyes. When I returned a year or two later, 1990 still ruled, but for most, 1988 had overtaken 1989. On subsequent visits, many considered 1988 to have exceeded even the lofty standard of 1990. Whether

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or not it has will be one of those late evening debates, never solved but fun in which to participate. Certainly, 1988 is one of my favourite all-time vintages and well cellared examples are truly glorious wines with years ahead of them. Vintage charts/assessments should always be taken with a grain of salt, and the larger the region, the more saline. Vintage conditions will vary across any district, meaning some wines will exceed any generalisation, while others will fall short. It is often safer to stick with producers and styles you know and love. Also, the older the wine/vintage, the more opportunity chance has to randomly ‘interfere’. With cork as the stopper for Champagne, there will always be variation between individual bottles. Storage conditions will be crucial as well and the longer a wine has been denied good cellaring then the more chance it will fail to meet expectations.  With Champagne, there is no real point in including the most recent harvests as they will not be on the market for some time and much can, and does, happen to the wines in the intervening period. Finally, any vintage chart for any wine region can only ever be subjective. Personally, I loved the 1975s and have very rarely been excited by Champagnes from 1976, yet many would argue the contrary.  Taking all that into account, here is a general look at recent years, and some more distant.  2014 – It is simply far too early to offer any definitive statement on this harvest, as it will be years before we see the wines, if any. The conventional wisdom is that it seems to be a decent year, with the potential for vintage Champagnes, though remember that the Champenois are no

different to any other wine producers in that they are always keen to promote anything ‘Champagne’, at any time. And they do it better than anyone else. 2013 – Right from the start, the hype has been massive for this vintage. Some compare it to 1995 and 1996, others 2008 and 2002 (though we are really still to see anything from ‘08) and yet others, 1982 and 1988. All of these are exceptional years, so much is expected. What will be interesting in time is comparing 2013 with 2012, as both have strong supporters. 2013 was a late harvest and hail had done some earlier damage. 2012 – Too early for all these vintages for any certainty, but few have ever been hyped quite as much as 2012. Some were very quick to declare that it would definitely be a vintage year for their House, while a few were not quite so excited and have held back. A few others have said that they will not release a vintage, as they want the material as reserves for their non-vintage wine. The likelihood is that, in the decades ahead, this will be considered one of the best vintages of the early part of the century. 2011 – Considered as a stronger Pinot Noir year than it was for Chardonnay, but overall, it seems unlikely that many Houses will be rushing to declare a vintage. Not a great year, or even a good one. 2010 – Careful selection of berries was needed in what is seen as a largely difficult year, with rot causing problems. Most Houses are likely to use 2010 as a year to bolster reserves, rather than release a vintage. Worth noting that both 2010 and 2009 in Champagne were not stellar years, yet both Burgundy and Bordeaux saw great vintages.

2009 – Largely uninspiring. The word is that there will not be a great number of vintage wines released. Those that are released will be generous and approachable. The strength lies with the Pinot Noir. Probably the pick of the years 2009 – 2011. 2008 – It seemed difficult early conditions might mar this vintage, but a dry August and warm September saw many brilliant wines. They have the classic balance of freshness and ripeness. This is, according to all reports, a very exciting vintage. It is very likely to sit with 2002 (and to a lesser extent, 2004) as the best of the decade. Others go so far as to suggest that it is the finest year since the legendary 1996. 2007 – A variable year with some rather unappealing weather mixed in with lovely days. The level of acidity is considered above average. The consensus seems to be that Pinot Noir outperformed Chardonnay. There will be vintage wines, though how many remains to be seen. The style of wine is likely to be quite powerful, needing time. Expect to see early offerings hitting the shelves any time soon. 2006 – Hot in Summer, a little miserable in August, but a warm and pleasant September saved the year and we are seeing many fine examples. The feeling is that they may not be truly exceptional but will provide good drinking in the shorter term. Pinot Noir tends to get the nod over Chardonnay. As always, there are numerous opinions on every vintage. I’ll confess to being a fan of the many of the 2006 wines I’ve so far encountered. 2005 – There are some strong critics of 2005. I’m no great fan, but I do think that there are plenty of releases from this vintage, which will provide

much enjoyment over the shorter term. Chardonnay is considered the superior variety this year. The wines tend to the riper style with lowish acidity, as a generalisation, meaning that if care was not taken, they could offer a touch of coarseness, but, like every year, there will always be some wines which transcend the limits imposed by the conditions. That said, not a year to go overboard. I have seen some reports that this vintage exceeds 2006. No doubt it will be a House to House proposition, but overall, I don’t see it. 2004 – Now we are talking. A large vintage, larger even than 1990 and 1982, but also one of excellent quality – a rare combination – though not quite as good as 2002. Structure and balance are the hallmarks. The Chardonnay is especially good. Some find the year lacking charm, though I struggle to see that as an issue. Many Houses either have, or will, release a vintage from this year. Close to first class. 2003 – Perhaps the most controversial year in many decades. Some see it as utter trash, which should never have been put in a bottle. Others find hidden glories. I tend to the former. There were early frosts (don’t be conned by certain Houses promoting the year with photos of snow-covered vineyards), but this was a stinking hot vintage. The hottest in a very long time. Some like to compare it with other hot vintages like 1976 and 1959, but it seems to exhibit less balance, less appeal. And did I mention the hail? On the positive side, it was a very small year in terms of volume. Pinot Noir would be considered more successful than Chardonnay. As much as the team at Dom Perignon insist that this is one for the ages, >>

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most Houses which did release a vintage must surely expect them to be for drinking sooner than later. There are certainly a number of releases from 2003. Krug is probably the pick. Bollinger half squibbed it by releasing a wine they dubbed ‘2003 by Bollinger’, so they could release a vintage but have it as an outlier. I have never understood why. 2002 – One of the best. Ideal conditions led to superb wines. They deserve a place in every serious cellar. Power, balance and finesse. If a House did not release a vintage wine from 2002, questions should be asked (Charles Heidsieck has announced that they needed the fruit for their reserve wines, which will help ensure the superb quality of their non-vintage in coming years). 2002 has been compared with 1982 – it is surely as good. 2001 – Very rare to find a vintage wine from this disaster of a year – a rotten vintage in every sense. Philipponnat’s ‘Clos des Goisses’ is an exception, but that unique vineyard always proceeds to the beat of a different drum. The poorest year since the dire 1984. 2000 – A solid year but hardly a spectacular one. Serious hail did not help things. Many of the wines will provide enjoyable drinking in the early term. In other words, drink up. There are a lot of Houses which declared a vintage – some for the quality of their wines, but a cynic might think that there was a strong desire to have a release from such an auspicious year as “2000”, especially for marketing amongst the Asian markets. The 1990’s – A decade which started in the most glorious manner with the wonderful 1990 vintage. Plenty of wines still have an exuberance and richness, with a long life ahead. This is one of the great vintages,

not just of the decade, but of the century. Unfortunately, things then did not fare so well. 1991 to 1994 were all average at best, with ‘92 and ‘93 the better years. 1995 is a curious year. Had it not been followed by the stellar 1996, we may be talking about it in hushed and reverential tones, but by any standard, this is a superb vintage – a classic. The best wines will age impressively for years. The current Charles Heidsieck ‘Blanc des Millénaires’ is from 1995. Definitely worth chasing. 1996, as may have been mentioned a few times, is something very special, but again, there are differing opinions. It received all the accolades imaginable in the early days, but some have subsequently queried its longevity, while others have become even more enamoured with it over time. The vintage offered both ripeness and high acidity in a combination not seen since the amazing 1928. My view would be never miss the chance to try one and for those blessed with this vintage in their cellars, there is no hurry (and lucky you). It is impossible to think of a House which didn’t release a 1996. 1997 has largely been forgotten, but it was fair, with some decent wines released, none better than Bollinger. 1998 and 1999 have inspired much debate, though both had issues and neither is stellar. Both have their supporters and it is largely a House to House matter. For me, the early vintage is the superior year. It is more classic, while the 1999s are softer and easier. Like 1988, the reputation of 1998 started slowly and has been increasing ever since. Plenty of decent drinking from both years but if you have the option, go 1998. The 1980s – 1980 was fair and largely long forgotten, while 1981 slipped into the shadows, rather undeservedly. It was a

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small year, but one with long-lived wines, though not universally declared. 1982 was a brilliant year, both large volume and scintillating quality. Chardonnay was the star and anyone so fortunate as to come across a blanc de blancs from this wonderful year is in for a treat. 1983 was even bigger and looked to have potential but aged far quicker than expected. 1984 was a shocker. 1985 was a personal favourite, many Champagnes offering glorious black cherry notes from the quality Pinot Noir. Sadly, it was a tiny year. 1986 saw some pleasant wines, especially where Chardonnay dominated, but most have long faded. 1987 offered little. Then come the far-from-identical twin vintages of 1988 and 1989. The latter was rich, forward, little subtlety but oodles of flavour. A year offering plenty of delicious drinking, though all but the very best should have long been consumed. 1988, on the other hand, was the epitome of the ugly-duckling-turnedglorious-swan. Reticent at first, this is now considered a classic vintage, but very much an elegant one. The better wines still have much to offer and should do so for many years to come. One of the greatest vintages of all time. The 1970s and beyond – There are many great Champagnes from this and earlier decades but these days, it depends very much on how well they have been cellared. 1979 was a lyrical year; 1976 a full and fat vintage but a popular one; 1975 was high quality, as was 1973 and 1971. Prior to that, the best years are considered to be 1969, 1966, 1964 (brilliant), 1961, 1959 (hot, but rich and delicious), 1955 and 1953. Prior to those, 1900, 1911, 1914, 1921, 1928 (perhaps the greatest of all), 1929, 1934 and the War years, 1943 and 1945. Finally, 1947 and 1949. ❧

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TALK CHAMPAGNE AND FOOD AND WE have those foods which match perfectly, and those from the region. Of course, many fall in both camps. And these days, the region’s position as the crossroads of France benefits it greatly in ensuring that all manner of produce and goodies are available to be enjoyed with Champagne. This has helped compensate, to a degree, as the region does not seemed to have developed quite the full and unique cuisine that most regions of France can boast. Not to say that there are not many delicious options. Cheese is, of course, stellar – but then one could say that about every region throughout France. The Brie is world renowned, deservedly so, though please avoid the industrial efforts that one finds lining supermarket shelves. Brie de Meaux comes from near the Aisne district of Champagne. It is claimed that Brie de Meaux has been made in the region since the 9th century and an early fan was Charlemagne himself – but then the Champenois have always been peerless marketers. The cheese is coated with dry salt before ageing for a month. There are many “sub-species” of Brie that are equally worth trying. Langres is a soft cow’s milk cheese, with a slightly briny character, highly regarded as a match for Champagne – many will suggest that there is none better. Maroilles is a slightly hardened cow’s milk cheese, best enjoyed in its youth before its pungency impacts on the wine. For something a little decadent, the triple-cream Explorateur is worth seeking out (Boursault is another). Cendre des Riceys is a soft cheese which has been rolled in the ashes of burnt Pinot Noir vines. Chaource is another popular soft cow’s milk cheese from the region. The cheese choices are extensive if one is going local and endless if one goes beyond the boundaries. For me, while it might not come from the Champagne region, nor even France, one of the great food and

wine matches is a chunk of ParmigianoReggiano with a richer, more complex Champagne. Heaven. Of course, there is so much more on offer in Champagne than just cheese. The region is famous for game – indeed, many of the local winemakers are also keen hunters. Wild boar is popular, as are deer, ducks, hares, rabbits and a range of game birds. You’ll find them all in local restaurants. This leads us to andouillettes, (a type of sausage, but as closely related to the sausages most of us are familiar with, as the Statue of Liberty is to a garden gnome) and in particular, andouillettes de Troyes. There is no escaping that it is one of those love-itor-would-not-try-it-at-the-point-of-a-gun dishes. It is made from pork chitterlings, a nice way of saying pigs’ intestines and stomachs, and has been enjoyed in the region since the Middle Ages (for the record, I am definitely in the ‘love-it’ camp). It is often served with cabbage, in the form of a local choucroute – pickled cabbage. Andouillettes are seasoned with onions, spices, pepper and herbs, before they are wrapped in pork bowels and then slowly simmered in a stock for five to six hours. What’s not to like! Pigs’ trotters and the smoked tongue of a sheep are also popular. Boudin blanc, a white pork sausage, is a local specialty, traditionally enjoyed over the Christmas period – with a glass of Champagne, of course. Local legend suggests it had its origins in the proclamation in 1626, by Cardinal Richelieu, to prohibit duels. A tenuous link, possibly, but apparently the nobleman, Chamarande, was a keen duelist. He found himself in some serious trouble and so fled to the local town of Rethel to avoid prosecution (the sausage is sometimes referred to as the boudin blanc de Rethel). He opened his own establishment and his fame grew, thanks to this sausage he created – unlike most sausages, it eschews the use

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of bread or starch – pork, shallots, milk, eggs, salt and pepper is it, though some allow the addition of foie gras or truffles! Some recipes do now allow for starch. To cook, slowly fry it in butter. Its fame was such that it was even served to English nobility. In 2001, boudin blanc de Rethel gained PGI status (protected geographical indication). Such is its popularity, in 1986, the ‘Brotherhood of Boudin blanc de Rethel’ was created, in order for its many fans to enjoy it with fellow devotees. This is also a region known for mushrooms (a mushroom risotto is a brilliant match for an older, richer, more complex Champagne, as are black truffles – white truffles work better with a blanc de blancs) and ham, but the great treasure is found in the local rivers and lakes. Trout, eels, pike, crayfish and much more all find their way to the table, often in a matelote (which sounds like it is something that should be used in a bullfight but is actually a fish stew with wine, usually red but white versions are known, and why not, given the local offering – purists will insist it include eel). In season, the region is well known for its white asparagus. One authority even claimed that Champagne was famous for its salads – which I don’t think was intended as an insult. Desserts are where things get trickier. It seems traditional to serve a Rosé Champagne with dessert – we’ve all seen it countless times. For me, this is the laziest, most thoughtless attempt at food and wine pairing imaginable – an insult to the wine. It almost never works – a dry wine with a sweet dish: what do they expect – and I can only think of two reasons that it is done (and neither reason is a good one). First, they look for somewhere to put the Rosé Champagne and can find nowhere else, so they hide it at the end of the meal. May one suggest that instead, they try it with lamb, salmon,

pigeon, game or so many other possibilities. Few wines work as well with duck. Secondly, because the colour of the wine is so often a delightful festive hue, it seems that some people relegate the wine to that of nothing more than a frivolous fizz and have it at the conclusion of the meal to add a splash of blush. If you want to enjoy Champagne with dessert, simply opt for one of the sweeter styles. Don’t ruin your Rosé, or your dessert. One possible exception – you might be served the famous biscuit rose de Reims, their pink biscuits, which are often dipped in Champagne to be enjoyed. One you can get away with! Desserts are hardly the only ‘should avoid’ moment with Champagne. Artichokes are fairly obvious. Citrus juices, raw onions, peanuts, olives and foods that are too spicy are also best ignored as a match, though Champagne will handle some spice better than most foods. Some authorities feel it is a disaster with eggs and also with tropical fruits – though much depends on how they are served. Anything too acidic is simply wrong and beware vinegar. So what works? So many things. Simple matches are often the best and a little common sense will get you a long way. A fresh, light opening dish; perhaps fresh seafood, screams out for a good Blanc de Blancs. What better for a freshly shucked oyster, or a little caviar? Game dishes need a richer, heavier Champagne; perhaps a Blanc de Noirs, or consider this the place to serve that Rosé. And so on. A simple meal with no focus on either the wine or the food – perhaps the perfect time for a pleasant non-vintage. Balance is key. Never allow the food to overwhelm your Champagne, in any aspect. And remember, there are occasions when a great Champagne can be taken to even loftier heights by the right dish. ❧

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NV Ruinart Brut Rosé, Reims Still living up to its House style of Chardonnay dominant (45 per cent), this rose Champagne has had 19 per cent still Pinot Noir wine blended into the cuvee to result in a lovely bright, fresh, fragrant rosé Champagne with notes of wild strawberry, pink peppercorn, pomegranate, red cherries and a chalky minerality, which will cut through the richness of the pâté.

Chicken liver paté with currant relish, cornichons, and toasted brioche Chicken livers are marinated in garlic, port, madeira, thyme, bay leaf. They are gently cooked in butter and blended with whole eggs. It is served with current relish, cornichons, watercress and toasted brioche. Currant relish is dried currants simmered until plump then cooked with orange peel, port, cinnamon, sugar and red currant jelly. Served with cornichons.

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2002 House of Arras Vintage Brut ‘EJ Carr LD (Late Disgorged) Tasmania This is the 5th release of Ed Carr’s Late Disgorged Sparkling, with the philosophy that it is ready to drink when it is released. Chardonnay dominant (54 per cent with Pinot Noir). The sparkling spends 10 years on lees to develop complexity, creaminess & richness. With notes of stone fruit, peaches, honey nougat, sourdough and truffle. The richness pairs well with the duck fat cooked pork.

Pork rillettes with pickled vegetables and grilled sourdough Pork neck are confit with duck fat, shredded and then mix with Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard and confit onion. Finish with parsley. Served with grilled sourdough and pickled vegetables (zucchini, beetroot, cauliflower) and Dijon aioli underneath the pickled vegetables.

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NV Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ Inspired by the Iconic Krug Clos de Mesnil – 100 per cent Chardonnay, spending a few years in oak, before bottled for 3-4 years prior to disgorgement. With a low dosage, it is an Extra Brut in style, with notes of refreshing citrus, yellow grapefruit, lemon, star anise and chalky fresh acidity, ideal for the citrus cured Kingfish

Citrus cured kingfish and watermelon tartare with feta avocado and cucumber Citrus cured kingfish served with watermelon, feta, avocado, cucumber finished with a lemon dressing. Red sorrel on top.

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NV G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge, Reims Pinot Noir dominant (45 per cent) along with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, this is a classic aperitif Style from the 4th largest Champagne House, dry, Fresh, lemon zest, red apples- ideal palate cleansing with the “Fruits of the Sea”

PLATEAU DE FRUITS DE MER Moreton bay bug , Tiger Prawns, Alaskan king crab ($20 each) All cooked but served COLD. Served with cocktail sauce and a lemon wedge

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2006 Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Vintage, Épernay Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier fruit from the Côtes de Blanc. The house style of fresh pears, white peach, lemon, brioche, toasted almonds with a fine acid line. The toasty, nutty notes an ideal pairing with the creamy goats curd, mushroom and pine nuts of the gnocchi.

Sauté of herb gnocchi with portobello mushrooms, butternut pumpkin, goat’s curd, pine nuts and sage Gnocchi romaine (milk + butter + semolina + eggs yolk) finished with mixed herbs (tarragon, parsley and chives), lightly floured and sautéed till golden brown. Served with portobello mushrooms, butternut pumpkin, sautéed white onions and pine nuts. Finish with beurre noisette. On top Woodside goats curd, shaved parmesan and mixed cress.

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2004 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, Reims 100 per cent Chardonnay, first produced by Taittinger in 1952, with all fruit sourced from 6 Grand Cru sites. A minimum of 8 years on lees, resulting in a rich, nutty, creamy complex wine, with white flowers, pineapple, candied lemon. Arguably one of the best Champagnes in the world. The richness pairs well with the decadence of the “Tart Du Jour”

Apple tarte tatin, cinnamon ice cream, calvados crème fraiche Caramelized apple tart, puff pastry, cinnamon ice cream. Finished with crème fraiche aromatised with calvados

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Sommelier Tips You OPPOSITE PAGE: Group Sommelier, Pip Anderson, Merivale Group

HAVING BEEN A CHEF FOR 10 YEARS, Pip Anderson developed a love for wine so when an opportunity for her to study wine arose, when the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) came to Sydney in 2009, she was converted and thus began her career as a Sommelier. Today Pip holds a WSET Diploma Graduate and is also on her way to becoming a WSET Educator. Passionate about winemaking and two years into her Oenology Degree at Charles Sturt University, in 2012 she was part Wine Baptism of Fire, an amateur winemaking competition for Sommeliers. Explore caught up with Pip to discuss Champagne myths, the best vintages and how best to choose from an extensive wine list. Do you have a rule of thumb for pairing specific styles and varietals with food? One does try to look for balance with food and wine pairing; looking for similar acid and flavour profiles in each dish and pairing it to similar characteristics in wine. That being said, sometimes pairing what you may think is the polar opposite ends up working really well. The incredible part of this side of the industry, is that everyone’s palates are different and diverse. I personally have a high tolerance to bitterness, meaning I can find delight in most wine and food pairings. But, I need to bear in mind my guests may be highly sensitive to bitterness, which means they could find a particular pairing unbearable. The easiest way to determine someone’s palate is to find out what kind of coffee they drink. If it’s a short or long black or even black tea, I can safely assume they have a high tolerance to bitter and acidic properties in comparison to someone who drinks a latte.   For some, a wine list can be quite overwhelming. What’s key to look for when selecting a good quality wine? A good wine list, despite how large or small, will cover a breadth of styles and price points in a clear and concise manner to assist a customer in making a decision. If there is

a Sommelier, engage with them. Tell them what you like to drink and what you have enjoyed in the past. It can be a bit like an options game - we are here to help narrow the selection down for you and ensure you will be drinking something you will enjoy. There are a number of myths around how best to store an opened bottle of Champagne, can you share what you believe is the best way to maintain the bubbles? When storing Champagne after opening, it needs to be about retaining the atmospheres (the bubbles) in the wine. So the ‘myth’ of the silver spoon in the neck of the bottle is not going to assist in retaining those atmospheres when the wine is in contact with air. A Champagne stopper is the most effective, as it is sealing the wine closed. There are also some expensive gas induced machines on the market which do work, but at the end of the day there is only one way to preserve the freshness and mousse (bubbles), in Champagne; drink the whole bottle!   There are a number of different styles of Champagne glassware, what style do you best recommend?  Flutes are popular and they do serve as a sign of celebration. The saucers/coupes that were popular in the prohibition times (1920s) look great, but are fairly tricky to drink from after the second or third glass… too many Champagnes have been a casualty to being spilled out of these. Riedel will be phasing out the flutes for a white wine styled Champagne glass from 2021. This is a cause of debate at the moment; as most, I believe that this will be better, as the deeper the glass bowl, the more aromas are detected. There will be some initial backlash as the flutes have been a staple glassware for decades now, so it is imperative we are all talking to our customers and getting them ready for this transition.   In your opinion, what is the best vintage for Champagne and Sparkling wines? There are many great vintages and of course

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it does also come down to the Champagne House and their level of quality. For Champagne 1996, 1999, 2005 were definitely spectacular, with 2008 looking to be quite promising as well. What Champagne and sparkling houses would you recommended to visit? The top five will always gain the attention they deserve: Veuve Clicquot, Moet & Chandon, Ruinart, Bollinger, Billecart-Salmon and Taittinger as Houses are definitely worth seeing. And if time permits, seeking the smaller, grower based Champagne Houses which offer another way of looking into Champagne: Larmandier Bernier and Jacquesson would be my recommendations.   Do you have any preference for New World versus Old World wines? I don’t have a preference, as it would be like asking who is my favourite child. I love both styles of wine and there is a time and place for both these wines to be enjoyed. Food will usually dictate the direction of my wine choice.   For anyone looking to become a Sommelier or further his or her wine knowledge, what advice can you give? Jump in feet first! Wine is a history degree.. with a lot of passion! The breadth and depth never ceases. Be passionate about learning more, and get tasting. Taste everything. Attend as many trade days and masterclasses as possible, and if you are already working in a restaurant or wine bar, ask your colleagues to let you taste the wines they open. It’s all about training your palate memory. The Sydney Wine Academy at Ryde Tafe offer Wine & Spirit Education (WSET) courses from Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced & Diploma levels, which are a basic requirement nowadays on the floor. As is the Court Of Master Sommeliers (CMS) Certified, which was just recently in Sydney.   Who do you most admire in the wine industry? That’s an easy one. Franck Moreau MS. ❧

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Evolution of the Champagne glass WHEN WE TALK ABOUT GLASSWARE FOR CHAMPAGNE, A LOT OF US THINK THERE’S AN OBVIOUS ANSWER – THE TRUSTY FLUTE. BUT ELEVENTH GENERATION GLASS MAKING COMPANY RIEDEL, WHO INVEST HEAVILY INTO OBSESSING ABOUT THE NUANCES OF GLASSWARE SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO, ARE ON A CRUSADE TO RE-EDUCATE CHAMPAGNE DRINKERS ABOUT THE BEST WAY TO ENJOY THE WORLD’S MOST CELEBRATED DRINK. THEY BELIEVE THAT WHEN IT COMES TO BUBBLY, YOU SHOULD IGNORE THE BUBBLES ALTOGETHER AND THINK OF CHAMPAGNE JUST LIKE ANY OTHER WINE. THIS MEANS THAT, LIKE ANY GOOD WINE, CHAMPAGNE NEEDS A GOOD WINE GLASS. CHAMPAGNE GLASSES HAVE GONE through a huge evolution over the years, more so than any other type of glassware. The coupe was notably the first glass designed specifically for Champagne. Rumour has it that this glass was modelled on Marie Antoinette’s left breast; however the origin of the glass pre-dates the French Queen by more than a century so, while a good story, it isn’t true; although she certainly did help to raise the profile of the glass. We all know she was a big fan of cake, and the short sides and wide bowl allowed the indulgent user to dip their cake in their Champagne. After all, even in the midst of a Revolution and public accusations of over-indulgence and excessive spending, you should still be able to enjoy your favourite gâteaux soaked in Champagne! As with all fashion trends, the coupe’s popularity has come full circle and is on the up again, thanks in part to The Great Gatsby and Mad Men. Even Kate Moss is on board; in 2014 she celebrated 25 years working in the fashion industry by bringing out a coupe that really was designed on the shape of her left breast. And while you might like the idea of drinking Champagne off Kate Moss, oenophiles know that this project typifies exactly what the coupe

is: fashion. The short, open shape of the bowl does little to express the depth and profile of the wine. Its design causes the Champagne to go flat quickly and disperses the aroma straight out the top. When you consider that 70 per cent of our perception of flavour comes from aroma, this means you’re missing out on 70 per cent of your experience. Now let’s say you’ve just paid $90 for a bottle of Champagne’s finest – serve it in a Coupe, and you’re throwing about $63 worth of flavour away. Who wants to use this glass now? The evolution of Champagne glassware next moved to the flute, which is still the most popular glass for drinking Champagne. The long, slim shape enlivens the bead of the Champagne, and all good quality flutes are designed with a ‘nucleation point’. This is specifically a small scratch or mark at the base of the bowl, which agitates the Champagne and encourages it to stay bubbly as you drink. Flutes remain popular for this reason, and because they are the perfect pour size for toasting and celebrating, which is the most common motivation to crack open a bottle. The downside of the flute is that, as with the coupe, it doesn’t give you great expression of aroma due to its slim opening.

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While you can purchase some flutes with wider, more rounded bowls, such as Riedel’s Vinum XL Champagne or the stunning Vitis that graces our front cover, many do not give you a complete picture of the rich and complex aromatics. In the quest for the perfect vessel for enjoying Champagne, Riedel began hosting sensory workshops, where the known and knowledgeable of the wine industry inhaled and tasted the same Champagne from up to 14 different glass shapes. The goal was to find a shape that would present the beverage in its most balanced and expressive form. They discovered something long suspected – that the best glass for Champagne is a wine glass, determined by the grape variety, whether that’s Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Using a wine glass has the advantage of allowing you enough room to swirl the beverage before you take that allimportant, nose-right-in-the-glass sniff. Eleventh generation Maximilian has said on the topic, “Champagne is a wine and deserves to be treated as such. Whether enjoying a Blanc de Blancs or a Cuvée, our Champagne wine glass allows the range of aromas of Champagne to unfold

in a way which is not possible with a narrow flute.” For leaner Champagnes derived from Chardonnay like Blanc de Blancs, a tall white wine glass with a tulip shape, such as Riedel’s Heart to Heart Riesling glass, performed exceptionally well to develop but not overwhelm the aromas within the well-sized bowl. For richer Champagnes derived from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the Vinum XL Pinot Noir was unbeatable for performance. Developing the aromatics, flavour, and overall profile, it outperformed all other glasses and flutes by a mile to show wonderful depth and character. It showed Champagne to be a deliciously complex wine, for drinking and enjoying, rather than just as a toast or starter. Bollinger now commonly use this glass when they are promoting their vintage Champagnes and particularly their Rosés, where the full flavours of strawberries and plums are elevated to dangerously delicious levels. Using their findings, Riedel designed their latest series Veritas featuring a Champagne Glass instead of a flute. They are the first company to design a glass based on the sensory experience of the pros, whether

they are sommeliers, masters of wine, or winemakers. The Veritas Champagne Glass has a round curved shape with a small opening, which envelops and promotes the aroma whilst still maintaining carbonation. The advantages of using a wine glass to drink Champagne are multiple, and not news to those in the know. Most major Champagne houses use wine glasses in their tasting rooms and many of the branded glasses you find in bars and restaurants mimic the now-recognizable tulip shape. What they know, and what we’re now learning, is that serving their Champagnes in a vessel that doesn’t allow proper aromatic expression does a disservice to all the hard work that has gone into it. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t debate surrounding the topic. Both sides of the argument have been hotly discussed by Champagne lovers versus Champagne traditionalists. Dom Pérignon is said to have been the first to adopt the flute as Champagne’s nominated vessel, saying he enjoyed being able to “watch the dance of the sparkling atoms.” On the other side of the argument, Olivier Krug, current Director and the great-great-greatgrandson of the founder, is adamant that,

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“A great Champagne cannot offer its fullest expression in a narrow glass.” With an increasing number of ways to educate yourself about wine and Champagne, whether that be online blogs and tasting notes, small in-store tastings at your local bottle shop or big fair-style events based solely on a single variety or region, drinkers are becoming more knowledgeable and therefore more particular about service. It’s rare that anyone would purchase a bottle of vintage Champagne and feel good about serving it out of a plastic cup, but whether you choose a flute or wine glass will usually come down to your individual preference.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Coupe, Flute, Flute, Pinot Noir Glass, Veritas Champagne Glass

Ultimately, Champagne is not just a drink but a symbol of celebration and festivity. The glass that works best for you is going to be a personal choice, based on what you like, and what suits the circumstances. However, if you do count yourself amongst those who’d walk hot coals for a glass of Champagne, we recommend you try a glass versus flute comparison the next time you’ve opened something special. Our only warning is that we don’t recommend that you try this experiment in large numbers. Once you try Champagne from a big beautiful wine glass, you may not want to share! ❧



Bottom of the Sea AS A RESULT OF A FEW SUCCESSFUL SALVAGE OPERATIONS IN RECENT YEARS, WE HAVE SEEN A NUMBER OF WINE PRODUCERS AROUND THE GLOBE TRY THEIR HAND AT AGEING WINES UNDER THE SEAS. A NEAT GIMMICK, BUT IS IT ANYTHING MORE? WORDS KEN GARGETT IN 2010, 168 BOTTLES WERE DISCOVERED on the floor of the Baltic Sea off Finland in a shipwreck which occurred 170 years earlier. The bottles were from the House of Veuve Clicquot, in its earlier incarnation. A few reached auction houses, bringing prices of over US$150,000 a bottle; no wonder Veuve Clicquot is one of the producers keen to experiment with undersea maturation. These bottles were far sweeter than is common today (traces of arsenic were also discovered upon scientific analysis – presumed to be from attempts to control pests in the vineyard), but they had almost completely lost all their fizz. These underwater Champagnes kicked off a keen interest in wines from wrecks, though nothing could have been further from the intention of the Houses at the time. The first of these salvaged wines dates back over 100 years, to the 1907 vintage. The Champagne, the Heidsieck Monopole “Gout Americain” 1907, would probably be nothing more than a footnote in history if not for a series of remarkable events. A large quantity of it, estimated at 3,000 bottles, plus various other wines and spirits including 10,000 gallons of Cognac and 17 barrels of Burgundy (neither of which survived their time in the sea), was destined for St Petersburg in Russia, purchased for Czar Nikolai’s Imperial Army. The Czar was a loyal customer of Heidsieck at the time, which was popular across the continent. The Champagne was being transported by the Swedish 20-metre schooner, “Jönköping”, which was on its tenth trip to Russia that year, suggesting that smuggling, rather than legitimate trade, may have been its primary occupation. In

November of 1916, the “Jönköping” was sunk off the coast of Finland by the German U-boat, U-22. The actual sinking was all a bit of a comedy of errors – reports suggest that the schooner originally thought the U-boat was an island and made no attempt to flee. The U-boat was there because the captain was apparently the only German submarine commander in history to sink another U-boat, though doing so was recorded as an accident at the time (worse was that the U-boat sunk by Captain Bruno Hoppe of U-22 was commanded by his best friend from his childhood). Captain Hoppe did remove the crew of the “Jönköping” from the vessel before it was sunk – the only other items saved from the doomed ship were a few bottles grabbed by German sailors before the rest made their way to the briny depths of the sea. Whether a comedy or not, the event could hardly have put the Champagne in a safer place, or one better suited for long term storage. More than 60 metres below the surface, it was protected from everyone, until it was discovered by a salvage team in 1998. The wines enjoyed a temperature which was a constant 0 to 4°C (depending who one believes, but, in any event, low and hardly ever varying); it was permanently dark; they were never disturbed and in an environment of low salinity at that depth; and happened to be exactly where the bottles needed to be for the water pressure to balance the pressure within, to ensure the corks never moved. No wonder present-day treasure hunters are trying to replicate the conditions to store their own wines. It did mean that labels and wire capsules were destroyed, but there was plenty of evidence remaining to confirm the wine’s identity.

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If ever a Champagne was cursed, the Heidsieck Monopole “Gout Americain” 1907 must have been it. This was also the Champagne on the Titanic for its one and only voyage! The salvage team brought up approximately 2,500 bottles (the exact quantity is a bit of a mystery) – an extraordinary find. Many went to various auction houses where they were eagerly snapped up by everyone from history buffs to wine collectors, at ever-increasing prices. The reference to ‘Gout Americain’ (the American taste), suggests it had been made in a slightly sweeter style than usual, even for those days. It is believed to have had anywhere from 100 to 165 grams/litre sugar in it – a very sweet wine indeed. No doubt this helped the wine survive, even thrive, up until today. Reports from early tastings were of how youthful the wine was, obviously plenty of maturity, but alive and often fresh, with a lively mousse. I was fortunate in having the opportunity to try two of them, not long after they hit the market, at a dinner in Brisbane to celebrate the wines. One was a lovely old, mature, complex wine; almost regal with an array of nutty aromas, truffles and even a curious but pleasant note of French onion soup. The other remains forever etched in my memory – on opening, it foamed up and out of the bottle as though it had been bottled just the day before. Astonishing. A third bottle, thanks to the kindness of a good friend who just happened to turn up to dinner with it recently (would that were a common event!), was again a lovely, complex, quite developed wine; not as fresh as the other two, but extraordinary given it was over a century old. Who said Champagne can’t age! ❧

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STANLEY WAS, OF COURSE, THE MAN who tracked down the Scottish missionary, David Livingstone. That may not seem such a feat in today’s world of the internet, 24 hour news, GPS machines and their ilk but back then, a single item of news may have taken months to make its way from darkest Africa. Stanley led an extraordinary life – one of six children, from six different fathers, he was abandoned by his mother when still an infant. He had an abusive childhood, that which would have made Dickens’ ‘Oliver Twist’ look like a holiday, fled to America at 18 and took the name of his first employer, fought in the American Civil War (he was believed to be the only person to fight for the Confederates, the Union Army and the Union Navy), before becoming a journalist and finding fame as an overseas correspondent.

In 1869, he commenced his search to find the long-missing missionary, though later on he would do much more in Africa. His expedition to Lake Tanganyika took months, as he fought numerous battles with natives; crossed dry-as-dust deserts, tsetse fly infested plains and snow-covered mountain ranges; and battled sickness, death, wild animals, the loss of his beasts of burden, as well as being abandoned by porters. When he finally found the white-bearded, frail Livingstone, he uttered the immortal words, ‘Doctor Livingstone, I presume’, but few know what happened immediately after. The diaries of Livingstone and Stanley reveal that the explorer had brought a bottle of Sillery Champagne with him, to celebrate the moment. They opened it and toasted the moment. Livingstone described it as “a silver

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goblet full of the exhilarating wine”, while Stanley recorded Livingstone as saying, upon drinking the wine, “you have brought me new life”. Sillery is one of the Grand Cru villages, but the actual producer of the Champagne remains lost in the mists of time. What is truly amazing about this story is that the bottle obviously drank beautifully (granted, if you’d been stuck in the wilds of Africa for nearly six years, most things would), and yet it had not been left in a dark, cold cellar, but rather had suffered the most appalling conditions, bounced around in a pack through desert and plains, across rivers, over mountains, all the while in everchanging temperatures. And yet it came up trumps. Perhaps we get carried away with just how Champagne should be coddled. ❧

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WHILST THEY DO SHARE SOME OF THE characteristics of a government entity (for example, they swear openness and transparency, but seem to have absolutely no concept of what that really means), unlike many such bodies, they are active and work tirelessly to promote and protect the region and its wines. They are also heavily involved in research and education. Protection around the planet often requires litigation, and the CIVC are not afraid to resort to the courts. As is apparent, the name ‘Champagne’, is a priceless asset and trademark. Many have tried to use it, from perfumes, bath foams, biscuits, shampoos, fruit juices, mineral waters and soft drinks, and of course sparkling wines from around the world, and found that the CIVC is quick to the defence. Unauthorised use, even as part of a business or simply a nickname or adopted name of a person, if involved in the wine industry, is likely to bring about a date with the courts.

Over the years, the role of the CIVC has varied. Until 1990, it was responsible for establishing the price of grapes each harvest. It still maintains a role in setting limits on production, which is necessary to ensure prices are maintained, as well as in the regulation of the size of the harvest. Its success has encouraged other regions to initiate similar entities, both in France and abroad. Less visible is the never-ending struggle to overcome any internal conflicts between Houses, cooperatives and growers, which often have very different agendas and desires. The CIVC has established nearly twenty offices around the globe to assist in the promotion and protection of Champagne. In Australia, the Champagne Bureau in Sydney (tel – 61 2 95558891, www., represents the CIVC. Opened in 1971, it is now run by Elisabeth Drysdale and her team. The Bureau looks after all enquiries in relation to Champagne

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and also organises tastings and dinners in various cities, trade tastings and the biennial ‘Vin de Champagne’ Awards. Launched in 1974, and the first of its kind anywhere in the world, this quickly became a highly regarded competition for both professionals and amateurs, with the winners spending a few weeks in Champagne, visiting and tasting throughout the region. The CIVC also maintain a website (, which provides information about the wines and the region to the wine media, wine industry and consumers. They are financed by subscriptions from members, based on the grapes harvested and the shipments of bottles. The annual budget is estimated at just under 20 million Euros, which is roughly spent in thirds – 1/3rd to each of general expenses; research; and promotion and protection. The executive board is equally represented by Houses

and growers, six nominees of each at a time. Specialist committees and working groups cover every aspect of Champagne and its production. The CIVC was established in April 1941, during the German occupation of the region. This may seem an odd time to be worrying about such matters, but quite the contrary. The region needed unity in dealing with both the Germans and the Vichy regime. Robert-Jean de Vogüe, head of Moet et Chandon at the time, was appointed to deal with the occupiers. de Vogüe shared the Presidency with Maurice Doyard, who was running his own House.

This was far from the first attempt at regulating and protecting the region and its wines. As far back as 1845, French authorities had backed attempts to prevent anyone using the name ‘Champagne’ as a general term for sparkling wines. In 1882, the Union of Champagne Houses, formerly the Syndicat du Commerce des Vins de Champagne, was formed, followed by local trade entities and organisations representing growers. In 1911, the time of the riots, there were joint meetings to look towards setting the price of grapes and defining the ‘echelle des crus’ system. Authorities provided a delimitation of the region in

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1919, which was made official in 1927. The official delimitation of the Champagne AOC took place in 1936. Prior to that, groups for the promotion and the protection of Champagnes were established and in 1935, the forerunner to the CIVC was created. The CIVC may be a bureaucratic entity, but they have proved their worth many times over as both a staunch defender of the region and a tireless promoter of the wines. Their value as an instigator of a great deal of the research which has gone on in the region, to the enormous benefit of the vineyards, the wines and the producers, is inestimable. ❧




OPPOSITE PAGE: Elisabeth Drysdale is the Director of Champagne Bureau Australia

What is your connection to Champagne and why is it special to you? I am the Director of the Champagne Bureau in Australia. In Australia, the Champagne Bureau represents the Comité Champagne. The enhancement and protection of the Champagne appellation ranks high among the Comité’s priorities. Some of our objectives are: The defence of the “Appellation Champagne”, to increase market awareness of Champagne Wines and to strengthen the image and market position of Champagne Wines, providing the trade and consumers with information on Champagne Wines and the Vin de Champagne Award. I find Champagne very special in so many ways: the unique terroir, the people in the industry, the winemakers and of course the wines are all very special. Can you tell us about your best experience or memory of Champagne? One of my loveliest memories is visiting Champagne in 2003 for the 30th Anniversary of the Vin de Champagne Award. We had thirty past winners visit the region for a week and it was a truly amazing experience spending time with so many Champagne aficionados who have won this Award in either the Professional or Amateur section over the years. This experience was backed up last year, where we celebrated the 40th Anniversary. We had over 40 winners attend the reunion tour and it was truly lovely seeing the passion and knowledge

these winners have about Champagne and how they use it in their professional and personal lives. How often have you visited Champagne and why do you enjoy it so much? I visit Champagne once or twice a year. I think Champagne is a special appellation surrounded by history, legend and a unique terroir. Part of the fun of visiting Champagne is discovering and learning more about the wines. I also love learning more about food and Champagne matching. I always discover something new each year. If visitors could only do three things in Champagne, what should they be? I would suggest a visit to Reims and Epernay, a visit to a winemaker and cellars and a drive through the region. Reims is an interesting place to walk around: the 13th century cathedral of Reims has sanctified the coronation of most of the French kings and is renowned for its Gothic architecture and the famous Smiling Angel. Reims is also home to a number of Unesco heritage sites including the Saint-Remi Basilica and visiting the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay is also worth a trip. A visit to Champagne wouldn’t be complete of course without trying the wines and understanding what makes the wine unique. Lastly explore the terroir, vineyards and picturesque villages of Champagne either by foot, bike or car along the Champagne tourist route.

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Which tours would you recommend in Champagne? There are a number of Champagne wine trails and routes through the regions of Reims, Epernay, the Marne Valley, Côte des Bar and Côteaux Vitryats. What is your favourite place in Champagne and why? Hautvillers is a pretty area to visit and it is located within the Reims Mountains Park. It is a great vantage point to look over the beautiful landscape of the Marne Valley, river and surrounding vineyards. Wandering around the village is interesting as you will discover lots of beautiful wrought iron signs and of course a visit to the beautiful abbey is a must. Why would you recommend Champagne to visitors and any special tips for tourists? Champagne is a beautiful appellation: full of history, legend, interesting terroir and unique diverse wines. It is also so close to Paris, only a 40 minute train ride away. You can discover why Champagne only comes from Champagne and meet the interesting Champagne professionals and winemakers – Growers, Champagne Houses and Cooperatives – and learn first-hand what makes Champagne wines so special. My tip is to plan in advance and work out your travel plans so you can visit the different production areas and taste the wines made by different wineries and contact in advance any you would like to visit. ❧

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Heritage IN JULY, 2015, UNESCO ADDED CHAMPAGNE TO THE LIST OF WORLD HERITAGE SITES. MORE SPECIFICALLY, THE CHAMPAGNE SLOPES, HOUSES AND CELLARS ARE NOW CLASSIFIED AS OF ‘EXCEPTIONAL UNIVERSAL VALUE’, AS ALL 21 REPRESENTATIVES VOTED UNANIMOUSLY ON ITS INCLUSION. WORDS KEN GARGETT THEY JOIN MORE THAN A THOUSAND such sites, including the Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China, Serengeti, Yellowstone National Park, Robben Island, Machu Picchu, Petra and more locally, the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, Fraser Island and the Sydney Opera House. This is something

that the authorities in Champagne have worked very hard to achieve for some time. Pierre Cheval, president of the Association Paysages du Champagne, spent 8 years preparing the claim. He noted that the region was “duty-bound to preserve and maintain this landscape,

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know-how and heritage so that we can pass them on unspoilt to future generations. We have a date with history, our very own history!” The nearby region of Burgundy was also included. Both regions are recognised as being “of outstanding value to humanity.” ❧

The Great Gatsby is a 2013 romantic drama film based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel. Featuring Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan

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A Journey into the World of Champagne Houses THE NEXT FEW PAGES WILL TAKE YOU ON AN EDUCATIONAL JOURNEY INTO THE WORLD OF Champagne Houses. Here we will explore some of the world’s best Champagne Houses, sharing details on well-loved and known brands, as well as those you may not be so familiar with. You will discover the history of many Champagne Houses, as well as the history of the Champagne region. You will learn how each House makes their wine, and share tasting notes on a variety of Champagnes, as well as interviews with Chef de Caves. Explore through the pages and learn everything you need to know about Champagne and how this beautiful sparkling is created. ❧

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Billecart-Salmon FOUNDED IN 1818 BY HUSBAND AND WIFE NICOLAS FRANÇOIS BILLECART AND ELISABETH SALMON, THE HOUSE OF CHAMPAGNE BILLECART-SALMON IS ONE FULL OF FAMILY TIES AND A RICH HISTORY. LOCATED IN THE HEART OF CHAMPAGNE, in a village named Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, the house has, since its birth, been tended to by every member of the Billecart family, all of whom are committed to the house oath: ‘Give priority to quality, strive for excellence’. It is this aspiration that saw the house re-established by Charles Billecart, son of Nicolas, who took over as manager of the house in 1848 when his father died. In the face of adversity, (the house was ransacked by the Germans during the Great War), leaving just 25,000 bottles in reserve by 1919, Charles worked tirelessly to rebuild the house, accumulating by 1939 stockholdings of 800,000 bottles all of which the house owned outright,

an incredible feat as there was no credit available at the time. After restoring the house, Charles passed the reigns onto his son, Jean Roland-Billecart, whose sons François and Antoine, the 6th generation of the Billecart-Salmon family, now manage the house and have been doing so since their father retired in 1991. Today, Champagne Billecart-Salmon is one of the last remaining houses to be under founding family management, a fact the house prides itself on and the future of the house is one which inextricably involves family; the next generation of the Billecart family, Antoine’s nephew and François’ son Nicolas, began with the company in 2010 >>

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and is already beginning to work his way into the ranks.

exhibit delicacy and elegance, with the body of the wine to be balanced and fine.

As well as Nicolas becoming a welcome addition to the family business, in March 2015, Antoine Roland-Billecart, director of Champagne Billecart-Salmon, was named Commandeur of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne, with the transfer of office taking place at the premises of Billecart-Salmon in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. The Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne is the official fraternity of the major Champagne brands and through Chapters, tastings and other activities, its mission is to promote the region, the variety, versatility, taste and other unique characteristics that make Champagne wines synonymous with success and celebration everywhere. As head of the Ordre for the next two years, Antoine will devote his time (when not running the day to day business of the house), to promoting the ethos of Champagne around the world.

In order to achieve this excellence, Billecart-Salmon sources its fruit from the outstanding terrains found in Montagne de Reims, the Tourism in Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs. Here the grapes are cultivated with care and knowledge by the Billecart-Salmon team, producing exceptional Champagne, of rare complexity and with unrivalled freshness.

With family firmly behind the house, Billecart-Salmon is free to strive to create Champagnes that are refined and pure: the overarching philosophy in all the Champagne Billecart-Salmon cuvées is to

The house prides itself on the styles of wines it creates; Billecart-Salmon cuvées are a sum of all their parts and preference is given to fruit character and definition, with the house’s flagship, single vineyard wine, Le Clos Saint Hilaire, coming from a 1er Cru Pinot Noir vineyard, located in the township of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. On the perpetual quest for excellence, Champagne Billecart-Salmon has always been an active promoter of innovation and advancement, and while by no means one of the largest producers, the house has been at the forefront of modern technical advancement. Perhaps Billecart-Salmon’s most revolutionary production technique is the unique procedure of double débourbage,

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or double cold stabilisation/settling, where, after a customary clarification process to settle out any solids, the juice is settled for a second time at incredibly low temperatures, between 2 and 4°C, for a period of 48 hours. This technique has been employed by the house since 1952 and was inspired by processes used in the production of beer and while the process is slow and expensive, the resulting juice is clean, pristine and pure – exactly the style that the house strives to create. In the interest of innovation, the house was also one of the first to create a nonvintage Champagne Rosé. Champagne Rosé was previously more often than not a vintage wine, usually quite expensive and made for the sole purpose of matching with food. Billecart-Salmon believed that Champagne Rosé could be much more than this, and thus created an aperitif style, nonvintage rosé, which remains a pioneer of the category to this day. With an impressive portfolio of exceptional Champagnes and a history boasting the best champenois tradition, the house of Billecart-Salmon is one of historic excellence, a notion that stands to this day. ❧

Tasting notes






Appearance: Light gold

Appearance: Salmon pink

Appearance: Gold

Appearance: Light to medium yellow

Appearance: Salmon pink

Aroma: A rich bouquet with elegantly fruity notes and hints of white flowers

Aroma: A subtle aroma leading into an elegant, delicate bouquet, featuring fine notes of red fruits and zesty citrus fruits

Aroma: Intense, dry fruit aromas, almonds and fresh hazelnuts mixed with notes of fruits, particularly white peach

Flavour: Full and focused flavour, combined with a fine freshness

Flavour: Its special method of vinification gives this cuvée a light, elegant flavour, followed by a fresh finish with delicate notes of raspberry and brioche

Flavour: The creamy sensation of the mousse complements the aromas of buttered brioche and mineral intensity, leading to a persistent finish with a fresh and elegant sweetness

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Aroma: A rich mix of harmonious expressions (dry fruits, fresh citrus and white fruits), coupled with finely buttered seductive notes Flavour: A burst of flavours highlighted with notes of grilled brioche and toffee

Aroma: Intense, mature crunchy fruit with an elegant and harmonious character of orchard fruit, citrus fruit and biscuit highlighted with notes of gourmet pastries (buttery, warm madeleines) Flavour: On the palate, it exhibits sensational richness of white stone fruit and quince, amplified by a precise vinification and slow rising creamy mousse. The wine offers body, power and depth. The finish is chiselled and persistent




LEFT: Champagne Deutz’s Mansion House CENTRE: Champagne Deutz’s Crayères RIGHT: State of the art equipment at Champagne Deutz’s Winery

LOCATED IN THE HISTORIC HEART OF THE famous village of Aÿ, Champagne Deutz is recognised by wine experts as among the top six Champagne producers. Founded in 1838 by William Deutz and Pierre-Hubert Geldermann, the first successes of Deutz were built upon the “German connections” of its founders, who despite the Napoleonic Wars of that time, built up an impressive Champagne house, a name that remains today one of pride and excellence. Pierre-Hubert Geldermann, a Champagne salesman and William Deutz, a negociant, began the Deutz journey by buying Champagnes “sur lattes” (already bottled), from producers, before disgorging them and adding their own “liqueur d’expédition” and selling them under the Deutz label. Very soon thereafter, the pair began to make their Champagnes from “vins clairs”, which they bought directly from the producers. By combining their skills, the duo developed the house, expanding internationally, and by the beginning of the 20th century, Deutz was one of the first Champagne producers in the UK,

which is still the first export market for Champagne today. Realising that an exceptional vineyard was the base to producing excellent Champagnes, the twosome began buying quality land in some of Champagnes best villages, including in the Côte des Blancs, ensuring consistent quality in their wines. To this day, Deutz has a close bond with its grape producers, who employ the house’s policy of sustainable vineyard management and it is due to this careful selection that every bottle of Deutz Champagne is of exceptional taste and quality. This strive for excellence remains at the forefront of the Deutz philosophy and the house, under the leadership of Fabrice Rosset, is today renowned for its passion for terroir, tradition and production of an exceptional range of exquisite wines. Deutz believes that the signature Champagne of a house should always remain the Brut Non Vintage. Since 1838, Champagne Deutz has been a pioneer and one of the oldest members of the former and prestigious Association of Grandes Marques.

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With its savoir-faire, this discreet house has been making Champagnes of a distinctive style, characterised by a perfect harmony of finesse, elegant vinosity and complexity. Yet according special care and attention to the flagship, Brut Classic, does not mean that Deutz do not produce any special cuvees. The “DEUTZ Trio Prestige” comprises three prestige cuvées, each with its very distinct personality. William Deutz is made from the best pinots and chardonnays; Amour de Deutz is composed uniquely of the finest chardonnays; and finally there is Amour de Deutz Rosé. In each of these styles, Maison DEUTZ shows the full extent of its know-how and its attachment to precise, finely-tuned wines. The Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars have just been included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Champagne Deutz has been fully involved in the “Hillsides, Houses and Wine Cellars of Champagne” candidature, being one of the houses mainly visited for its diversity and specificity of the wine growing territory, its eventful history and its geographic location - combining on the same spot the vineyards, the winery and the ageing cellars. ❧

Tasting notes






Appearance: Bright and clear, of a pale gold hue

Appearance: A glittering, sumptuous gold-pink hue

Appearance: Intense golden appearance

Appearance: A many-hued colour with strong pink tinges and fine bubbles

Appearance: Golden hue with crystal glints

Aroma: Richly expressive, showing considerable complexity and sharp notes of Mirabelle plums and nectarine, draped in a whiff of fresh pastry

Aroma: Seductive and subtle on the nose, developing delicate aromas of wild berries and red currants, set off by 
fine vanilla notes 

Aroma: On the nose this wine initially displays floral notes of hawthorn blossom and white flowers followed by aromas of toast, marzipan and ripe fruits, specifically apples and pears

Flavour: A lingering finish that holds subtle aromas of flowers and citrus fruit, very characteristic of the chardonnay grape that is its unique component

Flavour: Full, refined and complex, it is deliciously appetising on the palate, where delectable notes of crushed strawberries, blackcurrants and spices pirouette in perfect harmony in a ballet which finishes on a dainty note of fine pâtissière

Flavour: In the mouth, the freshness of the Chardonnay and the richness of the Pinot Noir enhance the wine’s fullbodied elegance, presenting a wine with finely integrated aromas and a silky texture with a well-rounded, intensely fruity finish

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Aroma: The nose is fresh and direct, with aromas reminiscent of cherries, blackberries, pomegranates and redcurrants 
 Flavour: On the palate, the wine shows a deliciously full body that follows on perfectly from the nose. Its flavours remind one of fresh strawberries and raspberries 

Aroma: Delicate, rich and complex on the nose, developing floral and cooked white peach aromas, 
underpinned by lovely honey-sweet notes of spice and candied ginger 
 Flavour: Captivating, rich and full on the palate, the champagne releases a mélange of delicate cherry, wild peach and honey aromas. 
The finish is silky, complex and refined, with long, lingering aromas




LEFT: Chef de Cave or Chief Winemaker, Floriane Eznack, among the vines CENTRE: Jacquart’s four winemakers come together to blend the still wine RIGHT: Floriane spreads some Jacquart love

IN THE EARLY 1960S, A SMALL GROUP of growers realised that in order to build their own businesses in a sustainable way they needed to launch their own Champagne. The Champagne Jacquart brand was subsequently released in 1964, with the Brut ‘Mosaïque’ label chosen to represent the mosaic patchwork of grower families’ vineyards across the region, joined together with a common vision. As Champagne Jacquart has grown in reputation, many more growers have joined the cause, and today Champagne Jacquart enjoys unsurpassed access to the best vineyards from across the region. The 1800 members making up the company own nearly eight per cent of the vineyard area in Champagne, including some of its most valuable designations spread over 160 villages. These vineyards produce well over the amount of grapes required by Jacquart, giving it first pick of the best fruit with the balance sold to other Champagne producers or negociants. This ability to choose only the best grapes for the Jacquart label is the secret to its unique success. Tasting Jacquart Champagne is to savour the fruits of each grower’s skill.

Every bottle is a guarantee of quality and provenance; the grapes come exclusively from the vineyards of its grower members with the house controlling every stage of the winemaking and maturation processes. All its grapes are hand-picked and hand-sorted, with its vignerons and winemakers working closely with the growers at all times to ensure grapes are picked at just the right moment to impart the special characters the brand is looking for. Like all Champagnes, the base wines that make up Jacquart undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle. In the case of Jacquart, the maturation period is between 36 and 40 months, more than twice the minimal requirement, providing Jacquart with its added complexity. This time on lees is a luxury that can only be afforded by a grower producer, with a singular dedication to expressing the most refined expression of Champagne. Jacquart respects the traditions of Champagne, while at the same time embracing modernity. The winemaker now in charge of creating the magic that is Champagne Jacquart is Floriane Eznack, who since 2011 has been the Chef de Cave or Chief Winemaker at Jacquart. Having been

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initiated into winemaking by her father who often gave her glasses of wine to try, Eznack began her career after graduating from the Reims Oenology School in 2004 by throwing herself into the world of Champagne and joining some of the finest Champagne houses in the world. Floriane’s arrival at Jacquart was the beginning of the next chapter in the brand’s winemaking history. Based at the head office in Reims in the heart of Champagne, Floriane, in coordination with the three cellar masters of the group’s production sites plays an essential role in the creation and selection of the finest quality blends that make up the house’s Champagnes. As the market for good quality Champagne continues to expand in Australia, we see new Champagnes come into the market that challenge the tastebuds and excite the palate. Through their dedication to producing a top quality wine, Champagne Jacquart is certainly one that will make lovers of Champagne sit up and take note. In Australia, Champagne Jacquart may be the new kid on the block, however last year it celebrated its 50th birthday and is now carried by eight international airlines including Air France and Qantas. ❧

Tasting notes




Apperance: Pale yellow with tints of white gold and a stream of fine bubbles

Apperance: Delicate bubbles wrapped in intense salmon pink

Apperance: Sparkling, brilliant, straw gold

Aroma: Aromas of fresh pear, fig and almond, with hints of orange flower. A light swirl of the glass brings out richer notes of honey and freshly baked bread

Aroma: Red berry-fruit aromas of ripe redcurrants, cherries and wild strawberries giving way to notes of plum

Aroma: This Vintage Champagne has developed notes of dry flowers, cherry griotte and aromas of butter brioche

Flavour: Fresh and full. A fine finish with surprising notes of peach and apricot

Flavour: Fresh and light in the mouth with an explosion of flavours dominated by white fruits with citrus notes

Flavour: Fresh, supple and full, with a long fruity finish

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LEFT: Delamotte, shining since 1760 RIGHT: Salon and Delamotte’s Grand Cru Chardonnay

FRANCOIS WAS THE FORMER CAPTAIN of the Bourgeois Militia of Reims, and a large owner of still wine vineyards. His wife, Marie Claude Thérèse Bourgongne, was the daughter of Antoine Bourgongne, who also owned many vineyards, in Ay in particular, and had been producing Champagne for several years. Undoubtedly encouraged in this direction by his father-in-law, in 1760 François created the first Champagne under his own name and continued to do so until his sons, Alexandre and Nicolas, both later became part of the family business, with their Champagnes growing in both reputation and popularity. Unfortunately, due to a string of family deaths and marriages, the House of Delamotte no longer has a Delamotte at its helm, but was instead stewarded

throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries by other Champenois ‘families’, including Lanson and Laurent-Perrier. Today Champagne Delamotte is managed by an independent and dedicated team, led by President Didier Depond. Located in the heart of the Côte des Blancs, in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, one of the most prized Grand Cru Villages of the Côté des Blancs, Delamotte is also is situated next door to its ‘sister’ house, the mythical Champagne Salon, with which it shares the same viticultural, winemaking and management team. While Salon exclusively produces Vintage Champagnes only in extraordinary years, Delamotte uses the same exceptional grapes and talented winemaking team to produce nonvintage Brut, Blanc de Blancs and Rosé varieties on an annual basis.

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Vineyard location is the key to Delamotte’s expressive wines and is what sets them apart from others. Unusually, most of its grapes are sourced from Grand Cru vineyards, including the Delamotte non-vintage wines, which are crafted from these exceptional grapes. Delamotte’s Chardonnay grapes are sourced principally from the Grand Crus of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Avize and Cramant and Pinot Noir from the southern Montagne de Reims, primarily Bouzy, Ambonnay and Tours-sur-Marne. The winemaking team at Champagne Delamotte aim to craft wines that perfectly express the characteristics of these preeminent grapes, in particular their noble Grand Cru Chardonnay. Light, gossamer-textured, impertinent, more complex with ageing, discrete yet present, heady but not heavy. Champagne at any time, for any occasion. ❧


THE CHAMPAGNE HENRIOT STORY began back in the 18th Century when Nicolas Henriot married Apolline Godinot, and together, they developed a fascination for the culture of the vine and production of high quality wines. After the death of her husband, Apolline decided to continue to develop the vineyards, and at the age of just 33, in 1808, she founded the Henriot Champagne House. The quality of the Henriot wines was soon highly regarded worldwide and with Apolline’s grandson at the helm, Ernest Henriot, Henriot was declared the official Champagne of the Imperial and Royal Court of Austria. Since the Henriot family married into the Marguet family - owners of some of the

best vineyards in the Côte des Blancs - shortly after their Champagne House was founded, they have continued a love-affair with Chardonnay. In the eyes of Henriot, the purity of Chardonnay reigns supreme and the house uses a high proportion of it in all their Champagnes, over 50 – 60 per cent in most wines. Champagne Henriot’s high quality Chardonnay brings finesse, exceptional elegance, richness and freshness. Touches of Pinot Noir then gives essential structure and Pinot Meunier contributes engaging fruit complexity, which is all down to the exceptional terrains harvested by the house. The vineyards that the house uses are situated throughout the appellation: the house is fortunate to have access

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to many Grands and Premiers Crus, particularly in the Côte des Blancs, stronghold of the Chardonnay variety. Pinot Noir is selected principally from crus on the northern slope of the Montagne de Reims, such as Verzy, Verzenay and Val d’Or.

LEFT: Henriot, passionate about Chardonnay RIGHT: The large selection of grapes for Henriot to choose from

The Henriot family has become one of the rare houses to develop long-term partnerships with the most experienced vine growing families in the region. This community of families have been working together now for many generations, developing an unrivalled knowledge and understanding of the terroir, making it possible to perpetuate the Henriot style and maintain Henriot excellence for over 200 years. ❧




The unique ‘Clos Lanson’ vineyard, planted 100 per cent Chardonnay

THE ORIGINS OF CHAMPAGNE LANSON go back to the year 1760, making it one of the very oldest Champagne Houses. Over the years it built its distribution on the back of relationships established with many of the Europe’s Royal Families. Lanson was awarded the famous Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria in 1900 as an official supplier to the Court of England, a distinction the House has retained ever since. Later Lanson was chosen by the Royal Family of Monaco to produce a champagne in its own heraldic colours, which it still supplies today. In 1937, Victor Lanson, known as the “great ambassador of Champagne”, decided to promote sales of non-vintage dry wine and name the blend “Black Label”, in honour of the House’s biggest market, The United Kingdom. In 2006, the House of Lanson changed ownership, and today belongs to the ‘Lanson BCC’ Group, with Philippe Baijot as the House President. The House of Lanson ages its wines for longer than the minimum required time: three years minimum at Lanson for the

non-vintage wines versus the regulatory minimum of 15 months, and five years minimum at Lanson for the vintage wines versus the regulatory minimum of three years. Since its beginning in 1760, Lanson Champagne chose to focus on Pinot Noir as the main grape variety in its classic nonvintage blends, giving pride of place to body and power. Alongside that, at least 30 per cent of each wine produced for sale is made up of Chardonnay, selected for the rich aromas and delicacy on the palate. To create its champagnes, Lanson purchases grapes from among the Champagne regions’s best Crus, often located near its historic presshouses, most notably including Verzenay, Dizy and Trepail. Moreover, Lanson benefits from a unique plot in Champagne; the Clos Lanson. This plot has an area of one hectare in the heart of the city, and it is the vineyard closest to the Cathedral of Reims. Surrounded by high walls, the Clos enjoys an exceptional microclimate that is favourable to the development of the vine. Planted in the 1930s, it has remained within the purview of the House ever since and it is entirely planted with Chardonnay.

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The uniqueness of this small but extraordinary vineyard-plot explains its rarity and very limited production and also why, among the Great Houses within Champagne, it represents one of the very few enclosed ‘Single Vineyard Estate’ wines made within its historic walls.” In addition to its high standards for quality, the unique Lanson style is intensely fresh with an exceptional aromatic depth. This style results from a bold choice made by Victor Lanson in the 1970s to continue the Champagne tradition of preserving the champagne-making process free from any malolactic fermentation. This specific trait allows the best aromas of the fruit to be kept, retaining the original purity of the fruit, and guarantees a unique freshness. It is not surprising that with its unique style of freshness and fruitiness, Lanson is well known to represent ‘The Perfect Start’ to many of life’s important moments. Crucially, this traditional process also gives the Lanson wines an extraordinary capacity to age over time, - as seen in the ‘Lanson Vintage Collection’, - a library of vintage wines going back to the very dawn of the 20th Century, and testimony to the enduring qualities of a unique style. ❧

Pretty Woman is a 1990 American romantic comedy Image taken from the scene when Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) and Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) were at a Polo match

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Luncheon in the vineyards at LaurentPerrier

THE HOUSE GAINED THE NAME Laurent-Perrier after Mathilde Emilie Perrier, the widow of Eugène Laurent, decided to expand the business and combine the two family names. Her daughter, Eugénie Hortense Laurent inherited the House in 1925, before selling it to Marie-Louise Lanson de Nonancourt in 1939, who ran the business alongside her son Bernard.

understand every element of the business, before becoming Chairman and Chief Executive of the House in 1948. It was Bernard’s knowledge of all aspects of the family business that allowed him to create the signature Laurent-Perrier style and create a renowned brand with a range of unique Champagnes.

Bernard de Nonancourt dedicated his life to Laurent-Perrier, and it was his passion and energy that transformed a small Champagne House into the global brand that exists today.

Although attached to the traditional ways of Champagne, Bernard also worked with new approaches at both technical and blending level, creating a portfolio of wines that to this day are celebrated for their style and consistency of quality - cuvée after cuvée.

When only Bernard returned from the French Resistance, having gone with his elder brother Maurice, his mother insisted he undergo an apprenticeship to fully

Keen to embrace modern techniques, Laurent-Perrier was one of the few Champagne houses in the 1950s to adopt the use of stainless steel tanks, which

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preserve the freshness of the wine and the complexity of aromas through the use of controlled initial low temperature fermentation. The tanks were instrumental in the blossoming of the house style. Laurent-Perrier’s cuvees all have their own history and personality, and together form a unique range of Champagnes that carry the hallmark of freshness, purity and elegance. Up until his death in 2010, Bernard made his vibrant stamp on the House of LaurentPerrier; one that will remain forever. Today, the winemaking team is headed by Michel Fauconnet, Laurent-Perrier’s third Cellar Master, who guarantees the house style. Bernard de Nonancourt’s legacy continues with renewed energy and creativity, overseen by his two daughters, Alexandra Pereyre de Nonancourt and Stéphanie Meneux de Nonancourt. ❧

Tasting notes






Appearance: Pale gold, with a steady flow of fine and persistent bubbles

Appearance: Very pale and crystal-bright in colour

Appearance: Elegant, with colour changing naturally from a pretty raspberry hint to salmon pink

Appearance: A light yellow with delicate beading

Appearance: A fine bead, with delicate aromas. A bright yellow colour and an extremely refined texture

Aroma: Delicate yet complex, fresh and well-balanced with hints of citrus and fresh fruits Flavour: Well defined, subtly rounded with expressive flavours. The fruit progressively emerges to reveal a finely balanced Champagne, displaying great length on the finish

Aroma: Intense and complex on the nose, with a wide range of aromas including citrus and white fruit and flowers, such as honeysuckle Flavour: Airy and delicate, yet surprisingly long. Floral and fruit flavours combine with mineral notes to give a wine that is pure without being austere. The finish is long and leaves the palate clean

Aroma: Precise and very crisp, it displays a range of small red fruits: strawberries, redcurrants, raspberries and black cherries Flavour: Intensely fruity. Clean, well defined and slightly sharp, the wine then opens up to provide an impression of plunging into a basket of freshly picked red berries: strawberries, Morello cherries, blackcurrants and raspberries. The wine is round and supple on the finish

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Aroma: A delicate, subtle nose with aromas of fresh pineapple, dried apricots and almonds Flavour: A very pleasant, rounded attack, followed by a marked sense of balance with a lively finish offering hints of white peach and mirabelle

Aroma: An intense, complex nose of lightly candied citrus. This is followed by notes of brioche, grilled almonds, and subtle hints of honey and gingerbread, shot through with white flowers Flavour: A silky palate and a sensation of plenitude, it shows fine minerality and a remarkable impression of freshness. A final note surprises with its lingering aroma



Mumm THE MUMM STORY BEGAN IN 1761, WHEN PETER ARNOLD MUMM, BORN OF A LONG LINE OF BARONS AND KNIGHTS STRETCHING BACK TO THE TWELFTH CENTURY, PROPRIETORS OF SUBSTANTIAL VINEYARDS, SET UP A WINE MERCHANTS IN COLOGNE. WHEN HIS THREE SONS GOTTLIEB, JACOBUS AND PHILIPP JOINED THE BUSINESS, THEY TOOK A KEEN INTEREST IN THE CHAMPAGNE REGION, WHOSE SPARKLING WINES WERE ENJOYING GROWING POPULARITY IN EUROPE. IN 1827, THE BROTHERS FOUNDED A Champagne business, and as a tribute to their origins, they added their armorial eagle to the labels. Over the years, it became established as a Mumm emblem and remains there to this day. To conquer their new market, the Mumm brothers called on larger than life figures, the De Bary barons. This FrancoGerman family, descended from knights of Tournai, had established itself in the Reims marketplace in 1837 and played an active role in Champagne life. The two generations of De Bary barons proved themselves loyal ambassadors for Mumm. Gottlieb, Jacobus and Philipp managed their business with a single goal: controlling grape quality by retaining “Only the best”. They then created another of the firm’s strongest assets - a privileged partnership with vine-growers situated on the best Champagne terroir. Almost one hundred years later, these fine locations would be renamed “grand crus”. From the 1840s onwards, after the acquisition of its first plots in Verzenay, Mumm turned this guideline into a principle, giving every new vineyard its own press. Georges Hermann Mumm, a descendant of one of the original founders, took control

of the House in 1852. In order to adapt its premises to expanding production, he ordered extensive construction work to be undertaken on the site of the former ramparts, hollowing out numerous underground cellars in the chalky rock of the Coquebert neighbourhood. In building up the House’s vineyards, George laid the foundations for its policy of excellence. As a man of learning and ambition, he pursued progress in all its forms. He tracked scientific research in the recently established discipline of oenology, set up a system of bonuses to reward workers or support them in misfortune and drove industry and business development forward, travelling the world to conquer new markets. He was also a determined business leader with an innate sense of brand awareness. In 1876, he trademarked the Cordon Rouge name and label that has subsequently come to symbolise the entire House. His broad range of interests, business acumen and ongoing quest for excellence propelled Mumm to universal acclaim; once King of Wine, Mumm became the Wine of Kings. As of 1850, the Royal families of Austria-Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands, Prussia, Denmark, Great Britain, Sweden and Norway successively succumbed to the

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pleasures of Mumm. In 1884, the House was given a Royal Warrant of Appointment to supply the Court of Great Britain, a mark of trust that it retains to this day. In 1900, Mumm produced some three million bottles. Known for its famous red sash, the brand was marketed in over 20 countries and was enjoyed well beyond France and Europe, including the USA, Canada, Russia, Brazil, Peru, Indonesia, the Philippines, Siam, Singapore, Ceylon, New Zealand and China. Over the years, Mumm has been served to numerous international dignitaries invited to lunch or dine at the Elysée Palace while on official state visits to France. For example, US President John F. Kennedy was served a Mumm Cordon Rouge 1952, while his Majesty King Hussein I of Jordan and President Gorbachev sampled a Blanc de Blancs Mumm de Cramant; the Prince and Princess of Wales, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were offered a Mumm de Mumm 1982 and US President Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed a Mumm Cordon Rouge. In 1876, a single idea changed the course of Mumm’s future. To assert the quality of its Champagne, Mumm’s agent Joseph Jourdan came up with the idea of decorating the bottles with the famous red sash of the Legion of Honour. For some

esteemed customers, a few bottles were decorated with a sash of genuine red silk, sealed with an oval label marked “Cordon Rouge”. It was an overnight success. The red sash became a rallying call for connoisseurs who, in the 1900s, began ordering “a bottle of Cordon Rouge” instead of “a bottle of Champagne”. The choice of colour was no accident. Red not only refers to the Legion of Honour, it

is also enduringly associated with luxury, prestige and value. In 1900, the Cordon Rouge cuvée, by now a global standard, adopted the slogan, “The most expensive, therefore the best” in the United Kingdom, and became the subject of a musical composition in the United States. A symbol of the firm’s excellence and savoir-faire throughout the world, the red sash became an icon,

repeatedly referred to, first in paintings and posters, then in films, plays and comic strips. There is a ritual to the tasting of Mumm Champagne. It is intense, demands respect for certain rules, and heightens both the anticipation and the sense of an experience shared. To emphasise the ritual, Mumm has developed a range of accessories dedicated to the art of

The iconic red sash of Mumm Cordon Rouge, a symbol of bravery and prestige


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impromptu tasting. First, the dramatic sabrage, a technique invented by cavalry officers whose impatience to open bottles that were, at the time, sealed by string and wax or tar, prompted them to use the back of their sabre’s blade. The tradition was first introduced at Mumm at the end of the 19th century by Alexandre De Bary, a former cavalry officer who became a company director. He embraced dandyism, the intellectual, philosophical and artistic movement of his day and moved in high circles, regularly inviting guests to the Maison Cordon Rouge where the sabrage marked the official opening of the occasion. Since then, to maintain a tradition combining elegance, convention and freedom, Mumm has commissioned well-known designers to create a range of remarkable sabres. Mumm Champagne is a byword for celebration. Due to its history and endless quest for excellence, it is not surprising that Mumm should be associated with once-in-a-lifetime moments that are loaded with emotion. The association is embodied by the jeroboam of Mumm Cordon Rouge, a label synonymous with Champagne throughout the world. Mumm has become the Champagne that rewards Formula One champions on the podium. And who could forget Commander JeanBaptiste Charcot, who led the first French expedition to the Antarctic in 1904 and celebrated Bastille Day on the ice floe with a bottle of Mumm Cordon Rouge? The search for quality begins with the choice of terroir. For Mumm, quality is a state of mind. It began with the founders, who wanted “Only the best”, it manifests itself in an approach that promotes

authenticity and respect for Champagne traditions, and it survives in a spirit of tradition and innovation. In Champagne, terroir is classified by cru according to the composition of the soil, exposure and the grape varieties. This classification currently lists 17 villages as grand crus and 42 villages as premier crus, out of a total of 319 winemaking locations in the Champagne region. When Mumm bought their first plot in Verzenay in 1840, Mumm was taking the first steps in the creation of a winemaking domain dominated by pinot noir. As the domain expanded over the years, it acquired plots on all the historic Champagne terroir. Today, the Mumm vineyard is absolutely exceptional. Its 218 hectares, including 160 hectares of grand crus, are located in eight historic villages that express the full authenticity of the Champagne terroir—Aÿ, Bouzy, Ambonnay, Verzy, Verzenay, Mailly, Avize and Cramant. With 170 hectares on the Montagne de Reims, this winemaking domain is strongly dominated by the Pinot Noir that is so expressive of the Mumm style. It extends to the Chardonnay grand crus in Cramant and Avize on the Côte des Blancs (31 hectares) and the Grande Vallée de la Marne—mainly Pinot Meunier (17 hectares). These plots provide enough grapes to meet 25 per cent of the needs of production, with 75 per cent met by independent growers with whom Mumm enjoys privileged partnerships in keeping with the principle instigated by the Mumm brothers in 1827. It is the combination of these supplies and the Mumm domain itself that allows the Champagne house to remain true to its style and express it consistently, year after year.

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Didier Mariotti has been Chef de Caves at Mumm since 2006. The 12th in a lineage responsible for perpetuating a heritage that is nearly two hundred years old, he blends each of the cuvées in the purest Mumm style, whilst adding his own sensitivity and personal touch. Blending is a highly creative exercise, and aided by his team of oenologists, Didier Mariotti tastes and studies around 2,000 samples every year. Once he has “mapped out” the clear and reserve wines, he selects the best blends for each of the cuvées. With his expert mastery of the Mumm style and his organoleptic and historical knowledge of each wine, he is able to maintain the style where freshness and intensity compose a subtle balance. This infinitely complex art of blending attains its supreme expression in the Mumm Cordon Rouge cuvée, which in some years comprises up to a hundred different crus. Since it is the reserve wines that hold the secret to this consistency of style, Didier Mariotti pays particular attention to the way these wines are aged. To conserve their power and freshness from year to year, some are aged on the lees to develop fullness, whereas others are kept for over five years to accentuate the maturity of a cuvée. In years when the grape harvest is outstanding, Didier Mariotti creates a vintage, and then only the wines of that year are blended. Finally, in the last stage before bottling, a liqueur de tirage is added to produce a second fermentation. This gives rise to a multitude of fine bubbles and determines the freshness and power of Mumm’s Champagnes. ❧

Tasting notes






Appearance: A clear and bright golden yellow in colour

Appearance: Pale salmon pink in colour, with light orange shades; abundant bubbles form a delicate and lively froth

Appearance: A luminous and bright golden yellow colour, with fine, lingering bubbles

Appearance: Light and delicate bubbles dissolve in a bright and luminous liquid, shot through with green and soft yellow glints

Appearance: A beautiful and radiant gold colour

Aroma: The nose reveals initial aromas of white and yellow peaches, apricots, and tropical notes of lychee or pineapple. It then opens up with the fragrance of vanilla before developing notes of milky caramel, breadcrumbs and yeast, culminating in aromas of dried fruit and honey Flavour: Freshness bursts onto the palate, followed by great length in the mouth, and subtle, rich bubbles. Perfect balance combines with round, ample vinosity, with complex aromas of fresh fruit and caramel

Aroma: Aromas of summer berries and pink grapefruit, with dominant notes of small fresh fruit such as strawberry, cherry and redcurrant, developing with light notes of vanilla and caramel Flavour: After a lively and very energetic burst of flavor, the liquid reveals aromas of summer berries, displaying elegance, subtlety and freshness

Aroma: The nose reveals a superbly complex wine. Notes of apple and pear, with yellow fruit such as apricot and mirabelle plum develop into notes of dried fruit and nuts with hints of pastry Flavour: After a strong start, the wine develops gradually. It then reveals the increasingly perceptible presence of Pinot Noir, giving unctuousness to the structure before unfolding into a long, precise finish

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Aroma: Notes of scented white blossoms, lemon and fresh fruit Flavour: An elegant and subtly mineral taste leads into a smooth body and an intense, expressive finish that illustrates its ageing potential

Aroma: Aromas of fresh and dried fruits, with gourmand notes of vanilla, nougat and honey Flavour: A fresh burst before the wine settles. The generous mouthfeel builds to a final crescendo and a beautiful long finish



Didier Mariotti DIDIER MARIOTTI BEGAN HIS CAREER IN CHAMPAGNE INTERNING AT MÖET & CHANDON IN 1995, BEFORE GOING ON TO COMPLETE A WINEMAKING DEGREE IN REIMS. OFFICIALLY TAKING OVER THE MUMM REINS FROM DOMINIQUE DEMARVILLE IN 2006, DIDIER NOW HAS A LONG AFFILIATION WITH THE HOUSE AND A DEEP LOVE OF ITS PRODUCE. Didier, can you tell us a little about Mumm in your own words and how you found yourself at the house? The house was founded in 1827 by a German family. It was the largest house at the beginning of the 20th century and is now the 3rd largest. Thanks to the “Cordon Rouge”, the symbol of both the house and the legion d’honneur, the highest decoration in France, the house is well recognised worldwide. The house style is really based on the Pinot Noir, as most of our own vineyards are Pinot Noir plants. It’s a varietal I really like as part of my family (from my mothers side), it is from Burgundy. Why is Mumm’s history so important to you and what impact does that have on your work today in the winery? Mumm’s history is important to understand the legacy of the house. Winemaking is all about the legacy: to the consumers who are drinking Mumm right now but also the future consumer through everything we are creating. It’s also why we are going to reveal the “Collection du Chef de Caves”; a trip into Mumm history with three back vintages: 1996, 1990 and 1985 being released in magnums. It’s the perfect way to understand the house history and philosophy by tasting three great vintages. Mumm has always been seen as an avantgarde house, how are you continuing to push the boundaries (as a brand and as a winemaker)? You always need to be creative. The world is changing so we also have to change the

way we produce Champagne. You can go at the same speed, then you don’t see the changes, but I like to go a little faster because I also want to convince new consumers to drink Champagne and to drink Mumm. We have just launched the Night Edition with three new products; two white Champagnes and one rosé Champagne. They are a little bit sweeter than the Cordon Rouge, but I think some consumers are looking for more fruitiness and roundness, and I have to listen to them. When do you celebrate with Champagne, give us a recent example or occasion? I celebrate with Champagne almost every day! Of course, Champagne is to celebrate achievement, victory and of course Formula 1, but Champagne is also for me a fantastic drink to transform a bad day into a good one: celebrate every day. How would you like to see Australians celebrating with Mumm? Every day with a glass of Mumm Champagne! I would also like to see more consumers enjoying and celebrating with my Rosé: it’s perfect for your weather, culture and social drinking style. I really think it’s perfect for Australia.

Non Vintage Brut coming from 5 grand crus villages (65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay with around 20% reserve wines), which is not currently available in Australia. Mumm seem to practice the art of Sabrage regularly, tell us a little about it and why it’s used by Mumm? The sabrage comes from history: when Napoleon was battling east of Europe he was passing through Champagne with his army and they brought bottles of Champagne with them to celebrate all their victories. At that time, Champagne was not closed with a cork, instead it was closed with a piece of wood, some wax and rope, so it was not really easy to quickly open the bottle. That is why the officer of the cavalry decided to use their sabre to open it. After the battles, the same officers went back to Paris, still drinking Champagne and still using their sabre to open it! At Mumm we like to use it to pay tribute to this history: it’s like a ritual when you open the bottle. You just have to be very careful when you do it, as there is 6kg of pressure inside the bottle and it can explode if you don’t do it properly: so I recommend learning how to do it and to wear gloves and glasses… Just in case!

Do you have a “hidden gem” in your range, a style or cuvée that we should keep an eye out for?

What do you think are some of the challenges facing Champagne in the coming decade (Supply v Demand, Climate, Changing Consumer Trends etc)?

As a father I love and take care of all my children, but you always keep an eye out and give a little bit more attention to your youngest. The Brut Selection; a new

In Champagne, we always try to adjust supply vs demand: growers and negociants decide together, before the harvest, the level of yield function of

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our stocks and function of the demand for the next three years. In 2014 over 307 million bottles of Champagne were shipped from the region. We can ship 40 million more if they are needed in the coming years. Climate is changing and we have to adapt, but for the moment this adaptation is about the date of harvest: every year we decide the dates of harvest following the level of acidity and sugar in the grapes to get the best balance. 30 years ago harvest was starting in October or maybe November. Today we start closer to mid-September. Consumer tastes are also changing: we were drinking sweet Champagne in France in the 50’s where we now drink dryer Champagne. The business is now

more global than it was in the 50’s and consumers tastes are not the same everywhere, so I need to listen to what each type of consumer is asking for because my job is to bring enjoyment and pleasure to all! Australia has long loved the screw cap and enjoyed the results of cork free wine; would you ever consider using screw caps? I have tried! But not very successfully for the moment because of the pressure inside! However, part of our production is now under Mytik Diamant Cork (Technical Cork), which guarantees no more cork problems and all Mumm Champagne bottles in Australia are closed with these corks.

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What are the differences between Sparkling and Champagne? The terroir: Champagne is a sparkling wine, produced only in Champagne. The terroir is what makes wines so different from one region to another: terroir can be the soil, the subsoil, age of the vines, exposure, climate or weather. What do we have to look forward to from yourself and Mumm over the next 12 months? Collection du Chef de Caves (Australia will receive about 15 magnums of each vintage, 1996, 1990, 1985), Brut Selection (Australia may see this in the future) and Night Edition (Australia may see this in the future). ❧




There, Charles cultivated an extraordinary number of plants and conducted research into vines, fully aware that the vineyard was the jewel in his House’s crown. He then multiplied its surface area by six, thanks to additions of rare plots of Grands Crus, in particular from Mailly and Verzenay, to the property he had inherited from his father. The reputation of his House’s wines had now become established throughout Europe: Perrier-Jouët was served at the tables of Napoléon III, Leopold 1st of Belgium, Charles 15th the King of Sweden, and Queen Victoria. In 1861, she awarded Perrier-Jouët her ‘Royal Warrant’, thus making the House one of her court’s official suppliers. Photography by: Warren and Nick

Perrier Jouet bottle, designed by Emile Gallé, the founder of the École de Nancy

WHEN THEY FOUNDED THEIR Champagne House, the Perrier family, like many other Champagne producers, owned barely ten hectares, spread out over Epernay, Aÿ, Avenay, Dizy, Pierry and Chouilly. Pierre-Nicolas enriched this heritage as a true connoisseur by acquiring land in Aÿ, Mailly and in what were to become the Grands Crus of the Côte des Blancs, in Avize and Cramant. An entrepreneur, Pierre-Nicolas was the first to guarantee the origin of his wines by putting the Cru and vintage on his corks. It was their son Charles – who married Octavie Gallice – keen on science and a partisan of progress, who took up his parents’ reins and introduced greenhouses into the gardens of the imposing Château Perrier, which had been built by his family on the iconic Avenue de Champagne.

It was then Octavie’s nephew, Henri Gallice, who took over control of the House from his uncle in 1872. Having been trained by Charles, Henri perpetuated the founders’ traditions and his demanding approach bore fruit: in 1880, a million bottles were exported, in particular to the USA, which was one of the House’s new markets. After undergoing the disaster of phylloxera and the ravages of the First World War, a fresh chapter of Perrier-Jouët’s history began with Louis Budin. As Henri Gallice had lost his son René, it was Louis Budin, René’s brother-in-law, who took charge of the House. This agricultural engineer and lover of the Champagne region reconstituted the vineyard, above all by acquiring plots in Dizy and the legendary property of Bouron Leroi. Meanwhile, he reorganised his sales network both in France and abroad, before handing over the keys of the House to his son, Michel, who in turn continued to

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shape the vineyard by adding new plots to it, including parts of another fabulous property: Bouron du midi. In 1902, the House approached Emile Gallé, the founder of the École de Nancy and now recognised as one of the instigators of the Art Nouveau movement in France. To answer a commission for the decoration of several magnums of champagne, this master glassmaker looked for inspiration from his garden. Emile Gallé was not only a renowned artist and a recognised businessman, he was also an enthusiastic botanist. From his collection of Japanese plants, which included almost 400 varieties, some of which being extremely rare, he chose Japanese anemones and devised an airy design. But this floral arabesque then fell into oblivion before being rediscovered, quite by chance, at the end of the 1960s, by the House’s Cellar Master. Convinced enough to buck the fashions of the day, and with the intuition that this art-work would turn into a genuine emblem, in 1969 Michel Budin decided to use it to decorate the bottles of the cuvée he wished then to launch: cuvée Belle Epoque. Michel Budin then took things further by starting a collection of Art Nouveau furniture and artefacts. In 1990, These works by Majorelle, Guimard, Lalique, among others, resulted in the remarkable décor of the Maison Belle Epoque, where Perrier-Jouët’s private guests are now entertained. Since 2005, the Perrier-Jouët House has belonged to the Pernod Ricard Group. Over two centuries after its foundation, the spirit of Pierre-Nicolas Perrier and Rose Adélaïde Jouët still remains. ❧

Tasting notes





Appearance: A beautiful golden hue

Appearance: A beautiful fresh salmon pink in colour

Appearance: A beautiful pale yellow, clear with hints of green and a lively mousse

Appearance: A robe of pale Rosé with hints of orange and a very lively mousse

Aroma: Aromas of white fruits - lemon, white peach, pear and grapefruit - give way to hints of pineapple and fresh spring flowers. This is followed by richer aromas of nuts, marzipan and sweet spice

Aroma: Rounded yet delicate aromas of red fruits (red currants, raspberries and pomegranate) combine with blood orange and grapefruit followed by hints of nuts, brioche, honey and caramel

Flavour: The attack is lively, with a marked minerality that feels both elegant yet rounded. Sensual and silky, harmonious and beautifully balanced, the flavours mingle to leave a long, fine finish

Flavour: The attack is lively and fresh, yet rounded. The palate is intense, generous and powerful, yet delicate, with purity of fruit, great finesse and a long, lingering finish

Aroma: A lively freshness reveals harmonious fruity and floral aromas: white flowers (blossom, lime, honeysuckle) punctuated with fresh fruit flavours (lemon, peach) and yellow fruits (apricot, mango) developing into notes of buttery brioche and hints of vanilla Flavour: The attack feels the palate with a beautiful structure, balance and roundness. The wine delivers a gentle vinosity with an agreeable persistence on the finish

Aroma: Pomegranate, red fruits, blood orange - intense fruity aromas dominate the nose, followed by subtle floral notes (honeysuckle). Finally hints of butter and brioche complete the harmony of the wine Flavour: The attack is intense and lively. The wine is rich, with great length and character. The finish is complex and persistent

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UNFORTUNATELY, ALEXANDRE DIED not long after, leaving his widow Louise to take up the challenge of running the house alongside Greno and together the two began the production of sparkling white Champagnes. A true trailblazer in laying the foundations for a product, Louise invented the image of the Pommery brand. Following her request for a dry wine, at a time when sweet wines were the taste, Victor Lambert, the Pommery Cellar Master, created the first vintage “brut” in the history of Champagne, the Pommery Nature 1874. Until then, Champagne wines had been produced using high levels of sugar and alcohol, which was regarded as necessary to reduce the acidity. However, from her travels in England, Madame Pommery knew that the taste of English high society was turning towards lighter and less sweet wines, and so she set about making her own. It was a revolution in Champagne and an unprecedented success; constantly changing and always unique after a slow maturation in the dimness of the

chalk-pits, Pommery Nature 1874 became legendary and, driven by Madame Pommery, the Pommery style ruled. Fitting with the new taste of consumers involved technological changes: delaying the harvest dates – with the risk of frost implied – to ensure grapes’ ripeness; lengthening the maturation in the cellar and increasing the range of wines stored in order to obtain the desired balance of blends. It was a highly risky financial venture for this small producer, since stocks were difficult and expensive to build up, yet the lady of the house went ahead with her usual daring foresight and the cheerful lightness of Pommery Nature went on to establish the fame, style and success of the House of Pommery, a success story that continues today. Pommery’s international success can be attributed to Adolphe Hubinet; a traveler salesman working in the wine trade. Hubinet threw himself into the assignment entrusted to him by Madame Pommery in 1861: to win over the British market by positioning the Pommery brand at the top.

After Louise’s death in 1890, her children Louis and Louise took over as Managing Directors of the House, reinforcing their positions with Henry Vasnier, the brother of Madame Pommery’s childhood friend, who remained director. Louis pursued his mother’s social work until 1907. Almost at the same time as Henry Vasnier, Louis died, leaving a young widow and his young child, LouisAlexandre Pommery. In the same year, Melchior de Polignac, Louise’s son, took over. Like his mother and grandmother before him, he sought to enlarge the estate while upholding the social aims his mother had set out. Louise Pommery was well known for putting her fortune to “good use”. A businesswoman she certainly was, but also a kind-hearted woman: she set up the first “pension fund” and “social security” for her workforce. The town of Reims also owed her its orphanage and its nursery fund, which was how she invented the company’s ethical charter. She supported artists; especially those >>

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from her town, and she bequeathed to the Reims Museum her collection of 600 pieces of faience, as well as donating Millet’s “Gleaners” to the French state. Shortly after Melchiors takeover of the family business, the cataclysm of the Great War came, with 90 per cent of Reims being destroyed.

Three years of hell and devastation followed; what was left of the population found refuge in the Pommery chalk-pits and galleries, and the grapes continued to be harvested amid the rubble. A touching, very simple little label began to appear on Pommery wines: “Pommery 1917, wine harvested 1,200

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metres away from enemy lines”, and in 1918, all that remained of the estate was a field of ruins; everything had to be rebuilt. And it was, exactly as it had been, under the aegis of Melchior de Polignac who established the House’s international influence until 1979, when the family ceased to run the company in order to focus on the wines.

LEFT: Monumental staircase into the Pommery Cellars RIGHT: A unique collection of Champagne vintages of the 19th, 20th and 21st century



From that time on, Prince Alain de Polignac, Cellar Master and creator of the prestigious Cuvée Louise, watched over it with passion. The keeper of the history, protector of the archives and a marvelous teller of tales, he travelled the world over to introduce people to Pommery.

ABOVE: The Pommery Estate in the heart of Reims RIGHT: Disgorgement of a bottle of Champagne in the 19th century

Since 2002, Paul-François Vranken has pursued the destiny of Pommery as Louise used to do: with an avant-garde vision, a generous nature and tenacious willingness that embodied Pommery’s way of being, doing and living – inventive sensitivity mixed with impish refinement. In a style of unique tastes, Pommery Champagnes continue their story with cheerful lightness, brilliant freshness, and tender liveliness.


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Tasting notes






Appearance: Gold

Appearance: Pale yellow with faint green highlights

Appearance: Delicate, pale pink with slightly salmon tones. Fine and persistent bubbles

Appearance: Yellow with attractive hints of green

Appearance: Shades of yellow interspersed with brilliant green reflections

Aroma: A highly subtle nose in which floral notes combine with touches of citrus fruits, blended within a creamy and silky cocoon Flavour: The subtle nose leaves a creamy, smooth sensation on the palate and the citrus notes produce a fresh wine, creating an overall tender texture that reveals the wines generosity

Aroma: Lively and cheerful, fresh, light-hearted, fine, delicate and generous Flavour: Elegant and lively. Small but assertive notes of red fruits. A rounded, rich, delicate wine that lingers in the mouth. A very smooth wine which never wanes on the palate

Aroma: Small red berries suggesting roundness and softness, enhanced by a fine freshness in a world of distinction Flavour: Very subtle rosé character: supple and finely robust with an appealing freshness and liveliness

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Aroma: Fat, silky and almost creamy. Highlighted with attractive floral notes of very slightly dried flowers, followed by light and delicate scents of spices and bay leaf Flavour: Made from 7 Grand Crus, this vintage expresses a lot of softness on the palate. Perfect harmony. Everything strikes absolutely the right note, everything is perfectly in place, and delicacy reigns supreme

Aroma: Minerality is accompanied by citrusy notes of lemon and grapefruit, enhanced by a gentle touch of glorious white peach highlighted with delicate small red fruits such as redcurrants, which leave a fresh and delicate sensation of fruit Flavour: Made from a blend of three Grand Crus; Ay, Avize & Cramant with minimum dosage. It’s the epitome of finesse, purity and elegance, delivering everything which was promised on the nose



Thierry Gasco BORN IN 1952 IN REIMS, THIERRY GASCO FIRST STUDIED MEDICINE BEFORE ENROLLING AT BOURGOGNE UNIVERSITY, GRADUATING AS AN OENOLOGIST IN 1974. HIS EXTENSIVE CAREER REALLY began when he took the role of Cellar Master’s Assistant at Goulet Turpin’s, becoming Cellar Master soon after, before progressing to Cellar Director of Promodès from 1979 to 1983. Thierry’s next step saw him become Director of SA Roger Guy from 1983 to 1986, finally taking the role of Cellar Director of Champagne De Venoge until 1992 when he joined Champagne Pommery. Today Thierry holds the position of Cellar Master and Establishment Director of Pommery. The guarantor of the Maison Pommery style, Thierry is responsible for the blend of the different cuvées of the Maison and develops the famous and fabulous Brut vintage. He is, of course, the ultimate expert when it comes to the blend of the “Cuvées de Prestige” vintage Louise and Louise Rosé. From his extensive experience, Thierry created several new cuvées for the House, including the Brut Apanage, POP and the four seasons collection, drawing inspiration from both fashion and trends of consumption.

As well as creating new cuvées, Thierry is in charge of the vineyard’s relationships, securing the overall supplies of grapes needed to carry out the wine making. He likewise oversees the Maison’s technical and oenological communication, on both a national and international level. 
As the Establishment Director, he is also responsible for the Pommery Domain, located in a unique area registered by the “Bâtiments de France”, and also for the Villa Demoiselle in Reims. Thierry endeavors to put his expertise and experience at the disposal of the vineyard management and wine making process, among all the companies of Vranken-Pommery Monopole Group. Beyond his role at Pommery, Thierry is the representative of the Vranken-Pommery Group within several institutions: FEVS (Confederation of exporters of wines and spirits),
FFVA (French confederation of aperitif wines)
and SFVM (French sparkling wine association). Thierry has acted as President of the Œnologists of Champagne for nine years, been Master of the Vinalies commission, and elected “Man of the Year” by the Revue du Champagne in 2001.
He was

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also President of the Union of Oenologists of France between 2004 and 2010, and he is the official delegate of France in the International Union of Oenologists. Thierry is a permanent member of the CIVC’s technical, safety and health committees and an INAO (National Institute of Appellations Contrôlées) taster for Champagne wines. In 2004 he was nominated by ministerial decree as a member of the National Committee of INAO, as a Qualified Person, and was reconfirmed in his position in February 2007 on the Technical Committee. He also did a lot by both the Agricultural and Education Ministries in order to upgrade the DNO diploma into a Master’s Degree, recognised at European level. In 2009 he was nominated as an expert within the International Organisation of Wine and Vine (OIV). Finally, in 2010, Thierry was awarded the insignia of “Chevalier of the Order of Agricultural Merit”. ❧

Thierry Gasco, ninth generation Cellar Master of Pommery Champagne (since 1992)

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Clovis Taittinger, Export director, Son of Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger.

HISTORY AND FAMILY SIGNATURE In 1912, Pierre-Charles Taittinger, a young cavalry officer during the First World War, made his first visit to the Château de la Marquetterie near Epernay. It was here that the autumn 1915 offensive was launched. PierreCharles instantly fell in love with the magnificent property and vowed himself to return…one day… A year after acquiring the champagne firm of Fourneaux-Forest, as it had come to be known, Taittinger secured purchase of the Château de la Marquetterie and its vineyards. He began to restructure the firm, and expand its vineyard holdings in some of the finest producing areas of Champagne. Following the end of the Second World War, since the Fourneaux family had no descendants, Taittinger decided to put its own name on the label - it seemed

to be the obvious next step in the commitment to the people behind the project. These days, every bottle bares the Taittinger name, and the family is more responsible than ever for the indisputable quality of each bottle that leaves its cellars. Thanks to the ongoing commitment of the family members, Taittinger can guarantee its flawless signature, and wines that are heralded worldwide for their consistent quality.

CRAFTSMANSHIP There is no great Champagne without great grapes, and Taittinger now reaps the benefits of expanding its vineyards early. Today, it covers 288 hectares of land, making it the third biggest in Champagne. This ensures a regular supply of highquality grapes for the production of the delicate, finely-balanced champagne that has gained them worldwide recognition among connoisseurs.

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There is a well-known saying at Taittinger: “Instead of three, we work with four different grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Time”. Champagne is all about patience and silence, something to be witnessed when visiting Taittinger’s magnificent chalk cellars in Reims, initially dug in the Gallo-Roman period and extended by the Benedictine monks in the thirteenth century. An optimum ageing process ensures that all bottles produced by Taittinger are of the exceptional quality on which it has built its reputation. The hallmark of the brand’s fine Champagne is the high proportion of Chardonnay used in its winemaking, which is key for producing wines of great elegance and finesse. From the non–vintage Brut Réserve to the prestige cuvée Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, Taittinger’s first and foremost priority has always been the quality

of its wines; nothing is left to chance. As President Pierre-Emmanuel says: “Marketing is just like make up, it is here to subtly enhance the beauty, never to replace it”. The family members always present themselves as craftsmen, for everything begins in the vines. Instead of focusing on appearance, they argue that what is put in the bottle, is a reflection of what you really are. You need to know which grapes, from which region and from which year you require to achieve a specific style.

MODERN APPROACH When you are secure about your authenticity, legacy and history, you are able to more easily move with the times. This is why Taittinger is considered a pioneer by many. One of the best examples of this, was its appointment by FIFA as the very first official Champagne of the World Cup. This not only proved the quality of the product, but also that the House was able to be involved in such an international event, with all the logistics and investment that goes along with it. It was an opportunity to show people how Taittinger sees Champagne; not

only is it a magnificent wine, but it is also a symbol of love, friendship and celebration. Champagne is a great wine in the service of a great party, and what is life, but a great party? The Taittingers have always been described as conquerors, and the FIFA agreement helped them continue this way by creating the very first

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3D champagne label that was visible without special glasses. The technical feat creates the effect of fizzing bubbles straight from the label on the iconic non-vintage Brut Réserve, echoing the 3D effect from the bubbles on the packaging, which has seen great success around the globe.

Pierre –Emmanuel Taittinger, President of Champagne Taittinger And his daughter Vitalie Taittinger, Marketing and communication director.

The “bubble revolution” marches on. ❧



Tasting notes




Appearance: Golden yellow with fine bubbles that are discreet yet lingering

Appearance: Intense, shimmering pink hue

Appearance: Pale yellow with shimmering highlights

Aroma: Open and expressive delivering aromas of fruit, brioche, white flowers and vanilla pod

Aroma: The full nose is fresh, crisp and young, giving off aromas of red fruits (freshly crushed wild raspberry, cherry and blackcurrant)

Aroma: A subtle bouquet featuring delightful aromas of yellow peaches and dried apricots

Flavour: Lively, fresh and delicate with tones of fresh fruit and honey

Flavour: On the palate, this wine strikes a fine balance of velvety and full-bodied with fresh, crisp red fruit flavours

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Flavour: Smooth and creamy, yet crisp with hints of raisins and fruits in syrup. Distinctively sweet and full of flavour




Appearance: Pale yellow with subtle silver highlights

Appearance: A bright, pale yellow with abundant yet fine bubbles

Appearance: Pale yellow with light, abundant bubbles which rise steadily to form a fine mousse

Aroma: The initial mineral aromas quickly give way to green and then floral notes with the fragrance of elderflowers and spicy cinnamon undertones

Aroma: Elegant notes of vine flowers followed by intense, sweet and fruity overtones

Flavour: Clean and lively, dominated by fresh citrus notes which develop into fuller, rounder and silkier flavours where white peaches in syrup predominate. The finish is rich, lingering and bursting with flavour

Flavour: Rich and fruity, dominated by flavours of yellow fruit compote and greengages running through. Flavourful, smooth and generous, suggesting fruit paste finishing with a well-structured and full-bodied, slightly tannic note

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Aroma: An intense bouquet, beginning with rich notes of pastry cream and finishing with light, toasted notes Flavour: Smooth and voluptuous, with flavours of ripe fruit



Restaurants IF ONE IS SPOILT FOR CHOICE IN THE ACCOMMODATION STAKES, THAT IS NOTHING COMPARED TO THE ARRAY OF RESTAURANTS IN THE REGION IN WHICH ONE CAN REVEL. EVERYTHING FROM CHEAP AND CHEERFUL, FROM BISTROS AND BARS, TO SOME OF FRANCE’S MOST FAMOUS AND MAGICAL FINE DINING. TAKE YOUR PICK FROM NEW WAVE THRILLS TO MICHELIN STARS. THE DISADVANTAGES OF BEING THE CROSSROADS OF EUROPE, PATHWAY TO EVERY WARRING TRIBE AND ARMY FOR CENTURIES, IS NOW A GREAT BONUS AS FRESH AND EXCITING PRODUCE FROM LAND AND SEA ARRIVE HERE IN THE BEST POSSIBLE CONDITION. WORDS KEN GARGETT IT IS ALWAYS WORTH BOOKING WELL IN ADVANCE IF YOU HAVE A PLAN, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE IN PEAK SEASON. THAT SAID, you’d be surprised how often you’ll be able to get a table at some of Europe’s finest on almost no notice, as cancellations happen – but do not rely on it. If the budget is a concern, but you also want to enjoy the best the region can offer, consider booking the very finest for a lunch, rather than dinner. And don’t neglect the set menu. It will showcase the best of the skills of the chef and is often excellent value. Remember also that, as with any guidebook on just about any subject, things change, sometimes very quickly. Keep an ear out for ‘local knowledge’ and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations. It is very much worth checking in advance, if possible, as restaurant opening/ closing times and indeed days/weeks and even months, can vary.

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Address: 64, bd Henry Vasnier, 51100 Reims Tel: +33 3 26 24 90 00 Website:

Address: 16 Rue de Reims, 51200 Epernay. Tel: +33 3 26 55 44 22 Website:

Address: 1, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 51100, Reims. Tel: +33 3 26 24 27 15 Website:

Once home to the famous Gerard Boyer, this glorious establishment went through some tough times and saw its three Michelin stars evaporate. Recently, it is back in sparkling form and, provided the wallet is on board, an absolute must for the pinnacle of fine dining in the region. A stunning wine list and amazing Champagnes, but it also does go beyond the regional borders. If something a little more casual is the order of the day, their bistro, Le Jardin Les Crayeres (7 av du General Giraud, 51100 Reims, +33 326249090), is an ideal alternative. It shares the grounds so you can always drop by Les Crayeres itself for a drink before relaxing at the bistro.  

The chef here has worked in some of the world’s most legendary restaurants and he has established a deservedly popular favourite in Epernay.

ROYAL CHAMPAGNE Address: Hameau de Bellevue, 51160 Epernay. Tel: + 33 3 26 52 87 11 Website: When the renovations are finished, planned for the Spring of 2017, this place will undoubtedly return to its former glory as one of the region’s finest.

RESTAURANT LES AVISÉS Address: 59, rue de Cramant - 51190 Avize. Tel: + 33 326 577 006 Website: There are few places in Champagne hotter than this at the moment. Part of the Selosse empire, it is attracting rave reviews. Personally, sadly I cannot comment as the day I was due there, the Paris Porsche Club booked out the entire place. The claim is that dishes change every day and that they have never repeated one.

L’ASSIETTE CHAMPENOISE Address: 40, avenue Paul VaillantCouturier, 51430 Tinqueux, Reims. Tel: +33 3 26 84 64 64 Website: The region’s three star restaurant; which says it all. A great list supports dining which is in no way stuffy or limited by tradition.  

A contemporary restaurant in central Reims, with a devoted following.

BISTRO LE 7 Address: 13, rue des Cots, 51200, Epernay. Tel: + 33 3 26 55 28 84 Website: Simple and seasonal, in Hotel Les Berceaux, this is a big step up from the old days.

LE WINE BAR Address: 16 Place du Forum, 51100, Reims. Tel: + 33 3 26 05 89 94 Website:

LE GRAND CERF Address: 50 Route Nacionale 51, 51500 Montchenot. Tel: +33 326 976 007. Website: Hovering at the edge of the famous Montagne de Reims, this iconic establishment provides rich, traditional dining.

LE FOCH Address: 37 Boulevard Foch 51100 Reims. Tel: +33 3 26 47 48 22 Website: Traditional French dining at pleasingly nontraditional prices. Highly regarded with an excellent list of Champagnes.

Friends familiar with this exciting new bar have raved about it as a delightfully friendly place with a great list. They can’t wait to get back.

BRASSERIE LE BANQUE Address: 40 rue du General Leclerc, 51200, Epernay. Tel: + 33 3 26 59 50 50 Website: Terrific value here, with a brilliant list of Champagnes.

LE MILLENAIRE RESTAURANT Address: 4-6 rue Bertin, 51100, Reims. Tel: + 33 3 26 08 26 82 Website: Modern and exciting; a must.

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TO START WITH, A GREAT MANY OF the Houses, and especially growers, are not open to the public. However, many are delighted to welcome those with a genuine interest. So, if you wish to visit a House, give them a call or drop them a note, expressing interest (it never hurts to slip in that you are Australian – with the greatest respect to the ‘Mother Country’, there has long been “tension” between Britain and France, while my experience is that most French genuinely like Aussies). You will find, if you do arrive without any warning, that most Houses will politely explain that they are closed. Of course, there are plenty of Houses that are open to the public, though they usually have strictly limited timings, especially when it comes to tours. Some charge for the privilege, which seems fair, given that they usually need to employ people to welcome guests. You will need to be punctual and appropriately dressed. That doesn’t necessarily mean a coat and tie, but smart casual is appreciated – the more they like you and the more effort you’ve made, the more enjoyable the tour is likely to be. If you rock up in shorts and thongs, the Champenois will be their usual wonderfully hospitable selves, on the surface at least, but they will not be impressed. Many ‘guides’ suggest you speak French during these visits. That is well and good if you are fluent, but many of us are not. Most Houses will be able to converse in perfect English. You may have more trouble with some of the smaller growers (though I once spent five hours with a grower who had very limited English, and yet, despite my non-existent French, the two of us managed to make do more than acceptably and I had a wonderful visit, one of my most treasured). I have always found that a simple apology upfront – being utterly hopeless with the French language and more than likely to

cause offence if I tried to speak French, it is safer – and an explanation that, as much as you regret it, you do not speak their language, will get you through. If you are planning on visiting several Houses, always recommended, try not to cramp them together. Better to spend a few days in the region and plan on two, possibly three visits, maximum, per day. Nothing starts early in Champagne and then, with time thrown in for a good lunch – a must – more than two a day tends to be a rush. If you are focused, three is doable. The Champenois definitely appreciate punctuality, though they seem to like to play games with visitors. Often, if they know you have another visit, they keep you tasting well past the time needed to get between Houses, but if you then request it, they will usually put in a call to the next port of call to let them know you are on your way. Don’t be surprised if the hospitality at your final visit extends into the early evening (I don’t mean you’ll get an invitation to dinner at the family table but often, growers and Houses, especially the smaller ones, will continue with the tasting until it is finished). Remember also that most Houses are closed on public holidays and weekends – sometimes also during French school holidays and sometimes for extended periods. You might find a few of the bigger establishments open on a Saturday, but check first. Here are some recommendations, there are plenty more, but please remember to check with the House first, if at all possible – a perfect example is that locals have told me that Moët et Chandon will be undergoing extensive renovations at some stage very soon and may have to close to visits. Also, several Houses will offer a range of different tours and tasting experiences, for differing costs, of course.

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CHAMPAGNE MERCIER One of Champagne’s largest Houses and one of the most popular visits. Address: 70, Avenue de Champagne, 51200 Epernay. Tel: +33 3 26 51 22 22 Email: Website: Open every day (except Tuesday and Wednesday from mid-November to midMarch). 
9h30-11h30 / 14h-16h30. Closed from mid-December to mid-February. 

CHAMPAGNE MUMM A House that has returned to the greatness of years gone by. Address: 29, Rue Champ de Mars, 51100 Reims. Tel: +33 3 26 49 59 69 Email: Website: Tours by reservation every day. 9h-11h / 14h-17h. Except December 25 and January 1 and Sundays from November to February. From November to February open from Monday to Saturday, 9h-11h / 14h-17h.

CHAMPAGNE POMMERY A favourite House and an amazing one to visit. A sprawling architectural extravaganza in the middle of Reims. Don’t miss the extraordinary chalk carvings and caves. Address: 5 Place General Gouraud, BP 1049, 51689 Reims. Tel: +33 3 26 61 62 55 Email: Website: Visit and tasting by appointment. From April to mid-November daily, 9h30-19h. From mid-November to March every day, 10h-18h. Closed from 25 December to 1 January. 

CHAMPAGNE RUINART Champagne’s oldest House and one boasting some amazing chalk cellars. Address: 4, Rue des Crayères, 51100 Reims. Tel: +33 3 26 77 51 51 Email: Website: Tours by reservation from Tuesday to Saturday.  


A famous House, great Champagnes, wonderful hospitality. One not to miss. Address: 9, Place Saint Nicaise, 51100 Reims. Tel: +33 3 26 85 84 33 Email: Website: Tour and tasting every day from mid-March to mid-November. From mid-November to mid-March: Monday to Friday. 9h30-11h50 / 14h-16h50.  


A relative newcomer, but occupying a prized place on the world’s most drinkable street. Address: 79, Avenue de Champagne. 51200 Epernay. Tel: +33 3 26 56 99 56 Email:
 Website: Visit Monday through Sunday by reservation. 10h-12h / 14h-17h30.

CHAMPAGNE VEUVE CLICQUOT One of the most famous and highly regarded producers in the region. Also offer great crayeres and have multilingual guides. Address: 1 Place of Human Rights, 51100 Reims. Tel: +33 3 26 89 53 90 Email:

Website: Tours by reservation only. Closed from 19 December to 15 February.  


You can’t miss the world’s biggest Champagne House. They prove that big can be beautiful. Address: 20, Avenue de Champagne, 51200 Epernay. Tel: +33 3 26 51 20 20 Email: Website: Tour reservation. 9h30-11h30 / 14h-16h30 p.m. From April to mid-November every day. From mid-November to March every day, except weekends and public holidays.   


A small but legendary producer. Worth trying but they receive many, many more requests for visits than they can manage. But who knows? You might get lucky! Address: Rue Coquebert, 51100 Reims. Tel: +33 3 26 84 44 20 Email:  Website: 
 Strictly by appointment only: Mondays to Fridays, 09h–17h and often not during French school holidays. Closed mid-July to early September. There is a contact form on the website, or try emailing directly.  


Not your traditional visit but don’t let that put you off. Definitely worth the effort. Some wonderful Champagnes to be discovered. Address: 1 Rue de la République, 51530 Cuis. Tel: 03 26 59 78 70 Email:  Website: 

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Open Monday to Friday 8h30-12h30; 14h-18h. On Saturday morning visits by appointment.

ONE MORE “MUST” VISIT! Anyone who enjoys Champagne should make the pilgrimage to Hautvillers, not far from Epernay. Aside from being a wonderfully picturesque village offering superb views (and the opportunity for some wonderful photographs), this is the home of the famous monk, Dom Perignon, and the Abbey of Hautvillers. The village also has numerous wrought-iron signs on the homes, which is a nice, albeit curious diversion. The Abbey was founded in the mid-7th century, though it has had its troubles over the years and has been rebuilt on several occasions, once thanks to funding by the Medici family. In 1668, its most famous inhabitant, the then 29-year-old Benedictine monk, Pierre Perignon, took over management and remained in control until his death in 1715. Champagne would never be the same. The French Revolution ensured its dissolution but in 1823, Pierre-Gabriel Chandon de Brailles, the son-in-law of Jean-Remy Moët, took up the task of restoration of the Abbey. The Abbey managed to dodge damage in the First World War but was not so lucky in the Second. In 1941, it was sold to Moët et Chandon, who remain the owners today, through LVMH (their owners). The Abbey itself is only open on prior appointment, not easy as Moët use the place for private visits on a seemingly daily basis. However, fear not. You are able to visit the neighbouring church, built in 1698 – and it is very much worth doing so – which was the final resting place for the Monk himself. ❧




MANY OF THESE PITS, KNOWN AS crayeres, remain today, and they form the basis for the caves and cellars of some of the most famous Champagne Houses of all. Tunnels were constructed between the crayeres and these tunnels are now home to millions of maturing bottles of Champagne. As far back as 1820, Madame Ruinart connected 24 crayeres with eight kilometres of tunnels over three levels. Tourists to the region will surely drop by an array of producers to learn and taste. They should make absolutely certain that they visit the cellars of some of these Houses. They are truly breathtaking. Even more impressive is that in a number of them, artists have carved extraordinary works of art into the chalk walls. They are simply not to be missed. Some of the most famous are found in the cellars of Champagne Pommery. In the late 19th century, Madame Pommery commissioned the Nair brothers to create various bas-relief sculptures, including views of children in vineyards.

Aside from a brilliant tourist attraction, the chalk is essential for other reasons. Their excavation for the endless cellars has been mentioned. The chalk also helps maintain the temperature at 10°C, or thereabouts. In Reims, estimates suggest that there are at least 2,000 of these pits and that from them, the Romans extracted approximately 300,000 cubic metres, most of which was used when constructing the rampart walls in the 13th and 14th centuries. Among the Houses with crayeres that are so extraordinarily impressive are Pommery, Ruinart, Veuve Clicquot, Canard-Duchene, Taittinger and Mumm. These caves had another role to play during the Wars which ravaged the region. In the First World War, the early days of the German offensive of 1914 largely obliterated Reims. It is said that 600 people were killed and more than 4,000 homes destroyed. Life continued, but it did so in the cellars – if that sounds fanciful, then a single visit will reveal just how extensive these cellars are and any doubters will quickly believe

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that shops, schools, businesses and, of course, the Champagne Houses themselves, continued to function in the dark, neverending tunnels. In the Second World War, it is said that the tunnels became a favourite place for the Resistance to hide Allied soldiers, airmen and escaped POWs on their way back to England. It is not hard to imagine it. There are tales that German soldiers were very reluctant, almost to the extent of having to be forced by their superior officers at the point of a rifle, to go down into the cellars and search for them. One lovely story, hopefully true, concerns Madame Bollinger. On the surface, many of the Champenoise maintained cordial relations with the Germans, at least to the extent they needed to, in order for their businesses to continue to operate. And naturally, the German officers were keen to visit and dine at the Houses as often as they could. Bollinger was a particular favourite. It is said, however, that the cellars at Bollinger often hid Allied soldiers

and one evening, while Madame Bollinger was hosting the local German officers, a messenger from Berlin arrived and interrupted. Word had come down that the cellars at Bollinger were to be searched immediately. The Commander apologised and said that he had no choice but to send men into the tunnels immediately. Madame Bollinger knew that this might cause a little trouble as there were several airmen hidden within at the time. At the very

least, she knew it would certainly mean execution for herself. Putting on a brave face, she looked the Commander in the eye and, in her most outraged tone, declared this to be an insult of immeasurable proportion. Here she was, entertaining the Commander in her own home and he had the temerity to suggest she was hiding Allied soldiers. If he felt that way, he could leave immediately. The embarrassed Commander turned on the

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messenger and asked how he had dared bring such a message to this House. Here was Madame Bollinger acting as a gracious hostess to the officers and this messenger had seen fit to embarrass them all. Mention was made of the Western Front. The Commander then apologised profusely to Madame Bollinger and the dinner continued. No search was made. Visit the cellars; you might not find airmen but there are miles of treasures. â?§




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AND IF YOU ARE EXTREMELY WELL connected, and fortunate, you might even be able to swing an invitation to the private rooms some Houses reserve for special guests. Needless to say, they come with a very well stocked bar. A few recommendations among many, but it is definitely worth researching through the usual sites to look for something that suits. It is also a good way to find any special bargains which might be available.



Address: 7 Rue Jean Moet, 51200 Epernay. Email: 0011 33 9 70 73 05 92 Website:

Address: 13, rue des Berceaux, 51200 Epernay. Tel: +33 3 26 55 28 84 Email:  Website:

Situated in Epernay, a stone’s throw from the legendary Avenue de Champagne, a small 12 room hotel with an ever-increasing reputation. Some of the most famous names in the region are just a minute or two away.



Address: 22 rue Templar, 51100, Reims. Tel: + 33 3 26 88 55 08 Email: Website:

Address: 9 rue Buirette, 51100, Reims. Tel: +61 1800 759 950 Email: Website:

A boutique hotel, 17 rooms and suites, well placed in Reims. Originally a 19th century home.

LE CLOS RAYMI Address: 3, rue Joseph de Venoge, 51200. Epernay. Tel: +33 3 2651 0058 Email: Website: An old 19th century mansion with seven themed rooms.

CHATEAU LES CRAYERES Address: 64 Boulevard Henry Vasnier, 51100, Reims. Tel: +33 3 26 24 90 00 Email: Website: hotel/chateau-les-crayeres. More famous as one of France’s great restaurants, located centrally in Reims, this 20 room hotel is perhaps the region’s finest (and certainly one of the more expensive). If you want to spoil yourself, or someone else, this is the place.

Reims,Best-Western-Hotel-De-La-Paix Central Reims is well covered by this well priced, larger establishment, which neighbours many excellent restaurants.

HOSTELLERIE LA BRIQUETERIE Address: 4 Route De Sezanne, 51530 Vinay. Tel: +33 3 26 59 99 99 Email: Website:


A simple but very serviceable and centrally located old favourite. Sometimes it seems that everyone who has ever visited Champagne has stayed here at some stage. ROYAL


Address: Hameau de Bellevue, 51160 Epernay. Tel: +33 3 26 52 87 11 Email: royalchampagne@relaischateaux. com Website: Nestled amongst the vineyards, this glorious old House is perhaps better known for its superb restaurant, but it is also a great place to stay. Undergoing renovations, it will reopen in Spring of 2017.


A luxury 40 room hotel in the vineyards near Epernay. Ideal for that out-of-town relaxing visit.

Address: 53 Rue Henri Martin 51160 Hautvillers. Tel: 33 326 515 224 Website:


An upmarket B&B which is perfectly located between Epernay and Reims. Don’t miss the breakfasts. ❧

Address: 2 Rue Francois Bonal, 51200 Epernay. Tel: +33 3 26 55 36 10 Website: A slightly strange place to stay but very much worth considering (having stayed here for a reasonably extended period, I found it ideal), though just a little outside the main part of town. Comfortable and spacious (extremely so for a European hotel room), and recently renovated, these were the military barracks of the local cavalry, originally built in 1893. Very well priced.

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Sparkling Wine THE FOLLOWING PAGES ARE AN INTRODUCTION INTO THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF SPARKLING WINE. Here we will discover the origins of sparkling wine, the methods used to make it, and what constitutes as a sparkling wine. You will be introduced to brands you may not be so familiar with, as well as learn the history and production of old favourites. Find out about the variation of sparklings from across the globe, including Europe and many from Australia, as well as reading tasting notes - let these pages reignite your sparkle for sparkling! ❧ WORDS RACHEL STEVENSON

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The World of Sparkling


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THERE IS NOW AN EXTREMELY persuasive argument to suggestion that, aside from Champagne itself, nowhere makes better sparkling wine than Tasmania – though numerous countries might put forward their own sparkling regions. These days, Champagne has to be good. If the crown should slip, there are numerous winegrowing districts which would be quick to step forward, keen to take over the mantle. Of course, the worldwide demand for sparkling wine these days, means that there is room for many styles and regions. This also allows prices to vary considerably – one does not expect to pay the same for a delicious and easy drinking Prosecco as for a prestige Champagne. Even within Australia, prices and styles now vary enormously. Sparkling wine did not, of course, originally come from Australia. There are references to it, as far back as the Bible, though one suspects that might be more a case of reading into something that which one wants to hear. Basically, sparkling wine is simply wine with a high enough level of carbon dioxide in it to create the necessary fizz. It can be made in the method prescribed for Champagne (though be careful calling it that as the Champenois are not adverse to litigation to protect their name), which is universally acknowledged as the preferred technique for quality sparkling; by the Charmat method, a cheaper and simpler mode of making sparkling wine in large stainless steel tanks rather than in the bottle; the transfer method, whereby there is a second fermentation in the bottle, though if one checks the fine print, not the same bottle – it will ferment in a bottle but then be transferred to tank for filtering and then returned to a second and different bottle; or even the injection of carbon dioxide into the wine, a method which is unlikely to ever produce wines of the highest quality. Australia is far from the only country producing sparkling wines. There are numerous examples in France, aside from Champagne. There are claims that the original sparkling wine of France was the Blanquette de Limoux

(there are also claims that sparkling wine production in England predated that of Champagne) and not Champagne. There are a number of regions in France allowed to refer to their sparklings under the term ‘Crémant’ (a right gained by relinquishing any claims to the use of the term ‘méthode Champenoise’). They include Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Die, Jura, Savoie, Limoux and Loire. There is also one outside France allowed to use the term ‘Crémant’, namely Luxembourg. Most French regions, however, produce a sparkling of some style or other. In Australia, we rarely see them. Our own sparkling industry has reached heights, which exceed most of these alternative sparklers in purely qualitative standards. They are usually for local consumption or destined for the volume market in Europe, and the cost of importing these wines puts them beyond the pockets of those looking for value fizz. The British Isles is quickly developing a reputation for quality sparkling. The producers, Nyetimber, Chapel Down and Ridgeview, are especially well known. Germany has a much longer, continuous history, making sparkling wine for around 230 years. Many of the famous names in Champagne actually have German origins – Krug, Bollinger, Heidsieck, Mumm, Lanson, Roederer and Taittinger, to mention a few. The German sparkling wine is known as ‘Sekt’, which is also a term also used for sparkling wines in Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Italy has an extraordinary array of different sparklers – names like Prosecco, Asti, Franciacorta, the often-unfairly dismissed Spumante and more, will be familiar to wine lovers around the globe. In volume terms, Prosecco is shaping up as the largest selling sparkling wine on the planet. While these wines have often been demeaned by critics, today there are numerous producers of the finest quality. Names like Bellavista and Ca’ del Bosco are just two of many. There are sparkling examples from almost every European country but one of the most famous is surely from Spain, which has its Cava, some of startling

class. Codorníu, Freixenet and Segura Viudas are perhaps the best known, but there are many more. South Africa has a thriving sparkling industry, with wines known as ‘Cap Classique’. Canada, South America and Mexico all have quality offerings. Even India is in on the act. The United States has been making sparkling wines for over 180 years and has attracted some of Champagne’s famous names, who have established long running operations in California. These include Mumm Napa, Taittinger (in partnership with Kobrand at Domaine Carneros), Domaine Chandon (Moët et Chandon – though they struggled to reach the level of quality to which they aspired until they brought in an Australian winemaker), Piper Sonoma and Roederer Estate, while Spain has not missed out either – Gloria Ferrer was established by Cava giant, Freixenet. Famous local names include Korbel, Schramsberg Vineyards, Iron Horse and Domaine Ste Michelle in Washington. New Zealand has joined the sparkling family, with both quality fizz in the more traditional style and the more innovative sparkling Sauvignon Blanc. Whether this latter innovation proves to be a genuine style or a way of using excess grapes remains to be seen. The region of Marlborough is, of course, best known for Sauvignon Blanc but it also does sparkling extremely well. The wines develop a lovely natural toastiness. The problem is that economically, it makes far more sense to plant and sell Sauvignon Blanc, which can be on the market just months after harvest, whereas sparkling wines may take years before they bring any form of return to the maker. ‘Pelorus’ by Cloudy Bay is probably the Kiwis’ most famous sparkler. Daniel le Brun, Lindauer, Deutz, Huia, Highfield and Quartz Reef are all well known and highly regarded producers, but, like Australia, a great many makers will offer a sparkling or two. Often these are made by contract winemakers, as the cost of establishing their own facilities for this style is so often prohibitive. >>

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We think of the classic varieties used in Champagne when we think of the grapes best suited to sparkling wines, and they do feature in many regions, but there are many more. A quick census of the grapes listed in the ‘Christie’s World Encyclopedia’ reveals at least 120 white varieties used for sparkling, and half that number again of red grapes. The use of lesser grapes was just one of the reasons for the slow start to the Australian sparkling wine movement. It might not have begun at the top of the quality tree at the time, but Australian sparkling wine has been with us since 1826 when a Mr Broughton, who had been shipped to Australia in 1819 as a

convict sentenced to life for theft and embezzlement, managed to produce 200 gallons of wine, ‘in imitation of Champagne’, from his property in Tasmania. It was, by all accounts, of acceptable quality. James King planted vines at his Hunter Valley property in the same year, but it was not until 1843 that he made his first sparkling wine, from what was called Shepherd’s Riesling, better known to us as Semillon. It was the first sparkling wine made on the mainland. It was not long before King was winning gold medals at local shows for his efforts. King gained international fame when he, as the only Australian sparkling wine exhibitor at the 1855

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Paris Exposition, won a medal with a wine which was described by the French judges as having the ‘bouquet, body and flavour - equal to the finest Champagnes’. The wine was subsequently served to Napoleon III at the final banquet. Before long, famous names such as Seppelt, Yalumba, Auldana, Thomas Hardy and more, recognised for their table wines, were also making sparklings. In 1866, Joseph Best planted vines at his property at Great Western. Within a few years, he had won a gold medal for his sparkling wine in London. When he died intestate in 1887, the vineyard and cellars were purchased by Hans Irvine, a man keen on his sparklings. Soon after, Irvine met

Charles Pierlot of Champagne Pommery while on a visit to France and offered him a position back in Australia, as manager and winemaker at Great Western. Pierlot worked there, on and off, until 1912. In 1918, Irvine sold the business to Benno Seppelt. Seppelt’s Great Western is still a famous name in the pantheon of Australian sparkling wine today. A year later, Edmond Mazure, a French chef who was managing Auldana, decided to set up his own winery and plant vineyards in order to make sparkling wine. He called it ‘La Perouse’. Years later, it would be purchased by Wynn’s and eventually become Seaview. In 1932, Colin Preece, who was

to become a legendary winemaker responsible for some of this country’s greatest wines, took over as manager of Great Western. He had been with Seppelt in the Barossa Valley. It was many years before the industry turned around the reputation, of producing little more than poor to average wines for easy drinking, that had dogged it for so long. The transformation came about when winemakers like Brian Croser of Petaluma developed his eponymous sparkler, using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These days, almost all quality fizz in Australia comes from one or a combination of the three traditional “Champagne” varieties, though Pinot

Meunier is very much in the minority. Croser was followed by producers such as Hardy’s, Seppelt’s, Seaview and Yalumba. Pioneers like Andrew Pirie and Ed Carr were also instrumental in the flight to quality. One early producer to focus solely on quality sparkling was Ian Home, who established Yellowglen, their first vintage being the 1975. Yellowglen could be seen as having ‘gone the other way’, to a degree, as it was purchased by Mildara Blass and redirected production to massive quantities of decent, well priced fizz. We also saw interest from some of the Champagne Houses, in varying degrees. Domaine Chandon most famously set up in the Yarra Valley under the stewardship >>

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There is now an extremely persuasive argument to suggestion that, aside from Champagne itself, nowhere makes better sparkling wine than Tasmania

OPPOSITE PAGE: Wineglass Bay, Tasmania

of Tony Jordan, one of the world’s first ‘flying winemakers’ and a former colleague of Brian Croser. Louis Roederer and Pol Roger looked to Tasmania. Devaux went into business with Yering Station/Yarrabank. Bollinger and Veuve Clicquot also dabbled. Perhaps the most important factor in the improvement of sparkling wine in Australia was the search for the most suitable vineyards. It was the move to cool. Much good fruit came from the Yarra Valley – just try the wines of Domaine Chandon, Coldstream Hills and de Bortoli, but Macedon was even colder, as was the Whitfields Vineyard in the upper reaches of the King Valley. Brown Brothers was well known for their sparkling from Whitfields, but has shifted focus to Tasmania. Macedon has many sparkling producers, some doing excellent work with exciting wines, but they tend to be very small wineries, rarely seen outside the region. Hanging Rock is an exception. On the mainland, outside Victoria, the Adelaide Hills in South Australia provides quality fruit (we see that reflected in the sparkling wines of makers such as Croser, Daosa and Grant Burge), as does the Tumbarumba region in New South Wales. It is, however, Tasmania which has sparkling producers most excited. We have seen the quality of local efforts from producers like Piper’s Brook/Kreglinger, Clover’s Hill, Jansz (the first operation here devoted solely to sparkling), Freycinet, Stefano Lubiana, Josef Chromy, Moorilla Estate and more. Perhaps more than anything, it is the almost singleminded focus that leading sparkling maker, Ed Carr of Arras (and Accolade), has shown in his support of Tasmania fruit and vineyards that has helped place

the region on the map. I’ve no doubt other regions might dispute this but I have seen nothing to convince me that, outside of Champagne itself, there is a better district for the production of quality sparkling than Tasmania. The production is a fraction of that made in Champagne but they are definitely worth the search. Sparkling wine in Australia is now dominated by the largest producers – Treasury Estates, Jacob’s Creek, Accolade and their ilk – but even here we see some very fine wine sitting alongside the mass-produced fizz necessary to maintain the level of profits shareholders demand. There are, however, many smaller producers from the second and third tiers of the local wine industry, in size rather than qualitative terms, doing exciting things. Many of the smaller producers use contract makers, as they simply cannot afford to maintain the facilities needed to produce quality fizz, especially when there is little return for considerable periods. Producers like Stefano Lubiana, Hanging Rock from Macedon and Arras regularly offer wines which have seen ten years or even longer on lees – a very tough commercial proposition but one of which all lovers of great sparkling wine should take advantage. One intriguing development in the Australian sparkling industry has been, following on from the success of screwcaps for table wines, the use of crown seals instead of the traditional corks to seal the wines. Sparkling wine in Australia has made extraordinary leaps in recent decades. There is every reason to be extremely optimistic about its future. ❧

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House of Arras FOR TWO DECADES, ED CARR, HOUSE OF ARRAS CHIEF SPARKLING WINEMAKER, HAS BEEN TIRELESSLY IDENTIFYING AND DEVELOPING THE VERY BEST VINEYARD SITES TO CRAFT WORLD-CLASS SPARKLING WINE. THIS JOURNEY LED HOUSE OF ARRAS TO CALL THE ANCIENT SOILS AND COLD CLIMATE OF TASMANIA HOME. WHAT HAS BEEN LEARNT DURING THIS JOURNEY IS HOW GRAPES CAN EXPRESS THEIR BEST – IT’S A SCIENCE AND AN ART. THESE WINES EXPRESS THEIR AGE, THEY EXPRESS THEIR ORIGIN; THIS GIVES ARRAS A UNIQUENESS, WHICH IS PART OF THEIR STYLE. ED CARR “Few winemakers are held in such high esteem as Ed Carr, whose sparkling wines are challenging the finest from Champagne” – Huon Hooke, Gourmet Traveller Wine Ed Carr is Australia’s most awarded sparkling winemaker, with 35 years’ experience in the Australian wine industry and 28 of these specialising in sparkling wine production.

Ed Carr is Australia’s most awarded sparkling winemaker

TASMANIA – OUR HOME House of Arras is located in the Pipers River sub-region in Tasmania’s North. Fruit for House of Arras’ sparkling wines is sourced from a selection of outstanding vineyards from the North, East and South of Tasmania, selecting from the best vineyard sites for each varietal. Grapes are specifically handpicked and carefully selected for their excellence and character. Each location bestows its own nuances of character on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier fruit. It is only after this selection that the grapes are then allowed to mature, in the finest oak barrels available. Tasmania’s climate is significantly cooler than the mainland, with long summer daylight and maritime influences, providing ideal conditions for long, mature and consistent fruit development.

Over the past 20 years, Ed and his sparkling winemaking team have collected more than 120 trophies, and over 2,300 awards on the wine show circuit, including many “Best Sparkling Wine of Show” trophies at capital city wine shows. In 2011, Ed was awarded the impressive title of ‘Winemaker of the Year’ at the prestigious Australian Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine awards. Judging for this concentrates on individuals whose hard work, commitment, individuality and inspiration has recently resulted in creating exceptional, world-class wines. Ed firmly believes that the stand-out Australian region for premium sparkling wine is Tasmania, which is now the basis of many world-class sparkling wines including the House of Arras range.

THE ART OF BLENDING The art of blending sparkling wine is one that can only be mastered with years of experience. Many individual parcels are woven together to create the final blend,

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each bringing its own profound character to the complete wine. Up to 40 base wines go into the blend for Arras, with Ed Carr’s skill and experience crafting wines with elegance, complexity, depth and longevity - the absolute benchmark for Australian sparkling wine and ensuring Arras wines are of a consistently high standard and quality. The world’s leading sparkling wines require time to develop complexity and character; part of Ed Carr’s long term vision for the House of Arras was to release a single vintage wine with a minimum of 10 years tirage age and this vision is now realised as the House of Arras takes the next step in its journey. House of Arras prides themselves on allowing wines to mature into rich, elegant sparkling wines, which are undoubtedly some of the best in their class. To be recognised with the world’s best, this level of wine aging is absolutely essential. At the heart of House of Arras is a simple philosophy: to create world class sparkling wine; sourcing outstanding cold climate vineyard sites, perfecting the craft - a fine balance of oenology and the art of blending, and most importantly, patience to allow these wines to mature at their own pace. The House of Arras is a true expression of its origin and maker – a marriage of exceptional cold climate Tasmania vineyards and uncompromising sparkling winemaking techniques, mastered over decades. ❧

Tasting notes






Appearance: Medium straw colour with a fresh golden hue

Appearance: Crystal clear with an ultrafine and persistent bead

Appearance: Light gold

Appearance: Moderate salmon pink

Appearance: Medium straw colour with a fresh golden hue

Aroma: Enticing aromas of fresh red berry fruits, married to the complexity of extended tirage maturation, along with brioche-like yeast, nougat and exotic spices

Aroma: The bouquet displays lifted nuances of brown lime, butter biscuit and oyster

Aroma: Exotic characters are drawn together in this captivating wine including white peach, lychee, spice and fresh oyster Flavour: The palate is rich and generous with opulent flavours of lychee, glace cherry and truffle oil. A perfectly poised balance of dosage, acidity and structural tannins this wine exhibits a remarkable presence and persistence

Aroma: An intriguing aroma reminiscent of sautéed mushroom, toast, exotic spice and sea brine Flavour: An immensely complex melange of flavours including buttered toast, truffle, candle wax and lemon curd. This elegantly structured wine has an impeccable balance of natural acidity, sugars and tannin and the palate has superb poise and intense flavour persistence

Aroma: Lifted aromas of biscuit, brioche, grapefruit and butter mushroom sauté, along with complex and enticing nuances of sourdough, truffle, butter biscuit and fresh oyster Flavour: The seamless palate is immensely fine with great length and flavour persistence

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Flavour: Bright, fresh strawberry fruit dominates the initial rush, which gives way to complex secondary characters of truffle and yeast extracts

Flavour: The palate reveals a complex flavour profile, exhibiting characters of honey, nougat, sourdough toast and truffle. A richly flavoured and intriguing palate, with a strong natural acid backbone, elegant structure and great persistence



Croser THE CROSER WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY, ONE THAT CONTINUES TODAY, BEGINS IN THE VINEYARD; THE PICCADILLY VALLEY VINES ARE ALL HAND PRUNED, THE GRAPES HAND PICKED AND THE FRUIT WHOLE BUNCH PRESSED BEFORE BEING CRAFTED INTO WINES USING THE TRADITIONAL METHOD. THE HEART OF THE CROSER STORY IS the region in which the wines are made, the handcrafting and the determination to create something world-class. Croser was born from a dream that a region in Australia could produce a wine to rival those made in Champagne, France. With this aim in mind, Brian Croser set out to find this region, identifying a greenfields area in 1979, in the Adelaide Hills. An area that was not yet being used for wine grape production and one that was perfect for his sparkling wine venture due to its combination of rainfall, cool temperatures and diverse aspects. A remarkable valley, situated to the east of Mount Lofty, the highest point of the Adelaide Hills, Croser settled on Piccadilly due to its cool and wet series of valleysthe ideal growing conditions for elegant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Choosing Piccadilly Valley to begin his dream, an area that was at the time used for market gardens and fruit orchards,

Croser planted Chardonnay for table wine on the warmer north and east facing slopes and Pinot Noir vines for sparkling wines along the cooler, south facing slopes; the first vineyards planted in the Piccadilly Valley. In 1980, Croser made his first sparkling wine, but didn’t release a wine under his own name until 1986, when he released the first vintage, 1985, under the Croser label; a sparkling wine embodying a complexity of texture, flavour, bouquet and tiny bubbles, it was crafted using the traditional method, as this was believed to be the only way to rival the quality of sparkling wines of Champagne. Since that first release, the vines have matured, adding subtle depth to the Croser wines. The overall style of Croser has changed very little; dominated by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, this will always be the case for the Croser brand. With altitudes ranging from 450 metres to 550 metres above sea level, the vines

in the Piccadilly Valley vineyards are planted following European tradition; 3300 to the hectare- more than double the usual Australian density of 1400. It is Petaluma’s belief that to create high quality wine, you need high density vine plantings, meaning a smaller grape yield per vine, in turn producing superior quality wine. Each batch of grapes must be harvested at exactly the right moment to ensure the proper balance of flavour, delicacy and freshness and this is achieved through vines being hand-tended. The winemakers spend plenty of time in the vineyards assessing flavour, sugar and acidity in the grapes, hand harvesting the grapes into small crates in a bid to minimise the chance of splitting or exposure to air- before moving them to a cold store in crates. At the winery, the chilled grapes are gently pressed in pneumatic tank presses. The juice is then fermented in a mixture of stainless steel tanks and older French oak barriques, converting the grape sugar to alcohol. >>

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LEFT: Handpicking in our Piccadilly Valley vineyard RIGHT: Autumn in our Summertown vineyard in the Piccadilly Valley

The next step involves the winemaker tasting and evaluating every batch, choosing the best parcels, and deciding on the final blend. The “base wine” is then blended in tanks, sterile filtered and sugar and yeast added. This blend is then “tiraged”, bottled, and sealed with a crown seal.

After at least a year “on lees” the bottles are “riddled” in cages, a process whereby all the decayed yeast is swept down the walls of the bottle and gathers in the crown seal. The bottles start on their side, and finish “on point”, upside down, having been turned and upended in the cages.

The added yeast then converts the sugar to alcohol and importantly, carbon dioxide gas, the natural bubble in the finished wine. This secondary fermentation takes about three weeks, and then the yeast cells start dying as the sugar is consumed. Once dead, the yeast begins to break down, and over time produce wonderful bread, brioche “autolysis” characters. This fermentation in bottle produces very fine bubbles, and gives the soft persistent bead.

These on point bottles then go into the “disgorging” process. The bottles go first into a neck freezer which freezes a small amount of wine, along with the yeast plug and crown seal. The bottle is then turned upright and the frozen yeast plug, crown seal and a little frozen wine is expelled by the natural pressure in the bottle. The clear wine is then given a dose of special liqueur, the cork and wire applied, and finally the wine is ready for labelling.


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Tasting notes





Appearance: Pale, golden straw

Appearance: Pale, bright pink

Appearance: Pale, straw green

Appearance: Light pale straw colour with light golden hues

Aroma: A delicate bouquet of fresh citrus and white peach with a light yeastiness on the nose

Aroma: A rich creamy mousse and layers of complexity, with aromas of raspberries, strawberries and pomegranates

Aroma: Subtle and refined, supported by lovely melony fruit

Flavour: The Chardonnay offers nectarine, cashews and biscuity characters – the backbone of the Croser Non Vintage palate – with the Pinot Noir providing a fine mousse and strawberry fruit lift

Flavour: A creamy, biscuity, nutty brioche finish

Flavour: The traditional method has guaranteed a delicate persistent fine mousse that explodes on the palate. Raspberry and strawberry from the Pinot and ripe apple from the Chardonnay combine with subtle biscuit and creaminess

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Aroma: Complex, elegant and with an exceptionally fine bead, featuring aromas of Granny Smith apples Flavour: Creamy, nutty brioche and a fresh alluring acidity



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A HIGHLY RESPECTED WINEMAKER, HE is renowned for his elegant winemaking style. It is his vision to craft wines of longevity and charm that are a true reflection of Petaluma’s special and unique vineyards, that is the driving force behind the Croser brand.

and Piccadilly Valley region in particular. Piccadilly is the coldest, wettest region for grape growing in South Australia. The fact that it is so cold and so wet and is home to very ancient soils makes it the ideal area for grape growing and it is a combination of all these things that makes it so special.

Beginning his career in 1982, alongside founder Brian Croser, Andrew went on to work vintages in Oregon and Bordeaux and then Knappstein, where he stayed for nearly a decade. It was here that Andrew won the Warren Winiarski Trophy for Best Cabernet in the World and the Trophy for the Best Australian Red Wine for his Enterprise Cabernet Wine.

Andrew was instrumental in the construction of Petaluma’s new winery in Woodside. Built in 2014, the winery is built on a beautiful 30 hectare property, and is focussed around the production of method champenoise wine; traditional method sparkling wine, sold in the bottle it was fermented in.

It is Andrew’s belief that if the land and vineyards Petaluma is built upon are exceptional, then the wine will be also, and it is for this reason that he puts so much importance on the Adelaide Hills

It’s Andrew belief that Croser is all about maintaining the quality and the style that it has become known for. The region and its vineyards are all important, and the focus on quality is never ending. ❧

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Grant Burge Wines Meshach Cellar.

A BAROSSA NATIVE, BURGE’S upbringing among the fruits of his family’s vineyard served as an incubator for a deep understanding of terroir, and a respect for the vines it produces. In 1988, these instilled values drove him, alongside wife Helen, to develop plans for a new business venture – Grant Burge Wines. Together the pair centred on one simple philosophy: to create wines of character and value that they would be proud to put their name to. At first the Grant Burge offering focused around the styles for which the Barossa Valley was known for, producing a first ‘edition’ of wines for the brand that included the Hillcot Merlot, Cameron Vale Cabernet Sauvignon and the iconic Meshach Shiraz. As wine drinkers readily embraced the emerging range, concentration shifted towards developing new products, and the idea of creating the label’s own sparkling wine. Behind this ambition was Grant’s own criticism towards the ‘typical’ Australian sparkling of the time, which he found were made from the wrong varietals and lacked mid-palate flavour. Capitalising on his winemaking knowledge, Grant tried his hand at making a sparkling wine from Pinot Noir and

Chardonnay grapes, the correct Champagne varietals. The aim was to create a premium wine which was easy drinking and, above all, enjoyable. Born from that ambition, Grant undertook the first bottling of a Non Vintage (NV) Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay in 1990, which was proudly distributed through the cellar door. The line, elegant, full flavoured and with a balanced finish, marked more than a mere brand-extension for the company, it instead represented a change to the way Grant conducted his business.

Now, the majority of fruit for the NV Pinot Chardonnay is grown in these elevated cool climate regions that produce grapes displaying delicate, yet quite intense flavours, as well as benchmark natural acidity required to make high-quality sparkling wine in the tradition of Champagne. This heritage-driven process has seen the NV Pinot Chardonnay evolve into one of Australia’s leading sparkling wines and one of the most popular wines in the Grant Burge portfolio.

As production continued, and demand grew, the difficulty of securing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit that met the natural acidity and structure required became apparent. As a result, Grant extended his search for grapes to other premier cool regions of Australia such as Adelaide Hills, Eden Valley and the Alpine Valley.

Today, as it was when Grant produced the first batch, every sparkling is made with the most considered methods. First, the selected fruit is handpicked to minimise damage and the subsequent leeching of colour or oxidation rough handling can cause. Next the grapes are chilled, pressed as whole bunches and fermented at cold temperatures. The wine will then spend 30 months on tirage resting before dosage and bottling to develop the complex characters sought after in top-class sparkling wine.

Finding many suitable parcels of land, Grant turned this obstacle into security for future winemakers by establishing long term partnerships with the respective grape growers - a foresight that has provided the backbone of quality and consistency for which the Grant Burge brand is renowned.

Presently, Grant Burge is one of the few cellar doors in the Barossa to offer a tasting of five different sparkling wines, and despite being widely distributed, great care and effort remains on retaining the delicate flavours and aromas in the wine, remaining true to the founding philosophy. ❧

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Tasting notes

NON VINTAGE (NV) SPARKLING PINOT NOIR CHARDONNAY Appearance: Pale yellow with tinted copper hues Aroma: A familiar nose of ripe strawberries and peach meet with biscuit-like characteristics Flavour: A generous, creamy mouth-feel with lifted full flavours and cleanly balanced acidity. The flavour of this sparkling adapts well to any food occasion, or can be enjoyed on its own

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LEFT: The Jansz property in northern Tasmania CENTRE: Tasmania’s cool climate is perfect for premium sparkling wine RIGHT: The Jansz Tasmania Wine Room, 40 minutes from Launcesto

TASMANIA HAS A LONGER WINE history than many realise: the first vigneron was Mr Bartholomew Broughton of New Town (near Hobart), who began growing grapes with great success in the early 1820s. His wines won Tasmania’s first international award at the Paris Exhibition in 1848 and his vineyard continued to produce excellent fruit up until 1850, when the new owner pulled out the vines with little view to the future potential of the land. It was not until the decades following the second world war that winemakers began to realise the island’s potential for producing exceptional cool climate wines and pioneers including Jean Miguet from France and Claudio Alcorso from Italy brought with them their vision and determination, igniting Tasmania’s fledgling wine industry. Jansz Tasmania’s success can be attributed to its maritime climate, which provides ideal conditions for the slow ripening of fruit and lingering acidity so essential to the production of premium sparkling wine. With a climate close to that of Champagne and Burgundy, the region has captured the imaginations of

many world-renowned Champagne houses: in 1986 the owners of Heemskerk Wines were joined by the esteemed Champagne producers Louis Roederer and together they embarked on the production of a premium vintage sparkling wine. The head of Louis Roederer, Jean-Claude Rouzard, was personally involved in establishing the Jansz vineyard, planting it with the classic varieties of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The ultra-cool growing conditions saw these grapes ripen slowly, developing intense, delicate and refined flavours – the very essence of top quality sparkling wine. Jansz Tasmania was the first sparkling wine produced in Australia using the traditional method (Méthode Champenoise) of sparkling wine making, whereby the effervescence is produced through secondary fermentation in the bottle. Today Jansz calls it Méthode Tasmanoise. After recognising the potential of the region, in 1997 the Hill-Smith family turned its eye to Tasmania, acquiring Jansz and beginning the journey that has seen the winery become the most highly regarded sparkling wine house in Australia.

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The first wine produced was Jansz Tasmania Vintage Cuvée 1989, released in 1991. Over the coming years, the collection expanded, and in 1999 Jansz Tasmania Premium Cuvée NV was released, as well as a limited release Jansz Tasmania Late Disgorged Vintage Cuvée. In 2004 the Jansz Tasmania Wine Room officially opened on-site at the Jansz vineyard, allowing visitors to experience and taste the outstanding selection of sparkling wines. October 2005 saw the release of the Jansz Tasmania Premium Rosé NV and the long awaited Jansz Tasmania Vintage Rosé: made from a select parcel of the best Pinot Noir grape from the estate. In November 2012, the Hill-Smith family announced a further significant investment in Tasmania – the purchase of 300 hectares of land in the Coal River Valley, near Hobart. Here the family established the Jansz Parish Vineyard, thereby expanding their resource of exceptional Tasmanian fruit. Today Jansz Tasmania is an award winning sparkling wine specialist, producing a small piece of luxury to be enjoyed by all. ❧

Tasting notes






Appearance: Pale gold in the colour

Appearance: The palest gold colour delicate bead

Appearance: Pale colour rose, resembling rose petals or pink diamonds

Appearance: Pale gold in colour with a fine, persistent bead

Appearance: Pale gold with an exceptionally fine bead

Aroma: Honeysuckle and citrus scents, slight aromas of nougat, roasted nuts and a hint of strawberry from the Pinot Noir

Aroma: Enticing scents of lemon curd, white flowers and fresh cream

Aroma: Powerful aromas of toasted brioche, quince blossom and rose petals

Aroma: Complex nose with intense notes of sea spray and shucked 
oysters, brioche and truffle

Flavour: Delicate fruits and creaminess fills the mouth with a lingering finish of citrus and nougat

Flavour: Elegant, layered and powerful with crème brulee notes and candied lemon peel

Flavour: A beautiful, rich plate of vibrant red fruits and Turkish delight, matched with creaminess, a hint of pepperberry and truffles with a lingering, mouth-watering finish

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Flavour: Richly layered palate with flavours of caramelised pears, 
truffled honey and toasted almonds

Aroma: An intense, complex nose of truffles, delicate toast, oyster shell, dulce 
de leche, Amaretti biscuits and white chocolate Flavour: A precise layered palate of nougat and roasted almonds with 
complex notes of crystallised lemon and sea spray




Minchinbury - an original sparkling story

FOR OVER 100 YEARS, AUSTRALIANS have celebrated a life well lived with Minchinbury. With a history stretching over three centuries, Minchinbury has been an integral part of the Australian wine landscape and a key part of the celebratory moments of Australia. By the 1920s, Minchinbury had carved its name as Australia’s most famous sparkling wine. With a renaissance of its winemaking and range, Minchinbury has now introduced its sparkling story to a whole new generation of sparkling wine lovers. A name synonymous with Australian sparkling wine, Minchinbury has been re-launched with a new look and a new range, featuring several new wines. The new range includes the Minchinbury Superior Chardonnay Pinot Noir, Minchinbury Scarlet Sparkling Shiraz, Minchinbury Crisp Classic Brut,

Minchinbury Blush Rosé Cuveé and Minchinbury Luscious Moscato. The Minchinbury Superior Chardonnay Pinot Noir is a benchmark example of a classic Sparkling style, while the Crisp, Blush, Scarlet and Sweet Sparkling wines over deliver on flavour and sophistication. Created with sophistication and style in mind, Minchinbury is the ultimate accessory to celebrate any occasion Today, under the guidance of Winemaker Tina Jarrett, Minchinbury is now introducing its sparkling story to a new generation of sparkling wine lovers. Following a developing interest and appreciation for wine, Tina was inspired to pursue her dream of becoming a winemaker and this allowed her to combine her three passions in life: lifestyle, science and wine. Joining her first wine cellar, Mount Witches

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Fall Winery in Mount Tamborine, Tina worked as both a cellar hand and in the cellar door where she gained a valuable insight into the production of wine. Tina spent two years in Mount Witches Fall Winery before moving on to roles with Oyster Bay and Mud House in New Zealand. While across the Tasman she realised her ancestor was Reverend Samuel Marsden, the man responsible for planting New Zealand’s first vines, finalising her decision that a life in wine was always her destiny. After returning to Australia Tina applied to complete a Bachelor of Applied Science at Charles Sturt University before taking on her current role in the Barossa Valley. Today Tina honours the Minchinbury name, delivering sparkling wines of sophistication and style to be enjoyed at every special occasion. Tina is most definitely making it POP! with Minchinbury. ❧

Tasting notes






Appearance: Mid gold, green hues

Appearance: Deep Red/ Purple

Appearance: Bright pale gold green hues

Appearance: Bright and clean pale orchid pink

Appearance: Pale bright gold with straw hues

Aroma: Aromas of citrus fruit, hints of lime peel and appley notes on the nose, showing hints of toasty yeast autolysis development

Aroma: Bright, lifted plum and cherry fruit, with hints of spice, mocha and black pepper

Aroma: Clean lifted citrus, green apple with light biscuit character

Aroma: Lifted citrus, green apple with a hint of biscuit character

Aroma: Lifted attractive floral notes accompanied by hints of orange peel

Flavour: Generous and soft with lovely fruit sweetness, and a creamy persistent mousse

Flavour: A Clean, crisp youthful palate bursting with fresh fruit, followed by a well balanced acidity and fine persistent bead

Flavour: A clean and crisp fruit driven palate, with a touch of fresh berry characters and mouth filling mousse

Flavour: Generous mouth filling palate lifted by sweet lingering fruit followed by clean balanced acidity

Flavour: Clean and full: citrus, apple fruit with hints of toasty development. Clean, well balanced mineral acidity with long flavour in the mouth. Fine persistent bead in the glass

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SINCE THE LAUNCH OF [YELLOW TAIL] in 2001, it has given people a new way to experience and enjoy wine. Created in a particular style, the wines prove that good wine doesn’t have to be complicated, flamboyant or leave a hole in your pocket.

[yellow tail] is the wine to pick up when you aren’t sure what you are going to cook for dinner, as it goes with salads, meat, fish, burgers, pasta and pretty much anything else. It’s the wine to pour at get togethers with friends, family and neighbours; whatever the occasion.

To make [yellow tail] wines, the finest fruit from the major wine regions in South Eastern Australia is sourced, crushed and carefully blended into high-quality wines that deliver on taste time after time, and are perfect for a variety of social occasions.

Blessed with a memorable name, iconic trademark and striking colour palette highlighting its broad range, [yellow tail] puts the fun back into wine and stands out due to it’s exciting, vibrant and down to earth personality.

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[yellow tail] Bubbles is a superb, style of sparkling wine and is perfect to have on hand for an impromptu Saturday afternoon get-together or as a pre-dinner aperitif. Something particularly unique about [yellow tail] Bubbles is it’s nifty ‘Zork’, this clever little closure eliminates the worry of flat, wasted wine, meaning you can have a glass of bubbles on Tuesday and come back for another fresh and fizzy glass on Thursday. ❧

Tasting notes





Appearance: Pale lemon

Appearance: Light pink hue

Appearance: A light yellow hue

Appearance: A soft red hue

Aroma: Vibrant tropical fruits, a dash of lime juice and hints of fresh cut flowers

Aroma: An appealing bouquet of wild strawberry, red cherry and underlying sweet spice

Aroma: Light musk aromas with orange blossom and passionfruit notes

Aroma: Lifted tropical fruits, ripe fresh strawberries with blackcurrant and raspberry aromas

Flavour: A soft, creamy fizz with a little tropical fruit sweetness for good measure

Flavour: Red cherry is highlighted in the palate with hints of sweet spice and tropical fruits

Flavour: Zingy citrus and passionfruit flavours with a refreshing pop of bubbles. This lightly frizzante wine tingles in your mouth with lively tropical fruit and underlying spiciness

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Flavour: The best of three worlds the rosiness of red, the sweetness of Moscato and the sparkle of bubbles. Fresh, spritzy and crackling with vitality



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ITALY PRODUCES MORE SPARKLING wines than any other country in the world and has been doing so since Roman times. In fact, Italy was making spumante, the Italian word for sparkling wine, way before even Dom Perignon. The majority of Italian sparkling wines are produced in Piedmont, Veneto and Lombardy, the cooler regions of northern Italy and unlike Champagne, they are made using the Charmat method, whereby the wine’s second fermentation is completed in a tank, rather than in the bottles, a technique often used by low alcohol wines such as Asti and Moscato d’Asti.

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One of the most famous types of Italian wines is Prosecco. A region in Veneto in northwest Italy, Prosecco is made from the white Prosecco grape ‘Glera’ which produces a fruity, dry wine. A sub-region called Valdobbiandene is considered to be the producer of the highest quality Prosecco. As well as Valdobbiandene, there are many other regions in Italy producing sparkling wines; made only with Moscato Bianco grapes, Asti Spumante, a very sweet, sparkling wine, is produced in southeastern Piedmont, as well as Asti and Albais and Lombardy is produced in Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy, again using the Charmat method. ❧




The “Magnificat”, Canti Ageing cellars

THE CANTI STORY Canti came to life during a sunset in Milan: Gianni Martini, a second generation wine entrepreneur had an epiphany whilst enjoying a spectacular sunset, a glass of good wine and excellent company at the Vittoria Emanuele Gallery. Gianni had visited the gallery every year. Elegant and refined, it embodies Italian style, but it was in 2001 that its beauty inspired him to create Canti; his desire to harness the sights that were unfolding in front of him, to bottle the atmosphere that he was soaking up in a special brand of wine that would become the ambassador of Italian style, embodying both the attitude and values of Italian life. And so, Canti was born. A year of hard work; designers, marketers and importers joined forces with the wine makers of the Fratelli Martini Secondo Luigi spa – the family company of Gianni Martini, operating on the market since 1947 – to create the Canti team. By studying every single detail carefully, the team was able to create a brand that is synonymous with the lively mood and passion of Italy. In Italian, Canti means song

or to sing, recalling the fast paced world of music, laughter and joy; the Italian spirit. Launching in 2002, at the very same spot that marked its conception, the Canti adventure began and today the brand has a stronghold in over 50 countries. Always faithful to its original vision, each bottle of Canti offers consumers an insight into the hallmarks of Italy; the passion, love, joy, style, tradition and creative inspiration.

VINEYARDS AND WINERY Today Canti is considered one of the largest family owned Italian wine producers in Cossano Belbo, Piedmont. At the head of the brand is the Martini family, who oversee the company with a keen eye for detail during every aspect of the winemaking process. Their philosophy, one that the entire team wholeheartedly adopts, is that of the “slow approach.” A belief in craftsmanship, slow processes and harmonic respect for nature’s rhythms. At Canti, they do not believe in man-made deadlines, ensuring that all production processes follow natural timings, in turn creating the highest quality produce possible.

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Canti Vineyards owns two estates; il Saulino and La Burela, in addition to many vineyards situated in the very best of Piedmontese winemaking areas. The Martini family also manages three locations in Piedmont: Cossano Belbo, Neive and Castel di Serra, and although not geographically close to one another, each receive the highest levels of care upheld by the family. The Cossano Belbo headquarters is where most of the business is managed, by a team of highly qualified oenologists, and the site is currently undergoing a modernisation and expansion project that will aim to improve quality standards across the board. The modern production site at Neive is situated on the rolling hills of Barbaresco, and this site, although small, specialises in the production of excellent quality Piedmont wines using its cutting edge technology. Above all, each site strives to uphold the brands high quality and production standards; producing excellent wine that is representative of the fun, vibrant, stylish, Italian way of life. ❧

Tasting notes



Appearance: Light straw yellow with a fine and persistent perlage

Appearance: Light straw yellow with fine and persistent perlage

Aroma: An elegant and sophisticated floral bouquet with notes of peach and white fruit and a hint of creaminess

Aroma: A bouquet of lime, citrus, apples and white fleshed stone fruit

Flavour: The palate has flavours of brioche with hints of almond characters and a crisp and refreshing finish

Flavour: Lively and crisp with delightful flavours of pear and peach and a subtle hint of citrus

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LEFT: Zonin cellars at Gambellara, Italy RIGHT: From left to right - Francesco Zonin, Vicepresident of ZONIN1821, Gianni Zonin, President, Domenico Zonin, CEO and Michele Zonin, Vice President.

LOCATED IN THE NORTHEAST OF ITALY, close to the sea, the Zonin vineyards enjoy a continental climate, which is mitigated by the sea breeze from the Adriatic and by air currents from the nearby Alps. The soil is originally sand-clay flood plain with pebbly vains, which allows for natural water drainage and it is this climate that produces the exceptional Prosecco Zonin is renowned for. At the end of the 1960s, Gianni Zonin joined the family company, becoming President at age 29. Since then, the company has grown year on year. From initially joining the company, Gianni Zonin had a vision of how to bring the winery to its current state by purchasing Italian estates and vineyards with high wine-making potential, on the production of high-quality wines and on a new and modern sales and marketing plan to deal with the many demands and requirements of the market. Therefore, in the early 1970s the company began acquiring wineries in order to produce quality wines with their own

grapes. Considered a wine industry pioneer, Gianni Zonin was honoured with the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Wine Enthusiast magazine for his overall contribution to the wine industry. His three sons Domenico, Francesco and Michele have been working at the company for over a decade and are ready for the challenge of successfully continuing the family business, with an innovative and modern vision and strengthening the values which have always defined the philosophy of Zonin. Since joining the company in 1999 Domenico Zonin, Gianni’s eldest son, has taken on many leadership roles and he continues to drive the family-owned estates and vineyards forward. By end of 2014, Domenico was appointed Chief Executive Officer. This terrain of the Zonin vineyards provides intense aromatic notes to their Prosecco. After Glera grape harvest time, the must is obtained by very soft pressing of solely Glera grapes, then 50 per cent undergoes an initial fermentation at a

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controlled temperature of 18°C (64°F) while the remaining 50 per cent is stored at 0°(32°F) as unfermented must. They are then assembled and transferred into pressurised stainless steel tanks where the wine is made sparkling using the traditional Charmat method. Prosecco 1821 has become the bestselling prosecco in Italy, the US, Australia and Germany and the keys of its success are multiple: Prosecco Zonin is always delighting and fresh thanks to a special production method. It can be considered a quintessential Venetian wine, with its fruit-driven and palate-cleansing taste. Zonin Prosecco is produced in an area influenced by the warm Adriatic currents and cool breezes funneling down from the Alps, creating an idyllic environment for preserving acidity and aroma. Prosecco Zonin is the ideal wine for many occasions from aperitif to celebration, from Italian food to sushi or as a great cocktail base especially when combined with seasonal fresh fruit. ❧

Lucian Milasan /

Marilyn Monroe, at least once, took a bath in Champagne. According to her biographer, 350 bottles of Champers were used to fill up her bath tub.

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SPANISH LAW STATES THAT SPARKLING WINE MAY ONLY BE CALLED CAVA IF IT IS PRODUCED IN THE REGIONS OF Aragon, the Basque Country, Castile León, Catalonia, Extremadura, Navarra, Rioja or the Valencian Community. While Spanish sparkling wine was first made in 1851, the Cava industry can be traced back to one man; Josep Raventós, who travelled through Europe in the 1860s, promoting still wines. It was on these travels that he came across Champagne, which inspired him to create his own sparkling, using the same method. Today, only wines produced using the Champenoise traditional method may be called Cavas, with wines produced using other methods referred to as sparkling. However, only producers in the Champagne region of France may officially use the term “Méthode Champenoise”. Therefore, in Spain it is named the “Método Tradicional” or Traditional Method. An important part of Spanish tradition, today Cava is used in Spain (and across the globe), to toast many special occasions. ❧

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IN 1889, DOLORES SALA VIVÉ, HEIRESS to the Sala wine emporium, married Pedro Ferrer Bosch, a boy from the neighboring vineyard of La Freixeneda (meaning ash-tree grove) in the Catalunyian wine region of Penedès, just south of Barcelona. Dolores and Pedro went into business together, producing traditionally crafted, bottle-fermented sparkling wines and, in 1914, began marketing these as “FREIXENET” (from Pedro’s nickname, el freixenet). In the 1920s, their son José Ferrer took over the family business and by the 1980s grew Freixenet into a worldleading producer of sparkling wine. With José now semi-retired, today his son Pedro leads the family business. As well as the original winery in Sant Sadurni, the Freixenet Group has winery operations throughout Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Sonoma Valley, California, Champagne and Bordeaux, France, and Coonawarra and Mildura in Australia.

Today, Freixenet is the world’s largest sparkling wine brand, available in over 150 countries. Whilst immensely popular, Freixenet has managed to keep its family character and remain faithful to its roots of producing sparkling wines in the traditional method while focusing on quality improvement, innovation and progress. When José Ferrer took over the reins in the 1980s, he changed the way the Spanish cava industry operated. Looking to maximise quality, José focused obsessively on innovation and Freixenet was the first company in Spain to pneumatically press grapes, use refrigerated vats to control fermentation and develop an automated system to stack bottles. After primary fermentation and bottling, the wines are sealed with crown caps and undergo a second fermentation process referred to as “ageing on lees”. Freixenet wines are made exclusively using this traditional method. This double fermentation ensures the highest quality

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wines, with more layers of complexity and finer bubbles.

Freixenet Winery, Sant Sadurni, Spain

The wine bottles are then placed on special racks at a 45 degree angle so that the yeast sediment, or lees, can collect in the neck of the bottle and be disgorged. The wine is aged for two or more years in the 54 kilometres of caves under the Freixenet winery in Sant Sadurni. Freixenet wines also adhere to a rigorous quality control established by the Spanish regulatory board. Grapes are sourced from both estate and local grower vineyards in the Penedès region, characterised by chalky, fertile soils and plenty of sunshine. The history of the Ferrer family and roots of Freixenet are deeply entwined in the Penedès region in Spain. The house of founder Pedro Ferrer Bosch still sits on the original vineyard “La Freixenada”. This location is integral, not only to Freixenet’s superior quality, but also the brand character: Freixenet embodies the passion, the spontaneity and the Mediterranean joy for life, just like the people in the area. ❧




UNTIL 1919, GERMAN PRODUCERS CALLED their sparkling wines ‘Mosseux’, ‘Sect’ or ‘Champagne’. However, the Treaty of Versailles put a stop to this, banning the use of the name ‘Champagne’ long before the European Union regulations prevented wines outside of Champagne being named after the region. Sekt, the German word for sparkling wine, was originally coined in Berlin in 1825, becoming common in use by the 1890s. Although Germany has long attempted to have the name Sekt only able to be used for wines produced in countries with German as an official language, these regulations were annulled by the European Court of Justice in 1975. As well as this, in the 1970s, a legal

decision was made to abolish large producers monopoly on Sekt production, instead allowing smaller winegrowers and winemaking cooperatives to both produce and sell sparkling wines. Due to this, the name Sekt today applies to various quality levels of sparkling wines. The majority of Sekt is produced using the Charmat method with a small amount of premium Sekt produced using the methode traditionelle. Sekt houses do not own their own vineyards, instead purchasing their base wines, over three thirds of which is imported from Italy, France and Spain. However, a sparkling wine can only be called a Deutscher Sekt if it is made using 100 per cent German based wines. ❧

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Henkell A SPLASH OF GLAMOUR COMES NATURALLY TO THIS INTERNATIONAL STAR KNOWN FOR ITS APPEAL AND CHARACTER. RECOGNISED IN MORE THAN 100 COUNTRIES, HENKELL STANDS FOR DRY PERFECTION AND THE BEST OF GERMAN SPARKLING WINE CULTURE. prestigious headquarters newly constructed in the city of Wiesbaden (located on the river Rhine). It is the fleur de lis derived from the Wiesbaden coat of arms that graces Henkell bottles to this day. At the end of the nineteenth Century, under the direction of Adam’s grandson Otto, Henkell Trocken became the first branded sparkling wine, and in 1898 one of the first officially protected German brand names.

Marble Hall entrance to Henkell’s Headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany

IN 1832, SOON AFTER MOVING TO France from his hometown Mainz, wine merchant Adam Henkell founded the wine company known as the House of Henkell. Twenty-five years later, after learning the art of Champagne production in France, he set about producing sparkling wine in his native Germany. One of the first in Germany to master the skilled production, Henkell recognised the market for a quality German sparkling wine. What came next was the marriage of two worlds: French wine culture, and German master craftsmanship. The history began in 1832 when Henkell opened a wine store in the city of Mainz. Over 20 years later in 1856, he launched the production of his own sparkling wine. In 1909, Henkell & Co. moved into its

Superior and stylish advertising campaigns soon made Henkell synonymous with premium dry sparkling wine over a wide area. By 1910, Henkell was already the market leader in Germany. The next coup came in 1935, when Henkell developed the 200ml bottle trademarked ‘Pikkolo’. After the Second World War, Henkell and especially ‘Pikkolo’ became an integral part of the German economic miracle, and now the sparkling wine market is simply unimaginable without them. Producing a great brand of sparkling wine is an art in its own right. The key is using the right cuvée so as to craft anew each time the characteristic taste of the brand. Henkell winemakers are consummate masters of this art, whose skill guarantees sparkling wine lovers around the world enjoyment of the genuine and inimitable Henkell taste every time. The art of making sparkling wine begins with the selection of the base wines. The

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composition is crucial for ensuring a final product of consistently high quality. Henkell Trocken is exclusively made from the finest white wines from renowned European winegrowing regions. You can simply taste the quality: Fresh. Harmonious. Balanced. A lively, fruity and zesty bouquet, golden yellow in colour with green reflexes. Fine fizzy bubbles for long-lasting sparkling wine pleasure. What makes Henkell so distinct for a sekt, the German term for quality sparkling wine, is its use of the Charmat method. Henkell uses a slow, natural fermentation over six months in Charmat stainless steel tanks before being bottled and aged for a further minimum of three months. This unique method of producing high quality sekt gives Henkell the complexity of champagne, but with a fruit-forward lightness that is distinctly German, and uniquely Henkell. Today, Henkell has taken on a new, stylish and modern look. It sports a slimmer and elegantly shaped bottle, that highlights its distinctive handwritten name. The new style is tied in with the spirited slogan “MAKING LIFE SPARKLE SINCE 1856”, underscoring Henkell’s high standards of quality. The bottle design might have been updated, but the quality inside is historic. Then, as now, the very best base wines are used to achieve a one-of-a-kind taste through master craftsmanship. ❧

Tasting notes

HENKELL TROCKEN Appearance: A crisp, light yellow with green tinges Aroma: Clean, rich and finished with fruity hints of ripe pear and green apple Flavour: Smooth and creamy with a refreshing taste, this dry, full-bodied wine evokes a subtle fragrance suggestive of tropical fruit, leaving a delicious lingering finish

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FORMULA 1 (THE ‘FORMULA’ IN THE name refers to a set of rules which all cars and racers must observe and was originally known as Formula A), can be traced back to the 1920s and 1930s and the European Grand Prix championships. The foundation of Formula 1 began in 1946 with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA’s) standardisation of rules. A World Drivers’ Championship followed in 1950 and in the same year the first world championship race was held at Silverstone. Over the years, the sport has gained in popularity and in the 1970s Bernie Ecclestone took over the management of Formula 1, turning the sport into one that is now watched and celebrated worldwide. Attracting celebrities, drivers and visitors from across the globe, the only way to celebrate a race is with Champagne. Mumm has been official sponsors of Formula 1 since 2000 and the French bubbly has become synonymous with Formula One podium moments. Mumm’s Cordon Rouge – a mark of victory and celebration with its iconic red sash that reflects the Legion d’Honneur. Celebrate the Formula 1 this year with an icon of victory, Mumm Champagne. Toast to the wins with a glass of Champagne trackside for an exhilarating experience with the cars racing by and the adrenaline pumping high. The way Champagne was meant to be enjoyed. ❧

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MOTHER’S DAY FIRST BEGAN TO BE celebrated in 1908 by Anna Jarvis, an American who held a memorial for her late mother in West Virginia, America at St Andrew’s Methodist Church. The church now holds the International Mother’s Day Shrine.

all states both recognised and celebrated the occasion. In 1914 Woodrow Wilson, former President of the United States, officially proclaimed the second Sunday in May as a national holiday to honour all mothers in America.

After her initial celebration, Jarvis campaigned to make ‘Mother’s Day’ a recognised holiday in America and by 1911

By the early 1920s, Hallmark and other major companies had started to sell Mother’s Day cards and merchandise and today the

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holiday has been adopted worldwide, with countries across the globe celebrating the day on various dates. Whether you buy flowers, send a card or gift or call your mother on this special day, elevate the celebration with the addition of a bottle of Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé: a beautiful way to show your love to your mother. ❧

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THE POP OF A CHAMPAGNE CORK signals the arrival of the New Year around the world and many countries have their own special traditions to celebrate, some that have been upheld annually for thousands of years. Champagne however, is internationally synonymous with New Year celebrations. Fireworks explode across the London skyline, highlighting the cities famous landmarks including Big Ben, London Eye and the Houses of Parliament and

in Hong Kong the Victoria Harbour is illuminated with a sensational sparkling display and in Rio de Janeiro, scores of people flock from across the globe to Copacabana Beach, where New Year’s parties on the beautiful beach go on way past the sun has risen. Champagne adds that extra wow factor to your celebrations: the pop of the bottle synonymous with a party. So wherever you celebrate the New Year, do it with friends, family and of course, a glass of Taittinger Champagne. ❧

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FROM THERE, POLO WAS THEN PLAYED in the 16th Century in China, Japan and India and it was here that the British army adopted the game, taking it with them back to England where it quickly spread across Europe. The game has, since then, gained in popularity and from 1900 was played as an Olympic sport. The first Polo game in Australia was played at Moore Park, Sydney, in 1874. From there it spread nationwide and is today enjoyed by those who want

to embrace the energy, vibrancy and adrenaline that is associated with the sport. Once only played by Royalty, today the sport is enjoyed by all as a celebration. The perfect way to spend a weekend day, spectators dress up and alongside friends and family enjoy a glass of sparkling whilst taking in this spectacular sport. Take your friends and family and make this a day to remember with Croser Vintage sparkling. ❧

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THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE CELEBRATION is the four-day Melbourne Cup Carnival, with the whole of the races bringing a carnival-like vibe to the city, creating a party atmosphere that injects a fun, vibrant feel into Melbourne, with punters and racers alike reveling in the worldclass entertainment including the finest racing, fashion, culture, food and drinks. A fun atmosphere, unparalleled at any other event in the Australian sporting diary, no race day would be complete without the dresses, the hats and of course, the Champagne. Celebrate a win or toast to a race with a bottle of bubbles: the perfect addition to a fun day out at the races.

This year, take your friends and family, dress up to the nines and head to the track for a day of fun, laughter, bubbles and racing. Get swept up in the celebrations that captivate the nation. Bask in the glamour, take in the sights, laugh and celebrate the horses and races, , with a glass of Champagne in hand. Spring racing carnival is an unmissable social occasion that epitomises Australian culture, both a cultural and sporting event that draws spectators from far and wide. One that can only be toasted with Champagne. ❧

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Photo by Stefan Holm /


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Valentine’s Day WHAT TO GET FOR THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE? THE GIRL WHO HAS EVERYTHING? A SPECIAL GIFT, ELEGANT, LOVED BY ALL, TOASTING TO A CELEBRATION OF LOVE: CHAMPAGNE. WORDS RACHEL STEVENSON BUT FIRST, HOW DID WE COME TO celebrate love on such a specific day? 3rd century Rome was ruled by Emperor Claudius, a strict Christian, who believed all Roman soldiers should be devoted to Rome and therefore not marry, even going as far as to pass a law banning them from doing so! In response, a catholic priest, St. Valentine, began to marry the soldiers in secret, believing in the importance of love. Unfortunately, St. Valentine was discovered and jailed, where he fell in love with his jailor’s blind daughter, signing a card to her ‘from your Valentine’, before being executed on 14 February 270. It wasn’t until nearly 200 years later however, that 14 February was declared Saint Valentine’s Day by the Pope who wanted to stamp out a pagan celebration held on the same day. Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated across the globe in many different ways. Here in Australia, it is a special day to show someone you care: whether alongside a home-cooked meal or dinner at a fancy restaurant, Champagne elevates your evening from everyday to outstanding, adding the needed special touch to your celebration of love: No celebration is complete without it. So make your loved one feel special with a glass or bottle of Champagne BillecartSalmon Brut Rosé. The only way to show your love on this special day. ❧

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Books THERE MUST BE EVEN MORE WORDS WRITTEN ABOUT CHAMPAGNE THAN BOTTLES PRODUCED. A GREAT MANY BOOKS MINUTELY EXPLORE EVERY POSSIBLE ASPECT OF THE SUBJECT, TO SAY NOTHING OF MANY THOUSANDS OF MAGAZINE ARTICLES. “CHRISTIE’S WORLD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHAMPAGNE & SPARKLING WINE” BY TOM STEVENSON AND ESSI AVELLAN. THE LATEST EDITION IS 2014. In many ways, this is the expanded version of Stevenson’s original work, but it is far more encompassing, incorporating sparkling wine from around the world, though for me, not as thorough on Champagne itself.


HERE ARE JUST A FEW OF THE VERY best; some are long out of print, but you may find them in second-hand bookstores or as reprints. Others are still easily available.

“CHAMPAGNE” BY TOM STEVENSON. 1986. It might seem long out of date, and certain aspects inevitably are, but this has long been considered as perhaps the all-time classic on the subject. Another couple of older books which have long been highly regarded are ‘Guide to the Wines of Champagne’ by Pamela Vandyke Price (1979) and the scholarly ‘Champagne: The Wine, the Land and the People’ by Patrick Forbes (1967).

Swedish author, Richard Juhlin, vies with Stevenson as the world’s leading authority on Champagne. We have had his ‘2,000 Champagnes’ and ‘4,000 Champagnes’ (will we see 16,000?). Great depth on individual Champagnes from almost every producer. This is the book for checking on scores and thoughts on that rare Champagne in the corner of the cellar. Not as extensive, but full of good information, especially on recent releases, is ‘The Champagne Guide’ by Tyson Stelzer – an annual release. ‘The Finest Wines of Champagne – A Guide to the Best Cuvees, Houses and Growers’ by Michael Edwards (2009) is also very useful.

“CHAMPAGNE & CHANDELIERS – GRAND DINING CELEBRATIONS” BY BERNADETTE O’SHEA. 2009. A beautifully presented tome, full of wonderful stories of great dinners and events, all involving Champagne. As much a

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work of art as the Champagnes it discusses. Few are as knowledgeable as Bernadette, or can speak with such enthusiasm. She will be known to a great many wine lovers for the many dinners and classes she hosts. The best way to source this superb book is to email Bernadette herself, bernadetteo@

“THE ART OF VINTAGE” BY SERENA SUTCLIFFE. 2009. Speaking of works of art, this exquisite publication focuses on twenty vintages of Perrier-Jouët, weaving the stories with history and artworks – they have an amazing collection. The ultimate coffee table book, but a fascinating one, as well. Other books which are dedicated to a single producer include ‘Bollinger – Tradition of a Champagne Family’ by Cyril Ray (1971, 3rd edition 1988) and ‘The Widow Clicquot – the Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman who Ruled it’ by Tilar Mazzeo (2008).

“CHAMPAGNE – HOW THE WORLD’S MOST GLAMOROUS WINE TRIUMPHED OVER WAR AND HARD TIMES” BY DON & PETIE KLADSTRUP. 2005. Something very different, but a terrific tale drawing in many of history’s most famous names. Finally, one magazine. “Fine Champagne”, the only ‘official’ magazine devoted solely to Champagne and its enjoyment. Check out at ❧


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Explore Champagne & Sparkling  

Your contemporary guide to Champagne & Sparkling

Explore Champagne & Sparkling  

Your contemporary guide to Champagne & Sparkling

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