A Visit to Champagne Charlot Tanneux, a Biodynamic Champagne Producer

Feb 19, 14 A Visit to Champagne Charlot Tanneux, a Biodynamic Champagne Producer

Posted by in Champagne

Every time I go to Champagne, I discover yet another interesting producer. This time while visiting my friend Caro (who lives in Hautvillers), she suggested we visit small biodynamic producer, Champagne Charlot-Tanneux. The winemaker of Charlot, Vincent, is marked as one of the up and coming winemakers of Champagne so I was anticipating our visit to the vineyard and cellars. It was a rainy and windy afternoon as we drove up to the house and Vincent suggested we visit the vineyards in Epernay which are protected from the wind.  We drove out to have a look at his biodynamic vineyards, full of wild garlic, violets and covered in grass. Vincent converted entirely to biodynamic practices 5 years ago and is wines are now certified by Demeter. All of his wines are biodynamic but he only labels half as such and the other half he sells as organic. After checking out the vines we headed back to the cellar to taste a few 2013 vin clairs from the barrel. At the time we visited, the wines were almost done with their fermentation, a few having finished already. Vincent showed us wines from various terroirs amongst his vineyards. We tried two different barrels, same vineyard but two different terroirs. There was indeed a noticeable difference, the vines on chalk and clay showing a lot more minerality. We also tasted a blend in barrel that was a co-fermentation of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. It was already showing much complexity and I almost thought that it could be drunk on its now, it was so tasty. Vincent likes to do this his way and makes only wines that will please him. He won’t change his winemaking style to suit the buyers. His opinion is that if they don’t like his wine, there are others who will. After the barrel tasting, we went upstairs to taste a couple of roses. Vincent likes to make his rose saignee which means they are left to macerate for up to...

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Champagne Ayala, An Historic House Coming Alive Again…

Feb 17, 14 Champagne Ayala, An Historic House Coming Alive Again…

Posted by in Champagne, France

Walking up to the House of Champagne Ayala, I was struck by the ornate and grandiose facade of the winery. Built after the 1911 Champagne riots, the winery is where everything happens at Ayala. Ayala can claim that they are one of the few houses where all the production occurs under one roof, from pressing to packaging, it’s all there. At first glance, Ayala doesn’t sound like a French champagne house but it has a long history in the region. The Ayala family were originally from Spain and were sent to South America by the Spanish government in the colonial period to govern in what is now Colombia. The family spent two generations there before returning to Europe in 1830 and settling in Paris, where Edmond, the founder of the House was born. Edmond moved to Champagne in the 1850’s and married the niece of the Vicomte de Mareuil, whose dowry included various vineyards. He created the house in 1860 and set out to build the brand. One of the first things he did was launch a drier style of champagne to the UK market. At the time, champagne made in the mid 19th century had up to 300 grams/litre of sugar so when Ayala introduced a champagne with ‘only’ 21 grams, it was a revelation. So much so that they eventually received a royal warrant from the Royal Family. By the 1920’s Ayala was producing over a million bottles of champagne a year. Unfortunately, the house fell on hard times and from the mid-20th century went into decline. It wasn’t until the house was bought by Bollinger in 2005 that they have now begun to recover their former glory. Bollinger has put in considerable investment to bring the house back from the brink. Although, they are careful to point out that Ayala is not Bollinger’s second wine. The styles are widely divergent, with Ayala making completely unoaked champagnes whereas one of the hallmarks of Bolly is the influence of oak. They’ve also introduced...

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Sparkling Quartet with Laurent-Perrier

Jan 31, 14 Sparkling Quartet with Laurent-Perrier

Posted by in Champagne, London

A few years ago, ultra brut champagne was all the rage and then it quietly fell off the radar and I hadn’t heard much since then. However, last night I was re-introduced to the pleasures of Laurent-Perrier’s zero dosage champagne (as well as Laurent-Perrier’s prestige cuvees)  at The Westbury in Mayfair. Laurent-Perrier and The Westbury have teamed up to offer ‘Sparkling Quartet’ evenings throughout 2014. The premise is a dinner featuring the 4 talented chefs that currently reside within the hotel and it’s restaurants. Their culinary creations are then matched up with one of Laurent-Perrier’s champagnes. I arrived a bit late but was just in time to try the dishes of Chef Show Choong. A starter of Chopped Tuna Loin with red onion, myoga, shiso and karashi su-miso and sliced scallop, sweet prawn & sea urchin with a yuzu vinagrette & porcini oil were both paired with the Ultra Brut but one was at room temperature and one was chilled. Despite being at room temperature, the Ultra Brut is still fine and delicate if, believe it or not, quite fruity. I preferred it chilled with food as it didn’t seem as dense as the room temperature Ultra Brut. Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle was the next champagne and what a delight that one is! It is a prestige cuvee but it is technically a non-vintage because it’s a blend of 3 different vintages. It was originally created to mark the 300th anniversary of the marriage of Louis XIV and there have only been 16 cuvees since it’s first release in 1960. Paired with a meaty hunk of roast halibut with broccoli, almonds and chanterelles, (made by Chef Brian Fartoni) it was light and delicate but still having excellent structure. As we were dining in Alyn Williams restaurant, it was only a matter of time before he made his appearance. Giving us a quick rundown of his dish, Cotswold white chicken, caramelized leeks, potato, smoked egg and truffle. What made this dish even better was side of...

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I’m starting off Christmas Day with Billecart-Salmon brut blanc de blanc

Dec 19, 13 I’m starting off Christmas Day with Billecart-Salmon brut blanc de blanc

Posted by in Champagne

It’s almost time to break out the bubbly for Christmas morning. I don’t know about you but I always like to start off with a glass of champagne on the big day. Actually, I think champagne any day is a good idea but on Christmas Day, you can get more people to drink with you in the morning as it seems to be an anything goes kind of day. This year, I have a plethora of champagnes to choose from but I’ll probably go with a nice glass of Billecart Salmon brut blanc de blanc to start. I love blanc de blancs because they are so refreshing. Billecart’s brut b de b is no exception, having a delicacy and elegance that comes from the 100% chardonnay grapes used in the champagne. I visited the house of Billecart Salmon earlier this year and got a behind the scenes look at how they make their champagne. We also got to taste older vintages of their range, including some blanc de blancs and it was a delightful and tasty experience. I do enjoy trying older vintages but on Christmas morning, it’s probably best to stick with something crisp and delicate which you can only really get with a good champagne. Billecart-Salmon brut blanc de blanc is available at Selfridges, Berry Bros. & Rudd and other fine wine merchants. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Getting to grips with Champagne – a primer

Aug 22, 13 Getting to grips with Champagne – a primer

Posted by in Champagne

I love Champagne and it is one of the most popular high-end drinks on the market with people across the globe enjoying this bubbly beverage. French law states that, in order to be called champagne, drinks must be produced in designated areas within the Champagne region of the country and according to strict standards and processes. Located in the north-east of the nation, Champagne has been known for its sparkling wines for hundreds of years and the towns of Reims and Épernay are at the epicentre of the industry. Many of the most famous champagne houses are located in these areas. Certain big brands have achieved renown around the world, including the likes of Taittinger and Moët & Chandon. These producers tend to age their wines for several years and then blend them to create a consistent house style that people recognise. Each producer has its own technique when it comes to creating these bottled delights and this formula is passed down from generation to generation. It is also worth noting that, as well as the major international players, there are plenty of smaller producers in operation. In fact, much of the region’s ‘liquid gold’ is made by these less well-known vignerons, or wine producers. In total, there are nearly 5,000 small-scale houses creating champagne. In order to qualify as champagne, beverages must be made from certain grape varieties and the three primary grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. Other grapes used include the Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc, but these make up a tiny proportion of current production. Those with a real passion for champagne can make trips to the home of the beverage and see the various houses in operation. For example, they can head to the headquarters of Taittinger just over a kilometre south-east of Reims centre. There, they can enjoy a presentation on the champagne making process. Enthusiasts can also travel to fellow industry giant Moët & Chandon, which I have visited, where they can walk through the house’s wine cellars. These are located ten to 30 metres below the chalky soil of Epernay and are the largest of...

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Featured Post- Be Creative With Your Champagne

Aug 06, 13 Featured Post- Be Creative With Your Champagne

Posted by in Champagne

Champagne has long been the companion to special moments and selecting the right one can often seem impossible with so many goodies to choose from. Whether you love champagne by itself or only drink it on Christmas Day in your Bucks Fizz, with a good champagne cocktail it is possible to create a scrumptious drink to suit everyone’s taste buds. A sweet summer treat: If you’re hosting a summer party why not try a watermelon keg filled with a fruity champagne cocktail? A watermelon keg is a wonderful way to present your drinks as well as a talking point for your guests to enjoy. Making a yummy watermelon champagne cocktail is pretty simple if you gather together the following ingredients, and pour your best flaring skills into whipping up a refreshing summer treat. 770g of watermelon 60g crushed mint leaves 120ml of vanilla infused vodka (chilled) 60ml Triple Sec 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice 850mls (a bottle of) champagne or sparkling wine How to: Blend the watermelon until smooth, strain the liquid and measure out half a litre of the juice. Add your mint and stir, then leave to chill for half an hour. Add the vodka, lime and triple sec with one cup of ice and stir vigorously, remove the mint leaves and fill the glasses with ice. Pour the watermelon mixture into the keg and gradually stir in the champagne. The keg itself: Wash the watermelon under cool running water and dry, place it on its side and cut up to half an inch off both ends. Be careful not to cut too deep into the rind as one end is to provide the base. Use a marker (preferably green) to make a thick band around the upper third and lower third of the watermelon, and use a knife to make grooves along this line. Scoop out the contents of the watermelon with a spoon or ice cream scoop (you could use the watermelon for your cocktail), leaving roughly 2 inches of watermelon at the bottom of the fruit so the spigot can be placed within....

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