Champagne for Beginners

Aug 20, 15 Champagne for Beginners

Posted by in Champagne

I love champagne. I love the many different options that are available – Non-Vintage, Vintage, Blanc de Noirs, Blanc de Blancs, Vintage Rosés, Non Vintage Rosés, the list goes on and on. I also love how champagne also gives a little touch of class to whatever meal you pair it with. To be honest, the feeling of downing a cool flute of bubbly on a hot summer’s day is probably one of the main things that I look forward to during these upcoming months. I have found that I have recently been enjoying going through the best champagne available from Advintage just because I love this sparkly drink so much. As I consider myself a bit of a champagne expert, I belive that enables me to say quite a bit on the topic of this delicious bubbly drink. Although I have enjoyed hundreds of flutes of champagne and I am now somewhat of an expert on them, I was not always this knowledgeable. Before I started my champagne tasting adventures, my knowledge of champagne (and how it is served) mostly came from movies and TV shows which often depicted people popping open a bottle of champagne and spraying the resulting fizz avalanche over everyone else in front of them. I also thought that champagne came in just one variant. I now thankfully know better. Here is a little cheat sheet for your reference if you are interested in champagne and you want to test the frothy, bubbly waters. Non Vintage Champagnes. Inexpensive yet still delicious, these champagnes are made up of a mix of different wines which usually come from different years. Try these with canapés and hors d’oeuvres. Vintage Champagnes. As the name implies, these are made only during special years and are made out of a blend of wines from the same years. Aged a minimum of 3 years, these types of champagne are sure to be smooth and definitely delicious. Blanc de Blanc Champagnes. These go perfectly with seafood and they taste crisp and quite fresh on the palate. I highly recommend that you go ahead and let these...

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Debut of the Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru 2002

Jun 12, 13 Debut of the Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru 2002

Posted by in Champagne

More champagne today. As Liberace said, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful…”  (I just saw “Behind the Candelabra” – good movie but didn’t knock my socks off. And that is the end of my film critic career…) ANYWAY, back to the more important stuff…It’s that time of year when the champagne houses release their vintages and Alice  Paillard was in London last week to introduce the Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blanc Grande Cru 2002 and it’s brand new label. Sitting with Alice and listening her speak so passionately about her family’s champagnes is infectious. Describing the champagnes, she really showed the care and detail that goes into all of them, not just the Blanc de Blanc. They age their wines until they feel they are ready, they want to show the style of  the vintages, which helps explain why they are just now releasing the 2002 when most of the other major houses have long ago released theirs. The 2002 Blanc de blanc Grand Cru was a surprise – still very taut and zinging with minerality, it has a floral quality to it. The grapes come the first pressing of 2 Cotes de Blancs Grand Cru – Oger and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and have spent over 10 years on their lees. Alice said that she and her father, Bruno, differed on this champagne, he thinks it’s pretty and floral and in her opinion, it’s a vertiginous champagne, it has a fine structure -she sees it as a champagne of geometry (I think her father is the romantic in the family and she’s the pragmatist). Drinking it, I could appreciate both their points of view. A very pretty nose, full of floral qualities but totally different on the palate – a champagne that does indeed have structure or better yet, for me, it had many different layers. The more I drank, the more I discovered. We had a starter of cured salmon, avocado, crab and orange slices with the B de B 2002 which...

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Visiting The House of Billecart-Salmon Champagne

Jun 07, 13 Visiting The House of Billecart-Salmon Champagne

Posted by in Champagne, Travel

  Billecart-Salmon was one of the first quality champagnes I tried when I moved to England so when they invited me to visit the house and meet one of the family, Francois-Roland Billecart, I was happy to take them up on the trip. We stopped off in Paris first for lunch at Guy Savoy, where they feature Billecart-Salmon as their house champagne. Guy Savoy is a 3 Michelin starred restaurant and the meal was, understandably fantastic. A fresh, seasonal menu, paired with Billecart-Salmon was a great way to start off the trip. We started with the Blanc de Blancs Grande Cuvee non vintage, followed by the Vintage 2004 and we  finished with the Cuvee Nicolas Francois Billecart 1999 from carafe and not from carafe. Billecart-Salmon have designed their very own carafe, reflecting the shape of their bottles from the past. There is a difference when tasting the champagne from carafe. I find that the more wine-like qualities of the champagne come forward and although the bubbles are there, they are subdued. After a short 2 hour lunch, we hopped on the TGV and headed to Mareuil-sur-Ay and the house of Billecart-Salmon. The house was founded in 1818 and is still one of the few family owned houses in Champagne. Francois-Roland and his wife, Edith, now live in a half of the family house, the  other half used as accommodation for special guests. An elegant building, built from the tan coloured stones that are common in the region, the two story edifice is very welcoming and comfy, having the feel of old money, beautifully decorated, not ostentatious but tasteful. Over dinner we talked about their latest cuvee, the Sous Bois. This champagne is different in that it is vinified in oak barrels which gives it a very distinctive style. Francois -Roland believes that “in Champagne, they have reached a point where there is not a big difference in quality, it’s very important to find a new field” to appeal to consumers. However, he still wants to...

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Ruinart 2002 lunch

This week marked the beginning of Spring and I am so ready to say goodbye to winter! What better way to celebrate then with  the launch of the Dom Ruinart 2002. Oh, yeah! Ruinart have a very distinctive bottle shape and it’s easy to spot one across a crowded room. I am a sucker for design but what’s in the bottle is just as distinctively designed. One of the qualities I most admire about champagne is the concept of assemblage.  Having spent a fair amount of time around vineyards both in Champagne and in other wine producing regions, I think that to blend champagne must be one of the most difficult things to do (no disrespect to other wine makers as I know how hard producers work to coax wine from the vine).  The cellar master uses base wines (which are thin and acidic forerunners of the wine to come) from various vintages and is able to foresee how that wine is going to transform into champagne after going through not one but two fermentations and then spending a minimum of 3yrs in a cold dark cellar laying on a sediment of dead yeast cells. Incredible and yet, the Champenois manage to produce their amazing champagnes year in and year out. Ruinart Chef de Cave Frederic Panaiotis pointed out that for Ruinart, the quality they most desire is a refined timelessness and elegance while at the same time not becoming a boring champagne which never changes with the vintages. He said that when they work on blending the wine they pay particular attention to the mouthfeel, weight and softness in the mouth while at the same time ensuring that they are making a lively and flexible champagne. He likened their champagne to alpaca wool, instant luxury and quality combined which, although you don’t have to be a connoisseur to appreciate, does help. The complexity and depth of the champagne is a pleasure for experts but it also has an immediate appeal and he says...

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Charmed by the champagne house of Ployez-Jacquemart

As we pulled up through the gates of the champagne house/B&B of Ployez-Jacquemart we heard a doorbell go off. I walked back through the gate to get a picture and the bell went off again. Ah, a sensor gate, a very good way to know when people have entered the compound, either on foot or by car, especially when the winemaker is in the kitchen or round the side in the winery. A jolly, small round French woman came rushing out the front door to greet us. It was the owner and winemaker of Ployez-Jacquemart, Laurance Ployez. I could already tell that Laurance was very passionate about her wines and on a tour of the winery and cellars she was bursting to give us as much information as possible about her house and they wines that they make. Laurance is one of the small grower/producers that make up the bulk of Champagne producers. Most own no more than 3 hectares. Based in Ludes, Ployez is family run champagne and has been since 1930 when it was founded by Marcel Ployez and Yvonne Jacquemart. Laurance grows pinot noir and pinot meunier which come from the Premier and Grand cru villages of Ludes and Mailly and all work is done by hand. As is common practice, she guys in grapes, in this case, chardonnay but only from a carefully selected band of growers, some of whom she’s worked with for over 20 years. Everything is done by hand and only the first pressing juice is used, from the picking to the riddling, she oversees it all. Although they have no particular house “style”, Laurence is always trying to create a wine that is unique to her. They use the “methode traditionalle” and long bottle fermentation as well as not letting their wines go through malolactic fermentation, so they will keep their fresh qualities for many years. They also change the blend every year depending on the quality of the grapes. There is no “recipe” at Ployez-Jacquemart....

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