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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Friday night flight – Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2000, 2002 & introducing the 2004

Nov 18, 12 Friday night flight – Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2000, 2002 & introducing the 2004

Posted by in Champagne

There are plenty of things to do on a Friday night in Soho but I couldn’t think of a better way to spend last Friday then in the company of Vitalie Taittinger going through a flight of vintages of her family’s prestige Comtes de Champagne at the Groucho Club. Taittinger is one of the few big houses that is still owned (again) by the family so I find it fascinating when you get to meet someone like Vitalie or her brother Clovis (he was in town a few months ago) who share a name with a great champagne house that has been around for hundreds of years. Ok, I admit it, I am a bit of a champagne groupie 😉 Vitalie was in town to showcase their latest vintage of the Comtes, the 2004 but they also had on hand plenty of Comtes de Champagne 2000 and the 2002 for comparison purposes. The Comtes is a prestige blanc de blanc (100% chardonnay) made from the finest crus of the Cotes de Blancs. 5% of the blend is aged in oak which gives the wine nuance and complexity. So what did I think of the 2004? I liked it, showing a lot of fruit character, it was tasting young and is still developing in the bottle. It’s certainly got a lot of finesse on the palate and I think this champagne is just starting out. Of the 3 we tasted, the 2002 was my favourite. Finely balanced on the palate with brioche and ripe fruit notes on the nose, it was a pleasure to drink and the first one gone. We had to settle for more of the 2000 in the end. The 2000 has certainly matured into a rich champagne, very toasty on the nose and palate, it has evolved into showing dried fruits and has an earthy,savoury character to it. The Comtes de Champagne 2004 has just been released here in the UK. I was recently introduced to a new wine website, CellarvieWines. They have...

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Moti Mahal dinner and wine

Jun 17, 12 Moti Mahal dinner and wine

Posted by in Champagne, Food and Wine, restaurants

Not long ago I was invited to Moti Mahal for a Taittinger dinner and was pleasantly surprised by how well champagne went with Indian cuisine. Not long afterwards, I wondered how well Indian food went with other types of wine and so found myself invited back at Moti Mahal to see if it wasn’t just champagne that could stand up to the spicy flavours and aromas of India. Moti Mahal was originally established in Delhi back in 1959 where it was one of the few fine dining establishments in India. Moti Mahal came to Covent Garden in 2005 and Head Chef Anirudh Arora is very much inspired by the Grand Trunk Road of India. The Road is one of the oldest and longest roads in S.E. Asia, running Bengal to Afghanistan. As you can imagine, the cuisine varies as much as the road itself. Anirudh wrote a cook book highlighting the forgotton recipes of the road in collaboration with Hardeep Singh Kohli. The book is available online and Anirudh uses some of the recipes at the restaurant.It’s a beautifully photographed book and just leafing through my copy was enough to  make my stomach rumble. But, I digress. The dinner we had was called the Awadh Menu and it’s a menu based on the Princely States. Tandoor glazed homemade fennel paneer, tandoor roasted jumbo prawn, spicy lamb kebabs, king fish simmered in tangy curry,stir fried chicken masala, black lentil dahl, crispy fried lotus stem and raita along with an assortment of breads and rice – phew! This was a meal fit for a King. We started the meal with champagne cocktails, I had the Bengal Tiger which listed cumin as one of it’s ingredients, along with Black Smirnoff Vodka and passionfruit pulp. It was deliciously fragrant and an indication of the flavours and aromas to come. The meal also came with a very fresh tomato and veg salad that you made yourself at the table. The ingredients were humbly presented on a wooden board. It...

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Taittinger and Indian cuisine – can it handle the spice?

Apr 30, 12 Taittinger and Indian cuisine – can it handle the spice?

Posted by in Champagne, Food and Wine, France, restaurants

My regular readers know of my fondness for champagne, some might say obsession, but can I be blamed when champagne is such a versatile wine? Just when I think I have found the best food matches for champagne, along comes a new combination that makes me add another feather to champagne’s cap. I was invited to dinner at Moti Mahal to see what Taittinger could do when paired with Indian cuisine as well as meet Clovis Taittinger, the next in line at Taittinger. Clovis was in town last week to show off what his family champagne can do when paired with Indian cuisine.Clovis is known as a bit of a wild man and upon meeting him, I could see why – rushing down the stairs, slightly disheveled hair with impish smile and friendly air. He’s like a French, slimmer, darker version of our Mayor, Boris Johnson – and just as amusing. He had us all chuckling within 1 minute of opening his mouth,  something about the Kama Sutra and champagne, I think. Anyway, Clovis went on to tell us a bit about what he thinks makes Taittinger special – the quality and consistency of their wines is their calling card. Their wines are made with a high percentage of chardonnay which they believe gives them the finesse, elegance and delicacy that one expects from Taittinger. When queried about the best years, he replied he doesn’t remember the years, just the moments. A good way out of giving a straight answer he later admitted! While nibbling on an assortment of canapes we sipped the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc Brut 2000. Made from 100% grand cru chardonnay it’s a charming wine, Clovis defining it as a “dancing champagne” and if any champagne would do that, it would be the Comtes, great as an aperitif. Roasted beetroot and peanut salad with a lentil dumpling and yoghurt Chaat was served with the Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosé NV. The sweetness of the beetroot was enhanced by...

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