The Largely, As Yet, Unrealised Potential Of The Great 2002 Champagne Vintage
I couldn’t be bothered to take pictures of each one, so I just thought I’d film them all.
Right. So. What’s a humble, shy, introvert son-of-a-chef like me doing picking over this stratospheric line-up of Champagne. A very large proportion of the greatest and the good are here, I’m sure you’ll agree. Well I was invited to come and taste them by my pal and all-round marketing talent Giles Cooper who heads up the PR and Marketing for England’s most successful and vibrant fine wine company, Bordeaux Index. All I can say, Giles, is thank you. Thank you very much. This was a rare opportunity indeed. Up there with tasting 2010 White Burgundy, or 2005 Bordeaux.
It is simply impossible to get insight into the the true quality and potential of a vintage by reading someone else’s opinion. From my experience, every vintage of Champagne is starkly different from every other. I suppose what I am trying to say is that Champagne is more vintage sensitive than possibly any other wine on the planet. So, I will, using these smarty pants examples, try to achieve the unachievable and unlock the soul of what is arguably the best Champagne vintage of a lifetime for you the reader.
In order of the wines on the video clip, they are….
Pol Roger 2002 (60% Pinot Noir 40% Chardonnay)
I’m struggling not to use expletives and hyperbolae already. I remember clearly thinking that if all the other wines are as beautifully expressive as this one, I was about to have an unforgettable afternoon. This wine was, as I know now, looking beautifully expressive and open, far more than most here. It was pure set honeycomb and Crunchie bars on the nose, with a clarity and vivid focus that only the very finest vintage champagnes ever possess. I noticed how floral, and perfectly ripe the Pinot Noir component was. The Pinot has also contributed considerably more breadth than I am used to seeing in Pol Roger’s wines. OK. That’s the first clue to the character of 2002 Champagnes. As I look down the list below, this is a vintage where, if possible, the houses have appeared to favour an increase in Pinot in the blends. That’s not to say that the Chardonnay’s no good. Christ. Quite the opposite, but for earlier drinking cuvées, Pinot Noir seems the only way to achieve that. All the Pinot dominant wines were considerably more forward and balanced, and ‘affinée’ than the tightly locked time bombs that are the Blanc de Blancs. Speaking of which…
Pol Roger 2002 Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay)
It’s tight. Really really tight. “Toit like a toiger.” (Please refer to first Goldmember scene in Goldmember Austin Powers 3) I don’t remember a vintage of this wine that I didn’t prefer to the blend above. What does that tell me? Well, it reminds me of the chardonnay in previous vintages, like 1973, 1988 but with heroic levels of extract. These wines are so minerally that, they exhibit a chalky, almost granular texture. If I didn’t know better, I would say there is a degree of rusticity in these wines. It is, in fact, the opposite case. These wines are incredibly slow evolving and will attenuate, smooth out and develop perfume over the sinewy youthful fruit that they current possess. This is wonderful wine, but I wouldn’t tackle it yet. Classic, fine, tight and long. It will be a classic Pol Roger Blanc de Chardonnay, like ‘88 but with more weight combined and the perfumed elegance of the ‘86.
Louis Roederer Cristal 2002 (55% Pinot Noir 45% Chardonnay)
This is Cristal. It is exactly that. What I am trying to say is that if you’ve had a great vintage of Cristal before, and this is definitely one of them, you can tell straight away that this is indeed what it says it is, as if it was showing you its passport. Everything about it screams Cristal, in a broad-strokes, Rolf Harris “Can you tell what it is yet?” way. Not many wines in the world are as distinctive as Krug and Cristal. I think it was Max Schubert, the legendary creator of Penfold Bin 95 Grange Hermitage (as it was known back then) that said that greatness is only half about the quality. He said that a wine could be perfect without being truly great. It was equally important for the wine to be different. Well, love it or loath, and it’s not my favourite, Cristal is both brilliantly screwed together, and utterly unique and non-derivative. So, for those of you who don’t know what it is about Cristal that sets it apart, I shall attempt to describe it. Baking bread. Sourdough in particular. It has the smell, when released, that always reminds me of sourdough minutes after being but in the oven. There’s a hint of molasses and orange rind too. In fact, to me, Cristal always remind me of Jamaican gingerbread. That broad orange citrus aroma, with a malty, mid-bake ginger loaf and digestives. Now, this wine is a decade old and still has all of these characters. It is clearly unready. At the Roederer Awards last year, I tasted a glass of the 2004 with the competition winners, and that loaf was fully formed and ready to come out. Rich, succulent and crusty. I was suprised how unusually forward and delicious it was, in fact. This wine, perhaps of all Champagnes, needs the longest time in bottle before it can be drunk with maximum enjoyment. The 2002 is a true vin-de-garde, and I imagine will repay cellaring for at least another 5 years. I know many wine-makers in Champagne will wholeheartedly disagree with me, but this is a wine that I only love with a minimum of 10 years on cork, and this one has 3 years to go. Like quite a few of these wines, I now see why Bordeaux Index might have invested heavily in this vintage. Watch the price on this wine rise over the next half decade.
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2002 (100% Chardonnay)
Ahh. My darling Comtes. This cuvée has been on truly sizzling form since the late eighties. It is, if I have to declare my hand, the wine above all wines that I would select to drink when or if I ever choose to remarry, if I lose a dear loved one or if my children have something to celebrate. It wouldn’t, however be suitable for celebrating a lottery win, no matter how much it was for. It is far far too classy for anything as vulgar as that. This is a very very long-lived wine with perfect balance, and if you catch it at it’s apogee, it has a truly intoxicating scent. I recently had it served to me blind at a wine dinner with Roger and Sue at The Harrow in Little Bedwyn. No one got the vintage right (It was 1998) but it was the first wine of the evening, and it was the best. Perfect even. There was warm sun. I had beautiful company, and I couldn’t have wanted for anything more delicate, poised and fine. After tasting over a hundred wines, it was that first mouthful of wine that I was still thinking of. I also drank the 2000 with a dear dear friend on her birthday last year. It was also utterly sublime, and so open and supple, in line with the vintage, that we drank it with relish through every course of our Skye Gyngall lunch at Petersham Nurseries. So? How does this vintage compare? Well way back at the beginning of the year, I had my first taste of it the Harper’s Champagne Symposium, and wrote it up in the third of three blog posts I did covering the event.
“It smells of acacia, magnolia flowers, vanilla orchid and lime blossom. The wine arm-wrestles with your tongue at the moment, but is already showing incredible finesse. Can’t wait to taste it for a proper appraisal in a year or two. I think I would buy one to drink Christmas 2013”
I think that I got it about right, but having tasted it again here, I would extend that cellering time until the year after. 2014 is more sensible. This wine is very young, and has so much more to give. To think that most of it has already been consumed… It’s tantamount to infanticide. Yup, I would be buying wines like this all day long if I could afford to.
I loved this on first taste a couple of years ago. On first impressions, it really appeared to struggle amongst this celestial competition, but it was rich, majestically structured, fruity, but maybe just a little simple. That doesn’t bother me too much, because flavours this clean and robust at ten years old suggest that it’s not going to run out of steam anytime soon, and it will naturally gain complexity in the bottle. Many people see the bottle and imagine this wine is for the feint of heart. It’s not. It is rounded, full, broad and very long.
Dom Ruinart 2002 (100% Chardonnay)
I drank my first glass of Dom Ruinart last year at an unbelievably high-brow art and antique exhibition at the Chelsea Old Hospital, called The Masterpiece, an event where one can buy a whole range of things that I personally couldn’t do without, such as a Edwardian rococo snooker table, a papal forgery or a Mark XIV Supermarine Spitfire. I mean how do people cope? I tasted the 1998, 1996 and the 1993 in magnum. My life changed. Dom Ruinart is the king to Taittinger Comtes’ queen. Equal in quality and precision, it appears to take a much more Matador-like stance. It has such poise and muscle tone. This wine was the first time I have ever drunk a Dom Ruinart that was so blantantly unready. Having said that, there is a monolithic majesty, a latent raw power, like a Lamborghini at idle. It doesn’t so much purr, rather growl like a young panther. It had such chalky energy that I was, well, frightened by it. It was doughy in a tighter way than the Cristal but equally unevolved, with chards of quartz and marble in it. Five years at the very least, before I would approach this again, I reckon. Crikey. I will take a long shot and say that this will be the best wine here in a decade or so. Bloody incredible. I felt humbled is if drinking liquid Kryptonite.
Dom Perignon 2002 (55% Pinot Noir 45% Chardonnay)
I have been moaning jealously to everyone I know this year, because it appeared that everyone I know had tried this wine apart form me. I tried the 2003 Dom and wasn’t blown away. It was maybe a good effort for the vintage, which isn’t something that you ever should have to say of a luxury item like Dom Perignon. However, this is truly delicious. I don’t remember Dom P ever having this much Pinot Noir in it (It is almost always Chardonnay dominant), which takes us back to the first paragraph of this post. Furthermore, considering the tightness of the 2002 vintage per se, and the elegance of the classic Dom Perignon style, this is a truly unusual release. Firstly, it is firing on almost all cylinders already. Whether that is to say that it’s peaking early or whether it will increase in excitement until it goes supernova, I can’t quite tell. I wouldn’t bet against the latter. All I can say is that this is the best relatively young Dom Perignon for drinking in decades. It’s already like a sky full of fireworks, but with all the finesse of a Darjeeling-filled bone china tea cup, with a slice of Amalfi lemon.
Philliponnat Clos des Goisses 2002 (65% Pinot Noir 35% Chardonnay)
This is a wine that I had on my honeymoon. It was the amazing 1988 vintage in a famous restaurant on the Champs-Elysées called the Ledoyen. It was the one truly memorable thing, apart from the astonishing period décor, that I could say about the lunch, apart from the price. This wine went down very well at the tasting, but I felt it was lacking a little of the finesse that most of the other wines showed, and was distinctly shorter on the palate. Mind you, most of the wines in this tasting had extraordinary length, so maybe it is just relative. It was massively proportioned, rounded, riper and showed a kernally quality that I didn’t go a bundle about. It’s either showing adolescence and needs more time, or it just wasn’t for me.
Bollinger Grande Année 2002 (60% Pinot Noir 40% Chardonnay)
When you compare the price of this wine and what it delivers to all the other wines in the tasting, this is not only clearly a work of art in its own right, but an unspeakable bargain. It’s like drinking Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. It’s orchestral in size, 1920s mahogany in setting, and full of swooping, fruity clarinets and dueling Steinways. A mouthful of glorious richness and freshness at the same time. If you don’t know what the fuss is about with Bollinger, then drink this. If you still don’t, then bugger off and leave it for the ones that do. 2002 Grande Année? The best in my lifetime. It’s better than ‘85, ‘90, and ‘96 and it will outlive them all. This is a wine of genius at a price that, while not cheap, belies it’s true pedigree. Sheer class and a wine drinkers wine. A bit like drinking sparkling Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos of a similar age, I’d imagine. What a way to finish.
I’m exhausted now. I think I might have a lie down after that.
I had a barbecue this summer. Well a brai technically. I and other avid booze and food bloggers were invited by the marketing ninjas that are Jo Wehring and Claudia Brown, from Wines of South Africa. The venue was chosen as High Timber restaurant nestled at the north end of the Millenium Bridge in the City of London. It is owned and run by these lovely people - the irrepressible Neleen who pilots the restaurant, and Kathy and Gary Jordon of Jordan Estate in Stellenbosch who own it.
The beautiful view looking west down the Thame towards the Millennium bridge usually looks like this.
However, on the day, clearly through absolutely no fault of the High Timber restaurant itself, it looked like this. Ahhh. 20th of July in London. Thankfully, we were to eventually receive a week of nice weather soon after.
All wasn’t lost for #braaiday however. The turnout was great as were some of the wines.
We started with a couple of Pieter Ferriera’s stylish fizzes from Graham Beck, the Blanc de Blancs and his vintage rosé. Revisiting them with him at Cape Wine recently, has reminded me just how brilliant his straight NV Brut and Rosé are. I had half of the country waxing on about how amazing his top cuvées are, but for me, it’s his entry level stuff that shows real, elegance and balance. They are effortless to drink, and effortlessness is a key trait in some fine wines.
Here were my favourite wines of the lunch…
Right. First dish. Smoked Snoek (Sort of a Barracuda) with Pickled Cucumber.
Well, no actually. Even better, we had a beautiful creamed pâté of Arbroath Smokies
The Tierhoek Chenin Blanc 2009 paired with it was unusually and savoury, marmitey and nutty on its own, but had the perfect notes to go with this bacony, smokey pâté. The minerally framework of the wine is left behind like a mouthful of quartz.
Le Geminus Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2010 next. God this was good. Most Bordeaux blends in South Africa, or indeed most hot New World countries, are too brash, bright and disjointed. Acidic, angular and full of alcoholic sweetness, like middle age spread. This wine is svelte, flowing, limpid and fine. Balanced and dancey like the ribbon of a rhythmic gymnast. The Secret? Surely it is the expert handling of the wine in used oak. Tell-tale signs of a well managed barrel-ferment are the subtle aromas of dill, and no cheesy, reduction and compression in the mouth like a song produced for radio. This is open, airy and beautiful. It’s violins and flutes, not Tinie Tempah.
Mike Ratcliffe made a late appearance with this quite delicious Chardonnay. I have been a fan of the Chards from this estate since the mid nineties when Norma, his mum was still making them. Of course, when I was a buyer at Waitrose we were knocking it out at £8, but its reputation has spread far and wide, and they have naturally dialed up increasing finesse over the past 15 years. Highly sought-after now, it was showing superbly well, with a fine, creamy warmth, checked by a fresh, soft lemony acidity. The underpinnig wood had a hint of honeycomb about, but not too much, like some of the screw-cappy reductive premium Chardonnays of New Zealand. (Drop a copper coin in the glass and this slightly off-putting Crunchie-Bar waxiness goes away, so all is not lost.) Delicious, and effortlessly easy to drink. Considering the gale blowing outside while we drank it, this was a welcomely autumnal drink on the day.
WIne of the day has got to go to this fine specimen. Painted Wolf Black Pack Shiraz 2009. I don’t imagine it’s cheap, but it is proof that Shiraz selected from multiple sites and regions can offer layers of complexity, especially in their youth that a single vineyard often can’t. The reason why I loved this wine however, is the slug of chewy, clovey, chocolatey Mourvedre that has been added, and the fine framework of new and used French wood. Very very Rhôney red wine. These two crafty moves, allied to the remarkably measured alcohol level of just over 13.5%, have produced a wine that I would never had guessed was from South Africa. In the category of Southern Rhône reds, this is definitely a good thing. If you know anyone that still has some of this knocking about, I would strongly advise you to buy it. It would give Château Beaucastel a serious run for its money. (FYI I tried the 2010 vintage recently at Cape Wine, and it is a very different animal indeed. Is there Pinotage in it? I think there is. One I like less.)
I’ve been travelling too. A lot as it happens. South Africa, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, and a country I never thought I’d get to, and if I did, have hyped up so much in my mind that it couldn’t possibly live up to its billing. Portugal. During this time, I nearly fell in love with someone, fell out of love with someone else, and bally well decided to cheer up about things. I have to grin and bear the sad things. I didn’t see my two beautiful children throughout the entire summer holidays, and although it feels little better to share that fact, I hope that one day they will realise it was only for a more secure future for them and me.
A quick word on how each country made me feel .
A country that is such a visceral assault on the senses that when I finally saw my first rainbow in ‘The Rainbow Nation’, it, compared to the turned-all-the-way-up-to-eleven nature of everything else in this incredible country, looked, well, grey.
Two new great wines. World class greatness.
Cartology White 2011 by the humbly charming Chris and Suzaan Arheit.
It’s fat in a lean way. It’s vigorous and explosive, in an elegant, laid-back way. It’s an impressionist painting by Canaletto. It’s like a demanding, high-maintenance woman that you know is worth the effort. To put it another way, my mate Nick says about his wife that he loves her so much that he could throw her through a plate glass window. Despite her complete loveliness, if she wasn’t so darned unpredictable and frustrating, they would never have lasted all these years. Trust me. You want to get a ring on the finger of this little madam.
Nick and I, on drinking the first out of the case earlier this week, had one of our rare collective wine epiphanies. Good job the Clos des Lambrays 2002 was the night after. No wine this good deserves to be out-shone by anything. Call Harrogate Fine Wines pronto if you want to have the slightest idea what I’m talking about.
This is Nicholas Dymoke-Marr modelling said wine.
Porseleinberg Red 2010.
Isn’t that the sexiest label you’ve ever seen? The wine is breathtaking too.
So granitic it makes your teeth ache. If only gravel was this tasty. Carved from pure rock with nothing more than bare hands and a cherry stick, this is the wine equivalent of Mount Rushmore in North Dakota. When it arrives in the UK, it’s going to cost, ahem, £55 or thereabouts. Still undeniably worth it. Again Harrogate Fine Wines will have some.
Italy (or rather Piedmont.)
One of the great and rare privileges of the last few years is the going on a guided tour of one of my favourite wine regions, accompanied by my pal David Williams, and the towering inferno of Italian passion, David Berry Green. I have so much to say about this trip, but you’ll have to wait a little longer.
Two Wines? (Both from Berry Brothers and Rudd.)
In light of the fact that the other blogs will be concentrating on Nebbiolo, I thought I’d share with you a couple of wonderfully weird reds.)
Grignolino d’Asti 2010 Az. Agr. Laiolo Reginin
On the first night in Piemonte, England were playing Italy in the semi-finals of the European Cup. So we went back to Camp David, and Mr. Berry Green racked up eleven different grape varieties, and almost as many winemakers, to pair with each of the football players. The food was incredible, including a sea of incredible cheeses and petit fours at the end.
More about that another time, but check this out. Another sexy label. Boobs. Two of them. That’s twice as many as the Château Cadet Piola in St Emilion, although they look like falsies. This is a grape variety that I had never tried before. I was also assured that examples this good are rarer than literate bloggers.
So elegant. Fine boned like china. Wood spice and Marascha cherry with a dance that you wouldn’t feel on the back of your hand. Weightless and joyful. Absolutely perfect with the fabulous carne cruda being served.
Pictiures of the wonderful food…
Moscato d’Asti 2011 Cerutti
The sorbet course (no sorbet). If this wine doesn’t make you smile and instantly trigger your adrenal glands into a joyful, hyperactive overdrive, you’re almost certainly retarded. In which case, go away. I don’t want to speak to you. The most fun you can have for 15 euros. Legal or otherwise.
Well, I‘m pleased to say that my first sight of the Douro Valley rendered me completely speechless, and, at one point, quite teary. Anyone who has ever met me will know that if I’d witnessed a mafia hit, I wouldn’t be able to shut about it, so this is a rare thing indeed. Also apart from meeting some great people and drinking great wines, I had the best seafood meal that I’ve ever had. So good, in fact, that I intend to go back to Oporto. On my birthday. For lunch. With Hamish Anderson. To do it all again. The restaurant? La Gavote. Talking to Jancis on my return, I hear her hubby’s a bit of a fan…
Two wines? (There were many. More about this trip later.)
Soalheiro 2011 Vinho Verde
I believe that Dirk ‘The Guru’ Niepoort had a major say in the way that this wine is these days, especially the Primeiras Vinhas, which is a sort of ‘Pimp my Ride’ Alvarinho. I preferred the freshness, honesty and value of this wonderfully precise organic white. They don’t make much but it is an autumn sunset-coloured fuzzy apricot in a glass.
Quinta do Crasto 2010 Douro
This is a picture of their infinity pool on a rather gloomy day. And that’s the Douro stretching off into the distance. Cool huh?
Oh, the wine? Sorry. Here’s the whole Crasto line up.
Just in the process of being released now, all, and I mean all, of the reds from this estate in 2010 were complete humdingers. The further up the tree you go, the more elegant power they manage to cram into the bottle. For the minor upgrade in price from the straight Crasto, this appears to me to offer the most bang for the buck. Smooth and slick, like a ripe Bordeaux Cru Bourgeois, this is astonishing value in my view. I can’t imagine anything more perfect with a roasted Dexter fore-rib than this red.
Seeing as I went to film a business video for a client, I only tasted their wines. But I think they are very nice. Here, at Puklavec and Friends, is a virtually limitless resource of pristine, modern, white wines. Mitja, the Chief Winemaker, has celestial ambitions to produce the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Who’s to say that he won’t achieve that goal? His Sauvignons are already delicious, the best value of which is available in Waitrose at present. My pick is their premium, single-vineyard Sauvignon, La Gomila. It is a ripe luscious style of modern Sauvignon. Think Lenswood, or Shaw and Smith in Adelaide rather than Marlborough, New Zealand. Creamy, tropical and very very suave. The 2011 is a leap forward for me. I will hopefully be doing much more with these guys over the coming months. When the video is finished, it will be posted here.
That’s it for now, but I’m looking forward to discussing my travels in depth with you over the next few weeks. Watch this space…….
He is one Britain’s greatest session musicians and sound techs, having worked with such musical heroes of mine as Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music, and David Byrne of Talking Heads, just to name a couple out of hundreds. In fact, he was on his way to a reunion gig of what is left of Thin Lizzy, with one of their old roadies. I don’t have a nice picture of him, due to his prolific nose bleed. I was assured that this was due to the Warfarin medication for his heart. Although he did concede that the ‘other medication’ that he used to take, might have been one of the contributing factors to him taking this one.
Anyway, I digress. He isn’t the reason for this story. Levi is.
He was given an music industry ticket, a couple of days before, to watch THE blue riband event of the entire Olympic fortnight. Yes. You guessed it, the Men’s 100m Sprint final. Overlooking the finishing line. I mean imagine. Truly a once in a life time experience.
He told me that he had cursed himself for forgetting to bring a proper camera, but, hey ho, he had his iPhone 4s.
He set himself up, using his rucksack to lean on, so that he would get THE perfect picture. The greatest picture that he might ever take. Of the 8 fastest men alive. Probably breaking an Olympic record. Usain, Yohan, Tyson, the drug cheat. All of them.
I, at this point, felt insanely jealous until he showed me the picture.
Wanna see it?
This is it…
That of course is the arm of the man in front of him.
Who is now dead.
Full English Breakfast in a Cocktail?
No shit Sherlock!
At Imbibe during The Battle of Britain Competition, I filmed the English team’s epic, trophy winning performance, consisting of Lyndon Higginson from the Liars Club, Jake Burger from the Portobello Star, and Bart Murphy from Hula. They made the extraordinary Full English Breakfast Mary, comprising of Lincolnshire sausage infused gin, a Yorkshire tea distillate, centrifuged Heinz beans juice, and crispy bacon for garnish. Insane, but wonderful, and perfectly delicious.
Sorry about the shakey camera work. I was hosting the competition.
Sorry about the cringing pun, but hopefully it caught your attention. I feel very remiss that I haven’t glorified these guys before, but on the realisation that I can write what I like, and devote an entire rant to one wine merchant, something that no editor of a newspaper or TV producer would ever let me do, here goes.
So. A fucking great huge ‘big up’ to two of the louchest, most charming, astute and hard working boys in the business. I give you Jason Yapp and Tom Ashworth, who are….(drum roll….the amazing Yapp brothers! Ta da!
Many people, of course, will remember the single-minded pioneering that Jason’s father Robin was rightly noted for during the seventies and eighties, almost single-handedly putting Loire and Rhône (yes the Rhône) on this country’s wine drinking map. Prices have gone up a bit since the Yapps came to town. I remember experiencing some of my formative wine epiphanies in the hands of Robin and my father who were firm friends, including a magnum of Chave Hermitage ‘82 at my fathers gastropub for £50, during an evening where Robin convinced my dad to cook seven kilograms of lambs bollocks for a group of wealthy bankers from Lyon.
Lemonia, the most family-friendly, plate-smashy, authentic Greek restaurant in all of London was the venue for Marks & Spencer’s latest press tasting on Friday.
It wasn’t entirely evident why, until, in their private dining room upstairs, I was confronted with over a dozen new wine listings from the Eastern Mediterranean. So, a lovely Mezze to look forward to for lunch in the lovely company of Hazel Macrae, senior press officer, and the two people responsible for running the project, winemaker, Belinda Kleinig, and wine buyer, Emma Dawson.
So what was their brief? Emma told us that by any standards, it was very simple. Choose as many or as few wines needed to illustrate the interest and the growth in consumer interest in Levant and Eastern Mediterranean cuisine and culture - or something like that.
Well, for Belinda and Emma, the magic number of wines is 15. These new wines have been sourced from Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Turkey, and the Lebanon. Clearly this is a bold move, indeed typically so, from a supermarket buying team that were the first to bring us fine multi-regional blends of German wine, good own-label German Pinot Noir, and things like Nerello Mascaclese from Sicily.
Nice to see that the recession hadn’t spoiled their creative juices.
One of the must-go-to tastings of the year is Cliff Roberson’s annual press tasting.
Last week was no exception, but rather than writing some laboured, plodding review going around all 150 wines, I took pictures of the ones that really interested me. There was some seriously Cool for Cats kit. Starting with this…
Françis Egly is famously quiet and a man of few words, but he clearly does his shouting through the medium of booze. This, here, is a truly grand wine. There was a vintage and a rosé cuvée available for tasting too, but this was the one for me. Talking of grand, it’s nearly all Grand Cru fruit, apart from a necessary little smidge of Pinot Meunier of the very best Premier Cru plots in Vrigny. It is extraordinary stuff, and fiercely deserves its superstar reputation. It may well be the best NV wine in Champagne, and I’m sure there are those who would agree with me. Weirdly it takes on the same, ‘don’t mess with me, legs-akimbo, move and I’ll shoot’ stance as Krug in a way. It certainly mimics the freshness, tightness and poise. It is its owner in a bottle in some ways. One character that all truly great artisanal wines have is the notion that if it’s not your cup of tea, it is actually your fault. This is like that. Unwaivering in its self-belief, with a perfectly-cut French plaid sports jacket and steel underpants. If you get Champagne, and you like pure, but extremely powerful Pinot-driven wines, then this will be the best £50 you ever spent.
A very lovely young lady and self-confessed hedonist, Cordelia Rosa, asked me if I wanted to try something a little different. Rather excited by what the lovely Cordelia was proposing, I asked what? Exactly?
“Billecart Salmon Brut Sous Bois,” she said.
Mildly disappointed by this answer but still intrigued, I accepted. I’ll try anything once.
Let’s face it. If Billecart is going to release any new wines you want to know about it, right?
Well, early last year, they launched this new cuvée. Literally, “Dry Billecart Under Wood”.
But here’s the rub. The process of ageing wine in oak for champagne is far from new. What is new, though, is the amount of wood - and that you can TASTE IT.