Sunday, 28 January 2018

CHAMPAGNE DRAPPIER - CUVEE ST. GEORGE

The rule of 3, that is that I declare/form, my opinion on a Champagne has been applied to this tipple.

This cuvee is a special blend for Oddbins which was released relatively recently. I have drunk more than just 3 bottles of it, but I have only drunk 3 bottles during which I was determined to form my opinion.

As attempt 1 was not reliably conclusive, attempt 2 hadn't helped my thoughts on it either. I left it for a few months, so that my taste balances out and I build up an interest and appetite for this wine. So, committed to my own rules, bottle 3, or attempt 3 has to decide what I think of it.

So what is it like?

Anyone that drinks champagne often enough will probably like it. I think the cuvee is designed to be tasted not drunk because drinking makes the wine grow in your mouth; by that I mean that the flavours do expand on the palette, but sadly don't entice you to drink more. That in itself is mark of a bad champagne. But, bad champagne this is not!

Although very low on sugar, this wine is naturally very ripe and very meaty. Sadly it lacks elegance and flirt which would entice anyone to either rave about it or at least drink more. Its acids are quite tired and the ripeness dominates more making a reasonably pertinent point to wonder what may become of champagne once the summers there get too hot and berries too ripe. (maybe a bit more Chardonnay from Chouilly would give it the desired life)

It is a good non-vintage fizz, with ripe, almost over-ripe plum and mirabelle textures which may be confused with Bollinger Special Cuvee, but unlike Bolly, this has a lot less life in it. It reminds me of an old, and tired vintage of Veuve that had its prime in its youth and not the best for aging. As I have implied the likeness to Bolly, I will not be too far from boldly stating that this wine is a Bollinger wannabe!

I am only presuming, that St. George, is supposed to denote an English dedication, and as much as, historically the English contributed to the creation of champagne as we know it now, I regret to state that the honey tones of ripe to over ripe Pinot Noir in a non-vintage blend just don't work.

When I look at the tech spec, the cepage shows the desire for a bold and muscular wine, but as I am assuming that the chief buyer of Oddbins was involved in the making this tipple, a warning sign to us all needs to be a notion that not every nose or palette that is capable of drinking and tasting wine is capable of blending base wine for our noble tipple.

So to sum up, this Bollinger wannabe, is a nice try that comes at a relatively affordable price, is a good drink, and a reasonably good champagne but the blending skills in the cepage indicates, lack of experience, lack of understanding what champagne is expected to be and with reticence, a wine that is more tired in youth than I would expect it to be. The lack of youth and vibrancy isn't all that bad, but when it dominates in your glass for the 2 hours of drinking it, it becomes oppressive and dull; adjectives one would not want to associate with Champagne.

It is not bad, I admit, but that, sadly, is not good enough.

Having said what I have said, I am willing to accept that this is the wine's identity, but I must admit that this identity isn't a champagne identity; it is way too old for a new entry onto the market. Nice try by Oddbins, but a far cry from making a sensational champagne. Let's see how successful it will be, just as let's see how much longer will Oddbins remain on our streets.

For alternatives, look at NV Bollinger, Philipponnat and Louis Roederer.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

14TH INTERNATIONAL CHAMPAGNE DAY

So here we go again.

More champagne and more champagne.

Well, this year was rather uneventful and similarly was last International Champagne Day.

I drank Ayala, Brut Majeur and it still remains the best bargain on the market. How long we will be able to enjoy £25 per bottle of such a wonderful Champagne I cannot tell.

So keep drinking!

Drink, Think and Believe Champagne!


Saturday, 24 June 2017

CHAMPAGNE - THE FUTURE OF THE PAST

...OR THE PAST OF THE FUTURE.

The 90s had their 90 and 96. The noughties producer some fascinating vintages of which 02 and 04 stand out the most so far. 02 being a seen as the new 96, which of course did not impress me, but the general rave is about that vintage. I am in favour of 04 and I did ask someone of astonishing authority, which vintage was better: he agreed with me. But I am not God to dictate what the trends should be nor will I ever insist on asserting my view about a vintage as they all change and evolve (typical example was the 'out-of-this-world' youth of 95, its evolution in a bottle post initial disgorgement and its evolution in the bottle post second and third disgorgements too; the same applies to 1996 which showed 'out-of-this-world' character and flirtation seductiveness best after the second disgorgement). Other vintages are yet to appear on the market but I am curious to see what Bollinger, Pol Roger, Gosset, Vilmart, Louis and many others release onto the market.

This decade I am certainly going to look out for 2015 and I am going to be very interested in what 2016 will show. 12 is so far rated as the bombshell and received pretty high ratings and reviews but for the final product we have yet to wait 2-5 years. I am not going to disregard 2017 either even though the vines have only just bloomed. 14 may still surprise me, but I am not holding my breath for it.

At any rate, it is clear that there is loads of interesting stuff that is yet to come out of Champagne so naturally there will be a lot more drink and lot more to spend money on.

Oh dear!

CHAMPAGNE - REGRETS

What would life be without regrets?

A few years ago, I wrote an article about investing in Champagne wines. Although, I still maintain the view I did a random search and noticed that a bottle of Salon 1996 (another fantastic vintage) now fares at nearly £1000.00 and given that I had bought a case of 1995 at £80 a bottle the price astonished me. At the time when I got the 95, 96 had not been yet released. Of course, I drank the case because the wine was sensational but I have become riddled with regret realising that, in theory, I could have made a chunky return on the wine; add to it a few more cases and my return would amplify, albeit not linearly but it would. And who knows how much the wines will cost in the next few years or another decade.

In order to achieve that a few things need to happen. One of the most obvious one would be finding a buyer for it and the next, perhaps not so obvious, good storage. Finding a good buyer is the biggest mission because there aren't as many Champagne lovers as one might think, but I am hopeful that the trend has been changing and it will continue to change.

Oh well, to believe that the list of my regrets won't expand in the future would be a futile mission.

Think, drink and believe Champagne!





Tuesday, 6 June 2017

CHAMPAGNE - 'THE-DRINK-AGAIN' LIST

So here is the list of the Champagnes I am committed to drink again and those of which review you will read at some point in the future.

1. Veuve Vintage 2008 - first encouter with the wine was impressive, but I shared it so I didn't get the full experience

2. Lallier Vintage, NV and BB - same as point 1.

3. Louis Roederer BB - because that is my usual to see how each vintage manifests itself in this fabulous Chardonnay.

4. Veuve La Grande Dame 2004 - need a second review as 04 was a great harvest and I wasn't too impressed with the wine the first time. I think I know why though.

5. Bonnaire - time to revisit the producer and his range.

6. Pol Roger 2006 - Third time lucky perhaps? I drank 2 bottles of it already and I wasn't too impressed but since I religiously follow every vintage I might have to accept that 2006 was simply unimprressive

7. Gosset Grande Blanc - two very different experiences altogether. Perhaps third time lucky again.

8. Gosset Petite Doucer - what a fascinating wine on the first tasting! So time to make an evening out of it (for myself).

9. Chaler Heidsieck NV - I reluctantly accept that I have never given this historically very important wine enough credit and with the invention of the new champagne glass it is time to perhaps, change that.

10. Ruinartf 'R' (NV) - it has been so long since I had the standard 'R'. So let's jog the memory of it with a new approach.

11. Ayala - my star of last year and a favourite tipple of this year. Need to review the entire line though as I only tasted it and given the time restrictions at the tasting the temperature wasn't favourable.

12. Vilmart - Grand Cellier - the most unsual Champagne I have ever had. Time for a new review.

13. Gobillard - BB and BN. Shared the two bottles so need to review fully. First impression however favoured more the Blanc des Noirs and the Chardonnay disappointed slightly. But I didn't manage the experience well enough and it had an impact on expectations so I have to give it another chance since the house is very good


MY CHAMPAGNE RULES

Over the years I developed several rules about drinking Champagne and wine respectively all of which I often broke several time only to come to the conclusion that they evolved for a reason. This is not a self-reproach but indiscriminate critisism of my own opinions and choices. After all these years and with a beyond proven record and acknowledgements from highly respected houses I accepted that perhaps it is time to trust my own opinion. That is not to say I don't doubt myself but an encouragement to the reader that the psychology of drinker is constantly changing, evolving and in the long run always a self-designed method of achieving the best experience; in which, one always experiences profound disappointments and joys.

1. NEVER SHARE - never a share a bottle because a single bottle of Champagne is designed for 1 drinker in both volume of the drink and volume of alcohol.

2. ALWAYS DRINK ALONE - Alone but never lonely! Best still if you are completely alone and in a familiar environment so that the Champagne experience dominates not anything or anyone else. And I love drinking after dark so that I limit my the distortion of olfactory senses by light polution. Of course I don't drink in complete darkness as one needs to see the colour.

3. GOOD GLASSWARE - this was a mission for years to find the perfect glass. Flute is dead! Riedel's Managing Director, a total Champagne nut (afterall he was at the inception of the Bollinger Glass, the Dom Perignon glass which started the movement of Champagne specific glass)*, has decided that he would make Champagne flute totally extinct. For years I was using Riedel's 'Chianti/Riesling' glass, which is the one I settled for until, a year ago, I laid my hands on Riedel's Veritas range and in the range the very-much-look-alike-to-the-Chianti/Riesling-glass was sent to me as a sample. I had no idea what it was so I had to ask the rep. He explained and I never turned back.

4. TEMPERATURE - if you keep a bottle of Champagne in your fridge overnight the wine will be too cold; it will feel very acidic and not too enjoyable. If you like it that way then don't read any further because you won't like my words. I put a bottle in a deep freezer for up to 35 min take it out start drinking and by the time I finish it the wine will have bloomed into it's full glory. When it comes to certain blends opening the wine and leaving it open over night benefits the wine more than it is conventionally believed. The point is for the wine to warm slowly and open up with air thus experience the various layers of Champagne. About air I will right in a separate rule.

5. HOW MUCH TO POUR - standard measure for a glass of Champagne is 175ml per glass. For me that is way too much to swirl in a glass and anywhere between 50 to 100 ml (closer to 50 than 100 as you can always top up) is ideal.

6. NEVER TASTE ALWAYS DRINK - this a bit of a controversial topic. I don't spit Champagne and I always drink it. A lot of thought and effort goes into making the bottle and wasting by spitting I regard as utterly disrespectful for the art form of Champagne which I refer to as 'Haute Viticulture'. When I open a fresh bottle I always have the first glass straight down my gob (my volume 50 - 100 ml) and on an empty stomach so that the small amount of alcohol gets into my head and relaxes my attitude towards the wine and optimises the approach to it which in turn enables me to maximise my experience of the wine and dissolves my stresses of the upcoming experience.

7. AIR - in some respects air could be the enemy of Champagne. But with the recent development of Champagne air is actually beneficial in drinking it. So it is no surprise that there was the change of the glassware and now it is quite normal to decant it (or leave it open over night in the fridge). Just as with temperature, air plays an important part in appreciating Champagne.

8. RULE OF 3 - in order for me to form an opinion of a new house style or Champagne I need to drink 3 bottles of it. When it comes to vintages I usually still to just one or two but that depends on the level of wine. The most revolting wines I usually give a second or a third chance but in the end if it is revolting after the second it is unlikely I will drink it again.

9. NEVER LISTEN - this is a tricky one. Don't listen to anyone who is trying to lecture you on what you should be tasting but listen to those who encourage you to form your own opinion. I listen to everyone in Champagne but no one outside of it, outside of Champagne I trust myself.

These rules are there for me to maximise my enjoyment of the tipple. I have broken them, and I will break them especially point 1. because to share the experience I need to share the wine and it enabled me to see on others' faces when they fell in love with the tipple just as I did experience my love at first sip.

*the history and the evolution of Champagne glassware is quite interesting, but about that in another article.

CHAMPAGNE LALLIER

Although, I would love to pass a definitive judgement on the house I am unable to do it.
Drinking only three of their cuvees isn't really enough.

But, it is noteworthy, and thus the house remains on my 'drink again list', which is growing.

The NV however, did stand out in its maturity, and richness which would be expected.
The Blanc des Blancs I wished I had loved more and the vintage wasn't memorable enough.

Nevertheless all three feature on the 'drink again list'.

And about that, in the next article.