Champagne – some personal education

I went to an event recently, with the guidance of Sommeliers Australia, the Champagne Bureau and some previous winners of the Vin de Champagne awards, notably Kate McIntyre MW. After an intro mainly on Champagne terroir, plus tips about not swirling, we began with a bracket of Blancs de Blancs, so we could identify more positively Chardonnay influences. Usefully we began seeking apple characters, melon and a linear acid profile.

No scores, as time was not kind, and I was busy listening and thinking. I expect bottle variation (cork, disgorgement, and storage) may vary results.

Nv Pommery “summertime”. 3 years on lees, 9g/l rs. It’s a party! The doughiest, with bread, lemon and spices. No complaints

2006 Jacquart. Pale, finer style, steel and minerals, waxiness too

2004 Taittinger Comptes. Ultra-fine and all class. Tight, really mouthfilling. Certainly my preferred wine in this small set. It will be super in a few years.

Then we looked at some wines with Pinot Noir and Pinot meunier in the blend; looking for different aromas; acid profile more rounded, and greater texture. Some believe red apple is a pinot meunier pointer.

NV Henriot Brut Souverain; 50/50 Chard/PN; red berries, rose-petal; fluffy. Smart

NV Charles Heidsieck; 1/3 each PN, PM, Chard. Chalk and charcuterie; my preferred wine here but faded slightly as it aired and warmed – perhaps won’t be long-lived

2006 Moet. 42% chard, 39% PN, 19% PM 5g/l rs.  I didn’t like this; too reductive, a fair bit of “animal” and seemed a bit attenuated. Certainly more interesting than the ocean of Moet NV.

Then some rose styles. I’ve resisted purchase in the past as they don’t seem to represent VFM, and I’ve have had some oxidation problems – but I am mightily impressed with results when it works. Very food-friendly- fish, chicken, cheese, light desserts….

NV Lanson Rose– a pale orange colour, strawberries and some cold tea – but straightforward. No malo, so some may find the acidity overdone (not me). It’s value!

NV Bollinger Rose. Salmon colour, fine texture, candied fruits, fresh with some refreshing and added-interest phenolics – maybe better with less dosage.

NV Roederer Rose. My favourite in this bracket and overall on the day. Pale salmon colour, strawberries, finesse, purity, length (no malo). Seductive.

There was brief discussion about whether zero dosage was a fad – there is a general trend towards reducing dosage levels with larger companies performing this gradually so as not to frighten their market. The larger houses have the benefits of  blending options from multiple sites and stocks of reserve wines; the downside is perhaps some blandness in their NV offerings. Growers may be less consistent. There was very brief discussion about mlf and oak treatments – but nothing on seals. Acidity was another factor discussed.

The wines selected were all from larger houses rather than the smaller growers that we are seeing now in Australia, but it was enlightening to see a range of Champagne rather than just one or two. To my great surprise, Australia is the 5th largest Champagne consumer in the world (not per head, but in total), so we are significant.

All up, a quite terrifying overview of the complexities within Champagne, and another budget temptation with the rose styles.


One thought on “Champagne – some personal education

  1. R.

    Sounds good. The thoughtful producers, mostly small, are using DIAM(ANT). The Bureau is funded more by the larger companies….


    Ken >


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s