Last week was the 2011 Annual Champagne Tasting in London hosted by the Comite Champagne. This is one of the most anticipated events on the champagne calendar in the UK. It's a great opportunity for the trade to meet the people behind some of the legendary champagne houses, as well as some humble growers making exceptional champagnes. It is often the first chance the trade have to taste new releases and this year was no exception.
Events like this are a perfect opportunity to taste champagnes side by side. You can compare champagnes from the same vintage, champagnes with similar blends and champagnes from the same region. This gives you a great insight into what defines each champagne house.
With 68 brands showing their champagnes and over 200 champagnes on show it was impossible to taste everything, so my game plan was to concentrate on slightly lesser known houses, which I think will grow in profile over the next few years.
Money no object best champagnes:
1) Bollinger Grand Anne 2002 (available nationwide) - a superstar champagne from a great Pinot Noir vintage.
2) Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blanc 1999 - an expressive champagne which is entering its drinking window, but will age beautifully for at least 10 years.
3) Delamotte Blanc de Blanc 1999 (Oddbins) - this is a really unique champagne which will really suit lovers of white Burgundies.
Champagne houses to watch:
1) Bruno Paillard - this is a champagne house with the upmost standards. They only use the first press grapes, age each champagne for a minimum of 3 years and use a low dosage to allow the flavours to really express themselves. (full profile to follow)
2) Delamotte - Delamotte is the sister house of Salon and has a reputation for sourcing top chardonnay grapes from the top Cotes de Blanc communes of Le Mesnil, Oger and Avize. Quality has been on the rise since it was acquired by the Laurant-Perrier group
3) Philipponnat - This house has already got a great reputation amongst champagne connoisseurs but I think it has the quality to hit the mainstream.
Best Value Champagnes:
1) Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Vintage 2004 (£19 in Majestic) - there is a lot of quality out of the 2004 vintage. This champagne shows complexity way beyond its price point. It has pure fruit and lovely bread-like characters which a lot of cheaper champagnes cannot achieve.
2) Le Mesnil Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru 2004 £29.44 (Waitrose) -At £30 this isn't particularly cheap but the fruit is sourced from some of the best vineyards in the Cote de Blanc and the 2004 vintage was a great vintage. This champagne has very vivacious bubbles and citrusy fruit with floral high notes. It has a balanced acidity and will continue to get better for the next 5 years.