Saturday, 28 May 2011

Henri Giraud Range Tasting - May 2011

Henri Giraud has always been one of those small(ish) champagne producers who I have heard of but never tasted. It has a very small presence in the UK and is currently looking for a UK distributer. Based in the Beautiful Grand Cru village of Ay to the north-east of Epernay, this champagne house has been family-owned and family-run since the beginning of the 20th century. They have always, like their Ay neighbours Bollinger, been great believers in the use of oak barrel ageing in their champagnes. They own around 12 hectares of vineyards and produce between 250,000 and 300,000 bottles per year.

Esprit de Giraud - this entry-level champagne has a rich, honeyed nose with a baked apple and toasty orchard fruit palate. It is both crisp and generous and a good value champagne for those who like a more weighty style. 70% PN 30% CH.

Esprit Blanc de Blanc - 90% stainless steel chardonnay with 10% oak matured chardonnay. This offering has a fragrant nose with acacia flowers, orange peel and a palate of pineapple fruit lined with a fresh acidity and clean finish.

Esprit Rose - 70% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot noir and 8% wood-raised Pinot Noir vinified to be a red wine. An attractive smokey nose packed with strawberry fruit and a touch of rose. The palate is relatively full-bodied with ripe, summer fruit but a crisp acidity really carries the flavour and makes it a great aperitif to serve with canapes.

Hommage Brut - This blend is made purely from Grand Cru fruit and is vinified for 6 months in stainless steels vats and 6 months in oak. It has an evocative nose of freshly baked white bread and a complex palate full of peaches and pears. 70% PN, 30% CH.
Code Noir Brut - The Code Noir is aged for 4 years which opens up a whole new spectrum of aromas on the nose. It has so much going on. Honeyed peaches, white pepper, vanilla and even an interesting mushroom note. The palate doesn't disappoint either; it's very vinious and bears a lot of similarities to a grand cru chablis. There is a grapefruit-like fruit, a pronounced minerality and buttery oak character. There are also some some tannins which makes it a great partner for creamy, chicken dishes and fish. 100% Grand Cru Pinot Noir.

Code Noir Rose - 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Ay grande cru red wine. Though interesting, this rose is not as appealing as the standard Code Noir Brut. It has pretty, smokey nose but is a bit hollow on the palate. There are some fairly dense red fruits which would even stand up to some red meats.

Fût de Chêne 2000 - Fût de Chêne means oak barrel and this champagne is aged in a Fût de Chêne for a year followed by seven years in bottle before it is released. It is made entirely from grand cru fruit from the 'miracle' 2000 vintage. On the nose, it shows lots of earthy tones including leather and truffle, but there is still a lively tangerine note. The palate is so intense that I don't know where to start! There are lots of marmalade, honey and a hint of sweet spice (cinnamon mainly). There is pronounced tannin which carries the flavour and, again, makes it a great food pairing. I would like to try this with fois gras or chicken liver parfait. It also has a low dosage which aids fruit expression and a long, clean finish.

Coteaux Champenois Blanc 2007 - This is a true revelation for me. It's a 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay still white Coteaux Champenois which has been aged in new oak for 11 months after fermentation. It has a razor-like acidity and clearly needs a few years to calm down, but it is so tightly wound and pure that it needs a mention. It bears many similarities to a young grand cru Chablis, there is a noticeably flinty minerality and citrus fruits with a touch of pineapple. All of this is rounded off by a warm, buttery oak character. It would work well with shellfish or flaky white fish.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Moet and Chandon launches Moet Ice Imperial to UK on trade

Moet and Chandon is to release a champagne which is to be served over ice in a bid to bring new drinkers to the category. Though it was launched last year it is set to be sold only to on-trade accounts in London and Bournemouth in a bid to tap into the sailing market. It is also due to sponsor The Boat Race.

Moet cellar master Benoit Gouez told Harpers Magazine that developments have been taking place for over four years to try and make the champagne balance the effects of ice in the blend.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Moët plan a Chinese invasion

Moët Hennessey, owners of Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot, Krug and others, are set to plant vineyards in China in a bid to cash in on the growing demand to luxury fizz in the East. It has come very apparent that China is to grow, over the next few years, into one of the largest consumers of wine in the world. It has already over taken the UK as the largest export market for Bordeaux wines and demand for other styles, including sparkling is growing too.

Moët, with a Chinese state owned agricultural group, plan to plant their first 66 Hectare plot in the remote region of Ningxia Hui, not far from Inner Mongolia. This is believed to have relatively similar conditions to the champagne region with the Yellow river replacing the Marne. They will vinify the wine in a brand new winery near the vineyard.
The sparkling wine is to be sold under the Chandon label which already wine wines made in Australia, California, Brazil and Argentina (Mendoza).

Moët also own Green Point from Australia and Cloudy Bay’s Pelorus in New Zealand.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A Very English Affair

In this months Harpers, Stephen Skelton MW, who will be consulting in the new Royal vineyard in Windsor Great Park, has put together one of the most comprehensive English Wine Tastings in recent years with some interesting results. Stephen, with some of the UK's top wine journalists, blind tasted 52 English wines along with four champagnes, Pelorus NV from New Zealand and a Codorniu Cava.

Though all four champagnes made the top ten, the top two spaces were taken by the ever outstanding Ridgeview Estate with their 2007 Grosvenor Blanc de Blanc and the 2000 Grosvenor in magnum. Not bad for a wine that can often be found for less than £20. In fact, value for money was the word of the day. Four top ten wines came in at less than £20 a bottle.

The main disappointments from the tasting seemed to be the wines that were made from non-champagne varieties (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay). Only two made the top 27, the Davenport made from 100% Reichenteiner and the Breaky Bottom made from 100% Seyval Blanc.

The conclusion was not altogether surprising. Stephen Skelton concludes "The best producers - those using the right varieties and clones - making their wines with care, ageing them for an appropriate length of time, and putting them on the market with a dosage that both respects the wine and the sector of the market they are aiming at, can produce world-class wines in line with the opposition".

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Saturday, 7 May 2011

Royal Vineyards to be planted in Windsor Great Park

Vines are to planted in Windsor Great Park for the production of a Royal Sparkling Wine. The project is to be managed by a team from Laithwaites Wine and overseen by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh himself. The team, led by Laithwaites chief exec Simon McMurtrie, are understood to be planting the first of the 16,700 Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines next week and the first vintage is hoped to be 2013. Simon McMurtrie commented that: "As champions of English wine, we are delighted to do what we can to help boost its production and popularity in this country at this time."

The land is owned by the royal family and managed by Royal Farms and the Duke has been said to be taking a real interest in the project. This move is sure to give a huge boost to the English wine industry and will undoubtedly provide world-wide interest as it develops.

The royal family have given royal warrants to no less than six champagne houses, so are likely going to be one of their new vineyards biggest customers.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A Flute that keeps your Champagne Bubbling for longer

Wine enthusiasts have been trying to keep champagne bubbly in the glass for centuries. In fact the flute shape itself, apart from looking very elegant, was designed in an effort to slow down the rate at which champagne goes flat by reducing the surface area of champagne in contact with the air.

The idea behind this innovation is that each flute has 5 or 6 etched dots at the bottom which produce a single point which the bubbles can form and rise from. This reduces the rate of effervescence and, in theory, keeps your champagne sparkling for longer.

In truth this new glassware offering from Marks and Spencer’s is not a particularly new revelation. Many upmarket glassware specialists, such as Reidel, have produced similar designs in the past but for much higher prices. These Marks and Spencer glasses are £15 for four and, I have to say, look very classy.

Have a look at them for yourselves at