Each bottle is itself a celebration of the ingenious process that turns the slightly hard-edged, acidic wines from these northerly vineyards into rich, voluptuous creationsby Barry Smith / April 23, 2015 / Leave a comment
As we get older we may not get any wiser; but we do tend to like Champagne more. Age and experience teach us about the nuances of wine flavours and these are subtly shown in the base wines of well-made Champagnes. At the same time, our senses are perhaps not as keen as they once were so the rush of a Champagne’s bubbles across the palate piques our interest. The mousse shouldn’t be aggressive, and the gentle pressure and fine boules of a vintage Champagne (where all the grapes come from the same year) work well. But so can the qualities of a carefully crafted non-vintage blend, as I discovered recently at the 2015 Annual Champagne Tasting in London.This glorious event is organised by the resourceful Françoise Peretti, Director of the Champagne Bureau, which represents, in the UK, the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, a body promoting the distinctiveness and quality of wines from the region.
Champagne often accompanies special occasions—a glass before dinner to get the party started, or a toast with dessert to seal the celebration. But each bottle is itself a celebration of the ingenious process that turns the slightly hard-edged, acidic wines from these northerly vineyards into rich, voluptuous creations. People still fail to reflect on the terroir or style of making in Champagnes as much as they do with other wines, so the tasting was an opportunity to sample the varied and distinctive wines available.
Beneath the chandeliers in a grand hall, 62 producers served their cuvées to around 800 contented guests. In the centre, recently disgorged vintages ranging from 2004 to 2008 were available for tasting. If ever one needed to be convinced that not all good Champagnes taste alike, this did the job.
Rather than fatigue the palate with the stamina-fuelled marathon of a professional buyer, I opted for close scrutiny of a few interesting bottles. First stop was the Drappier Brut Nature. Its yeasty aroma and perfectly ripe fruit produce a crisp, clean wine with none of the harsh acidity all too typical of zero dosage Champagnes (those that add no sweet liquor during bottle fermentation). No wincing here; just…