Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Debate a Bubble - Which Is The Best Chardonnay In The World?

Debate a Bubble - Which Is The Best Chardonnay In The World?

Link to Debate a Bubble - Champagne News and Reviews

Which Is The Best Chardonnay In The World?

Posted: 20 Jun 2011 10:45 AM PDT

The Best Chardonnay In The World? How on earth do you choose?

Ask 100 amateur wine lovers and you'll probably get 100 different opinions, so for once it might not be a bad idea to rely on the professionals.

You may not know this but there is in fact a competition held in France every year to decide this very question: the Chardonnay du Monde competition.

Each year they award bronze medals, silver medals and of course gold medals, just like at The Decanter awards or the IWC awards or any other. But at Chardonnay du Monde there's something else a little special. Actually that's a bit of an under-statement. In fact this prize is  so exceptional  that in the 18 year history of the competition it has been awarded only twice.

Mandois range What is this accolade? It's La Grande Médaille d'Or and in 2009 it was awarded to Champagne Henri Mandois for their Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2004 - the one with the gold label in this picture

Champagne may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of great chardonnay wine. You might assume it would be a great white Burgundy for example, but Claude Mandois, current head of Champagne Mandois, is convinced that the further north you go, the more Chardonnay shows it's real quality: lots of depth and a wonderful minerality that only shines out in northerly vineyards such as Chablis and Champagne.

The 2004 vintage is all gone now and it's been succeeded by an equally gorgeous vintage 2005 which is certainly worth discovering. For that matter the entire Mandois range offers excellent quality and value.

Mandois is in the village of Pierry, just outside Epernay and if you pop along during your next visit to Champagne, and ask very nicely, who knows? They might just find one more bottle of the 2004 for you to try



Sunday, June 5, 2011

Debate a Bubble - Back On Track With Even More Champagne Tasting

Debate a Bubble - Back On Track With Even More Champagne Tasting

Link to Debate a Bubble - Champagne News and Reviews

Back On Track With Even More Champagne Tasting

Posted: 05 Jun 2011 02:40 AM PDT

6 of the Best Well, first of all a big apology for being very quiet over the past month or so. All down to technical issues with domain names and such like, so please note that my blog can now be found at www.debateabubble.co ( not .com )

Anyway, here we go again with lots of news and information from Champagne starting with a quick rundown on what I tasted last week that I think you too would enjoy discovering


One of the great things about running a          Bed & Breakfast in Champagne is that I get to meet all sorts of people and chat about champagne. ( actually it's my wife that runs the B & B but I get to enjoy the rewards)

Each guest has his or her own favourite champagnes and that gives us a chance to sample all sorts of champagnes and compare notes. This last week has been a bumper week for tasting; here's what we've sampled

 Mandois Brut Nature

Zero dosage, lots of zingy citrus-style aromas and flavours yet not in the least sharp; quite the opposite in fact thanks to 4 years ageing. Really refreshing and somehow uplifting. A fabulous way to start any event, party, or meal. www.champagnemandois.fr

 Pierre Deville Brut Grand Cru

Made by our next door neighbour, the Mayor of Verzy

This is a typical Verzy champagne by which I mean lots of Pinot Noir ( this is a mainly Pinot Noir village), full flavours and altogether heavier and less delicate than the Mandois.

Which style you prefer is just a question of individual preference, but the ridiculously reasonable price of Pierre Deville does help. Not available outside France I fear and no web site either so you'll have to come and visit us to sample it.

Christian Briard Vintage 2005

From the Vallée de la Marne Christian Briard specialises in Pinot Meunier-based champagnes, so very fruity with quite a lot of weight in the mouth.

The 2005 is beginning to develop the yeasty biscuity flavours that many people so enjoy. This is a fine champagne as an aperitif but in my view, better with a meal

The bottle too is worth mentioning since each one has a hand-painted gold motif on it. A Vietnamese design I believe – Christian's wife in Vietnamese

 Alexandre Penet Extra Brut

This is a brand new range from Penet-Chardonnet. In fact so new that this bottle only has a temporary label on it

There are three champagnes in the new Alexandre Penet range. The extra brut has just 3grs of sugar per litre so it has the same fresh, crisp style as Penet-Chardonnet and also has the same rich and complex flavours and long finish.

Alexandre Penet will be available in larger quantities than Penet Chardonnet so offers you a great chance to try this house's unique style. Here's what one wne expert thought of this new release

Mailly Grand Cru, Blanc de Noirs

Mailly Champagne is another village in La Montage de Reims and is even more synonymous with Pinot Noir than Verzy.

This champagne is made by the local cooperative, also called Mailly, which produces champagnes of consistently good quality

To appreciate this at its best I'd suggest you enjoy it with a meal. It has the body and flavour to take it

Aspasie Vintage 2006

Only just released, this new vintage from Aspasie is super ( as are all Aspasie champagnes, in my view)

Aspasie is based in the village of Brouillet in an area to the west of Reims called La Vallée de l'Ardre. Not a well known area, but one with a distinct character all of its own.

All three champagne grapes thrive there in a somewhat sandy soil full of fossils of all shapes and sizes – an archaeologist's paradise.

This champagne is deep and rich both in colour and flavour with a slightly smokey taste that makes it even more memorable

I presented two Aspasie champagnes at a recent champagne tasting in London and you can                   see the video here

So there we have six of the best from this week – all worth getting to know better

More coming soon, just as fast as I can taste them!

Meanwhile, Stay Bubbly


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Debate a Bubble - Champagne Prices and 'Vins Sur Lattes'

Debate a Bubble - Champagne Prices and 'Vins Sur Lattes'

Link to Debate a Bubble - Champagne News and Reviews

Champagne Prices and 'Vins Sur Lattes'

Posted: 19 Apr 2011 11:35 PM PDT

Learning about the more obscure terminology to do with champagne is not everyone's cup of tea, but when it has a direct bearing on the price of champagne it's worth discovering the basics, so here's a brief explanation of what 'vins sur lattes' are and what that has to do with the price of champagne.

Avize 05 quart de mousse The 'lattes' are the  thin batons of wood placed between each layer of bottles when they are stacked in the cellars for ageing. The lattes are there partly to stabilise the stacks, to seperate the bottles and make them easier to handle, but more importantly they are there to prevent too much damage if a bottle were to explode and that does occasionally happen.

There is about 6 atmospheres of pressure inside a bottle of champagne, enough to put a strain on even the strongest bottle but if there is the slightest fault in the glass the bottle can quite easily explode.

When this happens the vibrations are passed on to the next bottle and the next so you could end up with  a chain reaction and dozens of broken bottles. The lattes act as a dampener and they prevent this chain reaction so that if one bottle goes, the ones next to it aren't affected.

Usually a champagne maker will leave his or her bottles many years 'sur lattes' whilst the bubbles form and the flavours develop. However, it's an expensive business to have all that stock tied up and not selling, so in times of financial crisis, such as we've just gone through, champagne makers sometimes sell off lots of 'vins sur latte' before they normally would do, just to get some cash in.

Don't forget that these champagnes are not yet ready to be sold. So the buyer still needs to disgorge the bottles, have the dosage added, and have them corked and labelled before they can be sold, so there is quite a bit of work to do on them.

Nevertheless, even with this work to do, buying 'sur lattes' can be a good way to buy up inexpensive lots to sell on at bargain prices and many of the supermarket champagnes or other champagne bargains that you have seen in the shops probably come from this sort of deal.

The down side is that when you buy a job lot of vins sur lattes it's a one-off deal and there's no guarantee that there will be any  left if you go back for more. Equally the price varies according to the going rate at the time.

Over the past few years, there have been some good bargains to be had on this market, but now most champagne makers have seen the worst of their financial problems and have little, or no, need to sell off vins sur lattes, or at least not at rock bottom prices.

You can discover more about vins sur lattes, and what a good alternative buy could be, at this link


Monday, April 4, 2011

Debate a Bubble - New Gosset Vintage Launch

Debate a Bubble - New Gosset Vintage Launch

Link to Debate a Bubble - Champagne News and Reviews

New Gosset Vintage Launch

Posted: 04 Apr 2011 03:38 AM PDT

Good and bad marks for Gosset. First the good:

Congratulations to Gosset on launching their Vintage 2000

This means that the champagne has had about 10 years ageing in the bottle, on the lees. That's a long time and much longer than many vintages champagne houses keep their vintages, so well done to Gosset.

What I was much less impressed by was the announcement and tasting notes. Just exactly the same as you and I have read a thousand times and there is nothing in the entire text to differentiate this champagne - which I imagine is terrific - from a thousand other champagnes. What a pity and how boring.

When will champagne houses learn to say something interesting that actually engages the consumers instead of trotting out the same old same old ???

Here it is below - judge for yourself:

Champagne Gosset has launched its latest vintage. The year 2000 was an
exceptional one; after being shaken by severe hailstorms in May and July,
the Champagne vineyards regained their vigour with the arrival of perfect
summer with warm and dry conditions, which extended right through to the
harvest.   Champagne Gosset Grand Millesime 2000 is a reflection of the
quality of the soil in the region and has taken the finest grapes from the
best vineyards: the result is certainly worthy of the Grand Millesime title.
The new vintage is the first in the new livery and packaging, recently
updated in line the company's commitment to sustainable development.

A blend of 57 per cent Chardonnay and 43 per cent Pinot Noir, on first
inspection it is clear, luminous and crystalline yellow gold spangled.  An
abundance of sparkling bubbles form a thin, yet steady and persistent flow.

On the nose it is delicate, elegant and rich with strong notes of
deliciously ripe fruits such as mango, pineapple, lemon, molten honey and
apricot and a gentle note of spring flowers like hawthorn, camomile and

On tasting, it initially displays freshness, dominated by the majestic mark
of the Chardonnay. There are lively and complex notes of the same pineapple,
apricot and mango, but with a hint of hazelnut, and a pleasantly long and
elegant finish.  The wine's consistency and richness is a sign of its
maturity – perfectly balanced sweetness emphasised by a judicious and
necessary 'under dosage'.

It is the perfect partner for poultry with a rich sauce and crisp young
vegetables. It is an excellent aperitif, but also has the structure and
power to accompany a whole meal.

More To Champagne Than Just Champagne. Part 1

Posted: 03 Apr 2011 03:19 PM PDT

People thinking of visiting Champagne often wonder if there is anything else to do here except visit champagne makers and drink champagne. Well in fact there is loads to do and something to suit almost all interests and all ages. Here are a few ideas...

First you can download a free guide to What to Do In Champagne by going here www.bedandbreakfastinchampagne.com and you'll also find information about our bed and breakfast accommodation in Champagne

Next, If you like walking then you're in luck.

What to do in Champagne CBR There's a disused railway line running for a long way all around the side of La Montagne de Reims and it's terrific place to walk. In actual fact it's part of the long distance pilgrimage trail that runs all the way to Saint Jacques de Compostel in Spain.

Several people undertake this marathon for religious reasons, but others do it just for personal satisfaction If you're tempted to have a go it'll take you about 3 months in total and you can start from Canterbury, Aachen and a few other places accordingto which country you live in. If you do come along be sure to stay at our B & B in Verzy; we're only about 200 metres from the trail and we get a lot of wakers staying with us

There's not much evidence that there was ever a railway here but there are one or two things you can spot. Here's the old station in Verzenay that someone has converted into their homeFormer Verzenay station on CBR

The trail is well sign-posted and ( famous last words) it's hard to get lost so you can wander to your heart's content.

As you walk the path takes you between the vines and the forest that covers the top of the so-called Mountain of Reims ( it's only 200 metres high or so) and you get some great views. You can one below


View from the CBR

Then there's mountain biking, or VTT as they call it here ( Vélo Touts Terrains).

There a real honeycomb of trails through the vines and forest, all marked out with coloured arrows on the trees indicating the level of difficulty as well as the direction so there's something to suit just about everyone.

In the hunting season you have to watch out for the hunters and their guns, but again the signs are clear as you can see below. All the arrows sensibly pointed in one direction : away from  La Chasse. I think I get the message

Avoiding the Hunt on CBR

Just to show you that I'm not just making this up, below is a short video to close showing some mountain bikers who came along just at the right moment.

In the next post I'll tell you about some more of the lesser-known attractions of Champagne











Friday, April 1, 2011

Debate a Bubble - How Do I Find a 'Good' Champagne

Debate a Bubble - How Do I Find a 'Good' Champagne

Link to Debate a Bubble - Champagne News and Reviews

How Do I Find a 'Good' Champagne

Posted: 01 Apr 2011 04:18 AM PDT

Well, the first thing that you have to say is that 'Good' is a personal judgement and so if you find a champagne that you like and think is good, then that's fine.

Having said this there are one or two pieces of information that give you an indication of the quality and the more of these little pointers you have, the better equipped you are to make your own judgement.Today let's take a look at the age of the vines.

It's not often that champagne makers will tell you the age of their vines - it's considered a bit too technical for most people I suppose, but it does have a bearing on the quality of the champagne and occasionally you may find this information amongst the blurb that the maker hands out.

When they are young vines are full of energy and grow like crazy, producing  lots of fruit. More fruit means more champagne.

As they get older they lose some of that energy and produce less fruit, but make up for it by producing grapes that have more intensity of flavour and aroma and this means champagne of higher quality.

A vine can live for decades - 50 years and more is not unheard of - and  a vigneron needs to manage his various plots of land so as to have a good balance between young and old vines: too many young vines and the champagne may lack depth; too many old vines and there won't be enough grapes, so he or she will constantly be uprooting old vines when the yield has become so low as to be uneconomical and planting new vines that need a few years before they produce a viable crop worth harvesting

I was reading a description of Henriet-Bazin champagne the other day in which it was mentioned that the average age of the vines used was 26 years. That's pretty high because it means that there must have been some vines older than that, probably considerably older, so it's an indication that the champagne will be big on flavour.

It's difficult to give any specific guidelines on what constitutes the 'right' age for a vine to produce good champagne but you can bet that if a vigneron bothers to tell you the age of the vines at all then they will have something worth boasting about. As a rule of thumb though, an 'old' vine will be 40 or 50 years old.

So that's one more fascinating fact to consider when looking for a 'good' champagne

In the pictures below you'll see the various cycles of the vine from a few weeks right through to the end of its life. Do leave a comment or question below if you want

Vines just planted New vines just planted - look for the rows of tiny red shoots







Tiny new vine The young vines are covered in red wax to protect them from diseases and bugs












Vines a few years old Vine a few years old with a fairly thin stem








An old vine A venerable old vine, maybe 40 or 50  years old with a thick, knarled stem







Vines uprooted to start again Everything uprooted to start all over again