The choice of James Bond in the earlier films and most probably the world’s most famous luxury and vintage Champagne, Dom Pérignon requires no introduction. Still....I’ll give it one anyway.
Whereas Pierre Pérignon is commonly named as the inventor of Champagne and the Méthode Champagnoise, he almost certainly wasn’t. I prefer the more modern term applied to the Benedictine monk: “the spiritual father of Champagne”. His Dom Péringon was a breakthrough product with quality, rather than production, in the foreground. Whilst DP might not be the finest Champagne Cuvée on the market anymore, it certainly belongs in the upper echelons.
Today’s Dom Pérignon is only produced in decent years – unlike a handful of other top producers’ entry-level wines, DP is always a vintage wine meaning that, if the grapes aren’t good enough in a certain year, they go into the wines labelled as “Moet & Chandon”, either vintage ones or not. Again, unlike several of the other luxury Champagne producers’ wines, Dom Perignon’s entry-level cuvée is made using grapes grown all over the region rather than only those from a declared individual site.
The 2003 wine is the second newest vintage on the market (after the 2004) and, whilst it will keep for decades, it offers lovely drinking right now.
Satin golf with a very fine mousse.
The nose was very reserved: more so than is typical for Champagne. There was a remarkable sense of fresh white peach and toasted white bread. Lemon peel was noticeable but only as a far-away aroma and not taking a foreground role in the slightest
The attack was of the finest lemon zest and delicate touch of stone fruit: the dusty peel of white peach and the sweeter notes of apricot were in there but they didn’t appear in the body. There was little juice but only the finest fruit-flesh. This made for very light drinking: hardly any harshness and yet the intensity of the flavour was in no way compromised. The finish carried on from the peach skin into a smoky, lightly wooded affair reminding one of the finish Burgundian, oak-aged Chardonnay. The yeast was very toast-like and I guess that a decent amount was used: it too is as reserved as the body and yet so unimaginably full of flavour.
Removing value-for-money from the equation for a second, this is a fabulous wine – utterly awesome in fact. It is about as perfect as I can imagine Champagne to be and so incredibly different to the non-vintage, branded wines I’ve tried before – it has more appeal, more taste, more class and a different depth than basic wines are able to offer. However, you can buy up to four bottles of Moët’s basic Brut for the same price and whilst that product is hardly a Champagne highlight, it’s better than 25% as good – far from (I think I awarded the non-vintage Moët 80 points a few years ago). Still, this is a must-try for anyone into wine and Champagne lovers….I’m hooked at least.
English wine is hard to find in Germany so imagine my surprise when I saw Hattingley Valley for sale at my local supermarket. I’ll admit, I hadn’t tried anything from the producer before so it wasn’t long before a bottle of Classic Cuvee made its way into my shopping basket.
Hattingley Valley’s winery is situated in Lower Wield, right in the middle of Hampshire in Southern England. The 2010 vintage was the winery’s first and the grapes are grown in the producer’s own vineyard of over 24 hectares. The head winemaker is Emma Rice who has recently been awarded with the United Kingdom Vineyards Association ‘Winemaker of the year’ title – you might recognise her name from her days at Nyetimber – probably England’s most famous sparkling wine producer.
This wine is made of the classic Champagne varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir and 25% of the total blend was aged in old Burgundy barrels. 2011 was a particularly good vintage for English wine thanks to the warm late summer period meaning that the grapes achieved a high level of ripeness.
A lovely peach-toned colour with a bright, off-gold appearance. Fine and composed bubble structure.
A very fragrant fruit note is the first thing to notice about this wine, alongside the typical citrus and orchard fruit exists a sense of something red – raspberries perhaps but this is so faint it disappears as soon as the brioche notes appear with a unique feel of oak at the end of the nose.
Very fresh on the attack with notes of apples and pears, it soon made way to a zesty lemon and floral body which eventually goes on to a brioche taste and a light smoky feel on an oak-tinted finish (an interesting touch rather than overdoing it as is so often the case)
A very good but also very individual wine – a lot of English wines are Champagne copycats but this one, despite opting for the same varietals, takes a unique approach with those fresh apples and pears and the oak on the finish. I like that in a wine, particularly in English wine – I believe this to be the future rather than creating a style of wine that already exists.
A wine I tried a few years ago, I wanted to try the current vintage (2010) and was given the possibility to do so at a trade fair in Düsseldorf a few weeks ago. Since trying it for the first time, the English sparkling wine scene has gone from strength to strength: back then Balfour was a new player with only a handful of over people making their names on the newcomer scene.
Whereas the other English producers broke free with their white bubbly, Hush Heath first started making the wine scene news with their elegant Balfour: a rosé made using the traditional blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier (46%, 45% and 9% in that order for the 2010 Vintage). Click here for more from me on English Sparkling Rose.
A very pale and discreet pink - natural.
Very fresh on the nose, this wine promised sweet red fruit although an underlying citrus appeared to be in place. Darker forest fruit seemed closeby and the mineral notes were rounded – nice toasty feeling, but not too heavy – suggesting a lighter drink.
Very refreshing and juicy red berries but also a lovely summer-fruit compote in the attack: blueberries, strawberries and even raspberries eventually gave way to some lively acidity (interestingly, the structural backbone of the wine). The finish was deliciously yeasty and pastry-like: not too much yeast but just enough to finish off the sweet red fruit with a harmonious note. Long finish although squeaky-clean and remaining elegant long after swallowing.
The best English Rosé I’ve ever tried – I liked the 2007 Nyetimber but this feels more authentic: there’s no “I want to be Champagne” behind it but a true sense of uniqueness – perhaps this British style the wineries are looking for? Excellently and evidently lovingly-made, a true ambassador for the English wine industry.
With Pommery and this brand being almost certainly the most experimental when it comes to 'new' styles of Champagne, this Taittinger is the most unique French sparkler I've even enjoyed.
Made using 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Meunier, it isn't Brut but the dryness classification level under that: Sec - not quite as bone dry as Brut Champagne but also not as sweet as Medium or Demi-Sec. The Cuvee is aged for four years before release and is a blend of over 30 different Crus and multiple vintages to ensure relatively similar wines over a number of years.
With a rich golden colour, the bubble structure is thick and concentrated.
The wine is rather fruity and the bready notes found in most Champagne is hidden or certainly more discreet. The fruit was driven by peach, apricot and other yellow fruit but some honey, a splash of lemon and some sweet floral notes were to detect too.
The fruit in the nose: fresh apricots, long smooth peach and also a faint sense of something more exotic comes through in the attack. These are joined by a hint of mineral aromas but this is impaired by the relatively high level of sugar - enough to take away the slight 'bitterness' that the standard Taittinger Brut Reserve has. The overall feeling is a smooth one, velvety and yet the finish is crisp, despite being sweet and long.
This is a great alternative to those who have trouble with the yeastier and drier side of Champagne - it isn't half-dry (half-dry spakling wine can feel rather clingy and badly made) but dry and therefore crisp, refreshing and honest. This is a taste direction very popular in Germany when it comes to bubbly but few Germanic wineries are able to combine this somewhat relaxed approach with high quality and often make wines that feel clumsy, dull and syrupy - this doesn't belong to that category - a great aperitif or companion to a simple finger food buffet.
Turning red grapes into white wine isn’t a new thing. The French have been doing it for centuries and Blanc de Noirs still wines, despite sometimes being hard to find, are widely available. In Germany’s most unique wine-production region Württemberg, the style is a popular one and, rather than using the classic Pinot Noir, they often opt for using the grapes that define the region in the first place, in ascending order of importance: Schwarzriesling, Lemberger and Trollinger.
The latter is little known outside of the region and is only to be found in Württemberg within Germany (although it is planted elsewhere in the world). Lemberger is also few and far between and found nearly exclusively in Württemberg but also in the wine regions of Austria where it’s usually called Blaufränkisch. Schwarzriesling too is a red grape and you might think it to be similarly obscure as the Lemberger and Trollinger varietals but it is nothing other than good old Pinot Meunier – a grape famous for its utilisation in sparkling white wine.
Württemberg is one of those regions where the dry wines, despite some of which being very good, are the exception. Off-dry and sweet are the popular styles and the wines are commonly referred to as being süffig: palatable and smooth but most of all rather sweet. This one was no exception: balancing on the narrow fence between halbtrocken and lieblich, certainly not dry – far from.
Predictably, as many Germany Blanc de Noirs are, this wine was fairly dark in colour. A unique look of apricot was to detect and the wine resembled rosé rather than a white – a very pale one nonetheless.
If the apricot in the colour was discreet, its effect on the nose wasn’t: loads of the stuff, long and sweet apricot along with lovely wild peach dictated nearly everything about the nose of the wine. There was also a splash of citrus followed by some great big Abate Fetel pears – a very fruity fragrant nose with little in the way of spice.
Again, completely dictated by peach and apricot, the wine had a very sweet but refined attack with minimal acidity. Eventually a small amount of tannin did come through and brought with it some earthy tones but the finish was long, smooth and sweet.
A classic Württemberger, rarely do such sweet wines interest me but this one was really okay, probably off-dry it would serve best as an aperitif or with finger food although I can imagine it fitting well to pork in cider or chicken dishes whereby honey is at some phase involved in the cooking process. The apricot and peach overload was strangely pleasant and unlike it usually turning into mineral notes in drier wine it was allowed to carry on pleasing the palate – not a wine for everyday but one you should definitely try.
I’ve had this bottle on the side for a while and bought it for about 35€ from ‘die Korkenzieher’ in the Bredeneyerstraße, Essen, Germany.
The colour was fairly bright, a little bit too yellow for my liking, possibly it’s been a little too long in the bottle – something that the taste reflected later on too.
The nose was fairly yeasty – more than usual for Champagne and it lead me to being able to smell fresh white bread, an aroma that almost covered up the honey-like syrup notes. There were a light sense of floral perfume and the fruit was dominated by thick lemon but also some sweet cherry too. The wine also had a strange eucalyptus nose but this didn’t seem to feel out of place. Altogether the nose was round and complete – quite a lot going on but all fairly well balanced.
The initial feel of this Champagne was light and mild but this soon gave way to lemon acidity, some sense of banana-bread and once again, thick honey. Unfortunately this wine was no longer in prime condition and the refreshing notes of tropical fruit that I love in young NV Champagne were nearly all gone having been covered up by a rough woody edge to the body – one that almost certainly comes from the wine being a little older than I usually drink non-vintage Champagne. Nevertheless the body and palate were still definable and the higher than usual residual sugar level carried with it apricots, nectarines and a splash of peach – however the vegetative element of old-wine quickly cancelled this out giving a flattened finish which didn’t really do the rest of the wine justice.
A bit of a disappointment, I was hoping that this would beat the supermarket non-vintages for around the same price but I think I’ll be grasping for Laurent-Perrier or Perrier-Jouet NV before buying this again. Hopefully I just had an old, badly-kept bottle and normally the wine is far more appeasing: only one way to find out…
Grape: Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier - Price: 5.99€ - Barcode: 4014932881190 - Bottle: 750ml Screwtop
I’m a sucker for two things, attractive packaging and Blanc de Noir. This wine, in my local REWE supermarket satisfied both of these things and that’s how it found its way from the rack into my bright red shopping basket.
Blanc de Noir is something special. A red wine that, thanks to the removal of grape skins, is treated, fermented and stored like a white wine. The Germans have been doing it for years. So have the French: Champagne is usually made of three grapes, two of which are red but thanks to the white treatment of the red grapes Pinot Noir (Grauburgunder) and Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling), Champagne is a lovely sparkling white wine.
This one cost me 6 euros and is from a slightly larger producer in Nahe, a wine region based around the Nahe River, a tributary of the most important German wine river: the Rhine.
This wine has a very interesting colour. Although the wine appears rather peachy and Champagne-like in colour, it has a unique off-red hue that makes it, from some angles, look a little like rosé.
An interesting nose is the defining characteristic of this wine. With heavy notes of peach and tropical fruits, this wine is very fragrant. Leave it in the glass for a few minutes and huge notes of green apple and spicy pear arrive, quickly overpowering the original notes of fruit.
The overall taste is very heavily dominated by apples and pears but there is an elegant sense of nectarine, peach or apricot in the background. You get a very faint sense of red fruits come through. Things like strawberry and raspberry are on the tip of your tongue but these vanish once the wine is swallowed.
With a warming factor that probably derives from the red grapes used, this wine is very pleasing and, although not crisp in the finish, rounded. It feels silky and thicker on the tongue, not like other white wines from the region. Although the region-specific acids are available, you might think that this was a wine that came from a slightly warmer production region.
-Sud de France
-Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder)
-Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder)
-Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling)
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0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
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-Medium / off-dry
-Brut Zero/ Brut Nature
-Medium / off-dry