Showing posts with label Champagne. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Champagne. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Is Your Anytime Ace. Not Just Valentine's!

Piper-Heidsieck Champagne

Is Your Anytime Ace. Not Just Valentine's!

Piper-Heidsieck is one of the most famous houses in Champagne. It is known for its structured, fruit-driven house style made predominantly from Pinot Noir, with smaller portions of Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The company has its origins in the cloth- and wine-trading company Heidsieck and Co. which was founded in 1785 by Florens-Louis Heidsieck. 

The current winemaker is Émilien Boutillat.  “Émilien was born in the heart of champagne. He has made wine around France, in Chile, in South Africa and in New Zealand. He has a global perspective, a scientific approach and is one of the rising stars of the wine world.” Not a bad intro at all from Liberty Wines MD David Gleave as he introduced Émilien Boutillat during a masterclass last year. Judging by the two wines here, the intro was well deserved.

Piper Heidsieck Essentiel Cuvée Réservée Extra Brut, 12% 

Émilien Boutillat

Through the pale gold colour, fountains of bubbles race in profusion towards the top. Nutty notes in the aromas. It really makes you stop and take notice on the palate, pear and apple amidst the lively citrus contribution. And, after that full and flavoursome combination (enhanced by the contribution of the reserve wines), comes a persistent dry finish. One of the very best Extra Brut champagnes I’ve come across (not that I’ve come across that many) and Very Highly Recommended.


Extra Brut.

Mise en Cave (cellared): 2015.

Degorgement: Jan 2019.

Winemaker: Émilien Boutillat.

Blending: Harvest 2014 and 18% Reserve wines

Grapes: 50% Pinot Noir , 30% Meunier, 20% Chardonnay

The Essentiel wines are produced exclusively for independent merchants and the on-trade. The Essentiel Cuvée Réservée Extra Brut and the Essentiel Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut are made in limited quantities and for the table, with their low dosage (6 g/l and 4 g/l respectively) making them ideal for whetting the palate or serving with seafood.

* I got this bottle as an unexpected gift at Christmas. You can get it in Mitchell & Son (Dublin) for €66.95, details here

Piper Heidsieck Cuvée Brut NV, 12%, on offer €39.95 (was €54.06), O’Briens Wine

This signature Brut has a really bright gold colour, lots of bubbles catching the lights. Aromas - fruity, biscuity.  Again fruity (citrus) and biscuity on the palate and it certainly lives up to the Brut with the persistent finish delicate with that lovely citrus prominent.

So what would you pair this beauty with? Lynne Coyle MW, of O’Briens, suggests it’s perfect with “the antics of Bridgerton and their society parties”.  "Enjoying the antics of Bridgerton and their society parties? then Champagne is the perfect match. Champagne would have been flowing freely during this period, establishing itself as a luxury celebration wine." 

Of course, you would need something to nibble on. Again Lynne has the solution: Rustic Bread & Black Olive Tapenade. Just ask the servants.

I got this bottle in “Deck the Halls” Feast Hamper that I bought from the excellent Glass Curtain restaurant in Cork City at Christmas.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Liberty Wines welcomes Pierre Péters to its Champagne portfolio

Liberty Wines welcomes Pierre Péters to its Champagne portfolio


Liberty Wines is delighted to be appointed Ireland and UK agent for Pierre Péters, one of the most renowned producers of Blanc de Blancs champagnes. The domaine is based in Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger, in the heart of the Côte des Blancs, and was one of the first growers to start selling their own champagnes in 1919.

Sixth-generation grower Rodolphe Péters (right) took over the running of the family estate from his father François in 2008, having been involved in the assemblage since 2000. He initiated the house’s ‘perpetual reserve’ of reserve wines in the late 1990s. A graduate in oenology and business, Roldolphe believes that “a good winemaker must listen to his raw materials”, trusting the quality of the exceptional soils of the Côte des Blancs to bring a natural tension in his wines and therefore practising minimal intervention in the winery.
The domaine owns 82 plots over nearly 20 hectares of sustainably-managed vineyard. Sixteen hectares lie within the Côte des Blancs, primarily in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, as well as the other prized villages of Avize, Cramant, Oger and Vertus. The plots are distinguished by their soils, which range from limestone to argile à silex in composition and give very different styles of wines. The domaine also owns three hectares of vineyards near Sézanne and one in the Côte des Bars. 

David Gleave MW, managing director of Liberty Wines, says: “Pierre Péters is one of Champagne’s most famed growers and we are thrilled to be able to offer their wines to our customers. Their blanc de blancs champagnes are widely regarded as among the finest produced in the region and complement perfectly our already strong Champagne portfolio.”

press release

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Time to Celebrate. Phase by Phase? You need Fleury bubbles

Champagne Fleury B d N Brut Champagne NV, 12%, Mary Pawle Wines
Well Worth Seeking Out!

This Blanc de Noirs is made from 100% Pinot Noir and is indeed a white wine from dark-skinned grapes. It was bottled in 2014. The 2013 harvest provided 57% of the fruit while reserve wine kept in oak casks accounted for 26%. The date of disgorgement was May 2018.

The Fleury family have here since 1895. They raise their vines, biodynamically since 1989, on the Côtes des Bar in the southern extreme of Champagne. Indeed, they are pioneers of organic in the area.

The latest World Wine Atlas tells me that Côtes des Bar “grows friendly Pinot Noir in a pastoral landscape quite different from that further north…. Ambitious young growers proliferate here.”

Back to the wine itself and bubbles proliferate here, racing to the top in non stop streams. It has a deep yellow colour, intense flavours and aromas, including the typical ‘biscuity” notes. The wine has terrific depth from initial sip to the lingering finalé. Dry and delicious. Unusually intense, impeccably crafted, from the edge of  the area, this is Very Highly Recommended and well worth seeking out!

Check out the Mary Pawle website here for other champagnes by Fleury. RRP €49.00

Exquisite Collection Cremant du Jura (AOP) Chardonnay, Aldi

Sometimes the budget may be stretched or you may be in a hurry to get your hands on a sparkling wine for an unexpected celebration. Pop into Aldi and get this excellent Brut (dry). 

I was very impressed with it. This sparkling Chardonnay, made using close to the same methods they use in making champagne, was perfect for my unexpected little celebration. It is not lacking in complexity, has light fruit flavours, a hint of biscuit (that you find in champagnes), and a fine finish. Good price too in the mid teens. Very Highly Recommended. 

There are quite a few Crémants in France and many are excellent. And for something a little extra why not mix a little of Chambord (a blackberry and raspberry liquor from the Loire) to make a “Kir Royal.” Other Crémants come from Alsace, Burgundy, Limoux, Loire, Savoie, Bordeaux, Die (Rhone), and Limoux.
Saint Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux (AOP)  brut (Languedoc-Roussillon, France), 12.5%,  

Did you now that champagne is not the oldest sparkling wine produced in France? That honour is claimed by Blanquette de Limoux which is also produced by the Methode Traditionnelle where it is naturally fermented in the bottle. It was first created by the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Saint Hilaire over 450 years ago. Written records survive from 1531. The abbey is 25 miles south of Carcassonne.

The main grape in the blend above is the Mauzac which is called Blanquette locally. This accounts for ninety per cent of the mix with Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay also used (up to a maximum of ten per cent). White fruits (peaches, apples) feature in the aromas. The palate is fresh and fruity, rather intense in flavour with no shortage of fine bubbles, persistently on the up. This is real bubbles. Think non-vintage champagne at a fraction of the price! Very Highly Recommended.

I got this in Karwig's before they closed in May 2019 so I'm not sure where you can buy in ireland now. But I noted that Mary Pawle has one by Bernard Delmas, details here

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Robots In The Champagne Vineyard. Cellar Master Émilien Boutillat Details Climate Change Challenges.

Robots In The Champagne Vineyard.
Cellar Master Émilien Boutillat Details Climate Change Challenges.

Locally manufactured robots tidy up the rows. Could Irish agriculture use these?

Champagne has faced many stern challenges over the decades. Climate change is the latest. And they are responding, according to Piper-Heidsieck cellar master Émilien Boutillat. But the response must be more than local. “It must be global,” he insisted during his Liberty Wines organised online masterclass last Thursday.

Émilien was introduced by David Gleave MD of Liberty who said climate change was an issue not just in Champagne but right across the world. “Émilien  was born in the heart of champagne. He has made wine around France, in Chile, in South Africa and in New Zealand. He has a global perspective, a scientific approach and is one of the rising stars of the wine world.” Not a bad intro at all!
Harvest dates get earlier and earlier

The cellar master reported that, under blue skies, the vineyard was “in good shape” and that “the winery was busy also.” And then it was straight to business. A series of charts on temperature (including soil temperature), rainfall and so on left no one in any doubt that climate change has been creeping up on the area for decades. 

Perhaps the most convincing was the one (above…) showing harvest dates. As you can see, from the 50s to the 80s, the vintage was mostly late September and sometimes in October. Not any more. Most now are in the earlier part of September with a few in August. And expectations, according to the Huglin indicator, could see Champagne having the kind of temperature that Montpelier now has by the end of the century. Not straightaway but, as Émilien said: “Even one degree is huge in wine.”

He outlined probable responses under two headings, one is “to adapt to the change” and two is “to be part of a global effort to reduce our impact on the climate”. In the Piper-Heidsieck case, there are two specific areas, in the vineyard and in the winery.

The viticulture response to the fight against Spring Frost, for instance, could see active methods (wind-machine, heaters, over-vine sprinklers) employed but Émilien prefers passive methods (Adequacy grape/terroir, row grass cover, delayed pruning) because the impact of the active methods on the environment “is too big”.

So what about hail storms? “We cross our fingers!”. “Some hazards though are local, we get grapes everywhere in Champagne.” So if a few growers are hit by hail, more than a few will have no such damage. They encourage their partners (the growers) to farm more sustainably also.

Sustainability's important at Piper

 Piper have been certified by two organisations for their drive towards sustainability and biodiversity. “We think outside the box… have more resistant grass between the rows… employ responsible viticulture. .. We do better every year.” Piper have water and gas management systems, recycling 100% waste from house vineyard, limit fertiliser use, zero insecticide, zero herbicide and more.

Then there is canopy management, maybe wider distances between the rows, maybe new grapes (Arbanne, Petit Meslier). Seven grape varieties are allowed in Champagne though basically just three (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier ) are used. While the big three grapes seem to have bene there forever, in the 17th century, the grapes used for Champagne were Gouais and Fromenteau. Who knows what will happen in the long term? During the Question and Answer session, Émilien said there are currently small amounts of the other grapes but “when you plant a vineyard it is for 50 years. It (replacement) will be slow, takes time, more for the long term.”

They support local and have invested in a local start-up to produce robots for vineyard operations. This one has wheels though and looks like a small bus. “It is electric and can find the start of the row automatically and then do the weeding along the sides. We really believe in it.. all the growers can benefit.” It does what the old farm implement called a scuffler used to do but much more efficiently by the looks of it.

The winemaking response will also be over a number of different fronts. The harvest date will be one and that will involve tasting, tasting, tasting. “Don’t just look at the numbers.”  Cooler terroir (within the area) may well come into play. As may Pressing Juice Splitting (to help with acidity). Malolactic fermentation may be blocked to enhance freshness in the reserve wines. Indeed, reserve wines from cool years, such as 1996, 2007, 2008, and 2013, could become ever more valuable. Dosage is the last step of the process and there is scope here to change the amount of sugar and in the choice of reserve wine.
Émilien's not a fan of over-vine sprinklers

Q: Will you be looking to produce different wines in the future eg still?
A: Champagne is known for sparkling wines, it is our history, our goal, our style is all about sparkling. I hope in a 100 years it will still be sparkling.

Q: Are you looking at England, or elsewhere?
A: I like making wine abroad. Champagne has great terroir, nice diversity, so lucky here, so I want to concentrate on Champagne. English sparkling wine is good and you don’t need a French winemaker to show you how!

Q: How do you convince new suppliers to work with you?
A: First we want to keep and work with our current growers in long-term partnerships, it takes time, takes years.

Q: Do the growers follow your guidelines?
A: There is external checking on their sustainability practices. We meet them fairly often ourselves. I go into the vineyards, close to them and sharing time and being on the ground with them is the best way.

Q: There were a few questions about going organic.
A: We are in sustainability not organic. But not a big difference between what we do now and organic, no pesticide, no herbicide. It is trickier here because of the weather (rain in particular). We are always experimenting, plenty of good things to take from different methods, but no dogma! We continue to improve sustainability with our partners.

Q: Will climate change force a shift in the boundaries of Champagne?
A: So far, no. The soil is part of it, so far we stick where we are. Again it is very long-term, as vineyards are planted for 50 years.”

For more info, see 

Okay. You take the left. I'll go right.
Previous masterclasses in this series:

A masterclass from Tuscany by wine-maker Paolo De Marchi

Friday, April 10, 2020

Champagne Cyril Freshens Up Charlie. An Online Masterclass.

Bubbles (via Pixabay)
Champagne Cyril Freshens Up Charlie.
An Online Masterclass.

Charles Heidsieck, one of the most admired Champagne houses, was founded in 1851, by the man who would become known as ‘Champagne Charlie’. Their size, and commitment to excellence, has been underpinned by a winemaking team that between them have been named 'Sparkling Winemaker of the Year' at the International Wine Challenge 16 times.

Cyril Brun is current Chef de Caves of Charles Heidsieck Champagne, and last Thursday he took close to two hundred of us through an online masterclass. The theme was: Tradition through innovation: Charles’ signature in the future.

If Charles (aficionados use the first name) has been making Champagne since 1851 you may well think that innovation is scarcely needed at this point in time. But nothing stands still. Cyril though puts Charles fans at ease, assuring us that there is nothing drastic afoot, that much will stay as it is, that he is just tweaking things a bit.

Cyril joined Charles Heidsieck in summer 2015 after more than 15 years as deputy cellar master at Veuve Clicquot. Cyril also had experience at Haut Brion and spent few years working for Metro where he was wine buyer. Since he joined, he has been implementing several slight changes to preserve and improve what fans all know as the “Charles style”
Cyril onscreen

As you can imagine, over the decades, Charles Heidsieck has built exceptional relationships with the best growers across Champagne. Precise selection of grapes takes place from 60 specific sites. 

Let us start with the three Champagne grapes. Cyril’s opinion is that this trinity of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, will go on and on. One of the participants asked if “new” grapes were being “trialed”. Cyril answered that, though he was open to trialing, he has not been fully convinced of any new grape being allowed into the champagne club. “Maybe in future.”

Blending from two or three grapes might seem a straightforward process. It’s not. It is a critical task for any champagne house. Fairly complex too, with three dimensions:
  • wines are blended from different crus;
  • wines are blended from different grape varieties;
  • wines are blended from different years.
Willem Pinçon, Senior Brand Manager at Liberty Wines, 
linked Cyril and the participants

As it stands, there is competition amongst the various champagne houses for these three grapes. Charles Heidsieck have embarked on a “more selective sourcing of grapes”. They are exploring exciting new villages in Vallée de la Marne and in Côte des Bars yet the selection now comes from about 50 villages instead of 80 in the past. At the same time, they are consolidating their Pinot Noir.

One of Cyril’s primary tasks in recent years has been to enhance the freshness of the Charles champagnes without moving too far from the signature style. Oxygen management through “jetting” is one method. Jetting, kicked off by a high-speed injection of 0.1μl of water and sulphites, ensures consistency of each batch after disgorgement, same amount of oxygen in each and every bottle. The method has been used for decades in brewing.

The house is gradually moving - they started four years back - to using synthetic cork for the entire range. After many trials, Mytik Diam corks were chosen and they find it a perfect tool to make the best of the jetting effect. Other benefits include: no corked taste; no fear of long storage; consistency of every bottle (no distortion due to variations of oxygen), and, many of us will be glad to hear, easier opening!
Facebook pic from Charles

The masterclass was followed by a question and answer session. Here’s a flavour for you…
“How do you decide when to pick?”
Cyril emphasised that balance, not ripeness, is the key element in picking. So he does not rely solely on the technical measurement of sugar content - he tastes, “a lot”. Nowadays, because of climate change, they are picking 2 to 3 weeks earlier than ten years ago. (Editor’s note: Are you listening, Mr Trump?)

“Why do you have so much more information on the label?” 
Cyril was happy to answer: “Transparency is the respect we pay to our customers.”

“What is the best vintage you have tasted?”
Cyril started with the 1981, “still a young one”. But he seems most taken with the 1955. “Very memorable. Time has had no impact on it.”

Irish importers Liberty Wines tell us that the masterpiece from Charles Heidsieck is the Blanc des Millénaires. Made of the best Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs (Cramant, Avize, Oger, Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger and Vertus), this is an elegant and distinctive Blanc de Blancs. Cyril described the 2004, the current release, as "fabulously fresh and already offering the beautiful colour, long finish and silky texture so characteristic of this cuvée, as legendary as the celebrated founder of the House”.

That’s a good tip for you, so I’ll end on that! Santé!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Focus on Winter Reds plus some Valentine's tips, all part of O’Briens Wine February Promotion

Focus on Winter Reds just a small part of O’Briens Wine February Promotion.
And then there's Valentines!

Taking a look here at two of the winter reds, a small part of the O’Briens Wine February promotion. February is also the Valentine’s month and with that in mind, the sparkling wines are also in the frame and we have a few tips for you.

Tandem “Bolído” Valle de Yerri Navarra (DO) 2016, 13.5%, €12.71 (16.95) O’Briens Wine Promotion (3rd Feb to 8th Mar).

Dark ruby robe. Rich mix of aromas, red and black fruits. And so it continues through the rich and silky palate, fruit and spice in harmonious tandem. A lively acidity also and that should help it on the table. Excellent finish as well. Easy-drinking and Highly Recommended.

Tandem are based in northern Spain's Navarra region and produce some of O’Brien's most popular reds. This is an unoaked blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. The wine is aged on its lees in concrete vats for 24 months to give a richness to the body weight. The cool climate of the Yerri Valley helps maintain freshness and acidity in the wine.

The vineyard itself is at the foot of the Camino de Santiago in the Yerri Valley. Cool microclimate, sustainable farming and minimal intervention philosophy are all harnessed to good effect. The winery is built north-facing and partially underground to enable the use of a gravity system.

Ortas Côte Du Rhone (AOC) Réserve 2018, 14%, €11.21 (14.95) O’Briens Wine Promotion (3rd Feb to 8th Mar).

Bought some good stuff here in Rasteau, in this particular local coop, a few years back and, since then, have had a soft spot for wines from the Rhone village. This Côte du Rhone, a blend of Grenache (70%), Cinsault (20) and Carignan (10), is mid to dark ruby. Spicy red fruit and blackcurrant, a touch of pepper and smoke. Juicy and spicy also on the palate, some wild fruit in there too. Tannins close to smooth and a lovely warm finish. Highly Recommended. Try this young wine with roast chicken, lamb dishes and goats cheese and more.

Rasteau, about 40 minutes east of the Rhone, sits on a hill in the Vaucluse, one of the five departments of Provence and the climate is typically Mediterranean (meaning a high level of grape maturity). It is to the north of better known villages such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Beaumes de Venise. The village also has the distinction of making fortified wines (vin doux naturel) including a deep coloured red.

Love Bubbles
If you want to produce a bottle of bubbles on Valentine's night, you'll have a huge choice at O'Brien's. Some 16 wines have their prices cut, everything from Mito Frizzante (now at 8.95) to Bollinger Rosé (now at 68.00, that's with 15 euro off).

Rizzardi are one of the big names in Italian wine and their Frizzante Prosecco is available at 12.50 (two for 25). Step up to their Spumante (more bubbles) for 17.95. Lots of you though will probably plump for the romantically named Romeo & Juliet Spumante Rosé at a very reasonable 14.95.

One of my favourites is the Granzamy Brut NV Champagne.The only grape used in this stunning champagne is the black Pinot Meunier, leaving both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (the other regular champagne grapes) out of this particular equation.

It has an inviting eye-catching light gold colour - the bubbles look even better! Aromas are light and fruity (strawberry). Light fruit on the palate also, refreshing and well-rounded, well balanced with a lip-smacking long finish with typical brioche aftertaste. Reduced by a fiver to 29.95.

And another sure to please is the Petaluma Croser Rosé NV, Adelaide HillsThis lovely bottle of bubbles is from Australia. 
Produced from Pinot Noir grapes, it comes in a gorgeous pastel salmon hue in which fountains of micro-bubbles constantly rise. There are delicate scents of strawberry and pomegranate. The palate is more intense than the nose, strawberry again and now cherry as well, and a pleasing refined finish. Now at 24.95 instead of 27.95. Enjoy the bubbles and the love!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Bubbles for your Valentine! SuperValu cut the price of courting.

Bubbles for your Valentine
With the saving on this Pierre Darcys champagne, you'll be able to buy the flowers as well. Double those brownie points!

If music be the food of love, play on, a famous bard wrote. Add a few bubbles though….

And it’s easy to do it these days as SuperValu cut the price of courting with a  selection of sparkling wines all reduced (you’ll have a few bob left over for the flowers) for the day of love. So go pick your Cava, your Champagne, your Prosecco. There’s even an alcohol free one.

Barciño Cava Brut NV, 11.5%, €13.99 (was 25.99) until February 13th.

This vibrant wine is named after Barcelona “the city we love”, say the producers. It is bottle fermented, using the Methode Traditionnelle, same as is used for Champagne.

It is a very light gold colour - see those non-stop fountains of bubbles rise. Modest aromas are light and fresh. The palate, with those fine bubbles, is bright and zesty and then that classic fresh bread finish. This lovely Cava will help start the celebrations as an aperitif. Why not try a few tapas with this well crafted wine?

Graham Norton Prosecco Frizzante 11%, €10.00 (was 12.00) until February 13th.
Light gold is also the colour here and again there are lots of bubbles but this time they don’t hang around. This is a Frizzante (gently sparkling) not a Spumante (fully sparkling). You’ll also note a different closure on it - use your normal corkscrew to get started.

While it is nowhere near as bubbly as the Cava, this calmer bottle is very very pleasant indeed. Graham’s light and fresh Frizzante could well turn a midweek party up a notch or two. Anyone for pizza and prosecco?

Two wandering Kiwis and the Irish comic are behind the GN wines, "honest....without the BS" they say. All of the previous GN wines are from down under and this Prosecco's an exception, made with 100% Glera grapes from the home of Prosecco in NE Italy.

The McGuigan Frizzante is also on offer, down to €10.00 from 14.99, again until the 13th. I remember Neil McGuigan introducing it at a dinner in the Trident not too long ago - he just loved getting the most out of the pronunciation!  

“It comes in a resealable bottle,” he said. “It is produced from Semillon grapes, it is easy drinking, for everyday”. Nothing wrong with easy drinking on Valentine’s either! It is fresh, soft, scented and grapey, with delicious lightness and good length. Best served chilled.

Pierre Darcys Champagne Brut NV 20 euro (was 49.99) until Feb 13th

IWSC Silver Medal 2015 (pictured top);  Judges' verdict: “Pale lemon-yellow, steady streams of small bubbles ; fresh, delicate aromas showing green apple and hints of red fruit behind, fresh bread; well-balanced with bracing acidity, richness across the mid-palate and lingering crisp finish. Harmonious wine.

Also on offer are the AG Blanc de Blancs and the AG Brut Rosé (each at €10.00, down from €17.99) and the non-alcoholic Freixenet Legero Sparkling at €7.00.