Dom Ruinart launches two new vintages

Ruinart winemaker Frédéric Panaïotis talks about two new Dom Ruinart launches Blanc de Blancs 2004 and 2002 Rosé. He also pulled out a couple interesting vintages from the past by way of comparison (of which more later).

Winemaker Frédéric Panaïotis describes the two new wines in this short video

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Veuve Clicquot sinks cellar below Baltic Sea in ageing experiment

In an experiment to see the pace at which today’s champagne ages under the Baltic, Veuve Clicquot has sunk a cellar of 300 bottles and 50 magnums of its wines to a depth of just over 40 metres off the coast of the privately owned island of Silverskär. The location chosen is close to where bottles were discovered in 2010 in a shipwreck on the seabed, including several identified as Veuve Clicquot dating from 1839 which had been preserved remarkably well below the deep, dark, cool Baltic waters.

In these short video clips, Veuve Clicquot head winemaker Dominique Demarville explains the idea behind sinking the cellar below the Baltic off the island of Silverskär; why this location was chosen and what the ageing experiment will involve over the next few years.

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Champagne’s sporting summer Part Two: Wimbledon finals, Tour de France & The British Grand Prix

The champagne sponsored summer of sport comes to a climax this weekend with the Wimbledon finals where Lanson has a 25-year long association with The Championship. Moët & Chandon too will also be delighted that their man, brand ambassador Roger Federer has reached the final again and hopes to take his Grand Slam singles record to 18.Le maillot jaune place de la Concorde

If you want to celebrate F1 style you can pick up the G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge bottles in the special Grand Prix livery at various outlets including Sainsbury’s where it’s on offer currently (see latest champagne offers, also on promotion at ASDA by the case) and there’s a chance to celebrate a Lewis Hamilton victory at Silverstone as he was fastest in practice.

The Tour de France has set off in Leeds today on the first of three stages in England, finishing in London in the Mall on Monday afternoon. I’ll be there thanks to De Castelnau Champagne (see previous post).photo 1GHMumm grand prix bottle

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Champagne’s sporting summer continues

Taittinger at the World Cup, Lanson at Wimbledon, the link between champagne and a de Castelnau Btlle tour de france Bottle sleeveglorious summer of sport continues later this week with Grand Départ for the 1001st Tour de France in Leeds on Saturday. And if you are quick there still a chance until midday today to win VIP tickets to the stage 3 #London finish of Tour on Monday afternoon (7 July) care of De Castelnau Champagne and Spirited Wines  .

You have rather longer to enjoy the limited edition bottle of its excellent, richly flavoured Brut Réserve which De Castelnau has produced especially to celebrate its three year association with the Tour. It’s available at Spirited Wines priced £29.99.

Pascal Prudhomme general manager of De Castelnau with the jeroboam of 1990

Pascal Prudhomme general manager of De Castelnau with the jeroboam of 1990

At the recent London Wine Fair one of the highlights for me was the chance to taste De Castelnau 1990 vintage in jeroboam. Still fresh, but gloriously developed and complex vintage champagne like this is a joy to drink. You can get an idea of the vinous pleasure it gave by trying the current De Castelnau Brut 2000 vintage style — another ripe vintage for Champagne – that Spirited Wines sells at £38.68.




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Taittinger predicts French World Cup glory

When I met up with him back in April in Reims, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger was PETwithTattyWordlCup bottleproudly showing off the special bottle they have produced as the official Champagne of the 2014 FIFA World CupTM, a deal secured by his son Clovis.

The UK is a very important market for Taittinger and during our conversation Pierre-Emmanuel made several references to London as the champagne consumption capital of Europe, even ahead of Paris, he was in particularly ebullient mood.

When asked for a prediction about the World Cup and who might make it to the final he suggested we might see an England France match. How realistic this suggestion is we are about to found out, but even without it, there will be lots of opportunities to celebrate sporting success with a glass of champagne over the next few weeks.


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Two bottle price the norm for customers says Majestic buyer

I bumped into Justin Apthorp, champagne buyer at Majestic, at the London Wine Fair at Olympia last week, feeling slightly guilty about my recent post on their pricing policy for champagne — High pricing flatters discounts offered at Majestic. He didn’t approve. Before I had even asked him a question he said he’d read the post and wanted to point out that Majestic customers very rarely purchased single bottles of champagne, so in effect the [much more competitive] two bottle price was the norm.

He didn’t want to talk on the record generally about champagne pricing in the UK (which is a shame because I know his comments would make interesting and uncomfortable reading for champagne suppliers and supermarket retailers alike) but did make the quick aside that it seemed to be more than a coincidence that all the major champagne houses have been putting their prices up together, and at a time when sales are falling.

Majestic’s policy of, let us say, emphasising the discounts it offers, has of course been influenced by the supermarkets’ ‘false’ half price deals on champagnes that are not remotely worth the claimed full retail price. And to its credit Majestic certainly hasn’t aped that policy. In fact the company has some very decent current offers, particularly under its ‘buy two save 33% deals’, with  big name brands featured like Bollinger (£33.31 for Special Cuvée); Pol Roger Réserve (also £33.31); Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé (£29.98) and Piper Heidsieck £23.32.

And if any of its customers do want to buy a single bottle of champagne in their minimum purchase of six bottles there are also good single bottle price deals on Taittinger Brut – down from £42 to £25–   plus three wines from Ruinart, including the sought after Blanc de Blancs and Rosé styles both priced at £41.66 when they are more regularly featured at well over £50.

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Big deals emerge for bank holiday weekend

The brief lull in discounting didn’t last long. Both M&S and Sainsbury’s have introduced deals offering a 25% discount on any wine purchases of six bottles or more. And Tesco has started some good deals on line, as predicted all in time for the bank holiday weekend. ASDA’s current best deal is also on line where its wine shop has GH Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut at just £20 a bottle. But it’s cheaper still at Sainsbury’s currently.

At Sainsbury’s if you add the 25% discount to the current deals there are two champagnes at under £10 a bottle while at the other end of the non-vintage market, Laurent-Perrier Brut Rosé comes down to a pretty reasonable £36 a bottle. Compare that with the current Majestic single bottle price for the same wine of £75. And GH Mumm, very decent fizz these days, can be bought for just £17.63 a bottle if you buy six bottles of wine or more (doesn’t all have to be champagne). See latest retail offers page.

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High pricing flatters discounts offered at Majestic

There is some weird pricing on champagne going on at Majestic and has been for quite a while. Who in their right mind would buy Laurent-Perrier Brut Rosé for £75 a bottle, but that is now their full price for this wine. They have the same house’s prestige cuvée Grand Siècle, on superb form last time I tasted it, selling for the same amount. Veuve Clicquot Rosé was down £10 at £50 a bottle last week. Bad luck if you bought it then, now it has dropped to £39.97 if you buy two bottles.

The non-vintage cuvées of top rated houses Bollinger and Pol Roger now appear to be ‘valued’ by Majestic above that of Louis Roederer priced at £50 versus £45. All are regularly discounted to the late £30s, closer to their ‘real’ retail price, but make sure you buy them when they are in the lowest cycle, which has just ended for Pol and Bolly.

Because they have bumped their nominal full retail prices up so high, a 25% discount is hardly worth bothering with so we’ve only listed the 33.3% discounts now on our retail offers page. To give an example of how the high pricing makes large discounts look much more attractive than they really are, I’d take the example of Laurent-Perrier Rosé again. Until 29 April it was listed under a ‘buy two save £30 banner’ which sounds good. But in reality that just bought the price down from an inflated £75 to a still steep £60 a bottle. Surely Majestic’s champagne consumers aren’t dumb enough to fall for this?


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Lanson Gold Label 2002 v 2004

Inspired partly by the Tesco ‘Co-buy deal’ (still about 4 hours to go on this as I write, see and order before 6pm today ) on Lanson Gold Label 2002 we opened a bottle of this impressive example of the top class 2002 vintage for our Fizzy Friday tipple this weekend. The bottle I had in my cellar was disgorged in March 2011, it helpfully says on the back label (see picture below) – Lanson is the first of the major houses in Champagne to do this on all the wines in its range – so while I personally am trying to keep back as many ‘02 vintages as I can for several years yet, three years post-disgorgement age give this wine every chance to shine now.

And shine it did. The first thing to note about Lanson vintage is that the grapes for it are impeccably sourced. Only five Grands Crus – the highest rated vineyards in Champagne – are used, with the 47% Chardonnay in the blend coming from Cramant and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the Côte des Blancs, while Pinot Noir grown in Aÿ, Louvois Verzy and Verzenay accounts for the remaining 53%. This combination gives impressive initial clarity and freshness allied to a richness, concentration and power in the mid-palate. Returned to the next day it had opened up with pronounced toasty smoky notes, ripe quince fruit and an attractive palate intensity that suggests it has a long future ahead of it.

Scouting for bargains on ASDA’s website a couple of days ago I noticed that they are offering the current 2004 Lanson Gold Label vintage at £30 a bottle if you buy a case, down from the regular price of £40 and matching the best price that can be reached under the Tesco ‘co-buy deal’ if another 20-odd buyers sign up for it.

Time to get the 2004 Lanson out of the cellar to try the two side-by-side. The blend in this case is pretty much the same, 48% Chardonnay set against 52% Pinot Noir, but this time the white grapes are also sourced in Avize and Oger (two other Côte des Blancs Grands Crus), while Pinot from Bouzy is used instead of Louvois, but the backbone remains Aÿ, Verzy and Verzenay. The biggest difference is one of vintage with the ripe, high quality Chardonnay from ’04 giving this wine a luscious creamy texture that makes it very moreish drinking now, despite two years less ageing and in the case of the wine from my cellar, only a year’s post-disgorgement age.

People generally don’t realise how good Lanson’s vintage champagnes are but anyone tasting either of these two should start to get the message. Buy them while the price is so attractive, you won’t be disappointed. Either wine can be cellared further too.

The 2004 Gold Label is on offer at Sainsbury’s for £31.35 if you buy six bottles or more from 30 April

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Champagne and wines for Easter weekend

If you are after an inexpensive champagne then ASDA’s £10 deal on Louvel Fontaine Brut is hard to beat, though the same producer’s pink (Gruet not GH Martel) at £14 is a step up in quality. For well known houses in an apertif style I’d go for Piper Heidsieck Brut at £18 (also at ASDA) now a consistently well made wine or for only £2 more the Chardonnay-led Taittinger Brut Réserve at Sainsbury’s. I’d be tempted by Louis Roederer Brut Premier at Majestic for £27.99 if you buy two bottles.

If you want something pink Lanson’s rose is crisp and clean and on offer in ASDA and Morrisons at about the same price. Veuve Clicquot’s rose is not sadly on any very attractive deal but it is drinking really well currently if you want to splash out. There are other better value buys in my top ten and growers’ pink articles.

There are plenty of worthwhile discounts on red and white wines at the supermarkets too and we’ve selected a few at different price levels for the weekend. White Burgundy with some palate intensity comes in Blason de Bourgogne’s 2010 Montagny (down £3.99 to £8 at Sainsbury’s until 29 April). Decent inexpensive Pinot Noir from Burgundy seems harder to find, but New Zealand is often a better alternative under £15 and ASDA’s 2012 Matua is a very enjoyable, sweet raspberry fruited Pinot at just £7.98 which won a IWSC trophy.

If you are having roast lamb two classic options at Sainsbury’s until 29 April are Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Reserva 2008, down £3 to £15.99, which has just the right amount of acidity to cut through lamb’s fattiness. Or try a delicious mature claret from the hottest vintage on record (but unlike in Champagne some very good wines were made in Bordeaux) in the shape of Grand Cru Classe Chateau Olivier 2003 reduced by £2 a bottle to £27.99, a property that I note featured in Tim Atkin’s article last August entitled ’10 most underrated Bordeaux Chateaux’. Graves is meant to have fared less well in 2003 than some northern communes but this wine is one of the exceptions.

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