Waitrose still boasts one of the best Champagne ranges in the High Street

While the Waitrose Blanc de Noirs, currently our ‘wine of the week’, is no longer on offer, with Father’s Day fast approaching there are still a couple of other champagnes on a deal that are drinking really well and represent great value.

The Waitrose Brut Vintage 2007 (the ‘05 preceded it), which has been the grocer’s vintage champagne offering for well over a year now, is at or near its apogee. It’s a rich, generous style with a majority of Chardonnay in the blend (52%) plus Pinot Noir (42%) and a smidgeon of Meunier (6%) that’s made for Waitrose by the CRVC co-op in Reims where the excellent Castelnau wines are produced.

The winemaker there is the very experienced Elizabeth Sarcelet, who has worked in the winemaking team she now heads since 1985. Previously tasted in October 2018 when it was already showing ripe peachy fruit plus a quite luscious, fleshy mid-palate, it’s a very decent example of seductively mature vintage champagne that’s now showing a distinctive toasty note on the finish. Down £4 from £25.99 to £21.99 until next Tuesday, 18 June.

Contrasting styles from the Côte des Blancs Grands Crus

The style of the Duval-Leroy Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs is quite a contrast, although partial oak ageing for nine months rounds out some of the fresh acidity you’d expect from an all Chardonnay fizz entirely sourced from six Côte des Blancs Grand Crus: Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Avize, Cramant, Chouilly and Oiry, this is still a wine that could happily be cellared further. The oak also adds a spicy element and more texture to the mid-palate. An all grand-cru Chardonnay from a bigger name would set you back considerably more than the usual price tag of £39.99 and until 18 June its £10 off at just £29.99.

However, if I was out to really impress a wine loving father with a top-quality champagne retailing for under £40, on the extensive Waitrose fizz list, for me it would have be Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 2012. Made by the modest but talented winemaker Gilles Marguet, at the small co-op located in the centre of this celebrated village, this is a wine you could put away in a good cellar for a decade easily. I have a magnum of the 1988 vintage in my own cellar and I’m not at all worried it’s already had over three decades ageing on the cork. I regularly buy its NV brother – Berry Bros & Rudd Blanc de Blancs by Le Mesnil priced at £33 – and for just £2 more at Waitrose you are getting a noticeable step up in concentration and richness, from what’s likely to be seen as one of the best two vintages of the current decade (it may be challenged by 2018 some suggest).

Wine of the Week

Waitrose Blanc de Noirs Brut NV

A 100% Pinot Noir based Blanc de Noirs all based on the 2014 harvest

Back on great form this succulent, apple tarte tatin fizz is simply a delightfully moreish drink. Made for Waitrose by Alexandre Bonnet which is based in Les Riceys, the largest single cru in the Champagne appellation, it shows how good Pinot Noir from the Côte des Bars can be — for those that didn’t already know and haven’t tasted such excellent examples as those made in this southernmost part of Champagne by the likes of Michel Drappier, Serge Mathieu, Fleury and Devaux, to name but four.

This 100% Pinot Noir Blanc de Noirs is all based on the 2014 harvest, and the mellowness and savoury notes from this extra lees ageing — time in the bottle that’s usually only given to vintage champagne — show to good effect. A great gift for Fathers’ Day next Sunday or any other day for that matter and you can buy it currently for under £20 a bottle.
Waitrose Blanc de Noirs down from £22.99 to £18.39.

Ten pink champagnes to delight (and fit different budgets)

Pink champagne ticks all the boxes. It looks great in the glass, it is softer and often more generously fruity than white champagne, making it more approachable for those that dislike champagne’s inherent acidity. It elevates an ordinary occasion into something special. And many feel that, when it comes to Valentine’s Day, it’s a must.

Pink champagnes tend to be more expensive than their white counterparts, sometimes, and notably in the case of a handful of prestige cuvées, Continue reading “Ten pink champagnes to delight (and fit different budgets)”

Revisiting an old favourite

Franck Bonville Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Avize

Olivier Bonville winemaker at Franck Bonville In Avize

I’ve been to see Olivier Bonville, the winemaker at Franck Bonville in Avize several times over the course of many years. While I’ve always liked his wines, I hadn’t come across them recently. But a good friend produced a bottle of Avize Grand Cru Blancs de Blancs as a delightful prelude to Sunday lunch, the other day. I was so impressed Continue reading “Revisiting an old favourite”

Message in a bottle

One of the main reasons that champagne houses covet working with the leading airlines is they like the exposure for their brands. They want to be seen as the preferred pour in the first or business class cabin. Partly because this is an affluent audience that’s difficult to reach, they will even agree relatively unprofitable deals to get the listing, though of course they are at pains to deny this.

But they know there is a large potential downside to this exposure. Will the cabin staff pour the champagne in front of the customer, thus showing Continue reading “Message in a bottle”

Vintage champagne that hits the spot

Nipping out for a last-minute bottle of fizz to celebrate the end of 2017 and welcome in the New Year? If it’s something vintage you are after that’s drinking superbly well now, then Waitrose Brut 2005, the wine I finished my recent WSET tasting with, is very hard to beat. Made Continue reading “Vintage champagne that hits the spot”

Still places available at my WSET tasting

Next week I’m doing another Champagne tasting at the London HQ of the Wine & Spirt Education Trust (WSET). This time, with purchases for Christmas and the New Year partly in mind, I’m concentrating on pointing people in the direction of some great champagnes from slightly less known producers, which match or better some of the wines made by the big names. And partly as a result of being less well known, your money goes a lot further in terms of getting more exciting wine.

There are eight different producers involved, four growers and four co-operatives. We start with a fine pair of contrasting Continue reading “Still places available at my WSET tasting”