The fact that I’m not generally a huge fan of rosé champagne is borne out by the lack of pink fizz in my own cellar. Given a choice the same money will mostly buy you a far more interesting bottle of vintage champagne, in my view. I’m particularly attracted to the more winey, Burgundy style Pinot Noir driven pinks that age attractively and work surprisingly well with food, particularly things like duck or pigeon.
In this camp I’d include Veuve Clicquot vintage rosés, particularly the Cave Privée range, examples of which I will be tasting again in Reims in mid-March. Of the wines I’ve tasted recently out of the widely available non-vintages, Lanson showed well, with some creamy texture as well as bright fruit while Henriot’s very enjoyable rosé has a bit more mid-palate weight. Bruno Palliard’s Première Cuvée and Billecart’s regular non-vintage pink are classy, delicate styles but in this miserable weather I want something a little more spicy and savoury.
If I had any of Philipponnat’s Rosé Réserve I’d open that. Charles Heidsieck’s Brut Réserve rosé is another lovely wine and I may have a release with some extra bottle age that will only make it better, in my book.
As it is, this evening’s drinking will necessarily be dictated by what I’m about to find in the cellar. It’s likely to be a choice between any Charles Heidsieck I have, Clicquot vintages from the 90s, Bollinger non-vintage, Nicolas Feuillatte’s Palmes d’Or Rosé 2005 (although I’d prefer to keep that longer) and Michel Drappier’s Grand Sendrée rosé 2006, which was probably the best pink champagne I’ve drunk recently (I had some on 14 Feb 2016 giving it 95pts) and certainly the bottle I enjoyed most. I may also have a Jacquesson Terres Rouge saignée pink tucked away somewhere. But sadly none of Phillipe Brun’s appropriately named ‘Romance’ or ‘4 Nuits’ rosé de saignée to go with our chocolate pudding.
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 from a blend of 50% Chardonnay, 41% Pinot Noir, 9% Pinot Meunier by the CRVC (the Reims co-op that also produces the excellent Castelnau champagne range) it’s sumptuously rich and ripe, showing distinctive toasty notes suggesting it’s close to its peak of maturity at 12 years. And it is an out and out bargain at just £19.99 currently.
I’d also be very happy to be drinking the Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc de Blancs 2008 vintage tonight. A cuvée that’s a grand tour of some of the best Chardonnay sites all over the Champagne region, including around a third from the villages to the south-west of the Côte des Blancs known as the Vallée du petit Morin and for me, a significant splash of Montgueux Chardonnay. This unique, isolated cru on a hill due west of the city of Troyes, I suspect accounts for the much of this wine’s textural creaminess. Fruit from here also features prominently in Feuillatte’s prestige Cuvée Palmes d’Or, which is a class act.
I also re-tasted yesterday Chanoine’s lovely 2009 vintage, which is a 50/50 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend from this top-quality harvest, that regrettably many leading producers failed to vintage – mainly because it followed the financial crash and some producers were worried about having large stocks of unsold vintage champagne in their cellars. As a result, Chanoine Frères, itself one of the oldest houses founded back in 1730, was able to buy some high-quality juice from some notable houses who had decided not to commercialise this vintage.
With attractive spicy notes evident that suggest some oak fermentation is present, this is a real delight to drink now, showing both richness and elegance and it will set you back only £24 at Tesco even when it is not on price promotion. Vintage champagne from one of the better-known names will typically cost at least double that, but not, I suspect, give twice the pleasure.
Which champagne should you be opening to toast The Queen’s 91st birthday? It seems only certain, particular fizzes get past the palace gates. In order to supply HM The Queen, you have to be a Royal Warrant Holder and currently there are nine houses that have that privilege. But there may be different corks popping at Highgrove and Clarence House, as out of the nine, only one — Laurent-Perrier — is officially ‘by appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales’.
When I met up with him back in April in Reims, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger was proudly 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.