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).

Dom Pérignon launches 2002 P2

Dom Pérignon 2002 P2 and the original release

Bruno Paillard, who has long championed the use of disgorgement dates on his own champagnes, and those of the brands in the wider BCC group, has an anecdote he is fond of bringing up to emphasize the importance of post-disgorgement ageing. He feels the more venerable the wine, the longer it needs to recover from the shock of disgorgement. In much the same way as an older person is likely to take longer to recover from a serious operation than a younger one. It makes sense. Champagne is unlikely to perform at its best Continue reading “Dom Pérignon launches 2002 P2”

Robuchon dies after long illness

Very sad to hear the news (yesterday) that celebrated chef and restaurateur Joël Robuchon has died after a long battle with cancer. He’s the man whose restaurants have been awarded more Michelin stars than anyone else – they hold 23 round the world currently. I have been lucky enough to meet him, and eat his sublime food, twice in the past five Continue reading “Robuchon dies after long illness”

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”

Dom Pérignon launches P2 2000: an exploration of extra lees ageing

Vincent Chaperon, right hand man of Dom Pérignon chef de cave Richard Geoffroy, was in London earlier this month to launch the P2 version of Dom Pérignon 2000. Interestingly, he also bought along the original 2000 release aged on the cork since its disgorgement several years ago in 2007. We went along to see him and asked him to talk us through the quite considerable difference in tasting profile the same wine has when it gets a decade and a half of lees ageing.

See the interview video:

Gosset Celebris tasting: 1988 to 2004

Gosset glass launch pic BOver the years I’ve come to like the champagnes made by Gosset more and more. As Didier Gimonnet said to me on a recent visit to Cuis, producers should be judged on the quality of their whole range, not merely on one super-charged cuvée that they produce in minute quantities, as he suggested some commentators are apt to do. But as with the excellent Gimonnet wines, I’d be very happy drinking any Gosset champagnes, Continue reading “Gosset Celebris tasting: 1988 to 2004”

Fifteen prestige cuvées from 2002

The prospect of tasting 15 prestige cuvée champagnes in one sitting later this week is a mouth-watering one.  Especially as they are all from the celebrated 2002 vintage, which will probably, with a little competition from 2008 & ’09, go down as the finest vintage of the past decade. But it’s interesting to speculate — before I have seen the actual list — who will be included in the line-up?

I imagine Dom Pérignon, Cristal and Krug will be there, the last named only released to a rapturous welcome early this year, while Cristal will potentially boast considerable bottle age, given it was first made available over seven years ago. I guess Dom Ruinart, fabulously rich and powerful in 2002 and Clicquot’s La Grande Dame will complete the Moët-Hennessy quartet in the line-up.

Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill and Salon are two further acclaimed ‘02 releases, and I’m pretty sure Taittinger’s Comte de Champagne will feature (see my piece on the recent Finest Bubble vertical tasting of Comte 1996-2006 which included the 2002). To these eight we can probably add Continue reading “Fifteen prestige cuvées from 2002”