In praise of magnums

As you have probably gathered from recent posts, and those during last year’s festive season, I am a fan of magnums. The magnum is without doubt the perfect receptacle for ageing champagne in and in nearly all cases in my experience, faced with the same wine served from a standard 75cl bottle or magnum format, the latter will taste better.

Champagne aged in magnum develops and evolves more slowly, so it will always seem fresher than its 75cl counterpart. But it isn’t just about freshness, there’s extra zip, more nuances of flavour, and ultimately greater complexity. As I have noted because producers are aware of this, some houses will release and sell their magnum stock at a later point after longer ageing than their bottles. In the case of non-vintage blends, sometimes the base wine that is likely to make up the largest portion of the blend, will be from an older harvest in the case of the magnum non-vintage cuvée – this, as I have mentioned recently elsewhere, is the case in the example of both Bollinger and Veuve Clicquot.

If you are looking to buy something now in magnum for a special celebration over the holidays, it’s really non-vintage wines we are talking about here. Vintage champagne in magnum can also be sublime, but many current releases in magnum simply aren’t ready to drink, at least not if you wish to enjoy them at anything close to their peak. In terms of development they may be three or four years behind the same wine in 75cl bottle format.

For the better houses the price of a magnum is often more than the price of two bottles. That’s partly why I was keen to highlight the deal at Waitrose (13 stores and online) on magnums of Bollinger Special Cuvée, which at least one regular visitor to the site has found and purchased for only a shade over £60.

But where else outside the supermarkets – Sainsbury’s and Tesco have both had good deals on Veuve Clicquot in large bottles – can you find any stock of non-vintage champagne in magnum that you could buy and drink without disappointment (if you have the chance and the cellar space, most good non-vintage champagne in magnum will develop very well over a couple of years or so and if you can afford to put some away so much the better) in the next few days.

Hunting the other day for some bargains among the pages of the Majestic website I found they had quite a selection, albeit that not every store stocks them, so you might have to hunt around. Two of the least expensive on which there are both good deals are Laurent-Perrier, currently down from £70 to £50, and Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut which is £55. Both with the emphasis on freshness, lightness and balance would make great aperitif fizzes for Christmas Day or Boxing Day or before a celebration dinner. Taittinger Brut Réserve with its largish splash of Chardonnay is in a similar vein and down from £70 to £60 per magnum.

The more muscular ‘R’ de Ruinart blend in its distinctive bulbous bottle, down from £100 to £75 a magnum would add a note of class. Class, luxury and seductive creamy texture can be found in the Veuve Clicquot rosé magnums which will set you back £95.

If you want a Blanc de Blancs (all Chardonnay) magnum Ruinart may provide the answer and it’s down from £125 to £100, as is their rosé, though I’d favour the Clicquot pink wine and save a fiver. The much improved G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge blend in magnum, sprayed about on the F1 podium, is £60 as is the apple fresh Lanson Black Label. Bollinger is down from £99 to £80 is you can’t find a Waitrose store stocking it and this wine is a treat with real depth of flavour. Another Pinot Noir dominant non-vintage cuvée of real class which has been on particularly good form in 75cl bottle format when tasted over the course of this year is Louis Roederer Brut Premier which rather surprisingly Majestic sells in magnum at a regular price £10 less than the discounted Bollinger — ie £70. This is a brisker, fresher style but develops beautifully with time so really you should be buying magnums now for 2016 and beyond.

In terms of flavour profile I tend to think of Pol Roger as somewhere between Bollinger and Roederer but it is another serious contender in the magnum stakes. You can buy it from for £74.97 (plus at least £6.95 delivery) in time for the New Year celebrations. Berry Bros & Rudd has a three magnum deal on Pol – enabling you to put two away for future celebrations — whereby the regular price of £84 falls to £67.20 a magnum, a saving of £50.40. This is the preferred Christmas tipple of their talented buyer Simon Field MW, whose commentary on the delights of the magnum, kindly penned for my book on Champagne, I am reproducing below its glorious unedited entirety.

Magnum Force

“Champagne comes in a bewildering array of  bottle sizes, from the somewhat perfunctory quarter bottle, best concealed in a floral gift when visiting a hospitalised relative, all the way up to the Nebuchadnezzar and beyond, the larger the size the more impractical the vessel and the more remote the eponymous Biblical origin.

Nebuchadnezzar we have heard of; he, after all, was famous for selling his wife for a pair of shoes. But Melchizedek I know not; a Melchizedek is a 30 litre bottle, and in addition to being fantastically impractical (unless one has a small crane to hand) is also bound to be of inferior quality, as the liquid has been decanted from a series of smaller bottles, post ageing, and will have lost freshness and fizz in the process.

Indeed this process, known as transvasage, is practiced on all the large formats above jeroboam size and instantly rules them out as candidates for the best bottle size. But why the Magnum? Well beyond the theatre and the sheer indulgence of having one on one’s table, the voice of experience dictates that this size, above all others, allows Champagne to age most gracefully and to maintain the fundamental tension between acidity, sugar, fruit and fizz which make this small and essentially rather dull region so famous.

It’s all to do, they say, with the rate of oxidation and the relative surface area of liquid exposed to the air. So they say. All rather tenuous in my opinion. For me it’s a matter of taste alone and for this reason, every Christmas Day, we open up proceedings (not a minute before noon you understand) with a Magnum of Pol Roger. Not a bottle, not a Methuselah and most certainly not a wretched Melchizedek, but a Magnum. Sir Winston Churchill would approve, I suspect.”
Simon Field MW, buyer at Berry Bros & Rudd

Our tasting of 16 champagnes (+ 2 sparklers) all priced under £20

I have had quite a few emails from readers recently asking me if this ‘cheap’ champagne sold by such and such a supermarket is actually any good and worth buying. Even one enquiry as to whether Tesco’s ‘exclusive label’ Louis Delaunay Brut would keep long enough for a wedding in June next year. This and many other similar questions led to the idea of setting up a blind tasting of a cross section of such supermarket wines, the champagnes that tend to have the most dramatic discounts at key times of the year, so it all seemed very timely.

Seven of the best fizzes in our tasting all priced under £20 in the run-up to Christmas
Seven of the best fizzes in our tasting all priced under £20 in the run-up to Christmas

I asked Anthony Rose of the Independent to drop by and help me assess them. I didn’t call in any samples of the supermarket ‘own label’ champagnes (bar one from Morrisons) but concentrated on the more obscure names, suppliers of which tend to change relatively frequently, so style and often quality can be inconsistent. All the wines included will be retailing at some point before the New Year at under £20 a bottle, some for considerably less. The Louis Delaunay mentioned above will only be priced at under £10 (if you buy four bottles) for another 24 hours (though I daresay the price will drop to near this level again in the next five weeks).

To make things a bit more interesting I included two sparkling wines in the line-up – one English, one Australian. As it happens both Chapel Down Vintage Réserve and Cloudy Bay Pelorus will be on promotion too soon, both being priced at £14.99-£15.99 a bottle. With the possible exception of Nicolas Feuillatte champagne, they were arguably the two strongest brands in the 18 strong line-up. Pelorus is of course owned by Veuve Clicquot, and they know a thing or two about branding there.

Ant with bottles coveredAnyway I digress. You’ll want to know the results of our tasting and which of these fizzes we reckon are worth shelling out for. We picked seven champagnes that scored 87 points or more, a level both the Chapel Down and the Pelorus also achieved. Following on from a very impressive Lidl tasting for journalists last week (of which there will be more in a few days) it was little surprise to see the Lidl  Comte de Senneval Grand Réserve (£17.99) do well. It was the only wholly Grand Cru sourced champagne.

It was a surprise when the wrappers from the blind tasting came off to see we marked the Tesco exclusive Louis Delaunay one point higher. If you want to try it you have only 24 hours to get it at just £9.74 a bottle (providing you buy four). The better known regular discount vehicles from Tesco and Sainsbury’s  — Andre Carpentier and Etienne Dumont respectively – were rather dull in comparison.  But things picked up again with Veuve Davanlay from Morrisons, which will be selling at better than half price — £12 as you ask – from the start of December. Though I wouldn’t want to spend £28.99 on this wine, we both preferred it to the Morrisons M Signature Brut that costs £18.99.

We then hit a good patch with the two sparklers; Nicolas Feuillatte Grande Réserve Brut (£15 at Sainsbury’s until the New Year), Laytons Brut Réserve from Jeroboams (down to £15.95 a bottle and you can also get halves and magnums) and finally a newcomer to M&S, Abel Chalot Brut which will be half price down from £32 to £16 from 2 December. This last named champagne I gave my highest score to, after enjoying a couple of glasses of it the next day watching England play appalling rugby. It quite cheered me up.

On Sunday a group of consumers came round to try the fizzes and we will report on what they thought shortly.

Tesco starts new price offensive

Now the holiday period is over Tesco is raising its game introducing a blanket 25% off all wine and champagne prices (bought in store in any combination of six bottles) while other scheduled discounts are already running for a 12 day period starting today Thursday 4 September. Under this deal the price of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label comes down to £20.81 if you buy six bottles or more and Tesco Finest Rosé to £14.99. Under its soon to end warehouse clearance sale Tesco also still has some stock left of two very decent fizzes from grower Michel Gonet at £13.89 and £18.09 respectively. See Latest Offers page for all the current deals.

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?


UK 2013 champagne shipments drop by 5.13%

Champagne shipments were down just 1.53% in 2013 to 303,870,438 bottles, according to figures just released by the CIVC, Champagne’s governing body. The French domestic market was down by 2.43% to 167,093,159 bottles but total export shipments only fell 0.42% to 136,776,979 bottles.  Shipments to the UK market were down by 5.13% to 30,786,727 bottles, dropping from 32,445,352 in 2012, the lowest level they have been at, bar 2009 when the financial slump hit sales, since 2001.

The UK is still by far the most significant export market in terms of volume, shipments to the number two market the  USA which rose by just 0.93% are still over 12.9m bottles lower. In general, as expected, it is the mature European markets that fared worse with Germany and Spain down 1.57 and 1.92% respectively and Italy falling back further again – by 14.18% to 5,359,536 bottles, after a drop of over 18% in 2012. Belgium bucks the European trend with a 14.15% rise to 9,525,304 bottles.

Outside Europe the market for champagne in Japan and Australia remains buoyant with shipments to the latter, the sixth most important export market now, up 11.4% following on from 11.2% growth in 2012 and a 31.9% spurt in 2011. The Japanese market also continued to grow with shipments up 6.75% to 9,674,446 bottles.

In terms of value because of the higher average bottle price — consumers there favour more expensive rosé champagne and prestige cuvées — Japan may well have overtaken Germany as the third most important export market in terms of value. Those detailed figures are not available yet but with average shipment prices at €19.19 in Japan versus Germany’s €14.83 in 2012, the gap in terms of Euros between the two was less than €14m though over 3.5m more bottles went to Germany.

BEPremierEditionBottleShotattheLaunchYou can see why the Champenois like the Japanese market and HerveatTheLaunchthat’s the reason Perrier-Jouët has just chosen to launch its new 2007 Belle Époque Edition Première there (a wine I tasted with winemaker Hervé Deschamps last Thursday in London of which more soon) in time for the Spring blossom. A few years ago Veuve Clicquot launched its non-vintage rosé in the Japanese market before releasing it anywhere else and the PJ has hint of pink from macerated Pinot Noir.

The feeling that the biggest houses are concentrating their efforts on the emerging markets like the BRIC countries and that this is where the growth is all going to come from in the short term took a blow. Shipments to China were down 18.35%, exports to Russia only up 4%, Brazil fell 0.46% and while India was up 5.36% shipments there still only reached a paltry 367,020 bottles.

When I spoke to Moët’s CEO Stéphane Baschiera on the telephone last month he mentioned that Mexico was a ‘priority market’ for the largest champagne brand. Perhaps therefore unsurprisingly the highest percentage growth achieved by any top 30 countries came in Mexico where shipments rose 31.18% to 1,137,845 bottles. That’s more than India and Brazil put together, though sitting together in 15th and 16th position in the top 30, China and Russia are still slightly larger at 1.63m and 1.54m bottles respectively. Shipments to the UK are however still more than five times larger than all five of these markets put together.

My top ten pink champagnes (mostly not sold in supermarkets)

I used to be unenthusiastic about rosé champagne. I have an issue with the fact that it is generally priced at a similar level to vintage champagne, but rarely offers anything like the same emjoyable drinking experience. However I have to admit there are now many more Charles99VintNewLabelwithglass2013-01-22 13.43.06attractive pink champagnes on the market and for Valentine’s Day lots of people will be drawn into buying pink fizz. So what are the best options, outside the supermarket norm but not in the stratospheric price territory (over £200) occupied by the big brands’ rosés, the likes of Cristal, Dom Pérignon, Krug, Comtes de Champagne, Clicquot’s La Grande Dame and Laurent-Perrier’s Cuvée Alexandra?

I am particularly attracted to the more winey, Burgundy style Pinot Noir driven pinks that age really well and work surprisingly well with food, particularly game. In this camp I’d include Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée Rosé, ideally the 1989 vintage which is still available, if in fairly limited distribution. Ten years younger, but both delicious in their different ways are Charles Heidsieck’s 1999 Rosé and Bollinger La Grande Année 1999 Rosé, Closer in style to the Clicquot with powerful rich Pinot Noir from Les Riceys playing a significant role in the blend comes Nicolas Feuillatte’s Palmes d’Or Rosé. I have the 1999, 2004 and 2005 vintages and will probably open the ‘99 myself on the 14th.

More delicate in style, but slightly more expensive is the creamy textured Billecart-Salmon’s Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon 2002. Great value but certainly not inferior comes the delicately fruity, but distinctly classy Joseph Perrier 2004 Rosé. Bruno Paillard Premier Cru Rosé is another winner resonating breeding and, as the best pinks are, very moreish. And Gosset Grande Rosé, which I tried again only this afternoon, is a very desirable, seductive pink that rapidly disappears.

That only leaves two remaining slots to fill and for these I am going to go to the Côte des Bar region to the south-east of Troyes where Michel Drappier makes a charming Burgundy-like pink and bio-dynamic producer Fleury produces something substantial and savoury, that would easily and enjoyably be consumed with an Asian duck dish. Finally I am going to cheat and add an 11th pink that is widely distributed in the supermarkets, that from Veuve Clicquot. This is probably the pink fizz I have tried most often in the past 18 months and has been consistently among the most enjoyable.

Interview: Veuve Clicquot President & CEO Jean Marc Lacave

Jean-Marc Lacave

Harpers: 3 May 2013 (TBC): Veuve Clicquot President & CEO Jean Marc Lacave

Veuve Clicquot’s President and CEO Jean Marc Lacave says: “We need a relevant new message and the link between wine and gastronomy is an obvious one.” He was speaking at a special lunch in Reims to mark the launch of a new collaboration between the brand and renowned French chef Joël Robuchon. “We like the idea of matching the creativity of a great chef like Joël with that of our chef de cave, Dominique Demarville.”

This interview with Jean Marc Lacave appeared in Harpers 3 May issue, click here to read it: Veuve Clicquot CEO Interview Harpers 3 May 2013

Robuchon lunch produces magical combinations

My guess we would be looking at matching Robuchon’s food with something from Veuve Clicquot’s Cave Privée range like the 1989 Rosé wasn’t far off the mark. In fact when I spoke to the celebrated chef later on in the afternoon he mentioned how well that lovely mature, Burgundian-like rosé went with pigeon. At this extraordinary lunch we actually had its white partner the 1990 vintage partnered with quail, caramelised foie gras and Robuchon’s famed pomme purée truffée (see the full menu below).

For me the day started with an interview with Clicquot’s relatively new (one year in the job) President and CEO Jean Marc Lacave (Veuve Clicquot CEO Interview Harpers 3 May 2013) before joining the small group of international journalists over a glass of La Grande Dame 2004. Lacave explained that under the new tie up, Yellow Label and Rosé in magnum will be the House pour at all Joël Robuchon’s restaurants round the world with Vintage 2004, Vintage Rosé 2004, La Grande Dame 2004 – white and rosé — all listed.

Lacave is keen to bring attention back on Clicquot’s flagship Yellow Label Brut, a wine that has also been a focus for chef de cave Dominique Demarville, pointing out it had rarely been served to guests of the house at Hotel du Marc over recent years.

As if to underline the point the first two lunch dishes were paired with Yellow Label and non-vintage rosé both served in magnum, Demarville setting us the not too onerous task of deciding the style that matched the caviar best and which we preferred with the langoustine. Contrary to expectations, his and ours, it was pretty well unanimous to marry the rosé with the caviar, as the combination seemed to enhance both wine and food. While the Yellow Label, showing good freshness, depth and structure, helped by serving it in the big glasses (see picture) also favoured by Dom Pérignon winemaker Richard Geoffroy, rose to the challenge of the perfectly cylindrical turban of spaghetti, standing up well to the rich langoustine sauce (see photograph).

The Clicquot 2004 was in 75cl bottles not magnums, Demarville quick to point out that the magnums of this wine are still too fresh for the dish. Already showing developed secondary aromas on first release last year this wine has opened up even more and is a lovely example of this fine vintage, a big, powerful, full flavoured wine, quite a contrast to the La Grande Dame 2004 that preceded it, a theme I shall return to. The strong trufflely flavours and textural creaminess of the Zephyr au Fromage needed such a rich, aromatic, Pinot Noir dominant fizz.

The climax of the meal, vinous and gastronomic, was the quail and the 1990 Cave Privée with the wine close to its peak of complexity and the chef matching its many nuances of flavour and texture on the plate. The 1990 was also at least a good match with the cheese –Comté and mature vintage champagne is a brilliant combination – as the charming classical Château Lynch Bages 1988. But as Demarville explained the red was there “to have a change before we go to the sugar”.

Two puddings was really a step too far, but given I knew Robuchon himself was in the kitchen, an experience not likely to be repeated, like everyone else round the table I ate both. To accompany them we moved to a demi-sec with a 45g/l dosage which Demarville gently pours into a baccarat decanter before serving. “Why? For three reasons,” he explains, “firstly, because it looks beautiful. Secondly because with the demi-sec it will actually make the flavour of the wine even more intense, showing pineapple, mango and exotic fruit flavours and the bubbles will be gentler as a result. The third reason is  historical, before Madame Clicquot invented riddling in 1816 the wine was shipped with the sediment still in the bottle and it had to be decanted when served.”

The Robuchon menu at Veuve Clicquot’s Hotel du Marc

Pour commencer: Le parmesan crémeux en cappuccino au vieux porto La Grande Dame 2004

Le Caviar Impérial: en fine gelée au parfum de corail servi en surprise Carte Jaune and Rosé en magnum

La Langoustine: en turban de spaghetti avec une emulsion coralline Carte Jaune and Rosé en magnum

Le Zephyr au Fromage: compris sensual entre soufflé et crème renversée
au coulis de truffes Vintage 2004 (75cl bottle)

Le Caille caramélisée au foie gras avec une pomme purée trufée Cave Privée
1990 en magnum

Les fromages: fermier, frais et affinés Château Lynch Bages 1988

Le Rubis: crême de cheese cake au citron vert, coeur coulant de fruits noirs Demi-Sec carafé

La Fleur Caramel: aux saveurs exotiques, craquant honey candy Demi-Sec carafé

Le Fin Moka: escorté de “bonbons au chocolat”

Clicquot combines with Robuchon

If you wanted any current Michelin-starred French chef to cook lunch for you In London, Paris or further afield, one name is more likely to come up than any other — Joël Robuchon. He currently holds 26 Michelin stars in his various restaurants around the world. And if you were looking for a vinous style of vintage champagne, Veuve Clicquot’s, particularly something from the Cave Privée range like the 1989 rosé, would be a fine choice to match with his dishes. La Grande Dame, white or pink, might also make for some interesting food and wine combinations.

So tomorrow’s lunch at Clicquot’s recently refurbished Hotel du Marc in Reims, where Robuchon himself is at the stove trying out suitable combinations, is a mouth-watering prospect. Hope to tell you more about it after the event, a special lunch to celebrate a new link-up between the two celebrated brands.


Veuve Clicquot tasting of 1839 fizz found in Baltic wreck

Champagne experts from around the world gathered last Friday (25 May) for a historical tasting of old vintages at Veuve Clicquot’s Hôtel du Marc headquarters in Reims, the highlight of which was to be a bottle of Veuve Clicquot thought to date from 1839, found on a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic in 2010. At the tasting there were eight wines to try starting with the yet unreleased 2008 Yellow Label white and rosé bases, continuing with La Grande Dame Rosé 1988 (magnum); La Grande Dame 1962; Yellow Label 1953 in magnum; Vintage Rosé 1947; Vintage 1904 and finally the wine from the Baltic, Clicquot’s archivists believe dates from 1839.

This bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne had been lying at the bottom of the Baltic Sea in a ship that sunk near the Åland Islands in the first half of the 19th century, over 170 years ago and came from a batch of 145 successfully salvaged champagne bottles, all of which were tasted by expert tasters including wine writer Richard Juhlin, with some 79 being assessed as ‘drinkable’ and re-corked.

Out of the 145 bottles of champagne bought up from the seabed, four are from Heidsieck & Co, 46 are from Veuve Clicquot while the remaining 95 are bottles of Champagne Juglar, a house the name of which disappeared from labels in 1829 when it merged with Champagne Jacquesson. A total of 162 bottles were salvaged in July 2010 of which one was opened and tasted by the divers who found the wreck, four are beer bottles, two were impossible to identify, two were broken, three bottles leaked and five further bottles were left in Åland’s museum.

The remaining 145, the oldest intact champagne bottles ever found under the sea still with their corks in place, were identified and dated thanks to the marks on their corks found during reconditioning, during which process the 79 of them judged as drinkable were given new corks. That the old corks survived intact, until they came into contact with oxygen when bought to the surface, is thought to be partly thanks to the pressure at the depth of 48 metres being very similar to that inside a champagne bottle at around 5 bars.

It’s also partly down to the Baltic Sea’s particular characteristics, namely that it is less salty, relatively calm with dark, cool waters and a constant temperature of around 4-5degC.

The Åland government in whose territorial waters between Finland and Sweden the wreck was discovered plans to auction 11 of the ‘drinkable’ bottles of champagne – one from Heidsieck & Co, four from Veuve Clicquot and six from Juglar — on 8 June 2012 hoping to beat the record set by one of the two bottles they auctioned last year for €30,000. Funds raised by the sale, which will also include 17 prestigious lots donated by Veuve Clicquot –magnums of 1989 Cave Privée Rosé, 1980 Cave Privée and 1990 Cave Privée being the pick of these – will be used for a charitable marine preservation fund set up by the Aland Government.

Speaking at the Clicquot tasting last Friday, Juhlin said the Clicquot wines were generally in better condition than the others, partly because their corks appeared to be higher quality.  He has written a tasting note for the 11 different champagnes being auctioned on 8th June giving the wines marks out of 100 with each scoring between 93, the highest mark for one of the four Clicquot bottles, and 80 the lowest for the single bottle of Heidsieck & Co.

Each of the 11 wines featuring in the auction still had some fizziness left and Juhlin notes each ‘popped’ when they were originally opened and re-corked back in November 2010. At the tasting last Friday the bottle of Veuve Clicquot ‘1939’ again made a gentle popping noise when opened by Clicquot’s Chef de Cave Dominique Demarville, revealing it still had a certain amount of fizz left in the bottle. Anyone expecting it to rival the previous delights of the Clicquot wines from 1988 to 1904 would however probably have been disappointed.

Woody and recognisably sweet but not overly so — during this period in the early nineteenth century champagne had very high dosage levels varying between around 50 to close on 300gms/l, the lower end being five times the average for Brut styles of champagne sold today – the wine had an almost overpoweringly pungent agricultural aroma, a little like an over-ripe soft cheese and this strong smell dominated the taste too.

But then few people who like modern champagne would have enjoyed the heavily doctored,  sweetened wines produced in Champagne in the early nineteenth century in perfect condition. Tastes have changed.  We should be thankful that this historical tasting gave a rare opportunity to try such a wine, a wine that has survived nearly two centuries in the bottle it was made in.