Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Champagne and Rosés (Part 2)

In part one of my Champagne and Rosés  blog I discussed a theoretical (unless you book one with me! hint) tasting of 8 wines with the above theme. I decided to offer 5 Champagne and sparkling wines followed by 3 rosés. In this second part I must decided on the rosé wines I would serve.

Wine 6
For me only one style comes immediately to mind as a definite and that is Provence Rosé. In recent years it has become an almost trademarked style all of its own. Usually salmon pink and delicate of flavour it makes a perfect aperitif or afternoon drink on the patio.

Rosé wine has been made in the Provence region for 2,600 years and has been influenced by the ancient Greeks, Romans, Gauls, Catalans and Savoyards.

It also uses a motley crew of diverse grape varieties in order of importance (arguably) Carignan, Cinsault, Mourvédre and Grenache. All of which, except perhaps Grenache, are not particularly well known, to the British public at least.

In total Provence has eight wine appellations with AOC designation. The largest is Côtes de Provence. According to the Vins de Provence website Provence is responsible for 6% of total domestic AOC wine production but a whopping 35% of rosé production. This corresponds to 162 million bottles some of which is exported. It is not only Britain and the United States that has had a surge in rosé drinking but even the French themselves as the chart below clearly illustrates. The percentage of rosé wine sold in supermarkets has risen from 10.8% to 29.7% since 1990. I was unable to find similar figures for the UK but the change may be even more extreme.

Bargain Provence Rosé from Aldi

So we will start with a Provence rosé. But where to buy it? Almost anywhere it seems. It can also be a bit of a bargain with this fine example from Aldi at £5.99. Even if you don't believe me Decanter World Wine Awards awarded it a Bronze so definitely not so shabby.

Majestic do a fine line in Provence rosé too, some 13 different offerings ranging from £6.66 (after discount) to £50 for a Double Magnum of the magnificent Aix Rosé. If you do get one and need myself and my wife Louise to join your party to help drink it we would be more than happy to! Just so you know.

Not quite a kick like a mule
but powerful stuff!

Wine 7
Having started with an old world classic perhaps we should look further afield for our second choice. The star grape of Chile is undoubtedly Cabernet Sauvignon, with over 40,000 hectares under vine, about one third of the total area. Most of this is made as red wine ranging in style from light, fruity everydayers to blockbusters made to knock your socks off. But they do make some rosé too. If you like delicate they may not be for you and the colour will certainly be starkly contrasting with our Provence rosé. One worth trying, and currently on offer at Waitrose is Las Mulas Organic Cabernet Rosé. It is full of dark berry flavours and has a good bit of poke too. Great on its own or with food.

Wine 8
And now to our final wine. If you are a regular reader of my blogs you will have read about this one before but I enjoyed it so much I feel I would like to include it here. Rosé wine can be made in three different ways remembering the golden rule that the colour in wine comes only from its skins meaning that rosé and red wine can only be made by the use, at some point, of red or black grapes. The first method of production is simply by leaving the skins in contact with the juice for a period of time, anything from hours to a few days and then discarding the skins. The second method, and you would of thought easiest, is simply blending white and red wines together. This does not actually produce great results and is not widely used in quality wine regions. The final method is the saignee or bleeding off method where a percentage of the wine is literally 'bled' off to be vinified separately as rosé. In some quarters this is seen as controversial but Andrew Margan of Margan wines actually calls his rosé by the method to make clear how it is produced. I wrote a whole blog on this wine recently and you can read that if you wish but I think it makes a great third wine in our trio of rosés. It is the darkest of the three and almost
Margan Saignée Rosé
tastes like a red wine but without any harsh or bitter tannins that often put rosé drinkers off trying red wines. Check it out. It is available from a favourite wine merchants of mine Tanners Wines.

This blog has only scratched the surface of what is available as rosé wine continues to become more and more popular. Please do let me know your particular favourites. That is all for now. I will return with a series of blogs about my visit to the Bordeaux region this July.

In the meantime, enjoy your wine and don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Facebook or better still book me for a tasting event. More detail at my website www.gloryofwine.com


Friday, 11 July 2014

Champagne and Rosés (Part 1)

Have you ever wondered if the tv producers had a title for the show before they thought about the content? Well this blog is a bit like that. Title first, what to write second. The phrase came to me about 3 months ago when I was trying to think of some ideas for hen party wine tastings and its stuck with me ever since. In my wide experience of wine I can't believe I've never seen it used before in a wine context. It's such a clever pun I'm rather proud of it.
Sort of!
If you are looking for an alternative hen event then I think my Champagne and rosés tasting would make a great party. Most ladies I've met love fizz and they love rosé too. Combine them for a perfect evening. It doesn't even need to be a hen party. Get in touch. Plug over! But what combination and styles of wine would you choose?

My tastings normally take the form of 8 wines so we will work on getting together 8 wines for this theoretical tasting, 5 Champagnes and 3 rosés. In part 1 of this blog I will discuss those 5 Champagnes. I use Champagne as a title only in the loosest form. Yes, there will be Champagne but not all as there is so many different types of fizz it is a shame not to include some other styles. Boo you say and I say I do have a budget to work to you know.

Wine Number 1
I think the tasting should start with a simple house Champagne made by one of the countless co-operatives in the region. There are many, many to choose from but one of the better ones I have tried is Antoine de Clevecy from Sainsbury's, currently £20 but I have seen it cheaper. It gets off to a great start and everyone's taste buds tingling with the bubbles from the fizz.

Wine Number 2
English Sparkling Wine
For my second wine lets stay home. In England we make some jolly good sparkling wine, some say Merret (see my earlier blog) using the same 'traditional method' as in Champagne. If you've never tried it why the hell not as I have been banging on about it for ages. Joking aside if you are not in the UK it is not likely you will come across it. But if you are in the UK proceed immediately to your wine merchants or Waitrose or Marks & Spencers or The English Wine Shop (online) and get some Chapel Down, Denbies, Gusbourne Estate, Camel Valley, Ridgeview, Bolney Estate, Halfpenny Green (near me), Three Choirs or one of several other winemakers making great fizz.

Even Tesco are in on the secret and in my research I found this lovely review by 'ohbeeone' of the Chapel Down Classic Cuvee at their website.

Point 1. It is not Champagne. Point 2. It is a wonderful sparkling wine. Light fragrant. Not at all thin or sharp. Surprisingly long and horribly moreish. These people make great wines. I have always tended to avoid English Sparkling as it is relatively expensive, so why not have the real thing. This was a mistake. The wine is not an imitation.

Wine Number 3
I am thinking a Cava from Spain, again made using traditional method. There is an argument for Prosecco from Italy which is very popular at the moment. I am not a huge fan of Prosecco but I would serve that first if you were to include it as it tends to be a touch sweeter due to its tank (sometimes called Charmat) method of production.

Wonderful Cava from Freixenet...
....or from Codorniu
For me Cava is one of the worlds great wines but is massively overshadowed by Champagne even though it can be absolutely delicious. The two dominating brands are Freixenet and Codorniu and they make a
number of different styles and are widely available not to mention great value. I am constantly amazed that they do not get more attention.

Wine Number 4
Wine number 4 should be either a 'blanc de blancs' or 'blanc de noirs' Champagne just as a point of difference. As the name suggests these are Champagnes made entirely from white grapes (white of whites) which are made entirely from Chardonnay or from black grapes (white of blacks) which are made from a combination of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.
How about some 1998 Krug Blanc de Noirs.
Available for £1695 (a bottle not a case!)

A Blanc de Noirs we could try is Pierre Darcy from Asda. It is a bargain at £17 and has a distinct biscuity flavour. For a Chardonnay only Champagne check out Sainsbury's own which is made by Duval-Leroy.

Wine Number 5
Our final 'Champagne' should definitely be from one of the Grandes Marque houses, the 24 member association of the best known names for quality in Champagne. If money was no object then definitely Cristal made by Louis Roederer, Krug or a Ruinart would be fantastic. Sadly in a normal tasting my budget cannot stretch to those heady heights (unless of course someone would like me to) Canard-Duchene is great, as is Laurent Perrier and Piper Heidseick but my Champagne of choice would be Pol Roger, favourite of Sir Winston Churchill. It is a really fine Champagne with brioche aromas and a dry apple and mineral flavour. Delicious!

Pol Roger White Foil -
My Grand Marque Champagne of Choice
And that completes Part 1 of my Champagne and Rosés blog. In part 2 I have the difficult task of finding 3 rosé wines to complete the tasting. If you would like enjoy this tasting with your friends and me to host it or would like to organise any other kind of wine tasting please do get in touch.

In the meantime please see my website www.gloryofwine.com for more information and follow me on both Twitter and Facebook.

Enjoy your wine. Cheers!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Ships and Champagne

HMS Queen Elizabeth
In light of the launch of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest ever war ship produced in Britain being launched today I wondered about the origins of breaking Champagne on a ship as it is launched.

Of course that tradition was broken when Islay Malt Whisky from the Bowmore Distillery was used instead. A nice touch  as this was the first ever distillery Her Majesty had visited in an official capacity. I also wonder if there was a political element to this as the Scottish Referendum looms ever closer.
Her Majesty the Queen launches the ship of her own name
with a breaking of malt whisky

Anyway, enough about politics and whisky (that would be a good name for a blog, anyone?) you're here about wine. The tradition of wine with ship launch is thought to have originated after the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century when the religious element was removed and military figures or members of the monarchy would do the christening honours.

Originally this took the form of the 'standing cup' ceremony where the presiding official would drink from a large goblet made of precious metal (often silver) then throw the remaining liquid over the ship before throwing the 'cup' to one lucky bystander. As the Royal Navy became ever larger in the 17th century this practice began to become expensive and was replaced by the practice of breaking bottles of wine much as we see today.

But Why Champagne?
The christening of ships in the U.S.A borrowed much of the British tradition. In 1797 the USS Constitution included the breaking of a bottle of Madeira and the practice of breaking bottles was a regular feature but the liquid of choice varied from water to bourbon to brandy. The first time Champagne was used was the launch of the USS Maine in 1890. Queen Victoria launched the HMS Royal Arthur in 1891 Champagne was smashed against it as has happened pretty much ever since. Champagne has always been thought of as an aristocratic drink, especially in the 19th century, and of celebration.

Have you ever tried to smash a bottle of Champagne? No, me neither. Why would you? It's expensive enough. Due to the pressure in the bottle the glass has to be heavier and thicker than still wine. And it takes some smashing. A bit of a worry then when a failure to break is thought to bring bad luck to any ship where that happens. Need an example?
Duchess of Cornwall at the Christening
of MS Queen Victoria
At the Champagne failed to break at the Christening of the MS Queen Victoria in 2007 presided by the Duchess of Cornwall the cruise ship was beset with problems of viral illness amongst its passengers. A similar thing happened to model Eva Herzigova when she launched the Costa Concordia in 2004. The fate of that ship was rather more unfortunate with the death of 32 passengers in 2012.
Ill fated Costa Concordia

In order to prevent a situation where the Champagne fails to break cruise lines in particular score the glass of the bottle to weaken it ensuring it breaks on impact and preventing any bad luck or at the very least bad publicity.

That is all for now. I will return with another blog soon. Thanks for reading. If you would like to meet me in person and home is in the UK why not book an event with me. More information can be found at my website www.gloryofwine.com. Maybe you need an excuse for a party involving some great wines. Or come to one of my events. Do get in touch.

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Enjoy your wine. Cheers!