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The Bubbles Review

for people who love champagne and all things sparkling!

Tag: Champagne (Page 1 of 2)

How to choose the right glassware for your bubbles?

Champagne and sparkling wine is synonymous with celebration, and what better time to be celebrating than with friends and family over Christmas?

Champagne is often served as an aperitif or for a toast. As you may have read here before, it can definitely be served throughout all courses. Perfect for an Aussie Christmas, champagne pairs especially well with seafood, and choose a traditional blend including red fruit, or a Blanc de Noirs, or Rosé with the more robust main course flavours of ham and turkey. Those of you who love a sparkling red may choose to include this in your line-up.

Now that we have the wine sorted, which glass should we use to serve? 

There is the champagne coupe or saucer glass. Legend has it the shape of the coupe was modelled on the left breast of the French Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI of France, but it seems that the glass was designed in England over a century earlier especially for sparkling wine and champagne in 1663. The coupe was fashionable in France from its introduction in the 1700s until the 1970s, and in the US, and Australia from the 1930s to the 1980s. The coupe had a revisit a few years ago, with a bit of Art Deco, Great Gatsby-inspired frivolity. Perfect to build a champagne tower, they are lots of fun, but not very practical. Apart from making it easy to spill, the glass is very wide creating a large surface area for the wine, with an open rim, which means that the bubbles dissipate very quickly.

Then there is the champagne flute. The skinny flute, designed to accentuate the view of the bubbles as they rise up in the glass, has definitely dominated the glassware served for the past 30 years or so. These glasses make it lot easier to serve, you can fit many more on a tray than the coupe, and you are less likely to spill your drink. But, you may be surprised to discover, this is not the best glass to be using.

If you visit the Champagne region, you will find that many restaurants will serve champagne in a white wine glass. This may seem strange at first, but a good exercise to try at home is; pour half of your glass of bubbles into a skinny flute, and half into a white wine glass. Taste a few sips from the skinny flute, then try it from the wine glass. Take time to explore the aromas and taste. Most likely, it will taste like a different wine. This is because to truly appreciate a good wine, you need to take in all of the senses: the look, the aroma, the feel and taste.

The skinny flute presents champagne as one-dimensional, because you can’t get your nose into the glass to get the full wine experience. It also concentrates the bubbles and in trying to get the aromas you’ll often get a nose full of fizz and acidity instead.

This presented a challenge, as part of the fun of having bubbles is the special glass. Onto the scene comes a wider tulip or egg-shaped flute; a sort of hybrid of flute and standard white wine glass with a wider middle that tapers at the top. This allows for a wine lover’s ability to appreciate the full range of aromas. This is still a beautiful stylish glass, but let’s you take in the full appreciation of the wine.

I’ve read that the tulip style has origins from the Sommelier at Les Crayères restaurant in Reims, who didn’t like serving top champagnes in a flute. He is said to have worked with glass makers Lehmann glass to develop an elongated glass, rounded in the middle and tapering towards the top wider flute.

This as a superior shape has been confirmed by science, with Gérard Liger-Belair, a physicist at the University of Reims, stating that ‘the spherical shape of the glass, which also encourages vertical movement, respects the role of the mousse’. 

The RIEDEL brand known for innovation and design, and an industry leader in the introduction of grape-varietal-specific stemware in the 1980s, has also collaborated with some of the top champagne houses to create bespoke glasses tailored to their specific wines.

Each bubble carries aroma to the surface. The RIEDEL glasses are designed to provide a ‘progressive extension along the curve of the glass which favours first a gradual then a stretched ascent, allowing each bubble to burst at the widest point to free its flavours and express aromatic subtlety’.

A champagne glass should be clear, not coloured or engraved with fancy design, so we can assess the wine’s clarity, colour and bubbles.

I’ve also noticed a recent trend of stemless glassware. Whilst this might be a nice casual style for other wines, it is a no for bubbles. We hold the glass by the stem, so that the heat from our hands doesn’t warm the wine, and greasy fingerprints don’t obscure the wine’s colour. Perhaps I need therapy, but I must admit I have to look away when I see friends holding their glass by the bowl and not the stem, as I can’t bear to watch. Note to my family coming over for Christmas!

When I present tips on how to taste bubbles at our events, I always remind people to hold their glass by the stem, and also that there is no need to swirl the glass (to get air and aroma). When tasting bubbles, the bubbles will bring out the aromas out for you.

Some wine writers are asking ‘Should champagne flutes be outlawed?’ I think this might be a bit extreme, but I do agree, my preference for good quality bubbles is to serve them in a wider flute or white wine glass.

Most important though, is the joy of sharing bubbles with friends and family. Find the best glass you can, raise it and say cheers!

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

You may also like these blogs:

We are very excited to have RIEDEL glassware as our giveaway partner this December, and our glassware provider for The Bubbles Festival. 

Our subscriber giveaway which is the Extreme Rosé / Champagne glass twin pack (RRP$59.95) will be drawn on 13 December 2019.

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The Extreme Rosé/Champagne Glass is perfect for developing and displaying champagne’s complex characteristics. This glass allows the wide range of aromatics to unfold thanks to its egg-shaped design, with the larger rim diameter enabling them to be released in a way which is not achieved with a narrow glass.

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Why is champagne so expensive?

Or is it? It definitely feels luxurious as you are sipping it.

Let’s compare, a 2015 bottle of Grange is currently selling for around $900. It is not ready to drink yet, Penfolds suggest the recommended cellaring is 2022 – 2050.

For champagne, a bottle of 2008 (a very good year in Champagne) Dom Perignon is currently around $250, Cristal 2009 (also a good year) $390, Moët et Chandon 2009 is on sale for $90. To buy the equivalents from Burgundy or Bordeaux you would need to pay about 20 times this. For an Australian comparison, the 2008 Arras Grand Vintage, this highly awarded Tasmanian sparkling has won multiple awards including Gold at the Champagne and Sparkling World Championships, has a recommended retail price of $84. It has been aged for more than 7 years before release and it is ready to drink now.

In champagne and sparkling descriptions, you’ll see, aged on lees for a certain amount of years or how many years of tirage.  This is describing how many years the wine has been in the second fermentation stage (which also creates the bubbles), stored in bottles in the winemaker’s cellar. 

In Champagne a Non-Vintage must be aged for a minimum of 15 months and a Vintage must be aged for a minimum of 3 years, although many houses will age their wines much longer than this at around 3 years for NV and 5-10 years for a Vintage champagne.

That is a huge amount of capital sitting in the cellar, waiting for a return on investment.  Forget bank vaults of gold, the underground cellars of Epernay and Reims are holding millions of dollars of liquid gold. Champagne currently has around 1.5 billion bottles stockpiled, which will remain in waiting for an average of more than 4.5 years. It is an investment in quality and delivery of a ready to drink product. Aside from fortified wines, champagne is the only prestige wine that is sold already matured to its prime, so there is no need to cellar it (although you might decide to with a good vintage), it is ready to drink straight away.

Champagne production is labour intensive. According to the rules governing production, all grapes must be picked by hand and there is a limit on the amount of yield per harvest. This contributes to Champagne being the highest grape price in the world, with prices increasing around 60% over the last 15 years. By comparison the price of champagne has risen less than 15% in a decade, and with greater choice and volume coming to the Australian market there are some absolute bargains to be found.

To create champagne the production process is complex, and more time-consuming than any other in the wine world. A sparkling wine made in the traditional method is similar, yes there are cheaper methods for creating bubbles, either second fermentation in tanks, or by just adding Co2 to make bubbles in a very cheap wine.  But, if we are comparing apples with apples, or should I say grapes with grapes, compared to other wine styles, champagne and traditional method (methode traditionelle) sparklings are the best value wines around.

When you add in the skills and passion of the wine making team, I like to think about drinking champagne as similar to admiring a wonderful piece of art. 

Surely it is the closest thing on earth to liquid gold, at a fraction of the price! Remember this next time you are sipping bubbles.

Cheers!

Like to join us in Champagne to tour the cellars in Epernay and Reims? See our Events and Tours page.

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

You may also like these blogs:

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Do you know the way to make rosé?

Who doesn’t love a pink bubbly?! Let’s not mistake it for a sweet drink (sparkling Moscato), a sparkling or champagne rosé has a rich flavour profile with a crisp dry finish that is a perfect to drink as a food match at this time of year, or anytime really!

Australia makes the top 10 in the world for champagne imports, although we are the second lowest for imports of rosé champagne, but this trend is changing, 2018 saw the highest imports in a decade.

For every 28 bottles of champagne popped in Australia, one of them is pink. Across all markets, it’s one in ten, and the USA set a new record last year of more than one in six.  

Possibly a case of supply vs demand, as there is less choice when looking for a rosé champagne. But this is definitely shifting, I’ve noticed more and more options and there are also some great Aussie sparkling rosés available. I am happy to do my bit for increasing demand ?.

The method to create the bubbles in a sparkling rosé is the same as white sparkling, but how the colour is achieved may differ between blending (assemblage) and saignée. 

Rosé d’assemblage is a blending method, the most common way of making rosé, in which a tiny quantity (around 15%) of Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier made as table wine is added to the white base wine.

The Veuve Clicquot was the first to use this method. Breaking away from the tradition of adding an elderberry-based preparation to create rosé champagne. Madame Clicquot created the first “rosé d’assemblage” by blending some of her red wines from vineyards in Bouzy with her champagne to create the very first blend of rosé champagne.

To make champagne, only certain grapes can be used, there are seven grapes on the list, however there are three that are most commonly used, which are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Only one of the three, is actually a white grape.

(See the full list of champagne grapes here:  FAQ)

As described in our blog: Come quickly I am drinking the stars.

It is the skin that creates the red colour of a red wine, to create a white sparkling wine from red grapes, this is done by gentle pressing with very limited skin contact. In different champagne styles you will find a 100% Pinot Noir, which is known in Champagne as a Blanc de Noirs meaning white from black.  So, although it is 100% Pinot Noir it will still be a white champagne, as it is not pressed on skins.

But, using the second method of creating a Sparkling rosé, the saignée method, the pink of a rosé can be achieved by using the skins. Saignée literally means bleeding in French and with this technique the rosé is made by ‘bleeding’ off juice from just-crushed pinot noir or meunier grapes after a short maceration (soaking) on skins prior to fermentation.

This minimal maceration allows the must (still wine) to develop stronger aromas and flavour profiles while deepening the colour.  

In sparklings from other parts of the world you might find a sparkling Pinot Noir or other grape varieties to create a sparkling red wine. But you will never find a sparkling red in Champagne, as it is against the rules to make a sparkling red in Champagne.  A pink as a rosé is okay, and there is a still red wine, the Coteaux Champenois which is allowed, but never a red champagne.

In Australia, a Sparkling Shiraz is loved by many. Sparkling red wines begin their life in the same way as still reds, fermented on skins to extract colour, flavour and tannin. The finest are then privileged to méthode traditionnelle, although transfer, charmat or carbonation methods can also be used.

Our giveaways over the past few months have featured some lovely sparkling rosés and champagne, keep an eye out, we may even have some sparkling red in the pipeline! A sparkling rosé with dumplings is a heavenly match.  I love the change of seasons, the cooler nights, which go so well with hearty food, casseroles and rich flavoured meals. Perhaps a long weekend lunch or evening meal, with a sparkling rosé or red might be the perfect bubbly match for your Autumn and Winter dining.

You may also like these blogs that talk about champagne techniques and tasting:

Why that is not a glass of Champagne that you are drinking!

Minerality in Champagne

Is champagne better than sex?

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Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Here’s cheers to the fabulous women of Champagne!

There are many examples of amazing women in Champagne, here a few names you might know, and some you would like to know more about.  From historical to modern times, if you look at the dates, they are around 50 -100 years apart. In life, we all benefit from the legacy created from those that came before us. International Women’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate that. Here’s cheers to all of the fabulous women of Champagne!

The word ‘veuve’ means widow in French, many of the great women of champagne, were widows and mothers, who became major influencers in the champagne industry. At the time the only way a woman could be at the helm of a business was to take over after the death of her husband. So successful were the veuves, it is rumoured that some producers added veuve into their title, even when there was no veuve at the house!

Veuve Clicquot – Veuve Barbe-Nicole Clicquot-Ponsardin

In 1805, after the death of her husband, Madame Clicquot at 27 years old became one of the first businesswomen of France when she took over the Clicquot business. In an era when women were excluded from the business world, she dared to assume the head of the company – a role she undertook with passion and determination. According to the Veuve Clicquot company description of her, Madame Clicquot’s character might be summarised with two words: audacious and intelligent.

Imagine the audacity of this decision at a time when women were not even allowed to open their own bank account!

She is credited with many innovations that have steered the success of champagne – the riddling process to remove the sediment from the bottle; improving the bottle so it would withstand the pressure of the bubbles; creating Rose champagne by adding some red wine; and her PR and branding, creating the first labels on a champagne bottle – the yellow label that still adorns the Veuve Clicquot bottle today.

I love the story of Veuve Clicquot, you can read more about her on our blog here:

Madame Pommery – Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Mélin Pommery

It was upon her husband’s death in 1858, that Madame Pommery, assumed full control of the business. One of her first decisions was to sell off their struggling wool business, and concentrate on the Champagne wine business. And, we are so glad that she did!

“I decided there and then to carry on the business in my husband’s stead”

With those words, the young widow set out to conquer national and international markets –overturning, without any qualms whatsoever, one or two corporate management rules. She was a true trailblazer, laying down the basis for any luxury product promotion; style, brand, communication and public relations on the estates.

She invented the modern style of champagne with the introduction of Brut Champagne, Brut being a much drier style was a bold initiative, as at the time the prevailing taste was for very sweet champagne (up to 300gms of sugar per litre, compared with now, depending on the level of Brut, is  up to 12 gms per litre). 

Only 10 years after taking over the business she built the Pommery Estate which at the time was the biggest building site of the century in Reims.  This grand site is still the home of Pommery and is an amazing place to visit.  Madame Pommery described her champagne in two words; “Joyful and Lightness”.  Now that is something to be celebrated!

Another amazing legacy, you can read more about Madame Pommery on our blog here:

Lily Bollinger – Élisabeth Law Lauriston-Boubers-Bollinger

In a new century, another amazing lady, Lily Bollinger took over the presidency of the Bollinger house after the death of her husband Jacques in 1941, and directed it until 1971. She launched the Bollinger RD vintage in 1961 and the vintage Vieilles Vignes Françaises in 1969, putting the brand on the international stage.  She is credited with introducing the brand to celebrities of the time. When asked by a journalist from the London Daily Mail in 1961 “When do you drink champagne?” her witty and facetious answer is still quoted today as an exquisite definition of champagne:

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it — unless I’m thirsty…”

Historically there have been some great women of Champagne. But what is it like today?  

We asked Floriane Eznack from Champagne Jacquart about women working in Champagne today.

Floriane explained about the role of the wine maker, and how in Champagne the main responsibility is to produce the consistency of style in the non-vintage blend.

As a young winemaker, Floriane earned a Masters Degree in Oenology in Reims in 2004. Her studies included a couple of harvests in some of Champagne’s finest Houses, including Moët & Chandon. She joined Jacquart in January 2011 as Chef de Cave (Chief Winemaker), where she plays a central role in the creation of the finest quality blends for all of the Jacquart’s champagnes.

In our interview Floriane shares with us her motivation for working in the industry, and how she gave up her dream of becoming a fighter pilot! When she chose the wine industry, it was clear, she didn’t want to work with any other wine, but bubbles; “Not just bubbles for celebration, but a wine that everyone loves. It cheers you up and makes you happy and there is a magic behind champagne” she says.
See our interview with Floriane here:

In 2019 we will feature more stories on the modern era of women in Champagne, so stay tuned for that.

Until then, let’s raise a glass to celebrate these amazing women.

Cheers!

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Christmas in Champagne

As is the custom in the cities of France, a Christmas market is established in the centre of Reims, with 145 stalls in little chalets in the square surrounding the famous Notre Dame cathedral.  Tourists and locals wander tasting traditional products, drinking wine or cidre chaud (hot cider) and enjoying the Christmas lights.

In Epernay, the historic capital of Champagne, les Habits de Lumière happens with a three day festival on the second weekend of December. Every Champagne House on the Avenue de Champagne opens its gates to the public and light shows are projected on the facades of Moët & Chandon, Perrier-Jouët, Pol Roger, de Venoge and more. The event includes illuminations, projections, dazzling sound and light shows, champagne and gourmet food tastings, and finishes with a vintage car display on the Sunday.

Picture credit – Habits de Lumiere

Picture credit – Habits de Lumiere
De Lumiere at Perrier-Jouët

?#habitsdelumiere #epernay

Posted by Habits de Lumière Epernay on Friday, December 8, 2017

Aside from celebrations, the period before Christmas is very busy for Champagne Houses and growers! Indeed, they receive last minute orders from their customers: wine shops and private individuals. It is a key moment in terms of sales for the whole of Champagne.

In the winery, some start tasting the vins clairs (still wines from last harvest that are in vats or barrels) and will decide later of the assemblages (blends). This year there is great excitement as the Vintage of 2018 is very promising!

In the vineyards, everything is so quiet although some growers may begin to prune, pruning will be much more intense in the first months of 2019, before spring.

But I am sure you wonder how we celebrate Christmas?!  Here is a typical lunch or dinner paired with champagne or wine that we enjoy every year! I will share with you the best match between each dish and a type of champagne.

Christmas lunch menu

Oysters with a very low dosage Blanc de Blancs (Extra-Brut)

Smoked salmon with a standard Brut champagne (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier in equal parts)

Foie Gras with a Vintage Brut Champagne (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in equal parts)

Turkey and chestnuts with a pure Pinot Noir champagne (Blanc de Noirs)

Cheeses, let’s have a break and enjoy some red wines! Why not a red Coteaux Champenois, which is a still wine produced in the Champagne region. Champagne is not only about bubbles! If you like blue cheese (Roquefort, Fourme d’Ambert), try some Ratafia, which is a sweet liqueur produced by many Champagne houses.

Bûche de Noël (yule log) pairs nicely with a demi-sec champagne.  Demi sec, although it translates to half dry, is actually the term for a sweet champagne.

Merry Christmas – Joyeux Noël to you!

Sébastien Lebon was born, raised and continues to live and work in Champagne. Lucky him!  He has worked in a range of roles for some of the big champagne houses as well as grower champagnes. His favourite champagne quote is by Sir Winston Churchill: “Magnum is the best size for two gentlemen to share over lunch, especially if one of them is not drinking.”

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift.  Join our list!

Harvest in Champagne

An insight from my friend Sébastien Lebon, a contributor to The Bubbles Review.  Born, raised and still living in Champagne, Sébastien provides us with some bubbly snippets, direct from the source.  I asked Sébastien to share some insights on what it is like to be in the region for harvest.

Harvest in Champagne

“The calm before the storm” – This is what we might say when wandering in the Champagne vineyard just before the beginning of the harvest. Everything is so quiet and all of a sudden…more than 100 000 seasonal workers land on the chalky ground of the region.

Within more or less 3 weeks, they will pick the equivalent of 35 000 hectares as it is strictly forbidden to use machines. The C.I.V.C. (Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne) decides for each wine village or “cru” (320 in total) when the grapes can be gathered. For instance, picking usually starts earlier in the south of the region since the climate is a bit warmer so the grapes will be ripe sooner than in the north. In a qualitative approach this organisation also limits the yield per hectare (10 800 kg/hectare in 2018).

Several factors are considered before commencing: the acidity, the level of sugar and the health of the grapes are the most important. Some samples of grapes from each village are analysed before making any decision.

The work is tough and painful and must be done efficiently regardless of what the weather conditions are. To regain their strength, pickers wait for the morning break: coffee (or champagne!), pâtés en croûte (terrine wrapped in pastry) and maroilles (cheese) pies!

Once the grapes are collected, they are taken to a presshouse. There are presshouses all over the region because we do not want to damage the grapes during a long transportation. It is not unusual to find that traffic is busy and slow in September as the roads are filled with tractors carrying these precious fruits!

Pressing, it is done very softly to avoid colouring the white juice with the black skins of Pinot Noir and Meunier grapes. Then the juice is collected in decanting vats and after a few hours, the first alcoholic fermentation starts!

After days or weeks of hard labour, you know harvest comes to an end when you can hear in the distance cars and tractors honking. Tradition also warrants the vans to be decorated with vines. The “cochelet” is the name given to the big party thrown to celebrate the end of this intense period where champagne flows freely!

I am sure you are wondering how last harvest was… well it was exceptional! In recent years, harvest has begun earlier than usual and in some parts picking has begun in the earlier ripening villages in late August, recent harvests have shown the quality was very high for any type of grape!  2018 was definitely a harvest everyone will remember. Let’s hope it is the same for this year, and that the winter and spring tastings of vins clairs (clear still wines) will meet our expectations!

Sébastien Lebon was born, raised and continues to live and work in Champagne. Lucky him!  He has worked in a range of roles for some of the big champagne houses as well as grower champagnes. His favourite champagne quote is by Sir Winston Churchill: “Magnum is the best size for two gentlemen to share over lunch, especially if one of them is not drinking.”

If you liked this you may also like these other blogs from The Bubbles Review:

Come quickly. I am drinking the stars!

Minerality in Champagne

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift.  Join our list!

Cheers to the Widow Clicquot!

The word ‘veuve’ means widow in French, and I feel that is important information to share. I sometimes find myself using the phrase ‘I am drinking a glass of veuve’, but what does that really mean?

There are many great women of champagne, many of them widows and mothers, who became major influencers in the champagne industry. So successful were the veuves, it is rumoured that some producers added veuve into their title, even when there was no veuve at the house.

The story of the Widow Clicquot is intriguing. Several years ago, I read the little tag about her that was attached to a bottle of Veuve Clicquot that I had bought for a celebration. I wanted to know more, and have been captivated by her (and other champagne stories), ever since.  I was very happy to discover the book The Widow Clicquot at my local bookstore, and became a huge fan – not just of the wine, but also of this amazing woman. Widow Clicquot was a visionary who took a small business and built a champagne empire. She was a legend in her tumultuous times, and she showed the world how to live with style.

Madame Clicquot was born Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, in Reims in 1777. The daughter of Baron Nicolas Ponsardin, her social standing allowed her to receive an excellent education, which was founded upon the traditional morals and values of the time.

In 1789, when Barbe-Nicole was aged 12, the French Revolution brought great change.  Barbe-Nicole’s father was a prosperous textile merchant who had ambitions to vault his family from the upper middle class into the nobility. As the revolution hit the town of Reims, Barbe-Nicole, who had been attending the royal convent of Saint-Pierre-les-Dames, had to be rescued by the family dressmaker. She was smuggled home dressed like a peasant, before the chanting, angry mobs roaming the streets of Reims came to its doorstep, as the convent became a target of public abuse.

Barbe-Nicole father’s dreams of either gaining a coat of arms for his family or marrying his two daughters (Barbe-Nicole had a younger sister Clementine) into the nobility were shattered when the Revolution came. Nicolas was, however, a shrewd man. He switched sides and became a fervent proponent of the Revolution – going so far as to join the Jacobins. He eventually achieved the title of Baron in 1813.

Just as the Revolution may have changed her path, her future was greatly influenced again when, in 1798, she married François Clicquot, son of the founder of the Maison Clicquot. François came from a wealthy family who had made their money in textiles, but they also had a side business as wine brokers. François had ambitions to take that side business and turn it into something more – not just distributing other people’s wines, but making their own. He shared his passion and knowledge for champagne creation and distribution with his young wife. This knowledge and skill proved highly valuable when Barbe-Nicole, a mother of a young daughter, took charge of the business after François’ untimely death in 1805.

At 27, Madame Clicquot became one of the first businesswomen of modern times when she took over the Clicquot business. In an era when women were excluded from the business world, she dared to assume the head of the company – a role she undertook with passion and determination. According to the Veuve Clicquot company description of her, Madame Clicquot’s character might be summarised with two words: audacious and intelligent.

Imagine the audacity of this decision at a time when women were not even allowed to open their own bank account!

She was willing to take risks, and would seize each new opportunity that arose – eventually expanding her business to all four corners of the world. I loved reading about the rivalry and battles with Jean-Rémy Moët who, at the time, was the wine merchant who helped bring the Champagne house of Moët et Chandon to prominence. The secret and very high-risk strategies included transporting their Champagne either overland or by sea to arrive before their rivals into new markets. Such competitive strategies would guarantee either great success or certain failure. One example was when the continental embargo was in place in 1814. Overland transport of goods to Russia was not possible, and to not be able to sell their vintage could have meant financial ruin. Clicquot and her wine broker hatched a daring plan to send more than 10,000 bottles by sea to St Petersburg. They say fortune favours the brave, and the venture was a great success. The vintage was sold at a top market price when it arrived to a triumphant welcome in Russia.

Ever the innovator, Madame Clicquot perfected new techniques of production. In 1816, along with her cellar master, she invented the “table de remuage” (riddling table/rack), which is used to clarify champagne. When champagne is aged on ‘lees’ (the yeast used to create the second fermentation in the bottle), this leaves sediment. Prior to Madame Clicquot’s invention, the sediment was either drunk or attempted to be removed when pouring. With only small batches of production possible, imagine how much was wasted prior to this system. The technique of the riddling process (still used today), is to delicately manoeuvre the sediment to the neck of the bottle to allow it to be removed swiftly and efficiently. Any loss of wine is then topped up by the dosage, prior to sealing with a cork and ready for sale. With this invention, the Maison Clicquot was able to increase their production exponentially. They managed to keep the riddling rack a secret from their competitors for some time – maintaining quality wines whilst also increasing production. Their rivals must have been watching in wonder.

Madame Clicquot continued to improve the business with bottles, branding and PR:

  • She is credited with improving the quality of the bottles to be able to take the pressure of the bubbles, which would often burst in the cellars or whilst shipping, causing great distress and financial loss.
  • At the time, Champagne bottles didn’t have labels, so were only recognised by the cork. The Anchor as the Christian sign of hope has been used since the business was founded, and still features on the Veuve Clicquot cork today. The Maison Clicquot started dressing its bottles in a yellow label, an unusual colour for the time. The ‘V.Clicquot P. Werlé’ Yellow label was trademarked in 1877. This distinctive, original label, which is still used today, was to become one of the most distinguishing features of Veuve Clicquot.
  • Breaking away from the tradition of adding an elderberry-based preparation to create rosé champagne. Madame Clicquot created the first “rosé d’assemblage” by blending some of her red wines from vineyards in Bouzy with her champagne to create the very first blend of rosé champagne.
  • Madame Clicquot paid great attention to public relations and communications, and was a prolific letter writer. Many of her more than one hundred thousand letters sent and received are preserved today in the Veuve Clicquot archives, “Pavillon du Patrimoine Historique”. Her signature is featured on the label today.

Uncompromising when it came to the quality of her wines, within just a few years she made her name into a brand of excellence – a name today renowned around the world. Even then, her peers recognised her formidable contributions, and referred to her as the “Grande Dame of Champagne”.

I think it is a great tribute (and a little ironic) that both the houses Veuve Clicquot and Moët et Chandon are now owned by the same parent company. A brand that is synonymous with great luxury, LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy).

Veuve Barbe-Nicole Clicquot-Ponsardin died 1866, aged 88. The legacy of quality created by her is evident in a glass today. The NV Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut is a great example. It uses all three of the traditional champagne grape varieties, with a focus on Pinot Noir. The key to quality with the blend is that it draws on a particularly high percentage of reserve wines originating from several harvests (usually 5 or 6); from 25 to 35% (sometimes as much as 40%) of the blend coming from previous vintages, and some of these wines are around 9 years old.

This is to ensure the consistency of the House style, so you always know when you a drinking a glass of ‘veuve’. Next time you do, include a toast to the Widow Clicquot!

Cheers!

 

Giveaway

We were very blessed to have the beautiful ‘Veuve and Orange’ Hamper provided by Custom Hampers Studio, with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot for our giveaway this month. Custom Hampers Studio Veuve and Orange

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift.  Join our list!

Note:

In researching this blog I have relied on information provided on the Veuve Clicquot website and Tilar Mazzeo’s book, The Widow Clicquot, which I highly recommend if you are interested to know more: Tilar Mazzeo’s The Widow Clicquot

You may also like these blogs from The Bubbles Review:

Celebrating Madame Pommery

Come quickly I am drinking the stars

Why that is not a glass of Champagne that you are drinking!

How do I pronounce Moët

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

We’ll never be Royals!

Yes, it is unlikely that any of us will be joining the ranks of the English Royal Family, but we can still drink the same bubbles!

So forget what she is wearing, more importantly, what bubbles will they be serving?

There are so many media outlets speculating about this, from Style, Town and Country, to Forbes magazine to name but a few, predictions are being made on what brand of bubbles will be served.

Most predict that the bubbles will come from the Royal Warrant list, however I have seen it mentioned, that the caterers may have flexibility to provide their own suggestions beyond that list.

Currently, over 1,100 royal warrants have been granted to tradespeople who supply goods. Nine of these warrants are currently bestowed on Champagne houses, according to the Royal Warrant Holders Association, the office founded to represent and advise the various holders.

England’s first Champagne warrants were issued in 1884, and my research shows that the current holders are Bollinger, G. H. Mumm, Krug, Lanson, Louis Roederer, Laurent-Perrier, Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Pol Roger.

Royal warrants, which cannot be purchased, are linked directly to a specific member of the immediate royal household. Members authorized to confer this honour include Queen Elizabeth, who determines the list, Prince Philip, and Prince Charles. Each of the three can individually grant warrants for 5 years; the warrants can be renewed, as long as the warrant holder is providing goods. The goods are not gifts, but outright purchases by the court.

Aside from Laurent-Perrier, which I understand solely serves Prince Charles, the Champagnes are all suppliers to Queen Elizabeth, who is said to drink a glass or two at the end of each day.  I am sure that must be her secret to longevity!

So what will it be?  Perhaps instead of a Champagne (or as well as), an English sparkling wine will be served?  English bubbles are showing award winning results of late.

So many wonderful choices.  Which one would you serve?

 

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. This month it is the beautiful ‘Veuve and Orange’ Hamper from Custom Hampers Studio, with a lovely bottle of Veuve Clicquot, which is of course, on the Royal Warrant List.  Join our list!

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

 

 

 

 

Come quickly. I am drinking the stars!

If you have followed me for a while, or have come to one of my events, you would know that I think that champagne and sparkling wine is one of the joys of life and something to be shared.

Dom Perignon is one of my heroes for discovering the art of the second fermentation to make the bubbles in champagne and sparkling wine.  His famous quote when he wanted to share this discovery “Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!” resonated with me.

So, imagine my disappointment when my research in recent years revealed that he wasn’t the inventor of the bubbles.  In fact, Dom Pérignon was originally charged by his superiors at the Abbey of Hautvillers to get rid of the bubbles, since the pressure in the bottles caused many of them to burst in the cellar.  The bubbles had been occurring by accident mainly due to fluctuations in temperature, which produced a re-fermentation and this bubbly wine was considered to be faulty and given the nickname of the Devils Wine. Quelle horreur!

It seems that it was an English chemist. Well, scientist and physician – Christopher Merret who documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation, six years before Dom Pérignon had arrived in the Abbey of Hautvillers. Merret presented a paper at the Royal Society in 1662, in which he detailed what is now called méthode champenoise or methode traditionelle.

So, he may not have been the first, but let’s not let the facts of history get in the way of a good story. Along with the romance of so many stories that I love about Champagne, I am happy to still give credit to Dom Perignon for his discovery that it was not in fact the wine of the devil, but perhaps in my opinion at least, and I am sure that many of you concur – that it was a gift from the angels.  Dom Perignon is however credited with unearthing many other great techniques in the making of champagne that are still used today.

He created the technique that allows winemakers to produce a successful white wine from red grapes. This, say winemakers, was a major step toward the development of modern champagne.

At our event The Bubbles Festival, which we held a couple of times in Melbourne last year (dates for 2020 now released), I was surprised to discover that there were many people who did not realise that red grapes were used in making champagne.  Although we hear the names of the grapes in the blends, it doesn’t always register, and our eyes deceive us when we are surely drinking a white wine!

The method is using red grapes with gentle pressing that separates the juice without spending time on the skins.  Think about the last time you peeled a red grape (or if you are lucky had someone peel it for you) the fruit inside is not red, the red colour comes from the skins. After harvest the grapes are pressed several times and different juices or cuvees are obtained at these different stages of pressing.  In champagne, only the first (as a prestige cuvee) pressing is used and this is the same for most sparkling wines, although sometimes the second pressings can be used.  There are several pressings of the same grapes, other pressings after that may be used for table wines and fortified wines or liqueurs.

For champagne only certain grapes can be used, there are seven grapes on the list, however there are three that are most commonly used, which are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Only one of the three is actually a white grape.

(See the full list of champagne grapes here:  FAQ)

There is only Cru ratings for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and they are considered the King and Queen of a champagne blend, the Pinot Meunier is used more for balance and it also helps the wine mature with less age.  I have however noticed a movement in champagne recently championing the Meunier grape (as well as some of the other grapes on the list) and I have tasted a few champagnes and also a still wine made from 100% Pinot Meunier.

Blending is led by the winemaker but it is rarely the work of a single person, usually reflecting the combined talents of a team of professionals or family members. It does however rely on the sensory experience and memory of each individual team member.

When I met Laurent Fresnet, who is the chief winemaker at Champagne Henriot and has won the prestigious award of Sparkling Winemaker of the Year more than once, he told me that blending starts in the vineyard with the fruit. “I stand in the vineyard, tasting and smelling the fruit, this is where the blend starts”.

Marrying different grape varieties brings contrasting and complementary qualities to champagne wines.

You will find some champagnes that have the three grapes in the blend, some blends may have only the two grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but there is usually a particular focus, either Chardonnay led or Pinot Noir led, eg. 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, or vice versa, often with a smaller amount of Pinot Meunier used for balance. The particular style will usually depend on the champagne house and the winemaker.  Some houses may have quite a variety in their range.

You will also find some champagnes that use 100% of the one grape variety.  These are usually a 100% Chardonnay which is known as a Blanc de Blancs which literally means a white from whites. Or, you will also find a 100% Pinot Noir which is known in Champagne as a Blanc de Noirs meaning white from black.  So, although it is 100% Pinot Noir it will still be a white champagne. In sparklings from other parts of the world you might find a sparkling Pinot Noir which is a red sparkling, but you will never find that in Champagne, as it is against the rules to make a sparkling red in Champagne, a pink as a rose is okay, but never a red champagne.

The blending also involves blending wines from different years (for non vintage) and from different Crus meaning different parcels of grapes from different vineyards.

By combining wines with different sensory characteristics (colours, aromas, flavours) the Champagne maker looks to create a wine that is carefully balanced with a harmony of notes and flavours.  After blending, other techniques influence the profile of the wine which include, ageing on lees, and dosage – the final stage before release.

Champagne has such diversity, try different styles, explore different blends, follow the ones that you like, and be open to new discoveries.

Our February giveaway has been a bottle of Blanc de Noirs from Champagne Philippe Fourrier, from the Côte des Bar where the climate and clay soils suits the Pinot Noir grape perfectly.

All due respect to Dom Perignon for this legacy which seems devinely inspired. Drinking the stars it certainly is!

Cheers

You may also like these blogs that talk about champagne techniques and tasting:

Why that is not a glass of Champagne that you are drinking!

Minerality in Champagne

Is champagne better than sex?

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. This month was the Blanc de Noirs from Champagne Philippe Fourrier.  Join our list!

Aussies are Top 10 for drinkers of Champagne!

Us Aussies, we always like to hear how we compare with the rest of the world.  To discover we are Top 10 in something, is always a great thrill.

So as a lover of champagne, imagine my excitement to see that Australia makes the Top 10 in champagne consumption in the world. Yay us!

Australia confidently holds its place as the fifth largest champagne market per head of population, and the only country outside Europe in the top seven overall, exceeded only by France, Belgium, Switzerland and the UK.

I recently interviewed Tyson Stelzer, who is a multi award winning wine writer and presenter, and author of the award winning The Champagne Guide.  I asked him what changes he had seen with champagne in Australia to which he responded that “Australia is now the fastest growing champagne market on earth”.

A search on statistics and I confirm that, yes, that’s true. No country outside Europe drinks more champagne per person than Australia. The average Australian now drinks twice as much champagne as the average German, three times as much as the Italians, almost four times as much as the Japanese and close to five times as much as Americans. It’s remarkable that such a tremendous volume of champagne would ship all the way to our land downunder!

The growth of champagne in Australia in the past decade has been phenomenal, we are drinking more than three times as much as we were seven or eight years ago, says Tyson.  Over this same period, champagne sales globally have grown less than 17%. This means little Australia alone takes the credit for more than one-seventh of champagne’s global growth over the past fifteen years!

Does this mean that our taste in bubbles is becoming better?  I guess the short answer is yes, but we can improve our palate even more.  I asked Tyson for some insight on Australia’s champagne drinking habits and some tips on how to discover more.  Before I give you the link to the video, a couple of terms that are mentioned that you might not be aware of:

Grower champagnes – produced by the same estate that owns the vineyards from which the grapes come.  Many of these are family owned vineyards.  In Australia we would most commonly refer to the equivalent as a boutique winery.  Grower Champagnes tend to be more terroir focused, as they are often sourced from single or closely located vineyards around a village, in comparison to some of the large Champagne Houses, who source grapes from many different vineyards to blend to create their signature house style.

Co-operative champagnes –  is as the name suggests a group co-operating together.  This could be a grower’s co-op that pools their resources and produces wine under a single brand, or a union of growers who share their resources and collectively market their own brands.

On my recent trip to Champagne, I visited Champagne Collet home to the oldest Cooperative in Champagne ‘The COGEVI’. They have created this short-film which recounts the history through the ages right from its creation during the Revolution Champenoise in 1911.  It depicts the struggle and up-rising of the Champagne winegrowers for the protection of their terroir and to gain recognition of a united Champagne appellation.  It really helped me to understand the reasons behind the fierce protection of the Champagne name and gave insight into some of the struggles for growers and the advantages of the co-operatives.  Highly recommend it, you can view this short film (6mins) here The roots of COGEVI (note it is set to be viewed for 18 years and older due to the discussion of alcohol, which is why it will tell you it is restricted).

To see my chat with Tyson Stelzer as we discuss the champagne market in Australia, including tips on how to discover more – click here Natalie from The Bubbles Review chats with Tyson Stelzer about champagne in Australia.

Cheers!

Natalie


 

Tyson Stelzer is a multi-award winning wine writer, television presenter and international speaker. He was named The International Wine & Spirit Communicator of the Year, The Australian Wine Communicator of the Year and The International Champagne Writer of the Year. He is the author and publisher of sixteen wine books, a regular contributor to fifteen magazines, a frequent judge and chair at Australian wine shows and has presented at wine events in nine countries. www.TysonStelzer.com is your link to his wine recommendations, and book sales.

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our monthly Subscriber offers and prize draws. The giveaways are a bubbly giveaway.  In November it is a chance to win a signed copy of Tyson’s The Champagne Guide.  Join our list!

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