The Bubbles Review

for people who love champagne and all things sparkling!

Tag: Champagne (Page 1 of 2)

Harvest in Champagne

I am so pleased to introduce my friend Sébastien Lebon as a contributor to The Bubbles Review.  Born, raised and still living in Champagne, Sébastien will be providing 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 this year picking began in the earlier ripening villages on the 20th of August,  and the quality was very high for any type of grape!  It’s definitely a harvest everyone will remember. Let’s hope 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 and locations tbc for this year), 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!

Celebrating Madame Pommery

Meeting the Pommery Australia Ambassador at a recent Champagne tasting, I discovered a few things and a few misconceptions. I had thought that Madame Pommery and Louise Pommery were one in the same.  As it turns out, Louise was the daughter of Madame Pommery – Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Mélin, who was born in March 18, 1819 in Ardennes and married Alexandre Pommery in 1839.

It was upon Alexandre’s death in 1858, that Madame Pommery, assumed full control of the business. One of her first decisions was to sell off the struggling wool business, and concentrate on the Champagne wine business.

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

With those words, the young widow set out in 1858 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 image of the Pommery brand.

She purchased 120 limestone and chalk pits, so-called crayères, carved underneath the city of Reims by Roman soldiers during their occupation of Gaul. When years later she opened up ‘what was the biggest building site of the century in Reims’ and the metamorphosis of the chalk-pits into caves. These unique cellars allowed her to store and age thousands of bottles in a temperature-controlled environment (a constant 10°C). Many other Champagne houses would later follow suit.

As much as I love champagne, I also love reading and hearing about the entrepreneurial spirit of the people of Champagne, and especially the fabulous women of Champagne. As you can imagine, at the time it was very unusual for a woman to be the head of a business, let alone one to create these amazing success stories. Madame Pommery was another one of the great Veuves (French for widow), to be risk takers, leaders and excel in their field.

Long before we heard about corporate responsibility, Madame Pommery also put her fortune to “good use”.  A businesswoman she certainly was, but also a compassionate woman; she set up the first “pension fund” and “social security” for her workforce, and it was to her that the town of Reims owed its orphanage and nursery fund. That was how she invented the company’s ethical charter.  She supported artists, especially those of her town. She bequeathed artefacts to the Reims Museum as well as the donation of Millet’s The Gleaners to the French state. Madame Pommery felt that “… everything you can reap from working is a saintly thing” – inventing, long before it became the fashion, corporate sponsorship.

Her entrepreneurial journey was surely not planned, but began when of fragile health and with a fortune made in wool, Monsieur Pommery decided to retire in 1856 so that he could enjoy a calm life. With their son Louis grown up, the couple did not have any goals other than a well deserved holiday.  That’s when, unexpectedly at the age of 38, Madame Pommery became pregnant.  This happy miracle more than 17 years after their first child was going to change the course of their lives forever.  To ensure the financial security of his family, Monsieur Pommery decided to start work again. While the wool industry was declining, the champagne business was expanding. However when Monsieur Pommery died in 1858, their daughter Louise had not even had her first birthday.

She was not only a widow, but a single mum with a son and a young baby. Through this, Madame Pommery gathered the strength to create this beautiful champagne story. Today, the Pommery brand states that it is with pride, passion and emotion that they try to reproduce Madame Pommery’s miracle – the birth of their daughter, under the sweet name of Louise. This is the Pommery cuvee de Prestige, the Cuvée Louise.

“I wanted this Estate to be like an open book, facing the world and time. Leave your imprint on it, as I have left mine, for posterity.

And let it be worthy of respect, I have wanted these walls to express each day for this Champagne, a wine that has now become a shared part of our souls and that carries the memory of our art forever.”

It was ten years later, in July 1868, that Madame Pommery opened up “what was the biggest building site of the century in Reims”. Belgian and French miners dug out eighteen kilometres of interconnected rib or barrel vault galleries to create the cellars – a vast and entire underground town. With its squares formed by the old walls, Gustave Navlet was commissioned to sculpt huge bas reliefs as a celebration to wine. They still accentuate the beauty of the galleries. One monumental 116-step staircase connects this underground world to the outside world.

Madame Pommery instituted a tradition of giving the cellar galleries the names of great foreign cities as they conquered them commercially. Above ground, the vast estate that was created is said to be in English gothic style in tribute to the market that favoured the Pommery brand that led to their success.

As she continued to evolve the business, Madame Pommery saw an opportunity when she instructed her Cellarmaster to create a new style of champagne. This would become invention of Brut champagne in 1874.

“Damas, what we need is a wine that is as dry as possible but is not harsh … has to be mellow, velvety and well blended … make sure that it is subtle more than anything else.”

This was a bold request, as at the time the prevailing taste was for very sweet champagne (up to 300gms of sugar per litre, compared with now up to 12 gms per litre), which was favoured by the Russian market.  This brut champagne was eventually created by Damas’s successor, Victor Lambert.  The first brut in the history of champagne was the Pommery Nature 1874. It was a revolution. You can imagine it would have been quite a shock to the palate.  When I did a search for the meaning of the word ‘Brut’, I discovered that it comes from the word Brutal, which a low/no dosage champagne must have seemed to the sweet palate of the time.

It did, however, prove to be a winner. The English market in particular preferred this dry style. Pommery was very popular with the English establishment. A book on the Champagne trade written about thirty years later, records that the 1874 vintage brut fetched the highest prices ever paid in London for Champagne.

One example I read about Madame Pommery’s ingenuity with her PR, was the story of when in the Autumn of 1888 there were nasty rumours being spread about Pommery. To achieve the maturity required to produce her Brut, once again they had delayed the grape harvest, whilst still having to make substantial commitments to the wine growers. Her competitors stirred up worries about her ability to make payments.  Ever the fighter, she launched a “media offensive” that put an end to the rumours. Hearing that the painting The Gleaners, depicting peasant life in rural France, by French artist Millet, was being sold at auction, and that there was interest in America to acquire the painting, she set about her campaign. The French public were not happy about these paintings being sold off abroad, as had previously occurred with works by Millet.  The order was put out to acquire the picture at any cost, and it sold for 300,000 gold francs to an anonymous buyer. Under great suspense, it was not until four days later it was announced that Madame Pommery had indeed been the buyer, and that she would donate it to the state of France. The painting was originally gifted to the Louvre, and today it is included in the works of art at the Musée Dorsay.

After Madame Pommery died in 1890, her daughter Louise ran the House with husband Prince Guy de Polignac. The Polignac family continued to run the business until 1979.  The brand continues the ethos of the Pommery family traditions today. The connection with art continues through support for artists and exhibitions both local and worldwide, and also many fun, contemporary branding through the Pommery POP collections.

Today, the Pommery Estate is owned by Belgian entrepreneur Paul-Francois Vranken and holds more than 20 million bottles in the 18km of underground chalkpit caves. More than 120,000 people from around the globe visit this magnificent property in the heart of the city of Reims annually and equally enjoy the exhibition of contemporary art set up in the caves.

As I often say, I think that Champagne is one of the joys of life, and Madame Pommery described her champagne in two words;

“Joyful and Lightness”.

Now that is something to be celebrated.

Cheers!

 

We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Pommery Australia in providing information (and this months giveaway) to create this story.

Would you like to join us in Champagne? As part of our Events and Tours program, we are in the planning stages of a trip to Champagne for May/June 2018.  This will be a small group tour, with visits to some of the great champagne marques like the Pommery Estate, our program will include exclusive champagne-matched lunches and dinners, and private tastings.  Spaces will be limited.  If you would like to register your interest to join us, you can do so here Register your interest to join us in Champagne. We will make contact later this year to confirm details and available spaces.

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 prize draw. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. This month is a gift boxed bottle of Pommery Brut Royal.  Join our list!

 

Gotta love a Festival!

If you’ve read some of my previous blogs, you’ll know that I talk a lot about making new discoveries when it comes to Sparkling Wine and Champagne. Yes, we all have our favourites, but I love being out and about, exploring, meeting new people, hearing their stories, new sensory discoveries of sights and sounds, and, of course, taste, mouthfeel, aroma, and all of the senses that go along with tasting sparkling wine.

Visiting regions and Cellar Doors is a great way to do this, but it also has its limitations. Making the time to be away, planning to get the most out of your day, and then who will be the designated driver, as one full tasting experience can put you over the limit. So whilst enjoyable and highly recommended, how do you get the tasting experience all in one place?

Step into the festival! The origin of the word comes from the word Feast, and in other Latin-based languages means party. And feast and party it is. I love a good festival – a chance to be out and about and meet people, explore and make new discoveries, all in one compact space, before taking public transport/taxi/Uber home.

In Melbourne, which is arguably Australia’s home of Food and Wine experiences, we are very fortunate to have a festival to celebrate just that – The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF) opening at the end of this month and running 31 March – 9 April. I was so excited to see that there are many bubbly-focussed events, as well as some of the bigger events like the City Cellar Door as part of the River Graze (held on the first weekend), which will see tasting tables along the banks of the Yarra River. Entry to this family-friendly event is free, and the $10 Festival glass allows you to participate and enjoy wines by the glass or bottle. Visit www.MFWF.com.au for more information.

I am very pleased to have been invited to attend a few of the Bubbly Events at MFWF as accredited media. I will be at the City Cellar Door on the opening night, and here is where I will be for other events. Feel free to find me and say hello. Here are details with links:

Fed in French. Fri 31 March – Sun 2 April this is also part of the FREE River Graze Fed event, the French will take over Federation Square with traditional dishes, fine wines and sweets to treat your Francophile taste buds. The River Terrace will be full of marquees showcasing fare from all regions of France. The crème de la crème will be LE BAR, featuring a selection of French wines, beer and champagne right next to French bistro, Bon Ap’ – popping up for the very first time away from their usual Fitzroy address.  http://www.melbournefoodandwine.com.au/program/fed-in-french-6697

Champagne Lunch with Bollinger – Sun 2 April. I do love a Champagne matched meal. Even its name conjures up good times and bubbles on the tongue. So raise your flute to make a toast to everything that makes Victorian produce great, especially when matched with one of our favourite champagnes. Gather with friends at the 2016 Hotel Bar of the Year to enjoy an indulgent Sunday afternoon of five exquisite courses matched with Bollinger. http://www.melbournefoodandwine.com.au/program/champagne-lunch-with-bollinger-6611

Sweet and Savoury Champagne Party – Tuesday 4 April.  I am so excited about this event. Om Nom, which is the dessert bar at The Adelphi that we included in our recent Melbourne Bubbly Evening (see our photos on our Facebook and Instagram pages), has this great event to surprise your tastebuds – and the masters of dessert are experimenting as never before. Join chefs Jo Ward and Darren Jones on a fun canapé ride at a stand-up champagne party, with delightful sweet elements entering the savoury dishes, and clever savoury twists appearing in desserts. Think Balsamic Fairy Floss, Venison with White Chocolate and Truffle Mousse, and dishes such as Squid Bubbletea and Cowramelo! Match this with Laurent Perrier, Champagne Besserat, and Louis Roederer as the champagne sponsors, providing free flowing champagne all night. Very exciting! Here is the link

http://www.melbournefoodandwine.com.au/program/a-savoury-sweet-sweet-savoury-champagne-party-6596

Best of Victoria High Tea. Two sessions daily between Saturday 1 April to Sunday 9 April. This event focuses on the extraordinary native produce Victoria has to offer. Sample bite-sized delicacies including native Mt Martha oysters, Port Phillip scallops, macadamia tartlets and wattle seed lamingtons. All matched with a lovely selection of Victorian Sparkling Wines. I will be there on Wednesday 5 April, 3–5.30pm. http://www.melbournefoodandwine.com.au/program/best-of-victoria-high-tea-6450

If you are not from Melbourne, maybe this is the perfect time to visit?! There are lots of regional events for MFWF too, so take a look at the website and plan your program.

Also keep an eye out throughout the year for wine festivals in your area or in regions that you would like to visit.  Book a tour, hire a vehicle with your designated driver, plan an overnight stay, or draw straws to see who gets to be Captain.

And on that note, The Bubbles Review has our own festival happening in Melbourne 28 April – 30 April. We are very excited to introduce the inaugural The Bubbles Festival – a celebration of Sparkling Wine.  See the link to our events page here.  https://thebubblesreview.com/eventstours/

We hope to bring The Bubbles Festival to other states in the future.

It is definitely Feast, Festive, Fiesta, Festival time. Here’s cheers to that!

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 prize draw. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

 

 

Interview with Floriane Eznack – Champagne Jacquart

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Floriane at a Jacquart Masterclass at Taxi Kitchen in Melbourne. I was fortunate to be given a VIP interview slot to speak with her before the Masterclass, and Floriane generously shared her time and insight with me about working in Champagne.

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.

Historically there have been some great women of Champagne. We asked Floriane about women working in Champagne today.

Floriane talked 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.

She shared 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.

The more that you discover champagne, the more you discover the diversity of it. In introducing Champagne Jacquart, (which is a relatively young label at around 50 years old) to Australia, Floriane says she understands that people feel safe tasting a brand that is well known, but that Champagne is a rich region, very diverse with different styles. There are over 8,000 labels in Champagne, so be curious about tasting – wine is about discovering and sharing. The brand is a modern style, in particular the mission was to highlight the Chardonnay and use the red grapes to enhance that as a fresh style, with refined bubbles and a soft and smooth finish.

See the full interview with Floriane here:

You may also be interested in our blog with an excerpt from the Masterclass – Minerality in Champagne

A beautiful Jacquart giveaway is the prize for our monthly subscriber’s draw for

Champagne Jacquart Giveaway

February. Jacquart describe their passion as such; “Each wine tells the story of its relationship with Champagne lovers. Each wine offers a mosaic of emotions depending on the context in which it is selected and tasted. A youthful and international brand, Champagne JACQUART is now well known across the world.”

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

Minerality in Champagne

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a Masterclass with Floriane Eznack, Chef de Cave, Champagne Jacquart at Taxi Kitchen in Melbourne. In this short video she is discussing minerality in Champagne and how this helps to create the flavour and texture profile of different champagnes.

Champagne is particularly known for chalk which was laid down as sediment in massive seas that covered this area, it is like a fingerprint of the land, and the ancient sea fossils found in the soils. The expression of the soil, is more than texture and flavour, it also helps to create the mouth feel, and as Floriane explains, there is more diversity than just chalk to be found.

Other terms that she mentions are Grand Cru and Premier Cru. The word ‘Cru’ in French means growth. This classification of Champagne vineyards was developed in the mid-20th century as a means of setting the price of grapes grown through the villages of the Champagne wine region.

This is a percentile system known as the Échelle des Crus (“ladder of growth”), Grand Cru is an official rating, it is the top of the scale in terms of quality, grapes from one of the 17 villages selected as Grand Cru are considered the best quality, then Premier Cru which the next highest level, and the remainder referred to as Cru.

She also mentions ‘Vintages’ and ‘Non Vintages’.  In short, Non Vintages can include grapes from different harvests, it is a way of blending to get consistencies of style to create a signature champagne. It is usually the ‘lead in’ in terms of pricing for a brand. A Vintage champagne is a champagne that is created from one particular year, it will have a flavour profile that reflects that particular year’s harvest.  It is a lot more difficult to create as it is dependent on the year, if it wasn’t a good year, then a vintage will not be created.

Take a front seat at the Masterclass with this short video excerpt.

Floriane Eznack, Chef de Cave, Champagne Jacquart

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. Since she joined Jacquart in January 2011, she has played a central role in the creation of the finest quality blends for all of the Jacquart’s champagnes. A relatively young brand for Champagne – established 50 years ago, and new to Australia they are definitely making their mark. They describe their passion as such ~ “Each wine tells the story of its relationship with Champagne lovers. Each wine offers a mosaic of emotions depending on the context in which it is selected and tasted. A youthful and international brand, Champagne JACQUART is now well known across the world.”

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

Is champagne better than sex?

I do believe that champagne is one of the joys of life. With Valentine’s Day upon us, a day widely recognised as a day for love and devotion, I thought I would share some thoughts on my devotion to champagne.

So yes, my headline is a little controversial, and you don’t really think I am going to answer that, do you? I will, though, explain why I think that the enjoyment of good champagne is very similar to the enjoyment of good sex. You know, the kind that stays with you, you find yourself drifting off into a day dream in the days afterwards, smiling for no apparent reason, remembering and reliving some of the most sensual moments.

Champagne is a drink that captures all of the senses and creates those moments that pleasantly drift back to you. Take a moment to savour the memories to bring joy to your everyday.

Visual – I like the look of champagne. What is not to like? A beautifully shaped bottle that is almost like a piece of art, which is then uncorked in a sense of ceremony and poured into an elegant glass.

After which an endless flow of very delicate bubbles continue with effervescence waiting for your drinking pleasure. So yes, I like what I see and I would like to take it further.

Smell – I always take time to take in the aroma, the scent or ‘nose’ of the wine. When you smell a wine, you prepare your mind for what you are about to taste. Put your nose at the top of the glass, breathe in slowly and deeply. Guessing at flavours before I taste, this could arguably be considered the foreplay, the playful moments that add to the enjoyment, before we go onto taste.

Touch – To discuss touch, let’s talk about ‘mouth feel’ (yes it is a proper champagne term), the description of how the wine feels in your mouth, and with champagne this is a kaleidoscope of experiences. Take a moment to let that feeling of discovery happen. You have the bead of the bubbles, they help the wine to dance on your tongue, the creaminess and the effervescence you’ll feel as you press down a little, a little explosion in your mouth. The minerality that adds to the where the wine sits in your mouth and continues to bring a discovery of flavours as you taste from the front to the back of the palate. It really is joyful.

Taste – Let’s not forget taste. As you are taking a moment to enjoy the sensuous mouth feel, let your mind explore the taste. What flavours can you detect? Are they the same as you thought they were going to be when you discovered the scent, or are there a few surprises in there? Enjoy the taste as it hits different parts of your palate. Now swallow. Gorgeous.

Even on busy tasting days I always swallow. The spittoon is rarely used, which probably means that I am in love every time that I drink champagne.

Feel – How do I feel when I drink champagne? Joyful is the best description I can think of. As a warm glow takes over the body, I savour the moments of delight, the feeling of luxury, richness, and the feeling of appreciation; I feel truly blessed and enriched from the experience. The pleasure that it brings, the delicate moments of joy, and for days afterwards I find myself smiling for no apparent reason remembering all of the delightful details, the smell, the taste, the mouth feel.

Sigh! Well, I hope that this was as good for you as it was for me! Wishing everyone a happy Valentine’s Day. Whether you are enjoying a glass of bubbly alone or with a loved one, take time to savour all of the precious moments and remember – life is too short not to drink good champagne!

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 monthly Subscriber prize draw. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

 

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