Smaller grower Champagnes join the Grandes Marques to make today a very good time to be enjoying this astonishing wine style, says John Saker.
EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY France was revolution central. It was a time of radical new ideas and the bubbly wine being made east of Paris was one that really caught on. In the twinkling of a coupe, Champagne grew to become one of France’s proudest products. There has never been a better time to enjoy this astonishing wine style than today. Demand is as high as it’s ever been, as is the commitment to quality by the people who are making it. Our Champagne $100 & Under category represents a broad range of labels and styles. The Grandes Marques (the global
Champagne brands) are well represented, which is understandable. Their success is based on the remarkable consistency of quality. There are also several grower Champagnes, wines produced by small outfits who vinify fruit they grow themselves, in our top lineup. Over recent years a number of grower labels in the region have attained cult status.
The tasting panel
For this sparkling wine tasting, John Belsham, an international wine judge and owner of Foxes Island Wines in Marlborough, was joined by owner-director of Oenotec Pty Ltd, Australian Dr. Tony Jordan. Tony has enjoyed an illustrious career at the top of the sparkling wine world with various roles at Moët Hennessy, Domaine Chandon, Cape Mentelle and Cloudy Bay. Rounding out the tasting panel was John Saker, author, and Cuisine wine writer.
Cellaring recommendations are not given for the Champagnes and sparkling wines reviewed in this issue, as they arrive on the market ready to drink. A few may surprise with longer bottle age, especially younger examples of vintage wines, but most are released with enough age already.
A LOVELY PALE gold in colour and offering fine citrusy scents, the Veuve was certainly “en forme” at this tasting. Bright, fresh, compact and persistent, with attractive lemon and chamomile notes, this is an elegant, juicy wine that captures the essence of non-vintage Champagne.
Run by three generations of women, this grower Champagne estate has built …2
This one entranced Tony Jordan – “fine, elegant, lovely.” It leads with …3
Pale salmon in colour, this rosé is quite austere in style, but …4
This is a smart package and represents excellent value too. Muted aromatics …5
This is a distinctive wine from a vintage regarded as something very …6
This is a lean, racy style. It opens its account with fresh, …7
Made by a small family-owned producer based in the tiny Champenois town …8
A golden hue and overt soy ginger scents alert you that you’re …9
The Ayala Champagne house (which is owned by Bollinger) has been hitting …10