All posts by: vanessa

One of my continued joys about champagne is not just the vast number of superb cuvees there are waiting to be tasted. It is as much the opportunity Champagne the region, and champagne the wine, offers us to learn about champagne and the region. I have embarked on a continuous journey of learning covering the history, the geography and environment, the people, and the traditions which are so enlightening. Just ask yourself, how do those hundreds of champagne producers all create a wine called champagne which is so different, each with its own characteristics? My journey has allowed me to look closely into the geography, the environment, the history, and traditions handed down through generation after generation of the Houses, and also at the skill of the wine maker to start to find some of the answers. It is a compelling journey, like a book you cannot put down as every turn of the page offers yet more intrigue.

The perfect wine tasting for me is champagne tasting, comparing the different styles and how they can be matched with food. Whether it is a Brut, or Blanc de Blancs, Vintage champagnes, or Rose, it is always special.

To learn about champagne, the journey, and to quench your thirst for knowledge and cuvees on offer, which can be enjoyed through our partnership with Jiles Halling and his superb online champagne course which is available here on our website. Why not visit our site and see how you can become a champagne sommelier!

DIFFICULTIES IN PROMOTING ARTISAN CHAMPAGNE AND CHAMPAGNE EVENTS DURING THE CURRENT CRISIS

As reported by Patrick Schmitt of the Drinks Business on 7 April, champagne sales have suffered a ‘huge decrease’ since the coronavirus lockdowns began but its also believed that this great marker of celebratory times could resume normal business towards the end of the year.  The article quotes Comite Champagne President, Jean-Marie Barillere, who, whilst he recognises the ‘huge decrease in sales’ he also says he believes that the current ‘serious’ situation for champagne will be short lived.

As most gatherings over the next two months across Europe and the UK are cancelled or postponed and hospitality outlets remain closed, it should come as no surprise that champagne sales are considerably affected, particularly as the nations worst-hit by the pandemic are some of champagne’s biggest markets – Italy, Spain and the largest of all France.

Whilst some drinks such as entry level to mid-range wines and fortified wines are seeing a spike in demand through retailers (whether supermarkets or online drinks providers), champagne is not one of them. Champagne is of course not only tied to toasting wonderful moments, but also positioned primarily at the top end of the market so it was always going to suffer with the spread of a global health crisis, and the hit has been severe.

In the French market, which represents almost 50% of champagne sales by volume, the commentator said that closures in the hospitality sector represented losses of around one third of the market for champagne. Whilst unwilling to comment on direct sales it was also stated that the retail sector, which represents another third of the market, has taken a ‘huge hit’.  This is likely to be replicated in the UK.

The smaller champagne producers, often referred to as Artisan or Growers, will be feeling the pinch as sales fall and current stocks in the cellars are higher than usual. It remains to be seen how they cope, they don’t have the huge volume sales losses the main Houses will suffer, but their export sales will almost certainly be hit as global demand falls.  They are less dependent on the hospitality industry, with a heavier reliance on sales to end consumers through retail. With higher levels of stock some growers will be more concerned that the volume of grapes required to be harvested this year will be lower, thus ensuring average industry stock levels are maintained and avoiding over production. The agreed yield per hectare may mean lower volumes to sell to their customers, the main Houses. This may well impact the price per kilo later this year so it may not be for some time that the full effect ripples through the vineyards of Champagne.

Clearly this will be a challenging year and we will watch events closely to see what the final impact is on artisan champagne producers and houses whilst artisan champagne events are unable to take place.

 

 

 

 

We are reproducing the excellent blog by Andrew Jefford of the Wine Scholar Guild which focuses on Wine Trends in 2020 and in particular trends in Champagne wine cellars; we are also including comment from Pete Pedrick of the Champagne Collection Limited and The Fine Champagne Experience in relation to Artisan champagnes.  

Key trends in Champagne wine cellars

The two key trends in Champagne wine cellars concern the extent to which oxidative or reductive wine-making processes are used in winemaking, and the level of sweetening added to wine in the liqueur de dosage with which champagne wines are finished after disgorgement.

There is no doubt that some level of controlled oxidation during champagne wine-making and ageing techniques can add complexity to the finished wine. Examples from leading houses would include the use of wood-fermented base and reserve wines in the creation of complex blends such as Krug’s Grand Cuvée, or the ageing of reserve wines under cork at Bollinger. Many leading champagne growers (notably the celebrated Anselme Selosse) make comprehensive use of wood (and, more recently, clay jars).

However, the majority of champagne is still produced in a manner which protects the wine from oxygen throughout its journey to the glass, though key winemakers such as Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon of Roederer stress that this is not a ‘reductive’ style. He describes his wines as having ‘a spring bouquet, not an autumn bouquet. We don’t like oxidation at Roederer; we want everything pristine. No reduction, no oxidation: as if it came from the vineyard.’

Champagne is also getting dryer: Extra Brut and Brut Nature champagnes (6 g/l or less) have seen sales grow 35.4% by volume over the last decade, with levels of growth of these styles of champagne particularly strong in export markets and among champagne connoisseurs. Key ‘Brut’ brands are getting dryer, too. Dom Pérignon formerly contained 10 g/l sugar after dosage; now it is 7 g/l, with 5 g/l for Oenothèque releases.

Looking at the Artisan champagne sector, Pete Pedrick, of The Champagne Collection Ltd and The Fine Champagne Experience, comments on the distinctive champagnes offered by Francois Lavergne, ‘the Brut, Classic, the Brut Light, the Rose Classic and the Rose Light, are subject to a longer ageing process, ensuring depth and maturity whilst still delivering freshness and a fruit filled taste. The difference between the Classic and the Light cuvees is the dosage – the amount of sugar added to the wines. For the Classic cuvees, the dosage is 9g/l, whilst for the Light a dosage of just 4g/l is used. The lower dosage makes the Light champagnes slightly drier but the freshness and fruitiness still remains.  Artisan producers such as Francois have the scope to be more adventurous than the Grand Marques which is why there are so many different styles and flavours on offer. It’s a world worth exploring!’

Our Autumn Special Cuvee Tasting is an experience not to be missed.

Come and try 6 of the finest Special Cuvees we have found including some limited editions. These champagnes are produced in addition to the usual champagnes produced by the House and are normally created when the grape quality is high and they want to produce an exceptional champagne.