In June, Arnica Rowan, partner at Terroir Consulting, had the opportunity to attend Taste Champagne in central London. With guidance from a British Wine critic and more than 100 sips later, here are some of Arnica’s favourite bubbly selections:
🥂Champagne Jeeper 🥂
Confessions: As I told the kind bespectacled lady standing next to me at London’s Taste Champagne event this June – more on her in a bit – I’m a Champagne rookie. In Canada, we simply don’t have a swath of Champagnes in one place to taste and compare. But I was up for a challenge, and one of my first tastes helped me ground my sensory palate. Jeeper’s Grand Assemblage Brut NV is what my previous experience told me Champagne should taste like – white toast with chocolate sprinkles on top, and a glass of fresh orange juice on the side. If I was drinking Champagne once a week, in a fluffy white robe at a swish hotel spa, or introducing other rookies to the region, Jeepers NV in that cute tubby bottle would be a great selection.
Pommery showed me how pure fruit can be the centre of attention in Champagne, a quality I’ve only associated with other global bubbles. Pommery’s Brut Apanage was the fluffiest, cloud-like glass I had out of the 100+ I tasted. It had a fruit salad type aroma – a subtle mix of pears and apples and maybe even a little raspberry pearl squished in. The 2004 Cuvée Louise I was expecting to show a lot of age, but like a woman who stays out of the sun and develops laugh lines instead of wrinkles, Louise showcased youthful ripe apples, crushed stones and fresh yogurt from the lees. It was the most Chardonnay-like of the Champagnes I tasted. I thought it was refreshing and complex, two wine words we don’t often put together.
The lady in the glasses turned out to be none other than Jancis Robinson. After explaining that I didn’t know where to start, Ms. Robsinson telepathically connected to my taste preferences and sent me over to Philippe Gonet’s table. Although Champagne descriptors often refer to yeasty or breads characteristics, two of my favourite wines from Philippe Gonet hinted at whole wheat toast – a richer, toothsome taste that took the lees aromas to a different level. My favourites were the 2016 Mensil-de-Oger Brut Reserve, and the more complex 2009 Mensil-de-Oger Blanc de Blanc which mixed orange peel and chicory tea in with that yummy crusty whole grain taste. If I could drink vintage Champagne once a month, “Philippe Gonet” would be marked like a hot date on my calendar. Thanks to Chantal Gonet that graciously repoured me several glasses as I brought all my friends back to taste at her table.
Rosé represented 9.9% by volume and 11.8% by value of global Champagne sales in 2018… in other words, it’s a significant and important part of the Champagne market. Owner and winemaker Jean-Baptiste’s Rose de Saignee Brut exhibited intriguing notes of cocoa, steel, mineral and raspberry danish with pilllowy bubbles. Next was the Coteaux Champenois Cumieres Rouge Traditionnel Pinot Noir – my first ever red Champagne. It was so light, like dry raspberry, slightly smokey mousse served with crackers. Winemaker Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy sensed my group’s enthusiasm for his pink and red selections, and pulled a couple of bottles from under the desk. He took us on a delightful journey through the possibilities of Pinot, including a red 2015 Pinot Meunier which showed off touches of allspice and orange peel with the red fruits, and my absolute favourite, a 2009 red Pinot Noir. For the uninitiated, imagine a top-quality Oregon Pinot (sorry J-B, but that’s my context,) with baked red earth, dusty herbs and juicy raspberries, all wrapped up in the softest dry foam. Mind blown.
Thanks so much to Taste Champagne for opening the doors to me, Ms. Robinson for not laughing at my novice questions, and my wonderful friends who are all much more, well, European, than I, for mirroring my Canadian enthusiasm for the delights of Champagne.