Category: Sparkling Wine

#HOTGV: On Canadian ice wine with Inniskillin’s Bruce Nicholson

This episode of Heard on the Grape Vine is all about Canadian Ice Wine.

Frozen vineyards at Inniskillin

Canada is perhaps the only place in the world where ice wine can be produced every year thanks to its consistently cold winters. And because of the quality and availability, the country has become famous for this delicious sweet wine over the past couple of decades.

But the history of this wine, which has its roots in Germany and Austria, is relatively recent for Canada, where the first vintages weren’t made until 1984.

Inniskillin sparkling vidal

I travelled to Niagara-on-the-Lake recently to meet Bruce Nicholson, the wine maker at Inniskillin, one of the oldest and best known ice wine producers in Canada.

I took a little tour of the winery and saw what’s possibly the oldest bottle of Canadian ice wine in existence and Inniskillin’s first vintage – 1984. There’s only one bottle left of this at the estate. True to the co-founder and wine maker Karl Kaiser’s Austrian roots, it was spelt eiswein.

Next to it was an 1989 Inniskillin, which retails at over CAD$500 right now for the half bottle. It was the first wine from the estate to have won an international competition, putting Canadian ice wines on the map.

It was just after the ice wine harvest and the grapes had already been pressed so I could taste a fresh sample of the juice for the Cabernet Franc. It was deliciously fruity and you can already see some of the rhubarb notes that Nicholson talks about later on.

As well as the wines on sale right now, I also tasted a little sample of the 1993 vintage at their bar. It had visibly oxidised in colour and flavour but oh, still so gorgeous and fresh.

Cold smoked scallops being prepared at Inniskillin

After a wine-friendly lunch prepared by their in-house chef Tim MacKiddie, I sat down with Nicholson for this podcast.

Join us now as we learn more about how this coveted wine is made at Inniskillin and what to eat with it.

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Four of the best Loire Stars at D&D Wine

Last month I attended a tasting at D&D London’s New Street Wine Shop, the theme of which was Loire Stars – the hidden gems and unsung heroes from the Loire Valley.

My previous encounter with the Loire was centred around Chenin Blanc, which was showcased in dry white and sweet wines. I liked it, a lot. But the Loire also produces fascinating wines from a number of other well-known grape varieties like Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Melon de Bourgogne; all of which I am comparatively less familiar with.

I tasted 13 wines altogether, ranging from sparkling to sweet (I skipped the rosé). The diversity between the wines is immense. But then for a region so widespread, you wouldn’t expect anything else. And just as equally, you wouldn’t expect to like everything.

Out of those 13, there were in fact only four that I really enjoyed. They’re all available at New Street Wine Shop but I will also bracket other places where you can buy them.

Philippe Foreau Clos Naudin Vouvray NV Although there were alternative in the sparkling line up, with a younger, fresher feel, the sparkling Philippe Foreau Clos Naudin Vouvray NV was the first to catch my eye. It was rich in flavour with a blended flavour of toast and apple that was bolstered with incredible acidity. It also had smooth bubbles and was nicely balanced. I felt it was very comparable to Champagne, which is made in the same method. £19.65 Also available from Gauntleys.
Domaine des Roches Neuves Terre Chaudes Saumur Champigny 2013 The whites flew by and the first red to get my attention was Domaine des Roches Neuves Terre Chaudes Saumur Champigny 2013. Having been to the estate before, I felt like I had a vested interest in liking the wine. But I didn’t. At least not at first. As I tasted the wine though, I got more and more notes out of it and, well, I had to say it was pretty good. It starts with a sort of concrete hardness that melts into gentle tanning and a dark, brooding herbaceousness. It had great food potential as it is but then the long finish of residual fruit, red currant and black pepper really brought it together. £19.80 Also available at Excel Wines.
Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon 2013 In startling contrast to the Saumur Champigny, Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon 2013 was extremely open and friendly. It was rich and fruit-forward as well as being rounded and vibrant. It was simple and easy drinking – and you can’t fault it for that. £11.50 Also available at Haynes Hanson & Clark.
Philippe Delesvaux Selection de Grains Nobles Coteaux du Layon 2011 As a lover of sweet wines, I was of course pleased to find a good one in the Philippe Delesvaux Selection de Grains Nobles Coteaux du Layon 2011. It’s perhaps on the young side but its lush, fragrant nose is very appealing right now. The rich and complex blend of apricots finds a nice back bone in the balance of the sugar and acidity. Not too intense but thoroughly enjoyable. £18.60 (half-bottle) Also available at Fine + Rare Wines

Incidentally there’s still a few more days of the D&D Loire Stars Festival, which concludes later this month. There’s a few expert led tastings, some matched with food. You’ll be able to find more details here: www.danddwine.com/campaigns-and-partnerships/loirestars/


Amateur Wine was a guest of Loire Valley Wines and D&D London. For more information on what that means, see our Editorial Policy.

Quinta do Portal, Celeirós

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Oporto and the Douro Valley series

The winery at Quinta do Portal is impressively large (it’s capable of producing some 1.2 million bottles of wine a year) considering that the estate itself is only around 15 hectares. But that’s because the family owned estate is also part of the group that owns Quinta do Confradeiro, Quinta dos Muros and Quinta da Abelheira. Between all those Quintas, the area under vine is more like 105 hectares.

Winery, Quinta do Portal, Douro Valley

The man in charge of creating all those wines is Paulo Coutinho, who has been at Quinta do Portal for more than 20 years. You get the sense that he is very self-assured as he claims to be able to make any wine that he wants to.

The considerable creative flexibility that he’s been afforded has allowed him to experiment with wines that you probably won’t find on many other estates in the Douro Valley like a sparkling rosé. That rosé, incidentally, was the Super Reserva Rosé Espumante do Douro 2008, which, while a little too tart on the palate, had a nice strawberry nose with a slightly savoury finish. It’s a one-off, however.

Moscatel is the other grape that Coutinho liked to play with. We tried a Moscatel Galego Branco 2013, a slightly tart and savoury wine that’s otherwise classic in the moscatel category. Quinta do Portal also had a Colheita rosé, the Colheita Douro Rosé 2013, which was fresh, aromatic and crisp with plenty of strawberry notes and a very dry finish.

The aforementioned three “fun wines” were what Coutinho later introduced into cocktails. In fact, he was one of the strongest advocates for wine cocktails that we met on the trip.

Wines, Quinta do Portal, Douro Valley

To more serious wines, we started with a Douro Branco 2006, a well rounded wine with notes of honey, melon, lychee and a fresh, creamy finish.

Switching to one of the few sweet wines (that’s not port) in the Douro Valley, we tried the Late Harvest 2009 – honeyed nose, white fruits and a hint of Botrytis on the finish. A second sweet wine, which we tried later, was the Moscatel do Douro Reserva 2004, a floral but nutty and raisined wine that’s slightly oxidised.

With the reds, we started with a Grande Reserva 2007, a fresh, violet-forward wine that’s backed with blackcurrant and a little taste of iron. The still-evolving Touriga Nacional 2001 had a hint of mushroom and leathery overtones though there was still plenty of fruit.

Finally, finishing with a small round of port, we started with a 20 year old tawny. It felt a little one-dimensional but had good acidity to counter the sweetness. The 1999 vintage port, meanwhile, had developed with mushroom notes, a hint of chocolate and a smoky savouriness.

www.quintadoportal.com

Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur-Champigny

This is a post in the Spotlight on: the Loire Valley series

Thierry Germain has big ideas; and he’s not afraid to share them.

Thierry Germain, Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur-Champigny

Owner and wine maker at Domaine des Roches Neuves since 1992, he is an avid supporter of biodynamic winemaking. Despite having more than three times the labour of a normal vineyard, his vineyards are minimally interventionist.

For him, the vine is like an upside down man; the roots are the head and the shoots are the arms and legs. Instead of trimming or green harvesting, he likes to roll the shoots around the trellising so that, come August, the vine will concentrate the grape sugars naturally. The thinking is that if a man can’t function without arms and legs then neither can the vines.

Now if we suppose the sun is the father and the earth is the mother.

Over the course of a day, the vine leaves will move to protect the grapes from the sun. This he discovered sitting still for four hours, just to watch his vines grow. If you trim the leaves, the sun will concentrate the sugars of the grapes but you’ll also get a masculine wine – the wine will be dominated by the effects of the father.

And there’s also his philosophy that “wine is about good and not beautiful”. A vineyard might not be as presentable untrimmed but if the resulting wine is good then that’s all that matter.

Wines, Domaine des Roches Neuves, Saumur-Champigny

In his cellar, the one that he hollowed out himself, we tasted a few quirky and very different wines.

We started with the Clos Ecotard Saumur Blanc 2013, a fresh, citrusy wine with notes of under-ripe apples and extremely high acidity.

The L’insolite Saumur Blanc 2013, an old vine wine, was rich in minerality and acidity, flanked by white fruit and flowers.

Clos de l’Échelier Saumur Blanc 2013, in contrast with the first two wines, was very aromatic with lots of pear, tropical and floral notes as well as a mineral freshness. The Clos Romans Saumur Blanc 2013 that followed was much more closed with more citrus notes and minerality.

The L’insolite Saumur Blanc 2010, opened two weeks ago, had really opened up. It began with white peach and crisp apple before rendering into a complex blend of minerality and freshness. It’s certainly not a classic Chenin Blanc.

The Terre 2013 was an experimental amphora wine (he only has the one) which had nine months of maceration in amphora with malolactic fermentation and no added sulphur. The resulting orange wine was very complex but bitter and tannic with notes of orange peel. It was, at one time, sold at Noma. The rather challenging Terre 2012, in contrast, didn’t have much fruit or freshness but retained its tannic and bitter complexity. It was also a bit reminiscent of bird dropping – not entirely pleasant.

There are more experiments in the cellar.

In one barrel was an as yet unnamed white wine that was a cuvée of the 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 vintages of Chenin Blanc. Reminiscent of sherry, there was a definite nutty, oxidative nose; but there was also cabbage pungency and struck match aromas.

There was also a one-off sweet wine from 1995, made to moelleux style. It took six years of fermentation to achieve 6% alcohol, with no added yeast, but the result was a complex blend of raisins, dried apricots and prunes with a concentrated richness that’s closer to liquoreux style sweet wines.

Up in the soon to be completed tasting room, we also tried some of his other wines.

The Bulles de Roche Saumur Brut NV had a bready nose with bruised pear and mushy white fruit as a top note with an underlying bitterness.

The Franc de Pied Saumur-Champigny 2013 was initially fruit forward before pulling back to reveal more vegetable and spicy notes. The tank sample we tried also had a touch of bubble gum with bramble and grippy tannins. The much older Franc de Pied Saumur-Champigny 1996, opened for two weeks, had a faintly sweet fermented soy bean nose with teeth stripping tannin, dense fruit and a very savoury palate. The long finish was of prunes and plums.

Many of Germain’s wines were challenging but some were fantastic. He’s happy with that verdict because for him, “it’s good to see people who have emotion when tasting my wine and biodynamic wines have that effect”.

www.rochesneuves.com

Domaine Bourillon Dorléans, Rochecorbon

This is a post in the Spotlight on: the Loire Valley series

Frédéric Bourillon is the third generation of winemakers at Domaine Bourillon Dorléans, an estate founded by his granddad.

Frédéric Bourillon, Domaine Bourillon Dorléans, Vouvray

He’s a bit of a character, though perhaps not in the same way as Pascal Cuisset at Château des Eyssards.

For Bourillon, phallic symbols seem to be a bit of an obsession – he wears it on a necklace. He’s also big into art and the two are sometimes interlinked.

Stone person, Domaine Bourillon Dorléans, Vouvray

His cave cellar, carved into the mountain and dating back to the 15th Century, is filled with artwork. Some 20 years ago, Bourillon encouraged a couple of artist friends to etch out bas relief icons on the walls. Now this network of tunnels form the perfect venue for drinks, parties and other gatherings. The last carving at the end of the tunnel is, you guessed it, a phallic symbol.

You get a sense of laissez-faire about him too – grass is left growing freely between the vines, to encourage healthy competition – but this doesn’t translate into the results. His large portfolio of wines have won a great many awards, many of which are quickly succumbing to the dampness of his cellar where they hang proudly.

There is great generosity behind his brusqueness too, as he opened no less than 16 different wines for tasting and cooked for us himself.

We started with the Domaine Bourillon Dorléans Vouvray Premium Brut 2010, a buoyantly sparkling off-dry wine with notes of crisp apples and citrus. It’s a simple, youthful style.

Then it was on to the L’Indigéne Vouvray 2009, a dry wine made with natural yeast and no chaptalisation (adding sugar to increase the alcohol). The resulting wine had a rounded stone fruit character with even a little tropical note of lychees and white flowers. The L’Indigéne Vouvray 2007 was much more waxy in comparison with a little more honey on the nose. The L’Indigéne Vouvray 2008, a fuller-bodied vintage, was flavoursome but had a slight hint of sweet corn on the nose.

Changing to a different label, we tried the Saint Martin 2009, a lightly tropical wine with a waxy nose and a fine balance of minerality and long finish.

Changing labels again, it was on to the Oppidum 2011, a strange mix of concentrated sweet nose, bubble gum palate and dry finish. The Oppidum 2008 followed a similar strain of bubble gum but this time with sweetcorn. The funky mix is likely to be a wine fault rather than intentional as the next two wines from the Oppidum label were comparatively normal in terms of flavour profile.

The Oppidum 2007 had an oaky closed nose with stone fruit notes and a faintly detectable whiff of sulphur while the Oppidum 2009 was filled with minerality.

Moving on to the Vouvray Demi-Sec, the award-winning labels, we started with the Vouvray Demi-Sec 2011. It’s a stony, steely number with light floral perfume and tropical pineapple notes. The Vouvray Demi-Sec 2007 had a more pronounced tropical pineapple nose, apricots and the beginnings of development. When it came to the Vouvray Demi-Sec 2005, the tropical notes have been further reduced in favour of development and there’s a hint of gunpowder and struck match. Finally the Vouvray Demi-Sec 2003, which was perhaps passed its best, showed overwhelming cabbage notes and very little fruit.

Next up was the sweet wines. The La Coulée d’Or 2010 showed nice acidity against a limey apricot and pineapple nose. The Noble Rot affected La Coulée d’Or 2009 showed similar notes, with a long finish, but was a little cloying at times. Rounding off the tasting was the La Coulée d’Or 2003, a complex blend of truffle, prune, apricot and orange peel.

www.bourillon.com

Château Moncontour, Vouvray

This is a post in the Spotlight on: the Loire Valley series

Château Moncontour is, along with four other estates and a négociant business, part of the Feray family’s wine portfolio.

Château Moncontour, Vouvray

Moncontour itself is composed of 130 hectares split across Vouvray, Rochecorbon, Vernou and Reugny. It’s also on its way to further expansion as new distribution deals with the UK has meant the building of new facilities.

As a sizeable estate, it has the capacity to produce the full spectrum of the Vouvray Appellation – from sparkling (traditional method) to liquoreux. The biggest part of its production, around 85%, is actually sparkling Vouvray.

Despite its size, the wine is in no way impersonal.

Jérôme Loisy, winemaker, Château Moncontour, Vouvray

The winemaker, Jérôme Loisy, has been with the company for some 21 years. More recently, he’s been experimenting with single-parcel vinification in his Lafite-inspired winery with some interesting results.

During the tasting at the Château we actually tasted a couple of wines from the group’s other estates too, starting with an organic sparkling Vouvray.

The elegant Domaine du Petit Coteau Vouvray Sparkling NV (organic) was a fresh and citrusy wine with a smooth mousse and a long, dry finish. The Château Moncontour Cuvée Prédilection Grande Réserve 2010, in comparison, had much finer bubbles with a softer nose of crisp apples but a richer mouthfeel.

On the still wines, the Château Moncontour Vouvray Nature Sec 2013 started off in a simple style with crisp green apples and citrus before moving into more complex minerality. The Château Moncontour Vouvray Nature Demi-Sec 2013 was very marginally sweeter but with a certain warmness from white fruit notes.

I also tried a demi-sec from Château de Montfort, the Château de Montfort Vouvray Demi-Sec 2013, which was a cooler but more powerful expression. There was a steeliness to the nose with a little grapefruit, lime and citrus.

Moving on to the sweet wines, the Château Moncontour Vouvray Moelleux 2003 had a closed nose initially before opening up to quince and honeycomb. The Nectar de Moncontour 2005 had much more intensity with dried apricots and figs hitting the top notes before finishing with a long, waxy, honeyed tail. There’s impressive integration of flavours and balance of acidity in this rich, liquoreux-style wine.

www.moncontour.com

J.P. Chenet Ice Edition NV

JP Chenet Ice EditionThe wine: J.P. Chenet Demi-Sec ice edition

The producer: J.P. Chenet www.jpchenet.com

They say: Smooth, creamy and fresh, J.P Chenet Ice leaves a long aromatic taste in the mouth with a fine, supple yet rich texture. To be served very cold, the slightly increased sweetness highlights its delicate fruity aromas once it’s in contact with the ice. With an accessible price tag and an eye catching all white bottle, this new wine will offer a chic new way of enjoying sparkling wines appealing to a younger, dynamic consumer who usually chooses RTD or fruit-flavoured ciders.

We say: Very subtle nose. Pear dominates when served well chilled. Not immediately obvious as a demi-sec sparkling wine. Awkward juxtaposition of alcohol and flavour. After ice is added, quince and citrus shows through. Refreshing as an aperitif, with plenty of ice, but not a serious drinking wine.

Try with: Soy and maple syrup marinated salmon

Price (RRP): £9.95

Available from: ASDA

Additional notes: Launched at Cannes Film Festival in May 2014. Intended to be served over ice.

Chinese tasting notes and food match

品酒笔记: 初步反应气味较淡。冰镇时梨子味道为主。微甜。感觉比一般的demi-sec甜度的气泡葡萄酒更酸。酒精与酒味不太搭挡。加了冰块后(建议加冰饮用)有跟多的榲桲与柑橘类果酸。用大量的冰块来冰镇后变成清爽的开胃酒,但不算特别高雅。

中餐搭配: 北京烤鸭

Spotlight on: the Loire Valley

vineyards by the Loire

The Loire Valley presents as a very interesting wine region because it is at once a fairly large wine region and lots of smaller, separate sub-regions with very distinct identities.

In some respects, it’s one of the most confusing regions in France (because it uses so many different grapes varieties that produce so many different varities of wimes) and one of the simplest (most of the grape varieties tend to stay within the a main region).

There are also two very different ways of looking at the Loire.

The first of these is by looking at separate regions, something that the WSET focuses on a lot and is easy to visualise. The very useful Loire Valley Wines website splits the Loire into Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine and Centre-Loire. For example, Muscadet, made with Melon de Bourgogne, is produced exclusively in the Pays Nantais area while Centre-Loire’s focus is more on Sauvignon Blanc.

Following on from that, it’s natural to see that the second way of looking at the Loire Valley is through the study of its grapes. Thankfully, unlike Languedoc-Roussillon, there aren’t that many to remember. The main ones are Melon de Bourgogne, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc for whites and Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Grolleau for the reds.

I recently visited the Loire specific to learn more about the expressions of Chenin Blanc there (you can read my Chenin Blanc overview at Yahoo and all about the sweet wines of the Loire Valley, including food and wine matching, at Palate Press). While Savennières, Vouvray and Anjou were all well regarded appellations, the wines that really excited me were the sweet, botrytised wines. I was really pleased to discover wines that, at times, matched, and occasionally, even surpassed, some of the Sauternes I had tasted.

Here are the Chenin-centric properties I visited in the Loire:

Château Moncontour

Eric Morgat at Clos Ferrand

Domaine Bourillon Dorléans

Domaine de la Paleine

Domaine des Forges

Domaine des Roches Neuves

Domaine Ogereau

Domaines Paul Mas, Montagnac

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Languedoc-Roussillon series

There was a time when, as a thank you, a wine friend gifted me a trio of wines. One of them was from Paul Mas.

At the time, I didn’t know very much about wines. Anything at all, really. But the wine had come very highly recommended and, as it had turned out, was pretty good.

Fast forward a few years and I was visiting Domaines Paul Mas for the first time. It had become a brand that was extremely interesting from a market perspective.

Paul Mas, Montagnac

Despite being incredibly widely available – around eight million bottles are produced a year and some 97% of the production is exported – it also happens to be incredibly well regarded. It has, perhaps, a lot to do with the owner, Jean-Claude Mas’ philosophy that Domaines Paul Mas should be all about every day luxury.

Paul Mas, Montagnac

The story started in 2000 when Jean-Claude Mas inherited 35 hectares of land from his family. Mas, a bit of a marketing whiz, quickly created various labels of good quality wines that are a fun representation of the brand. For Australia for example, where Domaines Paul Mas is the biggest import wine brand, he launched Arrogant Frog to great success.

Though the quality of the wine was good, the prices weren’t astronomical. And though the overall production was huge, each individual label was small enough to garner a boutique cult status. The combination of good wine, good price and good marketing has led to rapid expansion at Domaines Paul Mas.

These days Paul Mas has expanded to more than 400 hectares all over Languedoc-Roussillon comprised of its own vineyards as well as those of its partners.

Has the quality suffered?

Not at the top end but the difference between that and the more basic range is certainly noticeable. But trading on the Domaines Paul Mas brand, they continue to do incredibly well.

The success of the wines have helped Mas indulge in his big love of Japan. Mas has even donated to the rescue efforts at Fukushima. The result can be seen in a thank you letter proudly displayed at his Japanese/French restaurant, Côté Mas.

It was at the restaurant that I tasted a bigger selection of his wines, with food.

Starting with a sparkling, I tasted the Prima Perla Crémant de Limoux Blanc, a simple, citrusy sparkling wine with high acidity.

Moving on to the white wines there was Château Arrogant Frog Limoux Blanc 2012, a well rounded white that’s filled with minerality and a hint of sweetness at the finish. The Château Paul Mas Blanc Belluguette 2012 was heavier on the minerality but perhaps a little less fruit on the nose. There was also an organic wine, the Mas des Tannes Réserve Blanc 2012, which followed a similar style but with much higher acidity and turning out to be a much more refreshing wine.

For the reds, there was the Château Paul Mas Clos de Savignac 2011, a smoky red wine with plenty of red fruit shining through. It was followed by Vignes de Nicole Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah 2012, a very herbaceous red with blackfruits but dominating wood. The Château Paul Mas Clos des Mûres  Magnum 2006 is still needing rest but was already displaying nice complexity of fruit.

Finally finishing on the sweet was a sparkling and a still. The Prima Perla Blanquette de Limoux Méthode Ancestrale was very fresh and still grapey with lots of citrus. The Paul Mas Chenin Vendanges Tardives 2012, in stark contrast, was a weighty bold wine with a lot of sweetness but perhaps not quite enough acidity.

www.paulmas.com

A short tasting of Charles Heidsieck

This is part two of two on Charles Heidsieck and the art of sabrage. Read part one here.

Charles Heidsieck tasting

If sabrage is your way of introduction to the Champagnes of Charles Heidsieck, then you’re already off to a good start. Even better if your bottle isn’t adulterated by glass shards.

I have to admit, I’ve tried Charles Heidsieck before. It was at a trade tasting in January this year and I remember being very impressed with it. Digging out my old tasting notes now, I realised that I’ve come to almost the exact same conclusions – the 1999 Rosé Millésimé was a firm favourite. But more on that later.

Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV First up was the Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV. For a non-vintage, it is incredibly rich in flavours owing to the fact that 40% of the blend is made up of reserve wines with an average age of 10 years. With equal measures of fruit and nut characteristics, it makes for a complex starter.
Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve NV When I originally tasted the Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve NV, I wasn’t a fan. Whilst there was plenty of fruit on the palate, complemented by a soft mousse, it just wasn’t a stand out wine. Fast forward a little, my second tasting showed a wine with much more development. The evolution in this particular bottle helped it to become something much more complex.
Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésimé 2000 The Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésimé 2000 fared equally well between the two tastings. The toasty intensity was very forthcoming but there was also honey and autumn fruits followed by a crisp, dry finish. The wine has developed well in the 10-plus years of ageing and, while it can go on for some more, I’d really prefer to enjoy it as it is.
Charles Heidsieck Rosé Millésimé 1999 In comparison, it was immediately obvious the Charles Heidsieck Rosé Millésimé 1999 should be aged for much longer. As it is, the meaty and bold Champagne is stunning. Then (in the January tasting), as now, it was a favourite despite my aversion to rosé wines. Right now, it’s displaying an unrivalled intensity of fruit with undertones of toasted smokiness. There was obviously development in the wine but it still had an incredible amount of freshness.
Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 1995 The final vintage was the Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 1995. With almost 20 years in the bottle, it was showing quite a lot of age. It’s confidently nutty with fading fruit. I’m not a fan of Blanc de Blancs as a rule so this exceptional vintage doesn’t quite do it for me, especially following the Rosé Millésime 1999.

This selection reminded me how bubbles can do incredible things to your preference for wine. Rosé Champagne I can fall in love with but Blanc de Blancs I just don’t get on with. And yet in the world of still wines, it’s just the opposite. My nose is turned up at the rosés on offer while I seem to find Chardonnay irresistibly alluring in all its forms.

In any case, this is a seriously fine collection of Champagnes to discover and re-discover.

Charles Heidsieck hosted a tasting and dinner. Amateur Wine was a guest at the event. You can find out more in our Editorial Policy.

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