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10 champagne houses you should not miss

Among many champagnes we find gems that flash (ahem, ahem)

To taste a hundred champagnes is a challenge. Even if you cut down the number to half or less, it is hard work. Especially when there is the all and sundry: from top quality cuvées to, well, pretty simple blends. We sent a scout to find the best among all champagnes presented at the big Champagne Day recently. BKWine’s Ulf Bengtsson gives you his favourites, old friends and new discoveries, and tells you about an effective defence technique at wine shows.

It has been a week now and my teeth start to slowly take the shape of teeth again. A day of champagne, followed by a week on ready-made mash and over cooked vegetables. Worth it? Of course!

So… The nice thing with the Champagne Day is that it provides a good opportunity to get a good overview of the various champagne houses, see different styles, try new vintages. And of course an opportunity to cement or reject the favourites, or even find new favourites!

This is what stuck in my mind:

Pierre Peters’ Cuvée de Réserve, on magnum. Sure, in general I think Pierre Peters makes good wines and what we got at the champagne day did not contradict that. But the pure sip-ability of Pierre Peters in magnum… Buy a case!

Champagne Pierre Peters, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

Champagne Pierre Peters

Veuve Fourny & Fils. Not tried them before but it was a pleasant surprise. Especially their Brut Nature. How is that possible?! Some 28 euros, not a great wine but oh so delicious! Buy a case, drink it this summer.

Champagne Veuve Fourny

Champagne Veuve Fourny, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

Drappier. Here, I will buy more! Consistently good wines, rich and full of character. Drappier Millésime Exception Brut is a clear candidate for “best under 40 euro”.

Champagne Drappier

Champagne Drappier, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

Louis Roederer. My new favourite! How delicious can a wine be? I drank Louis Roederer on New Year’s Eve, half-blind against, among others, the grower and wunderkind Eric Rodez’ bubbly, and it was only with a whisk of air that Eric Rodez emerged the victor. There is a wonderful chalkiness and freshness in the Louis Roederer which I am very fond of. An interesting, perhaps upcoming shoot-out would include Lenoble, Eric Rodez, Bollinger and Louis Roederer. We will see. Also a ‘buy case’ recommendation.

Champagne Louis Roederer

Champagne Louis Roederer, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

De Saint Gall. A large cooperative, perhaps best known for the 90 euro bomb Orpale. Quite honestly, it did not impress me so much. However, their not-so-expensive champagnes very nice.

Champagnes de Saint Gall

Champagnes de Saint Gall, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

Philipponnat. Again Clos des Goisses. Magical wine. At  Philipponnat I tasted for example the 2002 Clos des Goisses which had an interesting combination of maturity tones and razor-sharp acidity and intact freshness. Then the 1522 and the Grand Blanc. I liked the 1522, could very well imagine to buy more of that.

Champagne Philipponnat 1522

Champagne Philipponnat 1522, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

Diebolt-Vallois. Beautiful, crisp wines, packed with freshness. A clear buy recommendation. Thought I recognized the pourer and it was none other than Markus Fredén from last year’s edition of the Swedish master chef competition! Fun! But it was only much later that I realized it was him.

Champagne Diebolt Vallois

Champagne Diebolt Vallois, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

Gosset. Very nice wines. Gosset Rosé is probably among the better rosé champagnes on the market.

Collet. A producer I have tried before, and enjoyed a lot. Today’s tasting confirmed my previous notes. Lovely freshness, beautiful drinking window, high gulpability! Buy a case and drink this summer.

Champagne Collet

Champagne Collet, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

Bollinger. 2004 Bollinger rosé. OK, so this is how rosé champagne should taste!

Champagne Bollinger Rose

Champagne Bollinger Rose, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

Overall, a good day with new and old acquaintances. On the immediate buy-list: Louis Roederer, Vve Fourny, Collet. On the strategic list: Drappier, Gosset, Bollinger.

Not just wine and champagne but also flash and thunder mood

Finally, AS WE ALL KNOW, all pictures come out worse if you use flash. This is a well-known phenomenon, the matter has been much discussed, and there is quite clear evidence that this is so.

It has also been argued that there is a strong correlation between the use of flash and bag-in-box consumption. “Is this a good Bib?” “Wait, I have to turn the flash!” Much evidence points to this.

Anti-flash proponents can be divided into different groups, ranging from modern to more militant and lastly the fundamentalists. Shooting tips from a literal believer can be, “keep in mind that you can change the shutter speed of the camera”, or “do hold the camera still when shooting” or “think of the poor people who will then have to look at the picture!”

Well then, OK.

Grand Hotel ceiling

Grand Hotel ceiling, copyright Ulf Bengtsson

We need not discuss the matter further but can just crassly note that using flash gives a worse picture. The conscious use of flash is thus grossly reprehensible; it means that you consciously choose to do something worse. Similar to being offered a milk chocolate bar from Valrhona or from C-bry and then choosing the C-bry piece. Reprehensible. (ed.: the editor would like to point out that Valrhona milk chocolate is classified in the group cooking chocolate, or more specifically “baking products”, and even in some cases “fantaisie“, e.g. Easter eggs in glittery paper, that is suitable for children and less serious consumers. So the parallel is not obvious. Moreover the editor wants to emphasize that flash photography is not at all objectionable. Assuming that you have three flash assistants holding the strobes, of course.)

Anyway. During the Champagne Day I became aware that there is actually an alternative way to use flash, a way that is nobler: as a weapon, or a punishment gear if you so wish.

I stood peacefully at Laurent-Perrier’s stand and we talked dosage, disgorging and 2008 when I suddenly became brutally pushed away by a rude taster who pressed forward as the worst hippo!

Beeeeeelle Epoque!

Without either saying hello, thank you, it would be a pleasure or anything else that normal tasters say he just stretched out his arm with his glass and said:

“Beeeeeelle Epoque!”

Whereupon the Laurent-Perrier staff in a pleasant tone said:

“Unfortunately we do not have it.”

The hippo though that he was not clear enough, so he repeated, a little louder:

“BELLE EPOQUE! I want to try the Belle Epoque!”

Whereupon the Laurent-Perrier staff in pleasant tone said:

“Unfortunately we do not have it.”

Then I saw how they fussed for a while and finally the message hit home.

They hinted that he could possibly get the Belle Epoque at Perrier-Jouët’s stand, which was on to the terrace. But I was a little, just a little, pissed-off (pardon the language) as I do not like to pushed out in that way and by such an odd geezer.

So that meant it was time for flash punishment. I pulled back a meter from my pushed-out position, angled the flash so that it pointed straight up and then pointed the camera at the floor. Found focus. When he turned around, I burned off a shot. The flash hit perfectly, right in the face! He blinked, looked generally dazed out, seemed to have lost focus. Yes! A direct hit!

“Oops, sorry,” I said.

Hippo-man did not react but just disappeared slowly away towards another table.

OK, it was very juvenile but it felt good afterwards. If you are at a wine fair, do not push people!! (ed.: and if you do, you had better look over your shoulder to check the photographer)

Shoes and feet

Shoes and feet

Ulf Bengtsson writes about wine under the pseudonym Red Scream on his blog Red Scream and Riesling, on wine, food, photography and other things that are important in life. Like detective novels, taking long walks in Stockholm and the occasional burst of exercise. He is also on Facebook.

There are many famous and excellent producers in Champagne. But there are also many not so well-known family producers making equally high-class champagne. On a wine tour to Champagne, you will get to try both wines from the famous champagne houses, and meet the best small independent growers, plus enjoy top quality gastronomy, if you travel with BKWine.

Travel to Champagne and to the world’s wine regions with wine experts and the specialist on wine tours.

This post is also available in: Swedish

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