Champagne – the ultimate booster: Richard Esling, December 22
With the vaccination booster programme in full swing, now is the time to boost morale with a glass of the world’s finest sparkling wine.
And with some good news for a change – at least for Champagne producers – Champagne sales in 2021 have exceeded those in 2019 prior to the pandemic. This demonstrates a certain resilience both of the brand ‘Champagne’ and of the producers. It seems that Champagne is consumed not only in good times, but also in times of adversity.
In the words of Madame Bollinger, “I drink Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it unless I’m thirsty.”
So now is the time if any to crack open a bottle or two of the world’s favourite fizz, both for the festive celebrations or to cheer ourselves amid further restrictions due to Omicron.
Taittinger is one of the last remaining Great Houses of Champagne to still be family owned and run. Consistently excellent quality, it is one of my ‘Go to’ Champagnes, with great subtlety and elegance. Taittinger Brut Reserve is currently on offer through the entire Christmas period with Waitrose at £28 instead of £38, an unmissable opportunity.
If you’re still sitting on surplus cash having not holidayed abroad this year (again!), splash out and try a bottle of one of the special cuvées such as Taittinger Les Folies de la Marquetterie, a single vineyard wine which pays homage to the Chateau where the Taittinger Champagne House started. £53 a bottle again from Waitrose, intense flavours and aromas of apricot jam, peach, hazelnut and toasted brioche mingle to leave a long, dry finish.
Less common on the UK market is Champagne Bruno Paillard, a Champagne house located just outside Reims. Founded in 1981, it was the first new Champagne house for more than 100 years and over the past 40 years has established a prestigious reputation. The Vintage 2012 has recently been released and as with all their vintage releases, the label is designed by an artist, this time by Claude Viallat. Matured in their cellars for eight years, the style is Extra Brut, with a low dosage giving a deliciously dry finish. Intensely aromatic, with toasted brioche, honeycomb and peach. A fabulous smaller Champagne house which produces exciting wines. Bruno Paillard Assemblage 2012 is elegant, complex and sophisticated. £65 from champagnedirect.co.uk
Another Champagne with a lower dosage is Champagne Pierre Gimmonet et Fils Brut Blanc de Blancs. A grower champagne from the Premier Cru village of Cuis, it is made from 100 per cent Chardonnay grapes and incorporates reserve wines back to 2011. Delicate and fruity with a soft mousse, the style is fresh, pure and elegant, with a crisp, dry finish. £32 from The Wine Society, on offer at £160 for six bottles.
Another fabulous Champagne offer from The Wine Society – among many – is Champagne Jules Camuset Brut NV. A delicious blend with a high percentage of Pinot Meunier, it benefits from the expertise of the great Boizel house, another of my favourites. Accurately described as ‘Light , dry moreish and refeshing’, it is £23.50 per bottle or an astonishing £19.50 if you buy six. Perfect for saying ‘goodbye’ to 2021 and ‘hello’ to a hopefully better 2022.