8 April 2008
By Douglas Blyde
I recently received an invitation to grace a tasting featuring some £250,000 of Champagne. Considering it my professional evaluative duty, I decided to positively RSVP…
The event represented an entente cordiale intended to tease and appease importers, sommeliers, writers and retailer ambassadors who effectively coalesce to sell us the aphrodisiacal liquefied dream of fizz from Northern France. And despite the clamour of recently enriched nations for lavish, branded goods, our little island is still the Champenois' largest export market.
Held within the ionic columned, renaissance splendour of Banqueting House, Whitehall, with every considered sip my gaze reefed upwards to Rubens' frescoed riot of colour, apparently one of Charles I's last sights before being rendered headless outside. Alas the benchmark effervescent wine many of us adore today hadn't been invented in time to quell His Majesty's nerves.
Gently tongue curling acidity balanced by warm brioche scents, lithely reticent fruit and the texture of tightly staccato dots are the attributes that make the best examples so refreshingly alluring.
Out of fifty bottles sampled - including some so obesely packaged that they got stuck in the coolers leading to Excalibur spectacles - rather than £100 Krug, the wine that still haunts me is relatively unknown. 'Brut Excellence' comes from the small house of 'Gosset'. Established in 1584 it is the oldest producer in the region, albeit originally a maker of nervy, still reds.
On the expressive nose, just whipped cream laced a fan of spiced honeydew melon. This flirtatious flavour tally continued onto the intricate, harmonious, long-lived palate joined by a filigree of vanilla spiked gingerbread. It enticed, endeared and endured, all for less then £25 (www.greatwesternwine.co.uk, T. 01225 322800).
Unfortunately the latter aspect of the pleasure-pain principle surfaced a day after the fanciful load of froth: my acidity-battered teeth became as tetchy as a treadmill marched arthritic!
Wine into words: www.thedailywine.co.uk
Southwark Weekender has teamed up with Wines of Portugal to celebrate the republic's vinous diversity at Lords Cricket Ground, 9 April, 6pm-8pm. Phone 0871 220 0260 and quote 'Portugal' to receive two tickets for the price of one.
*There are 49 million bubbles in a bottle of Champagne
*The Nebuchadnezzar is the largest Champagne bottle, equivalent to 20 normal bottles. Full it weighs in at 38 kilograms
*The pressure in a Champagne bottle is equivalent to the tyre pressure of a double decker bus
*There are 89 calories per flute
*The Roman poet Lucan alludes to a sparkling wine, possibly enjoyed by Julius Caesar and Cleopatra
*Waitrose have announced inentions to plant Champagne varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) on their Hampshire farm, the latest sign of confidence in our sparkling wine 'terroir'…
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