Just a country boy, born and raised in Champagne
I took the Champagne train goin’ around the World
Although university-trained , champagne-experienced and born into a family of vignerons in the grand cru Champagne village of Verzenay, my winemaking style may owe something to my extensive New World Experience. My wines are always technically A1 and display a perfect balance of fruit and yeastiness always with elegance and character.
With over 40 years of experience in the production of Champagne and Sparkling Wines, I will assist and guide you through the important steps of the « Champagne Method ».
Epernay, France (7th, September 2018)-Precocity, quality, volume: nearing its end in Champagne, the grape harvest is definitely out of the ordinary.
Beginning in the earliest sectors on 20th August, it is the fifth grape harvest started in August over the last fifteen years.
After an exceptionally wet winter, the Champagne region has since April been experiencing sunshine and temperatures well above the 10-year average. Thanks to these exceptional conditions the vines developed rapidly; flowering and then ripening benefited from ideal conditions and, when harvested, there were plenty of healthy bunches, very rich in sugar and aromas. Harvesting, necessarily by hand, took place unhurriedly under summery skies although the early morning temperatures were sometimes quite low (0°C in Reims on 26th August).
The available yield of 10,800 kg/ha will be achieved in all sectors. In addition, this magnificent harvest will allow wine-growers and houses to rebuild their reserve (wines put aside in good years), which will enable them to face the possible vagaries of the climate in the future.
The quality of the musts is an excellent omen for the future cuvées. We will have to wait for the first tastings in autumn and in spring to confirm these expectations of a great vintage.
Could we see still wines becoming the norm and the region gaining a reputation for Pinot?
By James Lawrence | Posted Tuesday, 11-Dec-2018
Another day, another climate-change story. This time it was Louis Roederer president Frédéric Rouzaud and cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon causing a stir, admitting that the eponymous house was looking at the possibility of making still wines.
The idea of Champagne becoming renowned for Burgundy-style reds and whites seems ludicrous today, but it's a thought increasingly being entertained by the region's top producers. Every winemaker and owner I've interrogated recently, from Benoit Gouez at Moet & Chandon to Monsieur Rouzaud himself, employs a half-joking reference to making still wines for a living.
Except that they're not joking at all – on the contrary this is something on everyone's mind after the 2018 growing season, which produced Chardonnay more akin to Cote d'Or imitation than blending material for a steely blanc de blancs.
Of course, students of history will recognize the irony – Champagne is coming full circle. The region was a still wine producer centuries before the traditional method made an appearance, supplying Parisians with their weekend tipple.
That being said, the pale, pinkish Pinot Noir made in the Middle Ages has little in common with the best of wines of Ambonnay and Aÿ today. Indeed, a time-traveling vigneron from the 19th Century would scarcely recognize the region in 2018. They'd marvel at the growing emphasis on single-vineyard Champagnes; ripe, generous vin clair; the cult of the grower; corporate ownership and the zero-dosage trend, all of which are relatively recent occurrences. No other French wine region has changed so much over the past few decades, and no other region may be forced to completely give up its signature style – premium-grade fizz.
But in the short term at least, there is little danger of Champagne losing its sparkle. It's just that the time-honored "rules" governing what makes an exceptional glass of bubbly are being adapted and rewritten as global warming moves the goalposts.
Take the prestige cuvée. For decades, Champagne prestige cuvées have been marketed as a wafer-thin slice of an enormous pie; rarefied, glamorous and, naturally, far more expensive than an everyday NV bubbly. Or at least, this is what I was led to believe, both from my collection of wine literature and from my many visits to this venerable region. "Prestige cuvées are only made in the exceptional vintages," my hosts and respective textbooks would chorus.
Hand in hand with this mantra came the accepted wisdom that lean, barely ripe base wine with plenty of acidity leads to the best sparking wine. A browse through my father's almost inexhaustible spate of wine literature from the 1980s makes constant references to the fact that you cannot make exceptional fizz if the climate is too warm. Such wisdom was considered sacrosanct, to question it was considered sacrilegious
But no more. Prestige cuvées are increasingly becoming an everyday occurrence in our wine stores, while several houses declared vintages following the torrid 2003 vintage. Suddenly lean, barely ripe base wine was no longer required.
"I don't understand this fear of ripeness in Champagne – it's ridiculous," said Dom Perignon's ex chef de cave Richard Geoffroy, during a heated discussion several years ago. "I'm a winemaker and my job is to produce something worthy from the gift that nature gives us. It's nonsense that ripe vintages are automatically unworthy for prestige cuvée production."
Benoit Gouez is on the same page. There is rarely an interview with Gouez in which he doesn't take the opportunity to sing from the ripeness hymn sheet.
"2003 is a classic example of a vintage being prematurely written off and unfairly judged; too many brands gave up on 2003, before they had the chance the harness the vintage's potential for a powerful, vinous expression of Champagne," said Gouez recently.
"2009 was another excellent year, proving that this irrational fear of ripeness in Champagne is ludicrous. High acidity is not essential for a Champagne to age gracefully."
However, others continue to argue that maintaining vital acidity levels will be the defining headache of the 21st Century.
"Climate change is a reality. The challenge for the future of Champagne is to bring as much freshness as possible to our reserve wines. Acidity levels are much lower than they used to be. Reserve wines now need to add complexity and richness but also freshness," said Antoine Malassagne, AR Lenoble's co-owner in a recent interview.
"The harvest in Champagne is getting earlier each year, which means the acidity levels in the wines is going down. In order to maintain the right acidity level in my Champagnes, I decided to completely block malolactic fermentation this year."
NOVEMBER, 2019 – On November 4, 2019 Sparkling Pointe Vintners Tom and Cynthia Rosicki attended the 2019 Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships Award Dinner at Merchant Taylors’ Hall in London to accept two Best of Class Awards for the 2016 Topaz Impérial Brut Rosé and 2014 Reserve Blanc de Blancs; ultimately winning a National Champion Trophy for the Reserve Blanc de Blancs.
9 World Champions, 14 National Champions, 11 Regional Champions, Tony Jordan Rising Star Award and the Chairman’s Trophy were all presented at this global ‘who’s who’ gathering of over 200 international winemakers, producers and journalists.
Through a totally blind tasting process, the best wines receive Silver and Gold Medals. Once awarded a Gold Medal, wines advance to compete for the prestigious Best in Class Awards, National, and World Trophys. This is the second big win for Sparkling Pointe at the CSWWC, having received Best in Class for the 2015 Topaz Impérial Brut Rosé just last year. This year, Sparkling Pointe walks away with 1 silver medal, 2 gold medals, 2 Best in Class Awards, and a National Champion Trophy. The 2014 Reserve Blanc de Blancs may be purchased at the Tasting House in Southold, NY or online at sparklingpointe.com.
ABOUT THE CHAMPAGNE & SPARKLING WINE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
The CSWWC is the most respected, comprehensive and rigorous international sparkling wine competition in the world, judged exclusively by renowned fizz experts Tom Stevenson, Essi Avellan MW, Dr. Tony Jordan, and George Markus. More details of the Trophy, Best in Class and Medal winning wines are available from www.champagnesparklingwwc.com.
ABOUT SPARKLING POINTE
Nestled in the breezy and beautiful North Fork of Long Island, Cynthia and Tom Rosicki have dedicated Sparkling Pointe Vineyards and Winery to estate grown sparkling wines produced exclusively in the traditional Méthode Champenoise. Farming 40 acres of vineyard, planted with the classic Champagne grape varietals—Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay— each Sparkling Pointe cuvée is an authentic expression of the land and the winemaker’s finesse. The rhythmic union of personality and house style, the art of assemblage, and the pursuit of excellence are at the essence of all Sparkling Pointe Wines. Sparkling Pointe is certified Sustainable by the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers Organization.
We wouldn’t have guessed it, but apparently one of the best foods to eat while you’re enjoying a glass of Champagne is french fries!
While you might assume that a flute of the bubbly stuff calls for only the most highbrow food pairings … well, you’d be wrong. At least according to Marie-Christine Osselin, Moët & Chandon’s wine quality and communication manager. The wine expert told The Drinks Business during an interview at a 2018 Moët & Chandon wine dinner hosted at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong hotel that she believes french fries are one of the very best foods to pair with champagne.
It’s all because the saltiness and crunchiness of the fries complements the bubbles of the drink.
“Champagne is a wine that asks for simple ingredients, no more than three,” she explained.
And lest you think this is something only one wine expert contends, Marie-Christine is hardly the first one to suggest this pairing. Food & Wine editor Ray Isle heartily agrees.
“I’ve been saying this for years, as have many, many sommeliers,” he explained. “Basically, salt and fat plus high acid and bubbles equals a great combo. Fries, potato chips … fried pork rinds would work too. But I don’t think you’re going to get the folks at Moët to suggest pairing their champagne with fried pork rinds — that’s too down-home for them, for sure.”
So there you have it! Feel free to enjoy this supposed “junk food” with a glass of the good stuff.
Although the first day of picking grapes in the sparkling wine region was authorised as Monday 17 August by the Comité Champagne, the harvest in fact began on 13 August in the Côte des Bars village of Buxeuil, according to db contributor, Giles Fallowfield.
This is one of the southernmost villages in the whole Champagne appellation, close to Les Riceys – Champagne’s largest single cru – and the unusually early harvest start date in this part of the region means that a new record has been set, smashing the previous one by almost a week.
This is the sixth harvest since the Millennium that has started in August and beats the record for the earliest ever start by four whole days – in 2018 the secateurs were out in the Grand Cru of Ambonnay on 17 August.
As Fallowfield writes on champagneguru.co.uk, the first producer to pick in 2020 was Noël Leblond-Lenoir, a grower with 13 hectares of vineyard mainly planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir though they also have some Pinot Blanc.
Officially the dates when picking can start in each of Champagnes 319 different crus is decided by the Comité Champagne, but by the process known as derogation, producers can apply to the local INAO office to start picking earlier than the official start date for any village, if the grapes are already ripe.
The situation this year was complicated by the fact that, as previously reported by db, there was a protracted debate when it came to reaching an agreement between the négociant houses and the growers as to what the maximum allowed yield per hectare should be.
The yield was eventually set on the same day harvesting officially began, almost two months later than the usual timing for reaching such a decision.
The harvest in Champagne has begun in August in 2018, 2015, 2011, 2007 and 2003.
Fallowfield points out that prior to that you have to go back nearly two centuries to find the next earliest start and that was in 1822 when grape picking began on August 20.
As we have written about over the last few weeks, 2020 will go down in history as one of the lowest-yielding harvests this century, similar in that regard to the 2003 heatwave vintage.
The Comité Champagne – which strictly regulates the yields of the region – set an unusually low cap on the amount of grapes that can be turned into wine for making Champagne this year. However, it was already a small vintage.
Just ahead of the official harvest start-date, the Comité Champagne set a limit of 8,000kg/ha for the entire region, with no allowance for extra grapes to be picked for making wine to be put into a ‘reserve’, making this year 25% smaller than the 2019 vintage, which itself was down more than 10% on previous, recent levels.
As for the quality of the vintage, it has been declared a very high quality harvest, with hot, dry conditions this year producing unusually concentrated base wines for making Champagne.
And, although this year’s ripe bunches have lower levels of acidity than on average in the region, one winemaker told db that there was still a good balance between fruitiness and freshness.
The heatwave this summer provided excellent conditions for English wine, according reports from the winemakers.
In July, winemakers praised the ‘near perfect’ conditions. And optimism has grown in the subsequent weeks, with some now hopeful that 2018 will be a ‘benchmark’ year for the fledgling industry.
Read more on www.decanter.com