Brussels – a hedonists delight

Grand Place in Brussels

One of my favourite places to visit is Brussels. It really is delightful, very civilised, quite beautiful and small enough to enjoy on foot. Who could resist the beauty of Grand Place with its ancient guilded buildings, or the warren of little streets all around it that are lined with seductive restaurants, many complete with stunning displays of shellfish? What’s more there are loads of cafés offering ever more exciting ranges of beer and artisan chocolate shops galore – oh yes, there is much for the hedonist to enjoy in Belgium’s capital. Continue reading

Champagne deconstructed by Veuve Clicquot

A Thrilling Champagne Tasting

Recently I received an invitation from Veuve Clicquot Champagne to ‘a unique wine experience with Yellow Label N.V.’.

I have to admit my reaction was mixed. At first glance this didn’t really excite me, but it was somewhat mysterious –  I kept wondering how unique an experience can you get from non vintage Champagne? Being somewhat cynical I presumed they were indulging in some marketing hyperbole.

Luckily curiosity got the better of me and I popped along – I am so glad I did as this was a unique and truly memorable tasting.

Which is remarkable when you consider that there were only six wines to taste and they were all Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Non Vintage – except they weren’t, not really.

All six were served from magnum and had been disgorged on the same day in February 2010. In addition, in order to really allow the differences to show they had received a low dosage of 4 grams per litre – Yellow Label is normally 9 g/L or so. This lack of sugar could officially make these Champagnes Extra Brut.

What made the tasting so wonderful was that they essentially deconstructed non vintage Champagne. We are always told that the non vintage concept is a way of averaging out the vintages. In order to make great wine in this ungenerous, northerly climate, they keep back wine from the ripe years to blend with the leaner ones. So, the theory goes it is the blend that matters, each marque producing a house style that is reproduced year in year out.

Not on the showing of this tasting they don’t. Actually each release of a non vintage Champagne  is based in large part on wines  from a single year and they use the reserve wines in a relatively limited way. I tried six different examples of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Non Vintage, the wine based on the 2007 vintage, not be released until 2012 and the current offering based on the 2006 vintage.

This was followed by some older wines; the blend based on the 2004 vintage and the one based on the 2001 vintage, before moving onto a pair that were genuinely mature; the Yellow Label Brut Non Vintage based on the 1990 vintage and for a finale the oldest Non Vintage wine they possess, the cuvée based on the 1953 vintage.

Dominique Demarville

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The Treasure of the Sierra de Gredos – old vine Grenache

Garnacha vines in the beautiful Sierra de Gredos

I am not always very keen on Grenache, but recently tried some fascinating and wonderful examples of old vine Garnacha – the original Spanish name for Grenache – from a part of Spain that I had never come across before, although I have written about wines from nearby – here, here and here.

Map of Spain's wine regions showing where the Sierra de Gredos are - click for a larger view

That place is the wild and rugged region of the Sierra de Gredos to the west of Madrid and like the landscape that the grapes are grown in, the wines are spectacular.

You can read about them in my piece published by Catavino here…

Lorraine – wine worthy of the chase


The Moselle River in Lorraine

As many of you will know, I enjoy trying unusual wines, so take every chance I get to taste the odd, different and rare.

To that end I have a sort of mental list of things to keep my eye open for and for a long time I have wanted to try something from Lorraine, other than quiche. As a keen amateur historian I wanted to compare them to Alsace wines – after all the two regions get lumped together rather a lot.

I also wanted to compare them to the wines that I have tasted from Luxembourg recently – added to which I do tend to like wines made from this part of the world – in theory anyway. Continue reading