Champagne - a celebration of style
Do you love drinking champagne?!
Why are some more expensive than others?
How much do winemaker decisions and ‘house style’ influence the final product?
Are there any organic or biodynamic producers in the region?
What is the main difference between the ‘big brands’ (like Moët et Chandon) and the smaller growers and producers?
These questions and more frame our September 8th Sunday School session on the venerable and complex region of Champagne. Presenters Mark Protheroe, owner of The Recreation in Fitzroy and ex group sommelier of the Grossi Florentino group, and Jane Gordon dipWSET (aka Champagne Jane), ex Moët-Hennessey and Wine Ambassador of Domaine Chandon.
Excitingly, the session will focus on two of the most renowned grand cru producers with whom many are not familiar - Henri Giraud and Georges Vesselle. Both produce extremely fine examples from two of the finest pinot noir grand cru ’villages’, yet stylistically, the finished products are unique and distinct from one another.
Georges Vesselle's story is one of a double passion: a passion for his village of Bouzy and a passion for champagne and HIS Champagne region!
He was Mayor of Bouzy for 25 years, and vineyard manager for Mumm, Perrier-Jouët and Heidsieck Monopole. George’s five children now carry on his legacy by tending the 17 hectares of prime pinot noir vines planted to halfway up the hillside of the Montagne de Reims - viticultural gold. Traditionally vinified and aged deep in the chalk cellars, the wines of Georges Vesselle are almost solely made from pinot noir and express power, elegance, freshness and minerality. Most recently, in 2019 their Extra Brut Blanc de Noirs won the gold medal awarded by the Académie des Vins et de la Gastronomie Française.
Champagne Henri Giraud is one of a kind. Similar to Georges Vesselle, the wines are predominantly pinot noir, however with a long list of innovations already under his belt, twelfth-generation owner Claude Giraud is always hungry to find new ways to hone quality and deepen his commitment to the environment. He starts with the family’s property in the grand cru Aÿ, the region’s rarest and most highly valued cru, and pairs his top wines with barrels sourced and individually traced from carefully chosen terroirs in Champagne’s Argonne Forest. Claude conceived this avant-garde program, which includes a philanthropic commitment to replanting the oak forest, in order to return to the land and the comprehensively regional origins of wine. Even the entry-level wines are vinified and aged in entirely natural materials: the winery has converted all of its neutral containers from stainless steel (which, Claude observed, exhausted the wines) to oak barrels and terracotta.
They have also introduced the ‘Zero’ program, whereby the wines contain zero fungicides, weed killers or insecticides. Each bottle has a QR code linked to the complete molecular analysis of the wine. How futuristic is that!!
A selection of champagnes from these two extraordinary producers will be enjoyed along with fine cheeses and local pastries - this truely is a session not to be missed!
Biodynamics - in the vineyard and in the glass
What is biodynamic viticulture?
How does ‘organic’ differ from ‘biodynamic’?
Does the wine really taste different?
Biodynamic wine is made with a set of farming practices that views the farm or vineyard as one solid organism. The ecosystem functions as a whole, with each portion of the farm or vineyard contributing to the next. The idea is to create a self-sustaining system.
Biodynamic methods are used in viticulture in many countries around the world. In 2013 over 700 vineyards worldwide comprising more than 10,000 ha were certified biodynamic. A number of very high-end, high-profile commercial growers have converted recently to biodynamic practices. According to an article in Fortune magazine, many of the top estates in France follow biodynamic viticulture. For a wine to be labeled “biodynamic” it has to meet standards laid down by the Demeter Association, an internationally recognised certifying body.
Biodynamic agriculture is based on the work of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), who gave Agriculture Course in 1924, predating most of the organic movement. It includes ecological principles, emphasising spiritual and mystical perspectives. Biodynamics aims at the ecological self-sufficiency of farms as cohesive, interconnected living systems.
Organic and biodynamic are very similar; both are grown without chemicals and GMOs. The main difference between organic and biodynamic is that biodynamic farming uses different principles that add vitality to the plant and soil, whereas traditional farming typically deteriorates the soil.
So does biodymanically grown wine taste different? Join us on the 20th September to find out! Our viticulturist and biodynamic expert will walk you through the vineyards at Prancing Horse Estate and explain the techniques and philosophy that makes this form of agriculture so unique and fascinating. We will of course be tasting a number of biodynamically produced wines, and you will have the opportunity to compare these to commercially produced wines. And of course, in true Prancing Horse style, wines will be accompanied by a delicious selection of local produce and international cheeses.
Food and Wine Pairing
What are the secrets of perfect food and wine matching?
Should white meats only be paired with white wines?
Are there foods which simply don’t go with any wines?
What are some golden rules that make it easy to pair food and wine at home?
Wine and food have developed hand-in-hand in many regions in Europe over a thousand years; think ‘boeuf bourguignon’ and pinot noir, ‘bistecca alla Fiorentina’ and brunello, and fresh seafood on Santorini with a glass of crisp assyrtiko.
The secret of food and wine pairing is to consider the weight, or body, and match each together. For example, a light dish such as prawns and ceviche needs a light, fresh wine such as riesling to complement it. A rich steak with a red wine sauce needs a much heavier wine such as cabernet sauvignon, and so on. Contrasting can also work- creamy blue cheese and sweet (sparkling) wine for example.
Food and wine pairing can get much more adventurous - at the Abbey of Dom Pérignon in Hautvillers, France, lucky guests are treated to a seven-course dinner (including red meat) all matched to champagne. Really it comes down the the skill and imagination of the chef and sommelier team working together. But how about some golden rules for ‘normal’ people?! Well, come and join us on November 24th and find out! We will be showing a number of classic and also more adventurous matches, it will be an entertaining and delicious afternoon!
Accompany, cut or contrast
Wines - champagne, PHE wines, Syrah from nth Rhone
Cheese with ’18 PG