Friday, 13 September 2013

Champagne – has the Bubble burst?


A history
Getting bubbles in the first place is an interesting story in it’s self. The method of producing a secondary fermentation in bottle was, often questionably, discovered by the English in the mid 1500’s, when Charles Merret (who now has a Ridgeview English Sparkling wine named after him, Merret) added sugar to create the second fermentation. The Methode Champenois for volume production was then perfected by the French (Dom Perignon, a monk, started at the monastery 6 years after Merret’s work, and took 40 years to complete the process). Having said that Blanquette de Limoux holds the title for the first sparkling wine well before this. Champagne production only really got underway in volumes in the 19th century when glass was strengthened, by the English, and could withstand the extra pressure. Along with the muselet (cage) to trap the cork in the bottle being invented by M. Jaquesson, of France.

Production shot from 300,000 bottles to 2 million in the late 1800’s by 1900 it was 47 million, 315 million in 2000, around which it has hovered over the last 10 years. Last year 312 million bottles were sold, sales have slipped back to the volumes of 2005/6 which is not a significant drop in the current climate. Markets have expanded rapidly now including all the emerging markets of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) along with other Asian countries. Although the more traditional markets have plateaued in the latest recession. In the international market marketing is still paramount and Taittinger, for example, has just been announced as the Champagne for the Brazilian football World Cup.

The Current Market
There is competition from the sparkling wine producers of the world, but the perceived quality and apparent exclusivity of Champagne, helped by the legal case that banned the use of the term Champagne, on anything but the real thing – even the Yves Saint Laurent perfume had to be re-named Yvresse, has helped Champagne to hold it’s position and pricing in the current climate.

Current sales are fairly static, which in this present climate is seen as a positive. Much of it is drunk at events such as Ascot and Polo, but also English Weddings will invariable have the toast with champagne if not the pre-breakfast aperitif. The bubbles, as within the Champagnes themselves, are persistent and buoyant, weathering the financial storms well.
 In retail the spikes of interest are when the Champagne Houses release their vintage wines, such as Dom Perignon 2003 (RRP £115), Bollinger la Grande Annee 2004 (RRP £80), Pol Roger 2002 (RRP £60) and of course for Averys this year, our Averys Diamond Jubilee 2004...

2013 is a year that celebrates both 220 years of Averys and 50 years of working with Boizel. A wonderful, family run business. Our initial contact was a visit from Christophe Roques-Boizel, to my Grandfather in Bristol, in 1963. This started a great friendship and long lasting work relationship, culminating in an invitation to their 175th anniversary dinner in Bordeaux 2 years ago, and the release this year of a celebratory 2004 vintage bottle of Averys Vintage Champagne.

We launched this new release in June, in time for the summer extravaganza, although a Vintage Cuvee at sub £40 is really quite unusual, and will hold a celebration dinner in October  - keep your eyes peeled for details, as the dinner will be a limited number affair, attended by members of the Boizel and Avery families.

Being the Champagne Buyer was one of the highlights of my Buying remit. Along with working with the great names of Bollinger and Louis Roederer smaller houses such as Gosset have had great success in the shop. We also deal with family owned houses such as Billecart and Bauchet. Bauchet was, in fact, the first wine that I ever introduced to Averys, before I was even a buyer.

Whilst employed as the shop manager, I was a member of the Bristol Junior Chamber of commerce. I met various representatives from our (Bristol’s) twinning heritage, Bordeaux, Hannover, Oporto and in this instance Champagne, as Frederic Gaulthier of Bauchet came to Bristol (because it was the closest large town to Clevedon, twinned with Epernay.) After a lively chat samples were requested and we have never looked back. More recently we have started work with Bernard Remy, and we currently have a fragrant, multiple award-winning, Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) (RRP £29.99) of theirs.


This cuvee was designed by my grandfather to have a higher proportion of the lesser known Pinot Munier (33% of each of the three varietals), that is because it matures quicker and therefore the wine develops a mature flavour similar to a vintage but in only 36 months of lees aging and a further 6 months to a year in either our or our customers cellars.
Tasting note: This wine have a lovely biscuit aroma, soft creamy texture, brut, which means dry, but a richness on the palate which softens the acidity.
RRP £26.99 - click here.

The latest addition to our portfolio a chardonnay led blend with Pinot Noir. 2004 was an excellent vintage with the wines showing both structure and finesse.
Tasting note: This is a slightly more delicate style than our Brut, the apply fruit flavours and elegent acidity gives a wine with more wow appeal, good with food, but a perfect aperitif to make any occasion special.
RRP £34.99 - click here.

Rosé Champagne from Billecart. Founded in 1818, the 7th Generation of the family now run this House. The Grand Cuvées are fermented in burgundy barrels that have seen many wines. 95% of the grapes are sourced from within 20km of Epernay. The style epitomises finesse, balance and elegance. 
Tasting note: This again is a blend of all three, and the nose and palate both reflect the percentage of the Pinots giving raspberry notes, delicious as an aperitif but will also go well with smoked salmon and sushi.
RRP £60.00 - click here.


Made by Roederer, the house behind the famous prestige cuvee, ‘Cristal’, this is undoubtedly one of the best non-vintage Champagnes on the market. 
Tasting note: Just like its famous big brother, it is a rich and decadent style but with wonderful elegance and finesse. Aged for more than three years, it has structure, richness and complexity – all the hallmarks of this illustrious house. A great Champagne classic. 
RRP £37.99 - click here.






If you're ever in Bristol please come and visit! 

Averys Cellars
9 Culver Street, Bristol
BS1 5LD
Tel: 0117 921 4146 

We deliver nationwide – either call one of our personal wine advisors, who will be able process your order as well as matching any of our products to your requirements. Tel: 01275 812 230 or visit the website www.averys.com

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