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Jiles Halling's Blog

Jiles spent 10 years living and working in Champagne working for Moet et Chandon.

During that time, Jiles built up a vast amout of knowledge about all things bubbly, making lots of contacts in the region, and getting to know the people who've lived there for centuries while crafting their products with love and passion.

After moving back to the UK in late 2004, Jiles decided to bring this unique knowledge and contribution to the wider world.  The hidden secrets, the best champagnes and the insider knowledge that is not usually available through the normal channels, is now here for you.  Since March 2010, Jiles is once again based in Champagne, living in the small grand cru village of Verzy.

In this you'll find everything you ever wanted to know about champagne, the drink, the people, the region and the food.  Please enjoy your visit and please join in the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comments section or liking us on Facebook.


 

Dussert-GerberFor those of you who haven’t heard of him, Patrick Dussert-Gerber is a well know wine writer in his native France and author of a highly respected wine guide http://www.guidedesvins.com/

One of the characteristics of Patrick’s guide is that he doesn’t give any scores to the wines and if you can wean yourself off the need to have a score given to each wine Patrick’s guide is well worth examining alongside, or even instead of, the many other guides that use the 20 point or 100 point system.

Patrick concedes that scoring wines is very fashionable but in his view it is far too simplistic a way to judge something as complex as wine which he refers to as “the blood of the land and the sky”. According to Patrick, scoring cannot possibly take in all the subtleties and nuances - the influence of the wine maker for example – not to mention any subjective bias. You might as well, he suggests, try to score the performances of actors and actresses.

When I discovered this it was music to my ears although, to be clear, I should say that Patrick Dussert-Gerber’s refusal to give scores to the wines he tastes pre-dates mine by many years. Nevertheless it was very gratifying to find a kindred spirit in so respected an authority.

Patrick’s method is to classify wines into three categories that take into account such elements as consistency of quality over several years and also the price. The categories can change over time and within each category there are some wines which are considered to be particularly noteworthy – these are marked with a *

Looking at his classifications for champagne which you’ll find on this link you’ll see that the top of the tree ( Premiers Grands Vins Classés) is not the exclusive domain of the big well-known brands, excellent though many of these undoubtedly are. There are a few grower champagnes and cooperative champagnes in the topmost category too.

Lots more to discover

What I find even more exciting is that Patrick’s selections are much more representative of the wealth of talent in Champagne that is yet to receive the recognition it deserves. In fact his Deuxièmes and Trosièmes Grands Vins Classés categories are full of names you probably will not have heard of, let alone tasted, but you should do whenever you get the chance. (after all, isn't that what we all want to find: a little gem that other people don't know about yet?)

These days most champagne lovers know that there is much more to champagne than the grandes marques - there are some superb wines amongst the grower champagnes too. However, even amongst these a sort of elite category is emerging such that there are only some 20 or 30 grower champagnes that have really caught the attention of the wine trade. Their rise in popularity is certainly due in large part to their outstanding quality, but it’s also due to the fact that they have been knocking on the door, so to speak, in export markets for many years already and now their turn has come around, but I can assure you that there are many other grower champagnes who also make superb wines but who have never had to export to survive and consequently they are playing catch up in the marketing and promotional game.

You may not have heard of them yet, but I suspect you will do in the not-too-distant future. To discover a few of them take a look at the link shown above and remember the names; for consumers they offer an insight into the diversity of champagne that you may never have suspected and for importers, they offer a chance to add some wines with real character and potential to your portfolio.

How to create your own successful champagne brand in 6 easy steps
For many people owning a successful champagne brand would be a dream come true. It’s such an appealing idea that lots of people will no doubt be fascinated to discover exactly how they too can achieve this dream.


Here are the 6 easy steps taken by Alain Néret of Champagne Néret Vély


Alain-Neret3001) Make sure you don’t give up your first job.
Alain was a farmer originally and still runs a 100 hectare arable farm. Apart from providing some much needed financial stability in the early days Alain says that the farming has given him a different and very valuable understanding of the soil that he puts to good use in the vineyards.


2) Get used to having little sleep
Alain only got started in the world of champagne world because his father-in-law fell ill and no one else would help him tend his vineyards. Although he quickly took to the new work it did mean getting up at 05.00 every day to get everything done including running the farm, tending the vineyards, making the champagne and selling it.


3) Repeat step 2 for 30 years


4) Invest all your life’s savings and then some.
When Alain and his wife Monique stated back in 1983 they had just 0.07 hectares of vineyard; you can’t make many bottles of champagne from that, but it was a start. Today they own a respectable 5.5 hectares in La Vallée de La Marne near Festigny, but vineyards in Champagne, at well over a million euros per hectare for the best plots, don’t come cheap so it was a question of purchasing good quality vines when the opportunities presented themselves… and paying the price.


5) Get creative
What do you do when a few of your plots are on slopes so steep that it’s too dangerous to use a tractor and barely possible to walk up them in wet weather (which happens quite a lot in Champagne). The answer is to get creative.
Alain invented and built a lightweight tractor that runs on caterpillar tracks and can safely get up the steepest slopes. Of course he built the machine in his ‘spare time’.


6) Stay the course
Invest even more buying stainless steel vats and oak barrels and generally ensuring that your winery is modern, hygienic and capable of producing faultless wine.


So there you have it – the 6 easy steps to building your own champagne brand and it 'only' takes 30 years.


Extra Brut Mature crop0The good news is that if you manage to get through all this you too will reap the rewards and, just like Alain, you’ll find that the quality of your wines will begin to be recognised. Champagne Néret Vély has received 9 medals and awards from wine competitions and wine guides in just the past two years. They’ve re-designed all the labels, are soon launching a brand new web site and are looking for importers in export markets who want to share in this success and bring this exceptional grower champagne to their market.


To learn more about the wines and about import opportunities contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Church-at-Chavot-300If you’ve ever been to Champagne the chances are you noticed the church in Chavot perched on the top of a rise about 3 kilometres south west of Epernay and overlooking the valley of the little River Cubry. The church can be seen from far away and is something of a local landmark.


The history of Chavot (old name Chavost) goes back a long way, at least to Roman times and archaeological digs have shown that 1,000 years ago there was a wooden fort and look-out post on the top of Mont Félix just behind and slightly above the location where the church now stands.


In 1852 the next door village of Courcourt asked to be joined with Chavot and since then the two communities go under the joint name of Chavot-Courcourt.
Today Chavot-Courcourt is one of the 10 villages, plus Epernay, that make up the sub-region called Les Coteaux Sud d’Epernay that bridges the gap between La Côte des Blancs to the south and La Vallée de La Marne to the west.


Coteaux-sud-map-extract-300The vineyards in Chavot-Courcourt are situated in an arc and are west / north-west facing in Courcourt and north / north east facing in Chavot giving rise to a complex variety of soils. Of the 125 hectares just 6 hectares are planted with Pinot Noir and the rest are split roughly equally between Chardonnay and Meunier.

The top soil contains more clay than in La Côte des Blancs and less than in La Vallée de La Marne, consequently champagnes from Chavot and the surrounding Coteaux Sud d’Epernay area have a profile that is a cross between the two larger areas with more roundness to the Chardonnay than you would find in La Côte des Blancs and more minerality in the Meunier than in the neighbouring Marne River valley.


Chavot is home to some 80 vine growers but few brands of any fame with the exception of Laherte Frères, a small récoltant manipulant producing excellent quality wines. Chavot also boasts a bustling cooperative.

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