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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.


 

Hail-damage225In the past couple of weeks we've had really hot weather in Champagne and this has inevitably lead to some spectacular thunderstorms and, unfortunately, to hail too.

Drinks Bulletin reports that according to the CIVC some 300 hectares of vines have been badly affected.

You can read more here

http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2013/08/hail-destroys-300-hectares-in-champagne/

Take a look at this picture, taken today, of the windmill at Verzenay and compare it to the picture in the Drinks BusinessWindmill-without-paddles225 article. You'll see that the paddles have been removed. Is this because of the store or just for routine maintenance?  

I'll keep you updated as the weeks and months to this year's harvest unfold

WHY I DON’T DO TASTING NOTES

Part I

Tasting-at-Henriet-Bazin225A friend of mine recently posted a comment on Facebook about my web site. He said that anyone interested in champagne, particularly grower champagnes, could find just about anything they wanted on my site, except tasting notes.

That may surprise some people, so I thought I should explain why I don’t believe in tasting notes.

First and foremost I’m not an oenologist or sommelier and although I have tasted hundreds of champagnes over the years I still don’t think that I have a particularly discerning palate, so I don’t think I can add anything of value to that sort of discussion. Besides there is no shortage of other people writing their thoughts on how wine tastes and that’s part of the problem for me…

I should make a distinction between on the one hand, people who love wines and simply want to share their ideas amongst one another. (I have no right, or wish, to criticise the way they enjoy themselves) and on the other hand tasting notes intended as some sort of a guide for the general public and it’s the second category whose value I find hard to appreciate. So with that proviso put of the way and my assurance that I don’t want to offend anybody, let me explain my point of view

This is the second part of an article all about how champagne ages and how you can avoid wasting your money by keeping champagne too long until it has no bubbles and is completely undrinkable.

Degorgement-a-la-volee225As we have already seen, before a bottle of champagne can be sold to you the yeast sediment is removed from the bottle of champagne by the process called disgorging (dégorgement in French). When that happens Autolysis stops and oxidisation takes over producing a rather different effect on the champagne.

That doesn’t mean that the champagne stops ageing altogether; on the contrary, if anything oxidisation speeds up the ageing process. Oxidisation is the effect that oxygen has on the wine and it takes place more rapidly after disgorging because the champagne is no longer protected by the CO2 inside the bottle. The flavours and aromas can become more intense and richer during oxidisation; the biscuit and toasty notes that for many people are the hallmark of good champagne, can become more pronounced.

However, it’s important to remember that oxidisation certainly doesn’t suit everyone. It is essentially a process of decay and when it goes beyond a certain point the champagne is ruined.

The best analogy I can think of is when game, such as pheasant for example, is left to hang for several days, or longer, before being cooked and eaten. The flavours become much more pungent and pronounced. Some people adore this but others find it just too strong to the point that it spoils their enjoyment of the meat entirely.

The trick then is to keep your champagne just the right amount of time and to avoid keeping it too long and finding, when you open it, that it has turned dark brown, has lost its bubbles and tastes more like vinegar than champagne.flying-cork

Unfortunately this is all too common. I have lost count of the number of people who have told me that they were given a special bottle of champagne on their wedding day, or on the day of their child’s birth and that they can’t wait to open it on their 21st anniversary, or on the child’s 21st birthday. That’s way too long and they are almost sure to be disappointed.

So here’s what to do.

There’s one approximate way and one more precise way.

I’ll tell you both

  1. The general rule of thumb is that you can keep champagne, after disgorging, for about the same length of time as it spent ageing in the cellars before disgorging.  So let's say between 2 and 3 years for non-vintage and 5 to 7 years for a vintage.

    However, and this is very important, the rule above only applies if you have good storage conditions at home. If you keep your wine in the kitchen, in the fridge, in the garage, under stairs or wherever, it won’t keep well and the best advice is to drink it within a few months of purchase.

  2. If you want to be more precise then you need to know the date of disgorging. When you know that you simply count forward to today’s date and you know exactly how much time has passed since the precious lees were taken out of the bottle.

But where do you find that disgorging date?

Unfortunately this is another piece of information that very few brands actually share with you. They know this date themselves but they don’t trust consumers with the information for fear, amongst other things, that the consumer will think it is a ‘Best By’ date and conclude that the bottle is ‘out of date’. However for people such as you who are more interested in champagne than the average consumer, you’d find this really useful.

Fortunately there is an increasing number of champagne producers, mainly amongst the grower champagnes, who have the good sense to put the disgorgement date on the bottle. Let’s look at an example.

Champagne De Sousa

Disgorgement-Date225You’ll see from this back label that this bottle was disgorged on 22nd March 2010, so when I drank it on 21st March 2011 I knew it was one year since the disgorging and the champagne should be just right to drink - it was by the way.

 

On the other hand if I was in a shop in 2014 and was thinking about buying this bottle, I'd know that it had been hanging around quite a long while since disgorging and would probably have lost some of its freshness. I'd think twice before buying it unless I knew for sure that it had been kept in perfect storage conditions. Then, but only then, I might give it a try.

So look out for the disgorgement date somewhere on the label. You may not always find it, in fact it's still only a minority of makers who do put this date on their bottles, but it is becoming more common and one day it might even become the norm. Let’s hope so.

Meanwhile... Stay Bubbly

Jiles

 

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