My Man In Champagne Facebook Page My Man In Champagne Twitter feed linkedin My Man In Champagne YouTube link My Man In Champagne RSS feed
logo

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.


 

Moulin-across-pruned-vines225One of the things that I find most enjoyable about living in Champagne is the people you meet. Of course speaking to the champagne makers and tasting their grower champagnes is wonderful but in fact you can meet fascinating people at any moment.

Last week, when the snow had finally melted, I knew that there would be lots of people out in the vineyards finishing off the last of the pruning (LaTaille). They had to stop pruning during the really cold weather because the frost can easily penetrate into the heart of the cut vines and kill them. Now the weather is  a little less cold they are hurrying to get the pruning done before Spring arrives.

I came across one particularly jovial chap called M. Renoir.

No, he isn't a painter, but as well as being a vigneron, he's also something of an inventor too, as you'll see in the video below.

View-of-pruned-vines225La Taille is one of the crucial steps in viticulture. It may look simple, but you have to know what you are doing and you have to be prepared to spend hours and hours in the vineyards because it's something that can only be done by hand.

With 8,000 or so vine plants per hectare you can easily understand that pruning is a time consuming job, but it's just one of many tasks for the vigneron during the year. In fact when you realise how much labour goes into the production of champagne, you'll be asking yourself why it is so cheap!

Anyway, you'll learn more in the video and have the pleasure of meeting M. Renoir.

Stay Bubbly

Jiles

Au-Bureau-In-ReimsA few months ago I was out and about in Reims and I noticed a semi-derelict building on the piazza in front of the cathedral. You could just make out the remains of a sign that revealed that the building used to be the Garage de la Cathedral.

What a strange place to have a garage I thought; it would be much better as a bar with some tables chairs and parasols outside. It’s a shame no one has bought it to renovate.

Well, last Saturday I was in the same spot and saw that some smart entrepreneur has done just that. What a smart move. They say that it’s all about location, location, location and this place is perfect. Old-Garage-De-La-Cathedrale

I would think that it will do a fantastic trade and will quickly become one of THE places to go in Reims, so if you’re going to be in Reims this summer be sure to check it out.

It’s going to be called Au Bureau, The Office, so people will be able to ring home way after they were due back and say “I’m so sorry but I’ve been delayed and I’m still at The Office darling”

 

Au-Bureau-What-It-Might-Look-LikeThere’s still a bit of work to do mind you, but they should be finished in a few months and that’s a lot more than the guys working on the original cathedral could say.

Oger-in-Winter225Champagne has become such a universally known drink that it’s understandable, in a way, that many people think that all champagne is pretty much the same. Moët & Chandon, or Taittinger, or Piper Heidsieck are much of a muchness they would say.

However, if you’re a regular champagne drinker, or if you take the time to really pay attention to what you’re drinking, you’ll realise nothing could be further from the truth and that applies just as much to the small grower champagnes as to the big brands. In fact champagne is one of the most complex and diverse wines in the world and in this short article and the video below you’ll discover a little about why that is so.

You see, champagne is almost always a blend of many different wines, made from different grape varieties, grown in different villages and picked in different years. When you start to think about the number of possible permutations the mind starts to boggle, so in this article let’s just focus on the different villages or crus as they are sometimes referred to.

Even though Champagne is divided into several large sub-areas that are generally considered as having the same sort of characteristics: La Montagne de Reims, La Côte des Blancs, La Vallée de La Marne and La Côte des Bars, within each area you still get significant differences.

Why is that? Well, there are some 320 villages where grapes are cultivated and you can imagine that no two villages have exactly the same characteristics: the soil varies; the micro-climate is unique to each location. In one village the slopes face south towards the sun, and give ripe grapes with a high sugar content, whilst another village may face north which means the grapes will take longer to ripen and the juice will be a little more tart, or fresh as they say.

La Côte des Blancs provides a good example. This is a ridge of hillside that stretches south from Epernay for about 30 or so kilometres. Most of the vineyards face south-east, but there are folds and dips in the land so it’s impossible for all the slopes to face exactly in the same direction. Some vineyards are at the top of the slope and some at the bottom where the air may be a degree or two cooler. In some villages the chalk subsoil is really close to the surface to give a pronounced mineral quality to the wines, whereas in others the chalk lies deeper under a thicker covering of top-soil. All these things have an influence on the wines made in each village.

This diversity of grapes and the base wines made from them (base wines are still wines made in the first part of the champagne-making process and before there are any bubbles) means that the winemaker really has to know what he or she is doing when the time comes to blend the wines together to produce the final, distinctive style and taste they are looking for.

Charles-Gimonnet225If you are one of my Facebook contacts you’ll remember that just before Christmas I said that I had been down to La Côte des Blancs to visit Charles Gimonnet at Champagne Gimonnet-Gonet and to taste some of their base wines. I promised that I would soon post the video of the visit and I’m happy to say that you can now view it below this post.

Charles takes us through a tasting of base wines from 4 of the most famous villages in La Côte des Blancs: Oiry, Oger, Cramant and Le Mesnil sur Oger, and describes the characteristics of each one. It’s a real insight into the art of blending.

There’ll be more chances soon to take a look at the different crus in some of the other parts of Champagne, so do come back soon. Meanwhile…

Stay Bubbly

Jiles

 

Tasting-at-Roger-Brun225One of the most colourful characters I have met in Champagne is Philippe Brun of champagne Roger Brun In Ay. Going to a tasting at his place is always an experience to remember, not just because of the excellent champagnes – which he serves in very generous measures – but also for the great stories he tells; proof once again that it’s stories that sell, not just a list of all the technical qualities of a wine

I have a couple videos of Philippe in full flight; the first is about the worst and the best bottles of wine he has ever enjoyed ( and neither were champagne!)

The second, which I’ll be posting a a few days, is about a wee joke he pulled on an audience of journalists and other members of the wine trade when he gave a tasting of his champagnes.

I love Philippe’s mischievous sense of fun. The wine industry is full of very knowledgeable and likeable people, but there is a tendency for some ‘experts’ to get carried away with their vocabulary and analysis of the wine, so it’s no bad thing occasionally to make sure they keep their feet on the ground.

Here's the first video. If you have any stories about your best or worst bottle of champagne or other wine, then do leave a comment here on on my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/MyManInChampagne

 

Chardonnay-and-Pinot-Noir-for-web-siteOne of the most interesting parts of my work is the consulting I do for the SGV (Syndicat Général des Vignerons de la Champagne) which is the body that represents many of the small grower champagnes.

I get to meet all sorts of little-known champagne makers all needing help to improve their marketing and increase their sales. Although there is certainly an increasing interest in Grower Champagnes amongst wine lovers who are looking for something other than the big brands, the issue for the producers is that there are hundreds of them, all trying to find a place in the market for their products.

That why I'm always encouraging them to think of what it is that makes their champagnes special enough to stand out from all the others. Many of the smaller producers struggle to find this point of differentiation but every now and then I meet someone who immediately stands out from the crowd and recently I met one who fitted straight into that category.

In The Cellars At Hure Freres for MMIC web siteThe beauty of visiting the small champagne makers is that you're never sure exactly what's in store and that certainly proved to be the case last Sunday morning.

I'd been out on Saturday guiding a group of customers on one of my Insider's Tour Of Champagne days and when we got back we'd had such a good time that we didn't want the fun to end so we decided to call round to visit my neighbour and champagne-maker, Christophe Corbeaux, at his home on Sunday morning.

Vines For SaleI always used to tell people that a hectare of prime vineyards in Champagne -  in a Grand Cru village - would set you back about a million euros.  It seems I'm way behind the times.

I was chatting to a prominent vigneron the other day, who has a very substantial estate, and he told me that he had recently been offered a hectare of Grand Cru at 1.8 million euros! That's a lot of money and it fact it's so much that you'd never get your money back from making champagne - or to put it another way, starting a champagne business these days is simply doesn't make economic sense.

To underline the point, so my source told me, here's what's happended to a few prices over the opast 10 years:

  • the price of a hectare of vines has gone up  72%
  • the price of a kilogram of grapes has increased 20%
  • but the selling price of a bottle of champagne has gone up a mere 1.5%

Who'd be a champagne maker eh?

Never mind, it's much easier being a champagne drinker!

Stay Bubbly

Jiles

Francois explains the soil for MMICHere's a story about a champagne maker who not only 'talks the talk' when it comes to looking after the environment, but 'walks the walk' as well.

It's François Huré at Huré Frères in Ludes and if you don't already know his champagnes, do be sure to taste them whenever you see them in a wine shop. or on the internet. You won't be disappointed.

Mind you, you don't have to take just my word for that: François has recently had a great write up from Brad Baker aka 'The Champagne Warrior' in his newsletter.

Brad's a leading authority on champagne and if he is impressed by something the chances are you will be too.

Air bubble in the bottle for MMICAnyway, François has recently announced that from next January he is changing the colour  of  the bottle for his rosé from clear to amber.

You may wonder why he's doing that when many people put more emphasis on a clear bottle to show off the colour of the wine inside.

You probably know already that one of the reasons that coloured glass is used is that it protects wine from ultra violet light which can give it an unpleasant 'goût de lumière'. That's one good reason for moving away from clear glass even though,  from a marketing point of view, clear bottles for rosé are more 'sexy'.

It seems however that although clear bottles may be easy on the eye, they're not so easy on our good 'ole Mother Earth.

HURE ROSE for MMICWhy not? Well for a start clear bottles aren't re-cycled, at least not as clear glass.

Used clear bottles get mixed in with green and brown glass and all sorts of other colours and once that happens you can't get clear glass out at the end of the recycling process. That means that all clear glass bottles are made from scratch - not the most efficient use of resources.

For another thing, to make clear glass you have to hear the furnace to a few hundred degrees more than for green and brown glass - again more energy needlessly going up in smoke.

I suspect that there are not many champagne makers who have gone to the trouble of researching the production of clear glass to the same extent as François Huré and probably even fewer who would actually take action on what they found out.

That's one more reason, if you still needed one, to discover Champagne Huré Frères as soon as you get the opportunity.


Do come back soon for more news and comment from Champagne and meanwhile....

Stay Bubbly

Jiles

Tractor parked in the vineyardsHello everyone,

Just a quick word to say that if you've been looking for blog posts recently I have been focussing very much on the harvest for the past few weeks so haven't posted on my blog much.
There's still plenty to discover mind you - just in a different place. Go to the Harvest 2012 pages and  you'll find everything there.

There'll be more regular blogs once the harvest is over.

Jiles

I think almost all of us can agree on this!

Champagne Shoud Be Dry Cold And Freee

^