Jiles's Blog

Who Am I?

17 years spent living and working in Champagne has allowed Jiles to build up a vast amount of knowledge about all things bubbly as well as a very extensive network of contacts, especially amongst the smaller and less well-known champagne makers whose champagnes will probably amaze you with their quality and diversity.

A job as area manager for Asia and Australia with Moët et Chandon was what first drew Jiles to Champagne after completing an MBA in Luxury Brand Management at ESSEC, a prestigious business school just outside Paris.

After nearly 9 years at Moët Jiles moved back to the UK where he started one of the first online businesses promoting and selling grower champagnes,

However the draw of ‘The King of Wines and the Wine of Kings’ once again proved irresistible and another 8 year stay in Champagne was the result. During this second stay in Champagne Jiles worked with the Syndicat Général des Vignerons de Champagne as an accedited consultant for small, independent champagne makers before setting up his own consultancy.

Jiles now spends his time between England and Champagne.and puts his knowledge and contacts to work helping wine lovers everywhere learn more about champagne and helping businesses and individuals to create their own private champagne brand.

He is the author of two books on champagne, several concise guides to champagne  and is the creator of an online champagne study course called My Champagne Expert

 


 

It was a very good year… (and No this isn’t about the 2019 vintage in Champagne)

You may remember this haunting melody sung by Frank Sinatra back in the 1960s – he won a Grammy for it in 1966. Or perhaps you’ve heard it more recently on the TV series The Sopranos?  

But what about 2019? Was it a good year for Champagne? The shipment figures are a bit disappointing but, as they say, It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good and the silver lining for 2019 may well be the number of women who are rising to prominence in the Champagne trade

Most Champagne lovers will already know that there have been many powerful and determined women who have shaped the history and fortunes of Champagne over the centuries, and whose names are still famous today.

 Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin (La Veuve Clicquot), Elisabeth (Lily) Bollinger, and Louise Pommery are probably the names that spring most readily to mind, but which women would you mention in more recent times?

Carol Duval LeroyCarol Duval Leroy, head of the eponymous Champagne house, is certainly one.

She recalls a story of her early days as the head of the house

I remember one of my first visits to the press house after I became President of the company. It was at Cramant in La Côte des Blancs. When I got to the press house one of the workers stopped me and told me that he didn’t need any more women harvesters. I introduced myself and he was not a little embarrassed.

A lot has changed since then for Madame Duval. Apart from managing what is now a very significant player in Champagne she is also, according to one report, the 4th richest person in the world of Champagne and in the top 250 richest people in France.

But who else would you cite?

Although I know a lot of talented and hard-working women in Champagne, I can’t say that they are as well-known as perhaps they should be, so what follows is a list ( far from exhaustive) of the many women who have achieved or sustained positions of success in 2019 in a variety of capacities in Champagne.

The list is by brand name because you’ll probably recognise those more easily

 It’s up to you whether you find this list surprisingly diverse , inspiring long, or disappointing short.

Management

Krug - Margareth Henriquez – President  Margareth Henriquez(picture)      

Nicolas Feuillatte – Veronique Blin – President

Duval Leroy – Carol Duval  – President

Taittinger – Vitalie Taittinger - President

Boizel – Evelyne Roques-Boizel – President until 2019

Laurent Perrier – Alexandra and Stéphanie de Nonancourt – Directors

Bruno Paillard – Alice Paillard- Brabant – Managing Director

AR Lenoble – Alice Malassagne – Joint President

Thiénot – Garance Thiénot – joint Managing Director

Chefs de Caves

Krug - Julie Cavil,

Henriot - Alice Tétienne (picture)Alice Tetienne

Castelnau -  Elisabeth Sarcelet

Ayala - Caroline Latrive

Joseph Perrier - Nathalie Laplaige

Duval Leroy - Sandrine Logette-Jardin

 

 

Family businesses

The women in this list are likely to be involved in everything from working in the vineyards to being the ambassador of their brands at wine shows in France and overseas and almost everything else in between

J. Lassalle - Chantal Decelle et Angeline Templier

Virginie T – Virginie Taittinger

Marie-Copinet – Marie Lure Kowal – also President of the association Les Mains du Terroir

Philipe Gonet – Chantal Brégeon-Gonet (picture) 

Chantal Bregeon GonetClaude Cazals – Delphine Cazals

Natalie Falmet - Natalie Falmet

Marie- Noëlle Ledru - Marie- Noëlle Ledru

Françoise Bedal – Françoise Bedel

Lionel Carreau - Oriane Carreau

Marlène Delong - Marlène Delong

Chapuy - Elodie Higonet

 

Last but not least, I have to include the 7 vigneronnes who have joined forces to market their champagnes under the banner

Les Fabuleuses

Les FabuleusesLaureen Baillette ,

Hélène Beaugrand ,

Claire Blin,

Mathilde Bonnevie,

Charlotte de Sousa,

Delphine Brulez ,

Sophie Milesi-Moussié

There are so many more women that could be added to the list and even then one could claim, probably with justification, that women are under-represented. However that’s a topic outside the scope of this article which is just to give credit where credit is due and to introduce you to some of the current and future movers and shakers, in Champagne of whom you may not yet have heard – you probably will before too long.

Leave a comment if you know of any other talented women who absolutely should be in this list and equally, if you love Champagne and want to discover even more about it, you can do exactly that by clicking on the link below

2019 - A Year of Mixed Fortunes in Champagne

Pouring MoetBehind all the tasting notes, the wine competitions, the food pairing and all the wonderful occasions that punctuate the year in Champagne, it’s important to remember that, when all is said and done, champagne is a business.


This was brought to the forefront of our attention this week when several companies announced their annual results for 2019, and very contrasting results they were too. LVMH (including the wines and spirits branch, Moët Hennessy) continued its inexorable growth, whilst other brands had a difficult year.


What are these results and what’s going on to explain them?

Are champagne flutes a thing of the past?

Are champagne flutes a thing of the past?

And does the question conceal a different challenge for Champagne?

If you go back far enough in history it seems that, even as long ago as the late 17th century when Champagne first appeared on the scene, there was a variety of shapes and sizes of glass to choose from. Short and stubby, tall and narrow, clear glass and opaque glass (that was common before riddling and disgorging had been perfected and champagne was often a bit murky). You could find them all.

Sometime later, perhaps around the time of Louis XVI, although some say rather earlier, the coupe glass made an appearance and, in one variation or another, the coupe remained popular through Victorian times, to the roaring 20s, on into the Hollywood era of the 1950s and even beyond.

Moet at the Golden GlobesPerhaps it’s because of the associations with those, apparently, glamourous times in the past that the coupe glass has a certain nostalgia attached to it: there’s nothing to match coupe glasses for building a champagne pyramid and to this day the coupe is still regarded as the perfect glass for many cocktails. You only have to look at the Moet Golden Hour glass used at this year’s Golden Globe awards.

The criticism often levelled at coupe glasses is that the aromas dissipate before they can be really appreciated and that the effervescence dies away too quickly. The first part is certainly correct – the aromas spread out sideways rather than being focussed upwards towards the  nose, but the part about the bubbles dying away too quickly always seems irrelevant to me because the bubbles in Champagne persist for far longer than it takes an average person to finish the glass anyway.

Be that as it may, by the time the 1970s arrived the coupe was falling out of favour and being replaced by the tall, elegant, longer-stemmed flute. (It’s probably just Three flutesa coincidence, but an intriguing one, that the real boom in Champagne sales, 1960 – 2000, coincided with the popularity of the flute glass). Anyway, one might have expected the popularity of the flute to be unchallenged for many a year yet, but recently the preeminent position of the flute is coming under threat.

These days there is a growing body of opinion, especially amongst more practiced champagne drinkers, that holds that flutes are too tall and narrow to appreciate the full complexity of champagne. They’re just not wide enough to swirl the wine and release the aromas and if you do try to swirl the champagne around in a flute you’ll probably slop it inelegantly over the sides and over your hand too.

The answer, according to this side of the debate, is to go for a much larger, rounder glass, more akin to the type of glass you’d use to serve still white or red wine, and a plethora of variations on this theme are being put forward as the perfect solution by wine writers, glass manufacturers, sommeliers and commentators of all sorts. Some of the leading Champagne houses, including Veuve Clicquot are advocating larger glasses so that you can add ice cubes to your champagne.

More Rich glassesHowever, when we take a closer look at this trend and ask who is it that is calling for the flute to be done away with and why, it reveals a sort of identity crisis that Champagne has perhaps got itself into and which needs very careful handling by those who influence the image and reputation of Champagne.

As far back as anyone can remember Champagne has always been synonymous with celebration.

It’s the ‘good time’ drink par excellence.

It’s the almost obligatory accompaniment to many of life’s most emotional moments and if it’s more expensive than most other wines, what the heck! This is a special occasion that warrants a little extravagance.

Whether this imagery came about by design, or by accident, it’s sheer marketing gold and it has stood Champagne in good stead for centuries. So much so, in fact, that Champagne has come to be seen as something apart from other wines. You only have to look at the headings in any wines list: there are wines in one section and then there are Champagnes in a separate section.

However, over the past 20 years or so, many champagne houses have been at pains to present Champagne in a rather more ‘serious’ light and to emphasise its Beyond the flute 2qualities as a gastronomic wine to be matched with a wide variety of foods and served during, and perhaps even throughout, a meal.

One wonders why this shift in positioning was deemed necessary.

Was it because the market for Champagne as a celebratory drink was declining and a new niche had to be found?

Was it perhaps out of a feeling of inferiority versus the great Bordeaux and Burgundy wines?

Was it just out of a desire to keep to increasing sales by finding new Champagne drinking occasions?

Who knows? However, it is not far-fetched to conclude that the tendency to drink champagne out of larger, rounder glasses stems directly from the desire to present Champagne as a wine to serve with food and the equal of any other great wine.

The next question then is how many people actually drink champagne with a meal?

Actually, I have to hold my hand up here because I entirely agree that Champagne is fabulous served with a meal and that it is far more than just a wine to go with aperitifs. Champagne can match sublimely with a whole host of dishes from start to finish of any meal. BUT, and it’s a big but, I don’t think that I am representative of the vast majority of Champagne drinkers and I would venture to suggest that wine writers and sommeliers and many of those advocating the adoption of larger glasses and the abandonment of the flute are not typical champagne drinkers either.

I don’t think that many people do drink Champagne with a meal and, what’s more, I doubt that the majority of Champagne drinkers ever will, even if bombarded with marketing about the suitability of Champagne as an accompaniment to food.

It’s my view that most people still see Champagne as an aperitif drink to start off an event and to provide the ‘feel good factor’ to make them feel special. Most Champagne drinkers are not really interested in lingering over the complexities of the aromas, or the nuances of the colour, so the issue of whether they have a flute glass or a wider glass is irrelevant to most of them.

The danger for the imagery and appeal of Champagne, is that by promoting Champagne as a fine wine for mealtimes, the celebratory image built up over so many years is in some way diluted.

This may be unlikely, I admit, but the possibility exists.

The most sensible outcome would seem therefore to let everyone make up their own mind about which glass they prefer and what suits the occasion when the Champagne will be served. This means allowing a role for a whole range of glasses from coupe, to flute, to a wider more wine-style glass

This also means avoiding telling anyone that they ‘should’ be using this type of glass or the other type of glass, or that it’s ‘wrong’ to use one type or another.

And last, just to throw another cat amongst the pigeons, it’s my guess that the coupe glass will make a comeback before the wider wine-style glasses catch on with the general public.

You read it here first. I wonder if I will have to eat my words one day.

How to drink more champagne and spend less (and ‘No’ that doesn’t involve drinking poor quality wine).

How to drink more champagne and spend less (and ‘No’ that doesn’t involve drinking poor quality wine).

If you’re reading this you’re probably someone who enjoys champagne and would like to open champagne more frequently and be more generous when you’re entertaining friends, family or colleagues, but let’s face it, champagne is not the cheapest wine available and you might assume that drinking more champagne must involve spending even more money, but that’s not necessarily the case.

If that sounds too good to be true, then read on because in this article I’ll explain how you can have the best of both worlds: more bottles to enjoy at less cost

If you'd like more tips like this to help you learn about champagne,gain more confidence when you're choosing champagne and share your knowledge with friends and family, just click the link at the end of this article to get started

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A vast choice if you look

Maisons de Champagne

You probably know that many champagne makers are referred to as ‘Maisons’ (Champagne ‘houses’ in English) and one of the most striking things about the ‘Maisons’ is that they account for by far and away the lion’s share of sales - 72% of total sales and a huge 87% of export sales according to the figures for 2018

You might conclude that this level of dominance is purely and simply down to the fact that there are few champagne makers other than the Maisons  and/or that the Maisons produce the best quality champagnes.

As regards the number of Maisons, there are about 80 members of the Union des Maisons de Champagne – the association to which they belong, but that’s a small fraction of the total number of champagne makers which is over 4,000, so there’s no shortage of choice outside the Maisons.

As regards quality, the Maisons certainly do produce excellent quality champagnes, but that’s only part of the reason that they sell so many bottles. The main reason is that most consumers buy champagne because they recognise the label or the brand name. Of course, they appreciate the quality of the champagne in the bottle, but the choice of brand has little, or nothing, to do with the quality of what’s in the bottle – it’s all down to brand recognition, marketing and distribution and it’s in these areas that the Maisons excel.

However, there are two other categories of champagne maker that you should be aware of and get to know if you want to

  • discover some wonderful champagnes
  • save yourself a lot of money

and

  • have a well-rounded and balanced knowledge of champagne

As mentioned above, there are plenty of these other champagne makers to choose from. Even if they only have a 13% share of export sales, that still translates into about 40 million bottles– I’d guess that’s probably going to be enough for your next party.

What to look for

These two types of champagne maker are,

Sign at De Sousa Look at the Blue SkyThe Récoltants Manipulants who make champagne using only grapes grown in their own vineyards as opposed to the Maisons who, to a greater or lesser extent, have to buy in grapes from third parties to supplement what they grow in their own vineyards. (Another term that means much the same as Récoltant Manipulant is Propriétaire Récoltant is shown in this picture).

These artisan champagne makers tend to be fairly small, independent and family run enterprises, but their lack of size by no means hinders their ability to make the most amazing champagnes.

One or two are already well known by wine lovers and command quite high prices: Jacques Selosse and Egly-Ouriet comes to mind immediately.

Others are widely recognised as outstanding although they haven’t yet reached cult status outside a relatively small group of champagne aficionados: De Sousa, Agrapart, Pierre Peters, Françoise Bedel, Bérèche, David Leclapart, Chartogne-Taillet to name just a few examples.

Then there’s another group that you might say are ‘bubbling under’

Pehu Simonet

Marguet

Margaine

Hughes Godmé

Hure Frères

Moussé

Marc Hébrart

Pascal Doquet

and at least 50 more that you should really try for yourself if ever you find them in the shops.

The quality and character of these champagnes are fantastic and to make them even more attractive the prices will often be considerably lower than the more famous international brands and vastly less expensive than the top-of-the-range iconic brands whose price is usually counted in the multiple hundreds of dollars or pounds.

But apart from recognising the maker’s name, how do you spot one of these independent, artisan brands?

Look for the maker’s registration number, which must, by law, appear on the label. It will be in small print and you will have to look carefully, but if the maker is a Récoltant Manipulant the letters RM will precede the registration number (the letters NM will appear on the label of bottles from one of the Maisons).

Rise of the Cooperatives

Nicolas feuillateThe third type of champagne makers are the Coopératives Manipulants which are large groupings of small grape growers who pool their resources to achieve economies of scale and improve the quality of the finished product. They’re usually called simply cooperatives.

There was a time, some 20, 30 or more years ago, when the quality of some of the wines made by cooperatives was unreliable and they gained something of a poor reputation. Unfortunately, in some people’s minds this perception persists despite huge improvements across the board from the vineyard to the final product.

Names of makers in this category that you will find in many shops if you are on the lookout for them include Nicholas Feuillatte (now the 3rd biggest selling brand of champagne behind only Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot).

Of course, size alone is not a guarantee of quality but the awards that are being regularly given to champagnes from cooperatives testify to the quality of many of these brands. Champagne Palmer and Champagne Pannier are two great examples whilst others well worth taking the time to discover are  De Saint-Gall, Castelnau and Jaquart.

Last but not least, it’s interesting to note that some of the champagnes recently launched at very high prices by celebrities, particularly from the world of music, are made by cooperatives. Fortunately, the less hyped champagnes from these cooperatives can be bought and enjoyed for a fraction of the price.

To spot these cooperative brands, look for the letters CM in front of the maker’s registration number on the label.

So why not make it your New Year’s resolution to explore some of these champagnes that you may not yet be familiar with?  Not only will they provide you with lots of enjoyment, but you’ll end up spending a lot less than you would if you only go for the best known and most widely distributed brands.

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I hope you enjoyed that and found it useful, Being familar with champagne is part and parcel of living the good life. You feel good about yourself and you can share a lot of pleasure with friends and family, but of course there's lots more to discover.

I'd like nothing more than to guide you on your journey into the heart of Champagne and to help you learn through articles,videos, information, quizes and lots more.

To get started just click this link

 

 

The Price of Champagne

I’m guessing that you’re already a champagne lover and you probably enjoy opening a bottle whenever the opportunity arises, but of course, Champagne isn’t the cheapest of wines and I’m afraid that I can’t do much to change that, although I can suggest where you can find some fabulous champagnes at prices far lower than some of the famous brands, but more about that later.

In the meantime the least I can do is to explain why champagne will never the be cheapest wine around and what is driving those prices

Harvest benne225There are several things that come into play. You can consider them separately but in reality they are all linked

- Growing grapes in Champagne is an incredibly labour intensive undertaking. You can say that about many vineyard regions of course but the issue in even more pronounced in Champagne. For example, it requires about 200 hours of work, per hectare, to do the pruning and that’s just one of many vineyards jobs

- Partly because of this the price of grapes is high and rises inexorably every year. In 2019 the average prices were:

Chardonnay (Grand Cru) 7.15 euros /kilo

Pinot Noir (Grand Cru ) 7.10 euros/kilo

Premiers Crus 6.90 – 7.00 euros/kilo

Other Crus including Meunier 6.00 – 6.50 euros/kilo

And these are the average prices. Many houses pay a premium to secure top quality grapes from the most prized villages and the best plots, so the actual price paid may, in some instances, be considerably higher.

- Coupled with the price of grapes is the price of vineyard land. The total area in the Champagne appellation is limited and although there has been some debate in 100 per centthe past about enlarging the area, it hasn’t happened yet. With high demand and limited supply, it follows that land prices are high.

The very best plots in a Grand Cru village will fetch 2 million euros, or even more, per hectare and even for a less prestigious plot you would expect to pay 1 million euros

- Last but not least is the marketing of champagne and the profit margins involved, but that‘s too  big a topic to cover now. I'll explain that later in another article.

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