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



2013 Champagne Harvest - How much to pick?

Harvest-pickers-225Recently I asked the subscribers to my web site, what type of information they would most like to receive and it was clear that many people really want to delve into the intricacies of champagne and want as much detailed information as they can get.

So with that in mind here’s a two-part look at a somewhat obscure subject, but one which will give you an insight into the often complex workings of the champagne business: the rules and regulations surrounding the size of the harvest.

In part I we’ll take a look at the decisions that have already been taken about this year’s harvest and what that says about the market as a whole and in part II you’ll get an understanding of how the small grower-champagne makers can play the market to their advantage against the larger houses.

In this level of detail isn’t for you, don’t worry, there will be plenty more articles and videos coming on the web site soon for you to enjoy.


With about one month still to go until grape picking starts in Champagne you may be surprised to know that the size of the harvest has already been decided.

In fact it was decided as long ago as July 22nd when the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) announced that they had “ agreed today in Epernay on an available yield of 10,500 kg/ha of which 500 kg/ha will be taken out of the reserve. Moreover, up to 3,100 kg/ha can be picked to be put in the reserve (if the reserve does not exceed 10,000 kg/ha).”

If all this seems rather odd and not a little obscure then perhaps a few words of explanation may help you understand what’s going on.

CIVC-HQ-225The CIVC is the governing body in Champagne. Representatives from all interested parties sit on the board: large houses whose powerful marketing and distribution operations account for the lion’s share of the sales of champagne, but who have to buy most of the grapes they need; small grape growers who either sell their grapes, or keep them to make their own champagne and last, but not least, the cooperatives.

The short-term interests of these various players don’t always coincide. For example the grape growers want a high price for the grapes they have to sell, whereas the large houses want to buy at the lowest possible price. By the same token the growers prefer a large harvest because more grapes mean more income for them. However, if the big houses are finding that sales are slow and their stocks are already building up too much, the last thing they need is a bumper harvest and even more grapes on their hands.

One of the main purposes of the CIVC therefore, is to facilitate an agreement on the size of the harvest so that, in the mid- to long-term, the supply of grapes – and therefore of champagne – is kept in balance with worldwide demand. That should ensure that the image of champagne as a prestige product is maintained and provide stability across the industry. (I’ll get my knuckles rapped for that. The champenois prefer not to use the word ‘industry’ – it’s doesn’t quite convey the right tone of elegance and luxury, but it’s not easy to find a good alternative in English)

It used to be the case also that the CIVC determined the price of grapes per kilo, but that’s no longer true and prices are determined by the market. We can come back to that topic in another post sometime, but for now let’s get back to the size of the harvest and what the CIVC had to say about it.

The average annual yield from a hectare of vineyard in Champagne can be anything from about 10,000 to 14,000 kilos and of course there are years when it can be much less, or even more, depending on the weather and a host of other factors.

It’s because of this unpredictability that the champenois came up, many years ago, with the system of reserves which entails taking part of each harvest, pressing the grapes, making the juice into still wine and storing that until it is needed in subsequent years. There are different ways of storing the reserve to obtain different results, but again, that’s topic for another time.

The reserve wines serve two main purposes: first they act as a cushion against poor harvests in the future and so they provide a guarantee that there will always be a reasonable volume of champagne each year. Second, because they are left to age a few years, reserve wines add depth and complexity when blended with wine from the most recent harvest. Harvest-benne-at-Billecart-Salmon225

 So getting back to the announcement by the CIVC, they have said that 10,500 kilograms of grapes per hectare can be used this year to make into champagne, but they also said that 500 kilograms worth has to be taken from existing reserves so that means that only 10,000 kg of grapes per hectare may be harvested this year

So using some rough calculations we can see approximately how many bottles of champagne are going to be made from the 2013 harvest


Kilos picked per hectare


= Litres of juice from 10K kilograms


=> 75cl bottles of champagne


Hectares under cultivation


=> Total production potential in bottles


If we now add back in the 500 kg that may be taken from the existing reserves, and use the same method of calculation, that translates into


Kilos that may be taken from the reserve


= Litres of juice from 500 kilograms


=> 75cl bottles of champagne


Hectares under cultivation


=> Total production potential in bottles


So that gives us a likely total of about 303 million bottles that will be produced this year for sale in about 2 to 3 years’ time.

To put that into context, the maximum production capacity of the Champagne region is approximately 320-330 million bottles.

indexThe record for sales was in 2007 when slightly less than 339 million bottles were shipped, but that level wasn’t sustained or sustainable. Shipments dipped back under 300 million in 2009 and although demand has firmed up a bit since, last year’s shipments were still only 309 million bottles.

So it looks as if the CIVC is still pretty cautious about the market in the immediate future and they certainly aren’t looking to increase stocks in anticipation of a champagne boom any time soon.

History suggests that they know what they are doing, mind you. I can’t think of any other product that has maintained such an exclusive image in good times and bad over a history as long as that of champagne.

In part II we’ll look into some of the other things that the smaller producers can do to maintain the balance between them and the giant brands and in the meantime, if you have any comments or questions about this article, please drop me a line at

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Meanwhile...Stay Bubbly,


Praise For Champagne Chartogne-Taillet



Remember my post about Champagne Chartogne-Taillet a few weeks ago?

It's good to know that Jancis Robinson, no less, rates these champagnes too.


Come back here soon to learn more about superb grower champagnes

Bubbly best wishes from Champagne


Hail Damage in Champagne

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


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

Wine Tasting Notes: Boring, Baffling and Banal


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

How Long Does Champagne Need To Be Aged? Part 2

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