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, wrote two books on champagne and created an online champagne study course.

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.

Jiles now puts his knowledge and contacts to work in helping businesses and individuals to create their own private champagne brand.


 

2015 Harvest in Champagne - Bulletin 2

Resu-matu2In last week’s post I mentioned the Réseau Matu which is a network pf small teams of vignerons in selected villages that sample the grapes every few days in the run-up to the harvest so as to track the ripeness of the grapes and thereby to determine the start date of the harvest. In this bulletin you can discover more about the Réseau Matu and really get to understand why it is so important in planning the harvest.

Countdown to the 2015 harvest in Champagne

August 9th 2015

Harvesting-above-Verzenay2-300Not much is happening in the vineyards in Champagne at the moment because August is the month when many French people go on holiday and that includes champagne makers. As people head off for the beaches or mountains we’re entering the final 5 or 6 weeks before the harvest starts and the grapes are slowly ripening on the vines under the warm sun and we’ve had lots of it this year.

The heat hasn’t been as intense or prolonged as in 2003 when the grapes almost roasted on the vines, but it’s been a lovely summer with very little rain. The lack of rain is not ideal for growing grapes because rain is needed to plump up the grapes, so at the moment the grapes are looking a bit small and vignerons are keeping their fingers crossed that there’ll be a few more downpours in the coming weeks.

A month or so ago the general estimate was that picking would start around 15th September although this would vary from region to region and even from village to village, but if there’ s no break in the hot weather the start may well be as early as 10th.

Vraison 2In a couple of weeks the black grapes will start turning colour – at the moment all the grapes, be they black or white varietals, are all green. The process of turning colour is called La Véraison.

Many people assume that days of hot, sunny weather must inevitably lead to a superb vintage, but that’s not necessarily the case. The sunshine certainly increases the sugar content of the grapes which is good, but the greatest vintage years are those when the sugar is perfectly balanced with a health level of acidity too; without enough acidity the resulting wine would be dull and uninteresting.

Reseau-Matu300To track the levels of both sugar and acidity over the coming weeks a system called the Réseau Matu, roughly meaning Maturity Watch, is put in place. A small group of vignerons chosen by each community will start weekly and then later, daily sampling of the grapes on the vines so that they can be analysed for sugar and acid content.

Ideally picking will be delayed as long as possible in order to get the perfect levels of both sugar and acidity. However this doesn’t happen every year; other factors such as the weather forecast and the health of the grapes on the vines have to be taken into account and sometimes the vignerons have to accept a less than perfect balance because to wait any longer would not bring any improvement and might take the grapes past their peak.

It a critical time of year when the result of all the work of the previous 12 months hangs in the balance.

PS

As I write it’s been raining steadily, but not violently, for 2 hours. Exactly what the doctor ordered.

Low Dosage Champagne - Should you trust a sommelier?

Wine tastingI was at a champagne tasting the other day. In fact it was me who had organised it on behalf of one of my clients – a champagne producer who wanted to get an independent evaluation of his champagnes.

Seeing that they were tasting champagnes the discussion soon came around to the issues of dosage, the amount of sugar added after disgorging to adjust the sweetness of the finished wine. Some of the comments got me thinking that there may be a complete divergence between on the one hand, what sommeliers are interested in and are happy to promote and, on the other hand, what the consumer actually wants.

Whether you’re a sommelier or a person who sells or makes wine I’d love to have your views.

Read the rest of the article and see what you think.

Terroir Tracker - Mareuil-sur-Aÿ

TERROIR TRACKER – Mareuil-sur-Aÿ

Entrance-to-Mareuil300Mareuil-sur-Aÿ is one of just 2 villages in Champagne (out of 320) to be ranked as 99% on the former Echelle des Crus system, whilst its neighbour Aÿ, is a Grand Cru ( 100%).

There have always been those who feel strongly that both should be given the same rating; indeed that almost happened back in the 1980s when the last major revision of the Echelle des Crus took place. There will always be speculation why this didn’t come about, but some say that it was simply because two very prominent and influential figures in the world of champagne owned vineyards in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and to avoid accusations that they had manipulated the ranking system in their own favour the village was never given that final 1%.

Champagne Néret Vély - Reaping the rewards

Courage above all

Patrick-Forbes300Back in the 1960s Patrick Forbes , one of the most respected wine journalists ever, particularly as regards champagne, wrote that the quality that was needed above all others to make wine in the northerly vineyards of Champagne was courage. Back in those days Champagne was still recovering from WWII and a vigneron’s life was, frankly, tough.

That’s not quite so true these days but champagne making is far from easy: perseverance, stubbornness and abundant optimism are all still needed and yes, a good dose of courage comes in handy from time to time. Few stories illustrate this better that that of Alain Néret and one could add in his case, a good measure of personal integrity too.