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

 


 

Music in the vineyards - Striking the right note

Michel Loriot cartoonWhen you are a small independent champagne maker you have to find some way to stand out from the crowd.

If this becomes just a marketing ploy or gimmick the consumer will see right through it and the tactic is unlikely to have any real long-term success, but if the point of differentiation comes from the vigneron’s genuine passion or  belief then  it becomes something far more credible that the consumer can understand and relate to.

That’s what Michel Loriot has found and it will be interesting to watch how he fares.

How long can I keep champagne?

More bottles ageing at Krug 19th Feb 2010There is a common misconception about champagne which is that it doesn’t age well and that you can’t keep it for very long but this is in fact totally false.

To understand more let’s look first at the reasons why the idea has come to be so widespread  and then we’ll tackle the question of how long you can keep champagnes

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How many bottles of champagne do I need for a party?

How many bottles of champagne do I need for a party?

This is a question that comes up time and again.

Champagne FlutesI’ll do my best to answer by giving you a few tips to guide  you, but please bear in mind that there are lots of variables that will affect the answer so there is no absolute rule you can stick to in all circumstances.

First let’s consider the amount you pour in each glass.

9 Curious Facts About Champagne

9 Facts imageThere's a lot more to champagne than meets the eye and in this free report you can discover 9 fascinating facts that you probably didn't know.

In fact, no matter how much you know already, there's always more to learn.

Simply click on this link to download your copy of 9 Curious Facts About Champagne

What is the difference between champagne and sparkling wine?

People often ask  “What is the difference between champagne and sparkling wine?”

In one sense you might say that there is little difference between the two and it’s true that champagne is certainly a sparkling wine, but… not all sparkling wine is champagne.

The Champagne vineyardsTo understand this first we need to look at the geography  - there is, quite literally, a world of difference between champagne and sparkling wine because sparkling wine can be made anywhere in the world, but champagne can only be made in one particular region in France called, surprise, surprise, Champagne.

So, the name of the region came first and the wine made there is called by the same name.

Plenty of things about the Champagne region , for example, the soil, the climate and the wine making traditions, are unique to that area and even though people in other parts of the world may make their wine using the same techniques, the results will be slightly different.

Then there’s the legal issue

There’s a never-ending debate about where the very first sparkling wines were made, but one thing is clear: it was the people in Champagne ( the champenois as they are called) who popularised their wine a sold it all over the world.

They have been doing this for about 300 years now and you could say, with good justification, that today there would not be as much demand for sparkling wine, wherever it comes from, if it had not been for all the time and money the people in Champagne spent marketing and selling their champagne all over the world.

You’ll appreciate therefore that the champenois want to benefit from all that investment and they want to word champagne  to be reserved exclusively for the wines made in the Champagne region.

Most countries of the world have accepted this argument and now, with a few exceptions, mostly in the USA, wine makers outside the Champagne region in France are not allowed to describe their sparkling wines as champagne.

The next thing that explains the difference between champagne and many sparkling wines is the way they are made and, very broadly speaking, that can be split into two parts: the grapes used and the wine making technique.

Bunch of Pinot NoirIn Champagne only 7 types of grapes can be used and by far the three most common are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. This regulation is just one of many hundreds designed to maintain the style and quality of champagne.

Sparkling wine makers in other parts of the world can use these same grape varieties, but for reasons we mentioned above, the results they obtain will be slightly different to the results in the Champagne region.

On the other hand, sparkling wine makers in many areas outside Champagne have a lot more flexibility when it comes to the grapes that use. They can, and do, use several types of grapes, so this too explains the difference between champagne and many sparkling wines.

Prosecco comes from Italy and is usually made with a grape variety called Glera, which used to be called prosecco – hence the name of the sparkling wine.

Cava comes from Spain and the predominant grape varieties used make Cava are called Xarel.lo, Macabeo and Parellada.

In the UK and in many other countries the rules surrounding the choice of grapes are less strict and the wine makers can use whichever ones they wish.

Last but certainly not least, is the wine making technique.

The way champagne is made is called La Méthode Champenoise and it involves, amongst other things, two distinctive procedures:

  1. a) there are two alcoholic fermentations, the second of which must take place inside the bottle in which the wine is later going to be sold.
  2. b) the wine must be aged in cellars for a specified length of time before it can be sold – this can range from 15 months to 3 years and some champagnes are matured in cellars for as long as 10 years.

Bouteilles sur lattes 800There’s nothing to stop wine makers anywhere using the same method – Cava for example -  but if they do, they must refer to it as the Méthode Traditionelle. They can’t call it La Méthode Champenoise because that is reserved for Champagne because the champenois were the ones that first perfected it.

Some sparkling wines – in particular Prosecco - are made using what is called the Charmat method. This technique uses large vats for the second fermentation and does not stipulate long ageing in cellars before the wine is sold.

The charmat method is not only much quicker and cheaper than the La Méthode Champenoise, but it does not allow the wines to develop as many complex flavours and aromas as champagne and the bubbles are not as fine and persistent.

In conclusion, there are a lot of excellent sparkling wines, but there are many differences, some small, some large, between them and champagne which comes only from the Champagne region in France.

To learn more about champagne take a look at My Champagne Expert a fascinating online course that will take you on a journey through Champagne and will teach you more about champagne than most sommeliers learn in a lifetime.