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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.


 

US FlagThe US wine market has been growing for a number of years and, according to an article in Shanken News Daily, the growth is set to continue for many years to come.

Even though the estimated rate of growth is only 1.1% versus 2015 that still means an extra 3.5 million cases ( or 42 million bottles) in 2016!

Even better news for champagne is that sparkling wines are growing at a much faster rate: +6 % in fact, and total sales are expected to reach a total in 2016 of 225 million bottles.

Much of this volume increase is accounted for by domestic sparkling wine and, amongst imported wines, by prosecco – in other words, at relatively low price levels - but, at +7.7% in 2015, champagne sales volume is also increasing quickly

The best news of all is that in terms of value the USA overtook the UK in 2015 to become the number 1 export market by value.

You can read the full article here

http://www.shankennewsdaily.com/index.php/2016/07/08/15350/exclusive-u-s-wine-market-pace-grow-20-million-cases-2020/

 

Prorietaire - Recoltant

Tyson Stelzer, the Australian champagne commentator, recently posted a very detailed article about the state of the Australian champagne maket.

http://tysonstelzer.com/articles/growers-in-crisis-despite-record-smashing-champagne-year-down-under/

The article is full of data and charts and makes interesting reading if you're into statistics. However I was intrigued as to why, with so many topics raised in the article, Tyson chose to use the title Growers in Crisis?

Well, I think the topic is very relevant. In fact it deserves a closer look and when you do delve a bit deeper I think you’ll see that the situation is both better and worse than Tyson suggests...

The middle week of April has come to be called ‘Champagne Week’ here in Champagne: over 6 days some 18 different associations of independent champagne makers host tasting events at which anyone involved in the wine business can taste still wines from the previous year’s harvest (2015 in the case of this year’s events) and also a few of the champagnes made by each producer.


The events offer a fascinating insight not only into the wide and very diverse world of the small champagne makers  - with at least 10 wine makers in every association you could potentially meet 200 champagne makers, or more, if you have the stamina to visit every event - but also into the champagne making process itself and in particular to the complex skill of  blending which involves finding the perfect combination of still wines that will produce the result the champagne maker wants when the wine has been transformed into champagne and  is finally ready to sell at a date many years into the future.

Meunier-Institut-300
Each event and every association is interesting but this year I wanted to seek out some of the newly created associations of champagne makers and decide to visit the Meunier Institut at their event in Basiieux-sous Chatillon, a good 20 minutes’ drive outside Epernay down la Vallée de La Marne and consequently one of the less busy venues. As the name suggests the members of the Insitut are avid proponents of the virtues of Pinot Meunier (or just Meunier as we are encouraged to say now).


In the past there has been much said about Meunier  and  lot of it has not been very complementary:  ‘it’s rustic and lacks elegance’; ‘it has no finish and just disappears from the palate after a fairly short time’; ‘it’s OK for young blends but it doesn’t age well and it will never make great champagne’; it’s too sweet’. All these accusations and more have been levelled at Meunier, and perhaps – especially in the past -  there’s been some truth in all of them, although it should be remembered that Krug sets great store by Meunier and it always features significantly  in their blended champagnes – if it’s good enough for Krug it can’t all be bad.


However the members of the Meunier Insitut are no longer content with saying that Meunier is better than you might imagine, they’re presenting a different view of Meunier as a grape of great potential that can make superb champagne. Here are a few examples that may well make you want to take another look at Meunier.


Barnier-300Champagne Roger Barnier (Village: Villevenard)  100% Meunier Extra Brut
Just looking at the label is a delight for a real champagne lover – lots of information to absorb not least of which is the fact that the champagne is already a very respectable age although that is nothing compared to the age of the vines, the youngest of which were planted in 1955. Another thing that struck me about this champagne was how very light and floral the aromas were – quite the opposite of what you might have expected if you blindly default to the stereotypical view of Meunier as a varietal that produces champagnes that are pleasant but are fairly ponderous and simple.

Originel-300Champagne André Heucq (Village : Cuisles) Cuvée Originel 2001
Cuisles is prime country for Meunier: situated in a valley running perpendicular to the Marne River Cuisles is one of the rare villages where there is a layer of green clay (illite) in the subsoil that adds its own unique character to the wines.
 Actually this The Cuvée Originel wasn’t one of the wines that was being offered for general tasting so I was lucky to have the opportunity to try it and as a champagne from the 2001 harvest ( which was not one of the greatest)  it certainly gave the lie to the idea that Meunier champagnes don’t have any ageing potential. True it isn’t a pure Meunier because the blend is 30% of Pinot Noir, but there is still plenty of life and freshness is this excellent wine that must surely be thanks, in part at least, to the high proportion of Meunier.

Meteyer-from-decanter-300Champagne Météyer (Village: Trélou-sur-Marne) Brut Exclusif 2007, zero dosage
Interestingly this champagne was being offered from a decanter which opens up a whole new topic for discussion, but this cuvée would certainly be an eye-opener for anyone who thinks that Meunier wines are all too sweet. Yes, the natural fruitiness of Meunier does create a full, soft sensation on the palate that may give the impression of sweetness, but to the best of my knowledge the sugar content natural present in Meunier is no higher than in any other varietal.
This zero dosage champagne strikes a lovely balance between fresh acidity and soft texture in the mouth thanks to the character of the Meunier, the age of the wine and the fact that decanting has reduced the natural effervescence of the champagne.


The moral of the story?
As in all things to do with champagne and perhaps with wine in general: ‘Don’t accept what the accepted wisdom is until you have tried and tasted for yourself’.


The champagnes of the other members of the Meunier Institut are too numerous to mention them all here but there are all worth discovering. The other members are:
Eric Taillet (Village:Baslieux-sous-Châtillon)
Moutardier (Village : Le Breuil)
Xavier Leconte (Village : Troissy-Bouquigny)
Serveaux Fils (Village : Passy-sur-Marne)
Roger-Constant Lemaire (Village : Villers-sous-Châtillon)

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