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



All About The Bubbles - Part 2

Does Size Matter?

Fine-bubbles-at-De-Sousa225One of the most common assumptions people make about champagne is that small bubbles are a sign of a good quality, as if a champagne with small bubbles is somehow superior to the others.

There’s a grain of truth in this, but as with so many things, it’s is a bit of an over-simplification and is not a reliable way to judge the quality of one champagne compared to another.

For one thing it is nigh on impossible, with the naked eye, to tell the difference between the size of the bubbles in one glass of champagne compared with another. That’s because there isn’t much difference, if indeed there is any difference at all, between champagnes of the same type, for example non-vintage champagnes.

Why is that? Well, all champagne must be made following the same rules and regulations and if this is done competently, which it almost always is, the result will inevitably be small bubbles.

That is not necessarily true for some other sparkling wines. For example, Prosecco is made by a different process to champagne, a process which is cheaper and produces larger bubbles, so in that sense small bubbles are indeed a mark of quality, but only between sparkling wines made by the traditional method, as in champagne, and those made by some other method.

There is however one crucial factor that does influence the size of the bubbles and to understand a little more about that let’s return to what Professor Liger-Belair of Reims University had to say on the subject in a recent interview.

"The age of the Champagne is a parameter of importance," Liger-Belair says. Corks do not provide an absolute seal, so some CO2 escapes over the years and as the pressure inside the bottles slowly decreases, so too will the size of the bubbles. As professor Liger-Belair says: "Old champagnes show small bubbles because of their age."

So there you have it. Smaller bubbles are an indication of greater age, rather than superior quality per se.

The More The Merrier?

What about the amount of bubbles. Does more bubbles mean better champagne?

Well here again it really comes down to personal preference and to what type of champagne you prefer, or the occasion demands.

What is certain is that the amount of bubbles depends entirely on the amount of dissolved CO2 in the wine. When champagne is bottled yeast and sugar are added to provoke the second fermentation which creates the bubbles. The amount of sugar added is 24 grams of sugar per litre of wine which is a ratio that has been proven to produce 6 atmospheres of pressure inside the bottle.

As we saw earlier however, the bottle is never a perfectly sealed and some CO2 always escapes. The reduction in pressure as the bottle ages in the cellar means not only that the bubbles will be smaller, but that there will be fewer of them too.

So a young, fresh non vintage champagne will have more bubbles than a mature old vintage champagne, but that’s OK because the first is meant for happy occasions on high days and holiday when most people are paying more attention to the celebration than studying the size or number of the bubbles, whilst the vintage champagne is for quieter moments when you have time to linger and appreciate the subtle nuances of the champagne which may well include characteristics of the bubbles.

You get the same loss of bubbles when you open the bottle except that the loss of CO2 will be much faster. Even if you put a topper in a bottle that is not empty, that doesn’t help a great deal – the champagne is still losing fizz fast.

"Inevitably, the second time the Champagne will be served, its level of dissolved CO2 will be less than the first time," Liger-Belair says.

Cramant or Crémant

Cramant225If you prefer a slightly less fizzy style of champagne then you may care to open the bottle and leave it open for half an hour, or so, before pouring it.

Alternatively there are still a very few champagnes to which a lower amount of sugar is added at the time of bottling. These champagnes have less pressure and fewer bubbles. They used to be called crémant, but the term has been discontinued in Champagne region, but if you search hard enough there are still a few producers who make this style.

Crémant should not be confused with the word Cramant which is the name of a Grand Cru village in la Côte des Blancs. Cramant was one of the first villages to be designated as Grand Cru and many commentators consider that it produces the finest Chardonnay grapes in Champagne.

All About The Bubbles - Part 1

All About The Bubbles – Part 1

Bubbles-at-Hure225Bubbles are part of the fun of drinking champagne and a good deal has been said and written about them. Some of this is fact and some of it is faction; in this article you’ll discover which is which.

Sensible protection of heritage and quality, or another example of poor marketing by French wine?

Chouilly-mention225In Champagne more and more small producers are coming to the conclusion that a good way to add value and to differentiate themselves from each other, and from the big brands, is to emphasise their terroir. What better way to do this, according to these producers, than to put the name of the village of origin prominently the label?

However INAO (the French National Institute for Appellations d’Origines) is opposed to this, to the extent, if my understanding is correct, that they forbid the practice. The UMC (Union des Maisons de Champagne) which is the association for the larger brands, is also opposed.

Champagne Christian Briard

If you like discovering tiny champagne makers of good quality that very few people know about , then you'll enjoy Champagne Christian Briard.

Cuvee-Ambre-Vigne-225Christian's Cuvée Ambre 2005 is featured in the latest edition of Luxurious magazine. Great exposure for Christian, but in some ways the article doesn’t do full justice to his story, so perhaps I can fill in a few gaps.

You could say that this is the story of the prodigal son. Christian’s father wasn’t a champagne maker or vigneron, and there was no obvious reason for Christian to enter the world of champagne. Instead he followed a quite different career path and spent the majority of his career - until a few years ago - in the high tech industry of smart cards; an industry that has nothing to do with wine, apart perhaps, from drinking it.

However Christian’s grandfather WAS a vigneron and it seems that the pull of the family terroir proved irresistible to Christian, lead him to turn his back on the world of chip and PIN and brought him back to his tiny home village of Jaulgonne, quite a way down the Marne River valley westwards from Epernay.

This is the heart of Pinot Meunier country and it’s only natural therefore that Meunier features strongly in all the Christian Briard blends. Consequently they're fruity and soft on the palate, but they nevertheless have an elegance that will come as a pleasant surprise to those who feel that Pinot Meunier can be a little 'rustic'.

Christian-tasting225So far there are only three champagnes in the range:

Cuvée Ambre Vintage 2005 – the one that was featured in Luxurious magazine

Cuvée Maurice Romelot named after Christian’s grandfather and

Cuvée Rubis, a rosé

Each champagne is beautifully presented in a bottle hand-decorated using a design created by a famous Vietnamese artist.

Why Vietnamese you might wonder.Oysters-and-Champagne-Christian-Briard225

Well, this is another interesting and unique feature of Champagne Christian Briard. Over the years Christian has spent many months in Vietnam where he not only acquired an appreciation for the country’s culture and cuisine, but where he also met his wife. So,a little oriental touch on the bottle seems only natural. 

You can find out more about Champagne Christian Briard here where you’ll also discover some fascinating food and champagne matching recipes that are refreshingly original compared what is on offer on many other sites. 

A small champagne producer that is well worth getting to know

Christmas Champagne Tips

Christmas and New Year wouldn’t be the same without a few bottles of champagne to share with your friends and family, but to add that little bit of extra sparkle and style to your celebrations here are a few tips taken from the famous Château de Saran, in the heart of Champagne, that are really simple and make you look and feel like a real connoisseur.