There’s nothing better than a glass of top class fizz, unfortunately all reasonable Champagne weighs in with a hefty price tag, what comes a close second is finding fizz at a rock bottom price which actually tastes pretty good. Following on the back of a recent review for another cheapy Louvel Fontaine comes this Louis Chaurey Champagne from M&S at a very affordable £16 a bottle.
I picked this up at our local fete where I won it in a raffle so it basically cost me £5 in tickets, even more reason to enjoy.
After my recent venture into the world of Sabrage (slicing off the top of a Champagne bottle with a Sabre) I must say I was tempted to open it with, maybe not a sabre but a large kitchen Knife but I decided against it.
When opened, the conventional way it was extremely frothy ( lively Mousse /effervescence) calming down into a stream of small but not tiny bubbles.
I found it hard to distinguish much in the way of aroma, maybe a hint of lemon rind and cherries. On first sip this tasted full of citrus fruits including crisp green apples and lemons giving it an enamel stripping tartness which I found refreshing. Again as in the Louvel Fontaine not much in the way of toastiness but there was a slight floral flavour which added to the appeal.
Ok, this is not a fine Champagne but it hits the spot for a mid-week venture into fizz without breaking the bank and I quite happily drink it again.
Have you tried Orange wine ? no, neither have I until now and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I can see people pulling faces at the thought of wine made with oranges but fear not the term only refers to the deep amber like colour.
Orange wine is made from white grapes in this case Grenache Blanc in which the skins are left on during fermentation (as in red wine) causing this orange like colour. Be warned though this wine is not for the fainthearted and is very different, its robust in style, weighty, fairly tannic with a slight sourness.
The wine I tried was the ‘Fides’ ( Roman word for trust or to have faith) and is made by the Bosman family vineyard situated in the western Cape of South Africa.
I must admit when first poured I was surprised at the deepness of the colour almost like a glass of cider and it had intense aromas of dried orange peel, nuts, ripe tropical fruits and what I can only describe as furniture polish (not as strange or uninviting as it sounds) .
Taste wise it was fairly intense and had a weighty creaminess about it, there was that tropical ripe fleshy fruit along with almond nuts and over ripe apple, there was also a hint of oak and pronounced tannins.
As I said earlier, maybe not for everyone, it is very different and at 14% a little on the hefty side a little expensive at around £14 but I loved it and would recommend you try it, maybe when it’s on offer though .
Two hundred years ago officers of the French cavalry under the command of Napoleon would celebrate victory in battle by opening a bottle of champagne but instead of searching around in their saddlebags for a corkscrew they would simply slice the top of the bottle off with a sabre. This is the art of Sabrage in which a swords edge meets with the top of the bottle, the annulus, along the seam which is the weakest point just below the cork.
This proud and dashing tradition has now been revived and can now be performed by any budding dragoon under the tuition of the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or (Club of the Golden Sabre) founded in France in 1986 in which the UK branch was formed in 1999. The society hold various events around the country in which everyone attending can have a go at sabering a bottle of Champagne to become a Subreur the entry rank and the first step in the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or other ranks as you go up the chain are Chevalier Sabreur, Officier, Commandeur and Grand Commandeur.
On the 16th of August 2016 I was kindly invited to such an event at Smith & Wollensky a classic American steakhouse in the heart of London run by Operations director Nathan Evans who also happens to be a Grand Commandeur of the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or. The evenings event was sponsored by Champagne house Perrier-Jouét supplying bottles of their Grand Brut for sabering.
On arrival we were asked to sign a disclaimer whilst being offered a glass of Perrier-Jouét Champagne. Men in green cloaks which signifies seniority in the society were already busy setting up, arranging tables with suitably chilled bottles of Champagne and a big heavy curtain in front to catch the bottle top as it flies from the neck. The Grand Commandeur Nathan Evans introduced himself and gave us a quick history of the art of Sabrage ending with the immortal words “the only thing you can do with a sabraged bottle is drink it !”.
Introductions over Nathan then gave us a quick demonstration slicing the top of the bottle with elegant ease as the cork still firmly in the neck shot off with a loud pop into the curtain with enthusiastic applause.
Soon after it was our turn, we were called up two at a time aided by Senior members Nathan Evans and David Herbert. Suddenly the room was filled with excitement as loud pops like gunfire filled the room as bottles were sliced with golden sabres as guests became Sabreurs after successfully hacking off the top of the champagne bottles, Sabreur being the entry rank after the first successful slicing. After completion we were presented with the top of the bottle in a velvet pouch along with a Sabreur certificate.
I was lucky and hacked off the top of the bottle first time, probably due to the fact I was relaxed having finished a couple of glasses of champagne before hand. The secret is to find the seam in the bottle and run the sword along the bottle in a smooth action with the blade not leaving the bottle hitting the annulus (the rim below the cork) and make sure to follow through as you would in a golf swing.
As the evening continued we were treated to a selection of fantastic seafood including Oysters, lobster, crab and prawns as well as Smith & Wollensky’s famous aged cured steak, all washed down with the fabulous Champagne (see below for tasting notes).
Fabulous venue, fabulous hosts and a fantastic evening had by all, many thanks to Smith & Wollensky, Nathan, David and of course Perrier-Jouét.
Perrier – Jouét Grand Brut Champagne.
Pinot Noir/Meuneir and Chardonnay
A light straw colour, lively mousse with a steady stream of fine bubbles.
Yeasty on the nose, slightly oaky with a hint of crisp apples and pears
Taste – dry, full flavoured, slightly flowery with citrus fruits, brioche, pear and green apples
When I first came across this bottle at a Majestic tasting my initial thought was it’s just another celebrity endorsed mass produced bottle of plonk, well, I couldn’t have been more wrong, this was a sheer delight and generally well received by everyone who tasted it.
Viewers of Graham Norton’s chat show will normally see him within reach of a very large glass of white wine in which his tipple of choice is normally Sauvignon Blanc. So with the help of guys from Invivo, Co founder Tim Lightbourne and winemaker Rob Cameron who transported 6 different samples of Sauvignon Blanc from their New Zealand Marlborough growers to London where Graham Norton joined up and helped in the blending process creating his very own bottle.
The label itself looked strange at first until you realise that it is actually quite clever with the emphasis on the GN (Graham Norton) and it definitely stands out.
In the glass the aromatic aromas hit you straight way filling the room with tropical fruits, grass and passion-fruit, stick your nose in the glass it will make your eyes water it’s so intense. On first sip this tasted fresh and zingy, the tropical fruits are evident especially passion-fruit along with sharp limes and lemons. A little hint of freshly cut grass and a little herby thing going on in the background make this a refreshingly delicious glass of wine and at £8.99 bit of a bargain I’d say !
Now my wife and daughter are big ‘Sovvy Bee’ fans especially from New Zealand and they both liked this a lot and I must admit I enjoyed it and I’d say it’s probably one of the better Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted recently, Nice one Graham !.
Champagne, generally a pretty expensive purchase, especially the good stuff and mostly opened only on special occasions. Now thanks to Asda you can open up a bottle of bubbly whenever you feel the need for fizz with this inexpensive Louvel Fontaine Champagne, wait for it, at an unbelievable price of £10, yes ! a mere tenner.
I must be honest I saw this on the shelf at £10 and I walked straight passed it not giving it a second thought dismissing it a cheap rubbish but this time I picked up a bottle having read some pretty good reviews in the press and online recently and decided to give it a go.
This Champagne made with Pinot Noir 70%, Chardonnay 20% and Pinot Meunier is not produced by a co-operative but made for Asda by a family run house called Champagne Gruet based in Buxeuil part of the Aube (Champagne- Ardenne) region of North East France.
So what’s it like ? well, I opened a suitably chilled bottle for family and friends on a warm humid evening and listening to the Mmm’s after the first sips it was safe to say that everyone was enjoying their glass.
When initially poured this was extremely fizzy with a steady stream of fine bubbles and a pale straw like colour. Nose was fairly muted but it’s the taste where this shines, fresh and bright, dry (not overly) with well-balanced acidity and just enough depth of flavour. Not much in the way of toastiness but full of citrus fruits and a touch of vanilla and a reasonably long finish.
I actually enjoyed this better as it warmed up and settled in the glass, enhancing the overall fruitiness. If you like your fizz toasty and nutty then this might not be for you but I thought this was a delicious fresh tasting Champagne and seemed to be enjoyed by everyone who sampled it.
Don’t take my word for it, go out and buy a bottle, see what you think and let me know !
A nice chilled glass of white wine sitting outside enjoying the sunshine, not quite, this is England remember. In between dodging showers or being blown away in a mini hurricane we Brits brave the elements at any cost, it’s coming up to the middle of July and the weather still shows no sign of improving.
Two recent whites I’ve had on the rare good days are the Surprisingly good ‘Finca las Moras’ Pinot Grigio 2015 from the Co op and a Californian ‘Bonterra’ Chardonnay 2013 bought on offer from Waitrose.
Let me say I’m a big fan of wines from the Co op even my smaller local store has a fantastic selection often discounted and occasionally finding a real gem.
First the Argentinian ‘Las Moras’, although far from being a gem it’s still a pretty good Pinot Grigio and I can’t remember the last time I said that even though I don’t generally drink a lot of it. Bought for £6.99 (regular price) from my local Co op, light golden straw colour in the glass with pronounced aromas of pears and tropical fruits. Pears again dominant in the taste with a hint of oranges and peaches, dry with a slightly sweet finish and utterly delicious.
A Californian Chardonnay next but a little bit more disappointing than the Pinot Grigio. Rich golden colour with an intense nose of Lemon curd and apple pie. On first sip it had a fairly creamy texture bit like vanilla custard, pineapple evident with a hefty dose of oak but the finish was slightly on the harsh side. I was a little let down by this it just seemed a bit unbalanced but by no means bad.
Left a little of the Chardonnay to taste 24hrs later and it was much more approachable with that harshness on the finish softening giving a much better mouth-feel.
Looking out of the window as I’m typing this, yes, it’s still raining and blowing a gale.
After returning from a ten-day holiday in Northern Spain’s Basque country visiting Bilbao and San Sebastian my overriding wine memory will be the delights of sampling the local hard to pronounce Txakoli (Chock-Ho-Lee) wine. Go into any local bar and you will see bottles of this unusual wine proudly displayed and when ordered, theatrically poured.
Txakoli is produced in the Spanish provinces of the Basque region where the climate is wet and cool as we found out during our stay and much more suited to white wines.
Tasting the wine is a refreshing if bracing experience, mostly low in alcohol (generally around 10 – 11.5% ABV) and great as an aperitif. It is an acquired taste and maybe not for everyone, it has flavours of crisp green apples, touch of lemon, a slight salty tang (salinity) and high acidity with a tingling fizzy effervescent finish which I found wonderfully refreshing.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the whole Txakoli experience is the way the wine is served and seemed to be a bit of a competition amongst the bar staff seeing who could pour it from the greatest height (some pouring from above their heads). Pouring from a height aerates the wine causing it to froth and bubble up and just makes the wine more lively and fun to drink but do stand back when they do this because a lot of it ends up splashing on the counter. Most bars also tend to serve Txakoli in tumblers rather than wine glasses and from what I could gather for no other reason other than being traditional.
As I said earlier it is an acquired taste and not everyone will like it but I urge if you are visiting Spain’s Basque region go into a bar order Txakoli not just for the taste but the whole experience of being served, I thought it was wonderful and cheap and I ended up not paying more than €1.80 a glass anywhere.