Champagne… never touch it (unless you’re thirsty)

PUBLISHED: 17:31 13 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:17 20 February 2013

Champagne

Champagne

The English summer may have all too short a lease, but with it comes that rather arcane period known as The Season: Ascot, Wimbledon, Henley, Cowes, Goodwood et al. And during The Season, we drink epic quantities of fizz, with Ascot alone seeing s...

Champagne... never touch it (unless you're thirsty)

The English summer may have all too short a lease, but with it comes that rather arcane period known as The Season: Ascot, Wimbledon, Henley, Cowes, Goodwood et al. And during The Season, we drink epic quantities of fizz, with Ascot alone seeing something in the region of 170,000 bottles of champagne consumed. So this month we focus on matters fizzical

English after all

The last few years has seen an astonishing rise in the reputation of English sparkling wine with Nyetimber from Sussex even beating Dom Pérignon in one blind tasting. It is certainly one area that we will see England going on from strength to strength over the next decade. But I bet you didn't know that it was the English who made sparkling champagne in the first place. Although Dom Pérignon has been credited with the invention of champagne, there is no record of his ever making sparkling wine at all. He was a brilliant cellar master and blender beyond compare, but in the late 17th Century, most French producers were trying to find ways to eliminate the unwanted secondary fermentation from their wines, not encourage it! In 1662, however, some years before the celebrated Dom started work in Hautvillers, an Englishman, Christopher Merret, recorded the adding of sugar to 'wines of Champaign' to make a sparkling wine.

Nyetimber Classic Cuvée £26.95

Pretty in Pink

Rosé is the in colour at the moment, but the sudden popularity of pink champagne has forced prices sharply higher. For those of you looking for attractive summer pink fizz you can't do much better than Cava Castillo Perelada Rosado. This fruity rosé received the ultimate accolade when chosen from a cast of thousands as the official reception drink at the Spanish Royal wedding in May 2006. It was also the preferred tipple of Salvador Dali who lived near Perelada in north-eastern Catalonia.

Castillo Perelada Rosado £6.49 per bottle

Winston is back

Another great English connection with champagne was Churchill's enduring love of the drink, especially that of Pol Roger, of which his daughter said: "I saw him many times the better for it, but never the worse." They even bottled 'pints' for him as he believed that a bottle was too much, yet a half not enough. When he died, they created a Special Prestige Cuvée 'Cuvée Winston Churchill' which, to this day remains one of the world's great champagnes. The family tradition continued with his son-in-law, the then Sir Christopher Soames. When overseeing the Rhodesian peace talks, he was asked if he could predict how many days the talks would last. "Thirty days," he replied. How could he be so sure? "Simple, I have thirty bottles of Pol Roger left." And thirty days it was!

Champagne Pol Roger 'Cuvée Winston Churchill' £99.95

Absolutely fabulous

Madame Lily Bollinger took over the running of Champagne Bollinger when her husband died in 1941 and ran the house for the next 30 years, travelling all over the world promoting the brand. She is best remembered though for her immortal words that sum up the whole essence of the drink:

'I drink it when I'm happy and when I'm sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone.
When I have company I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and I drink it when I am.
Otherwise I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty!"

Champagne Bollinger £30.95 per bottle.




The Unusual Grape Alphabet

B is for:

Baga - the main red grape variety of the important Bairrada vineyards of Portugal. Thick skinned, it produces long lasting wines of dense colour and good longevity.

Bourboulenc - This ancient vine probably originated in Greece, but is now rarely seen except in the southern Rhône valley where it is one of the white grape varieties of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Bual - This is one of the great grapes of Madeira. After Malvasia (or Malmsey as it used to be known) Bual is the richest style of Madeira, making wines of great complexity and quite astonishing longevity.


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