By: MAURICE LEE
Maurice P Lee has lived in the Algarve for five years and has been visiting the region for 20 years. He is a retired Cellar Master and is part of a local wine society. He is often invited to be a guest speaker to discuss wines and holds tastings.
CHAMPAGNE! NAPOLEON once said: “In victory, one deserves it; in defeat, one needs it”. I have written about Champagne before but some of the media are still misleading readers. Surely they can find some subject they know and write about that.
Petronella Wyatt wrote an article recently, supposedly on champagne. She told us how long it takes to drive from Calais to the Champagne Region, what percentage of Bollinger is exported to Britain and how Joan of Arc and Marie Antoinette died.
We learned very little about champagne though.
According to Ms Wyatt, to make Bollinger some grapes are imported. Codswallop!
Christian Dennis (Bollinger) supposedly said: “Creating the bubbles is the easiest and least important part of the process. Simply add yeast and sugar”.
I don’t believe a man with his experience would say such a thing.
Petronella asked if she could do that with Pinot Grigio from the supermarket. Why not, Ms Wyatt. I doubt if you’d notice the difference, he replied.
In all my years as a Cellar Master, I have never known red Burgundy to be recommended to accompany lamb.
It is always a good red Bordeaux. Still Ms Wyatt, you drink what you like and do enjoy your trip to Burgundy. I look forward to your article on the region.
On Christmas Eve, 2007, Nigella Lawson’s Christmas Express in a British tabloid included a column, Femail’s Guide to Festive Fizz.
No writer’s name headed the column, so was it Ms Lawson who wrote it?
The nameless writer reviewed seven champagnes but only identified one as Brut.
Were the others Extra -Sec or Sec? We don’t know.
She didn’t tell us and we really couldn’t take her descriptions seriously.
She said one “tasted more like a sparkling wine”.
Does she not realise that all champagne is sparkling wine?
She complained that the bubbles were very small. The bubbles should be very small!
In spite of what Christian Dennis is reputed to have said, there aren’t many people who pay as much attention to detail as the people of Champagne, when creating a steady stream of pinhead sized bubbles.
There are on average 250 million bubbles in a 75cl bottle.
See Christie’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling Wine. If they are big, it could be anything produced by the “tank” or “transfer” method, instead of Méthode Champenoise.
Ms Anonymous, on the same wine, also said: “A little soapy in flavour”. Maybe she washed her teeth before tasting!
Five of the seven bottles she tasted were dry, so we assume they were Brut, Extra-Sec or Sec. Hardly surprising given dry champagne was specifically introduced for the British market.
We don’t know about the remaining two, she simply ignored the issue.
Whoever the writer is, she should learn something about wine or keep quiet.
Eight days later, in the same British tabloid, three of the champagnes our mysterious writer had written about were reviewed again.
Guess what? The descriptions were the same, word for word.
Marks out of 10 were the same, as were the prices.
These were reviewed by experts from Leiths School of Food and Wine, London.
Are they the mystery writers of Christmas Eve?
I wonder why they didn’t review the remaining four, three of which were from prestigious West End stores. It wasn’t the price as their wines weren’t the most expensive. Maybe it was the “basic looking label” on one of them.
These experts should remember that “it’s not the clothes you wear that counts. It’s what’s in them”.
Some people don’t realise how expensive it is to produce champagne and the controls governing production are really strict.
At any time, government officials can arrive, pick up two bottles at random, and seal and label them.
One will be kept by the owner and the second one will be sent for analysis.
If the sample is not up to standard, then the second one is tested.
If that also fails then the whole batch is destroyed.
Not only does the producer lose the wine but also the revenue it would have brought in, and there isn’t any compensation.
I’m not asking you to like champagne. That’s your choice. For those who do like it, please ignore the article by Petronella Wyatt.
No doubt she was on an all expenses paid ‘jolly’, and in reality that’s all she wrote about. You can also ignore the experts from Leiths School of Food and Wine.
The most popular style of champagne is Brut.
It is classified as very dry and the dosage can have between zero and two per cent of liqueur d’ expédition (wine and cane sugar) added.
Extra Sec (dry) can have a dosage between two and three per cent, while Sec (medium dry) can have between four and five per cent and Demi-Sec (medium sweet) can have between seven and nine per cent.
Rich or Doux (sweet) can have between nine and 10 per cent liqueur d’ expedition added.
Make sure you read the label before you buy any champagne.
It is rumoured that Marilyn Monroe once took a bath in 350 bottles of champagne.
A rather expensive Jacuzzi, don’t you think!
Investing in wine can be very profitable. Last year, a not very well-known French red made the headlines. It was Chateau Le Pin 1982 from Pomerol.
That year the wine sold for 185 pound sterling (241 euros) a case (12 bottles). Today, a case will cost you 26,000 pound sterling (33,000 euros).
This is a far better return than Building Societies. Admittedly, 1982 was an exceptional year in Bordeaux, especially for Pomerol and Saint-Emilion.
For more information, please email [email protected]