Carl has spent the last five years exploring the villages, hillsides and houses of the worlds most famous producers of bubbles. The region itself has over 19000 grower vigneron and 100 Houses that contribute towards an annual bounty of 300 million bottles.


As winemaking techniques and equipment continue to improve, then the quality of what we, the end users, get to taste, also improves. In todays highly competitive sparkling wine market, diversity in style, value and overall quality is endless.

There are however, certain trends that are emerging and deserve a closer look. One is the dosage, meaning the amount of sugar added per litre to the wine during production. This has a great influence on what we end up tasting.

benoit dehuBenoît DEHU - enigmatic Champagne producer

Organic wine production

This is a controversial subject in the wine industry. As Carl points out in the film interview, winemaking was always organic prior to the arrival of pesticides and other chemical products. However, winemakers do not add these chemicals for fun.

Work in the vineyard is an ongoing collaboration with an often uncooperative Mother Nature. Getting certified for being organic means tough regulatory control over what is used during the production of grapes and wine.

Controversy stems from the use of certain alternatives in large quantities when needed and their potential effects on the wine that might undermine it’s “healthy” status. Even so, the trend for “organic” agricultural production is firmly established in the consumers mind, so it is no surprise that wine producers are going down this road.

Carl edmund Sherman with Francois BoulardChampagne specialist Carl Sherman and producer of delicious champagne, Francis Boulard

Biodynamic

Biodynamic methods relate to a range of often quite eccentric practices but the general gist is to work in tune with seasons and moon cycles, even when the grape juice is in the bottle. It sounds surreal but the effects appear to have substance. You must search these wines out and judge for yourself.

leclerc briant
Champagne Leclerc Briant - delicious biodynamic sparkling wine - modern luxury

Dosage - the adding of sugar to the wine

The less sugar added, the more dry the champagne will be. In some cases, where the label states ‘Brut Zero’ or ‘Brut Nature’, you can assume there is no sugar added and any perceived sweetness in the wine is coming from the residual sugar left over from the winemaking.

Sugar is often used to positive effect in sparkling wine production to balance the wine and adjust the taste to what the winemaker is trying to achieve. On the flip side it can also be used to mask faults in a wine or unripe grapes.

Making sparkling wine with lower sugar levels means that there is certainly less room for error but also a wide range of styles and flavours that emerge from different blending, percentage of grapes varieties and how long the wine is allowed to age. We’ve tasted some stunning wines where the producer has aged the wines for longer in order to round off the acidity and create dry rich flavours that are really unique.

That said, many producers still add over 6 or 8grammes of sugar to great effect so the only way to really discover the styles that appeal, one has to pick up a glass and start tasting.

Champagne Francis BoulardChampagne Francis Boulard 

Summary

This was a really interesting showcase of an exciting area of production in Champagne. Often small producers, with big ideas producing complex, interesting and delicious wines. It was great to see the knowledge of so many generations of winemaking coming into play, establishing what some might call the avant garde?

Here are a few favourites I selected from the Bulles & Bio tasting in Reims:

Champagne Leclerc Briant, Epernay - www.leclercbriant.com Biodynamic

La Croisette - Gamme, 100% Chardonnay with grapes from 2012 harvest and a dosage of 5.5grammes.

Attractive ripe fruit aromas and taste, pear-drops. Really coats the mouth with a pleasant tingly feeling from the acidity. Round and not overpowering. Great for trying with a range of dishes… partridge?

Les Crayéres - Gamme, Premier Cru. Blend of 40% pinot noir, 40% pinot manure & 20% chardonnay with dosage of 6grammes.

Very accessible with lovely ripe apple, pear, white peach. Good balance of acidity makes this delicious in the mouth but yearning for some food to accompany. Scrambled eggs with white truffle would suit me just fine!

Champagne Francis Boulard et fille - www.francis-boulard.com - Biodynamic.

Blanc de blanc Vielles Vignes. 100% chardonnay. Extra Brut with dosage of 3-5grammes

Delicious floral aromas, lemon, peach tasting with lovely creaminess in the mouth. Lots of finesse and lip licking style. Would pair well with a range of foods. Pork belly with parsnip mash?

Les Rachais 100% Chardonnay, Extra Brut with grapes from 2008 harvest. Bottled in 2010 and disgorged in May 2015. Dosage (I think) 3-5g

“Brilliant” acidity, cries out for food or maybe a bit more aging but one of my favourite wines at the tasting. Really striking. Mouth tingling with white fruit characteristics. Great body from the oak. I think I’d need a magnum to see us through a course of seafood and then another of crispy roast duck.

Champagne Benoît DEHU, Fossoy, http://origines-champagne.com/fr/champagne-benoit-dehu/

Quite a character, Benoît Dehu’s wine seemed to embody what this tasting is all about. The wines presented were both delicious and were vilified from barrels made from trees on the same plot of land. Tiny production for these wines as they come from small parcels. Great to see such high quality wines coming from 100% pinot meunier grapes; the 3rd variety often frowned upon by those in the know…

La rue des Noyers, 100% pinot meunier from 2012 harvest, zero dosage

Super bright acidity as you’d expect with layers of white fruit tingling in the mouth. A unique wine with attractive body and length. I could devour this with good friends and a supply of the best fish & chips!

Oeil de Perdrix, 100% pinot meunier from the 2012 harvest. 2 years vilification in barrel and 2 in bottle.

Aromatic, hints of floral and fresh cut peaches, citrus. Really attractive both on the nose and in the mouth. Lovely acidity. Well balanced and needs to be drunk with good friends. For food pairing? Be creative!

champagne organic bio cover 2Organic Champagne tasting cellar900460 vineyards marne chamagne

Coming up next… Watch the the tasting as we take to filming in the cellars of the Marne Valley with Reims champagne specialist Carl Sherman. 

 Nick Breeze - @NickGBreeze on twitter and instagram