The recent champagne tasting hosted at The Banqueting House is certainly one of my calendar favourites. If champagne is the wine of kings then this is the venue to exhibit such a broad range of this splendid wine.

Ruben Banquetng House CIVB CHampagne

The Banqueting House was created for King James I but it was his son Charles I who commissioned Rubens to paint the ceiling; a homage to his father and himself. It is mesmerising and after tasting numerous glasses of wine it becomes interactive! I sipped continually and am certain I witnessed, from the corner of my eye, fleshy putti dancing down seizing bottles before springing back up into the panelled display. It didn't bother me as there was so much to go round.

The annual Champagne Bureau (CIVC) tasting is a good place to get a feel for how different the styles from different appellations within Champagne can be. Add to that it is an opportunity to meet the producers, the agents and distributors and talk to them about how they're making their wines and what styles they leaning towards.

I saw my old friend Edmund Sherman from Champagne J Veuve J. Lanaud, there on business to speak to UK distributors. He expressed his view that lower dosage wines are still the area they are pushing towards in terms of character and style. This literally means little or no added sugar to wines during the production. It leads to extremely dry and yeasty champagne that is seductive and causes the sides of the mouth to backflip with moist pleasure.

Edmund sherman Champagne

Edmund Sherman and Alexandre Penet share a glass

A very good example of low dosage champagne that I tasted came from Alexandre Penet of 'Champagne Penet-Chardonet'. Alexandre goes to great pains to craft his wines and develop the styles that really stand out in a crowd. And this is certainly a crowd to stand out in.

Other wines I tasted that were noteworthy are as follows:

Pol Roger NV - Stunning white fruit with brilliant acidity and a luxurious finish.

Louis Bartelemy 2002 - A nose so toasty it begged to be consumed. Tasting of sweet white fruits with a crisp acidity

Jacquart 2006 - Lovely bready nose, pure pleasure with fruit sweet flavours going on and on

Penet-Chardonnet 2007 - Beautiful white fruits, crisp acidity and long flavours. True pleasure.

Champagne is obviously receiving increased competition from emerging sparkling wine producers such as the UK and elsewhere but it is a real joy to see how the Champenoise blend their heritage with the determination to create wines that are still evolving, still first class and so damn drinkable.

Looking forward to next year already!

written by Nick Breeze

CIVB Champagne tasting

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