Champagne canard duchene cuvee leonie

As Champagne Day on 23rd October is dangerously near, it seems appropriate to strike a reminder that there once was a world in which people met civilly, where corks popped and there was chat, cheer, and incredibly good champagne. 


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Like a flash of daylight from above whilst moving along a long dark tunnel, the sound of laughter, the music and chatter and, of course, the taste of champagne that marks this mental journey in a way that a passport loaded with stamps traces the tracks of physical time.



Witnessing a contemporary incarnation of the Bullingdon Club set the agenda for British politics, the handling of COVID-19 and the forthcoming Brexit travesty, the window of opportunity to get away seemed like one worth jumping through.

Here in Liguria, Italy, concerns about COVID are very real and people are taking precautions very seriously, absent hysteria or confusion about what is real news and what is not. Apparently, the politics in Italy have their own flavours of outrage but at least we do not currently understand the language and are so in our own bubble.

Restorative powers

After some rest and the usual hours spent staring into the computer screen, we were very happy to be invited to a small birthday party organised within the same villa by the owner.

The small gathering was assembled in the drawing-room surrounded by some lively paintings, sculpture, and intermittently masked faces, with a backdrop of the sun setting over the coastline that reaches from Italy, past Menton and into France.

Canard-Duchêne Cuvée Léonie Brut, NV (Magnum)

The masks slowly came down and the Canard-Duchêne Léonie, NV in Magnum was served. This is beguiling champagne with rich pleasure-inducing power. Complex aromas of pear and a touch of tropical fruit, something floral and perhaps biscotti, meld into a seductive taste experience. There’s a perfect balance of structured acidity, ripeness, long length. A fantastic choice of champagne to serve to arriving guests. The memory still lingers.

Pol Roger Brut Reserve 75Cl

champagne pol roger brut reserve nv

The second champagne we were served was Pol Roger Brut Reserve, classic champagne that can hold its own in any company. A classic blend of equal proportions for the three grapes, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, combine to produce a smashingly fresh sparkler with layers of mango, pear, vanilla and sweet pastries, set against a backbone of pristine party-grade acidity. So enjoyable and very versatile. I enjoyed this with a warm croissant filled with cured ham. Decadent and delicious.

Henry de Valbert, Cuvée Tradition, Brut NV, 75Cl

champagne henry de valbert

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The third champagne of the evening was from Henry de Valbert, Cuvée Tradition, Brut NV, a simpler wine compared to its predecessors. Aromas of green apples, some citrus notes and fine acidity. A fine tapered offering as the evening swerved and ebbed towards the red wines.

Wine of the night?

The Cuvée Léonie certainly made its mark with me. This is really a memorable sparkler made with 25% reserve wines and aged for 3 years in the cellar. In magnum, the flavours integrate more fully while ageing more slowly. There have been numerous tastings in recent years where the same Cuvée is offered first in 75Cl bottle and then again from a 150Cl bottle. The difference is strikingly evident.


Whatever your plans for this Friday are, do try to weave some decent Champagne into the proceedings, toast the past, celebrate the now, and hold tight for the future!


*Special thanks to our hosts, Filippo and Elisa.




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COPOUT Book by Nick Breeze

Last week a picture was posted on Twitter of vines in Shabo, a large estate that lies to the west of Odesa on southern Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline. The image seemed benign at face value but the reality, of course, is that the city of Odesa has been bracing itself for attack by Russian forces. 


As COVID-19 conspires with the grimmest of winds and rain to force a societal retreat behind our own front doors, the word ennui springs to mind. The muddle of displeasure is pierced when Natalia hands me a large bulbous glass of a liquid I do not recognise.



Britain’s lamentable exit

On the eve of Britain’s official departure from the EU, my partner and I decided to explore a small town on the Italian Riviera where thewintry cold doesn’t feel so much like cold war bite.

I had warned my significant other that I would be having an inverse departure party, a release of the sanity valve if you like!


Sitting inside the ancient castle walls inside the town of Soave, a short drive from Verona in northern Italy, the unique slightly almond aroma of the indigenous grape, Garganega, rises gently from my glass. The castle sprawls up the side of an extinct volcano that gives the region its variant soil structures that mark out the better quality of Soave wines.


Tanisha Townsend decided to move to Paris 4 years ago after regularly passing through the city en route to the world’s most famous vineyards. In fact, it was about 2 years ago at the Printemps de Champagne Bouzy Rouge tasting in Reims that I saw (who we shall now refer to as) GirlMeetsGlass chirpily speaking to her web followers on Snapchat.


The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, the final resting place of Saint James, rises out of the landscape, infested with antiquity. The rambling steep streets give way to shafts of dramatic light, emblazoned chapels, and tightly packed tapas bars, dusty, as old novels pressed together in antiquarian bookshops.


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