At the tender age of 22, Jemma Calver, now Trainee Manager of Majestic Wine Westbury-on-Trym, landed her dream job working for a Champagne house. So was it all non-stop quaffing and air kisses in this most luxurious-sounding of industries?
Behind the Fizz
Faced with the prospect of an endless supply of Champagne, glamorous parties and the opportunity to work in an industry synonymous with luxury, I couldn’t wait to dive in. What I wasn’t prepared for was the level of sheer dedication and hard work that goes into producing every last bottle of Champagne.
From flowering to harvest there are only a hundred days and just one chance to get it right. After that, it takes up to 48 months to create the perfect Champagne. Each house has their own take on what makes the perfect bottle, crafting their individual style much like an artist creates a picture from a palette of colours. They can vary enormously from delicate and flowery to much more robust styles.
One thing’s for sure, you don’t have to pay through the nose to find a Champagne that suits you. Whether it’s a special occasion or just a relaxed Friday night, there’s great value to be found. I’ve chosen two top brands that stand out from the crowd and are just perfect for either.
Champagne Taittinger was originally founded by Jacques Fourneaux in 1734, making it the third oldest Champagne house. However it wasn’t until 1931 when it was purchased and rebranded by Pierre Charles Taittinger that the name we know so well began to appear on the label. Today it remains among the few great houses to be owned and managed by descendants of the original founder.
Taittinger Brut Réserve NV
Aged for between 3 and 4 years and with a dominant proportion of Chardonnay in the blend, Taittinger NV is light and elegant in style. Peach and white flowers on the nose follow through to the palate where a hint of honey soon develops. Its delicate mousse and freshness makes it perfect for any occasion.
Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus NV
Made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, this alluring blend has a refreshing minerality on both the nose and palate. The mousse is delicate and long-lasting, with an initial minerality developing in the glass into floral aromas. Citrus fruit gives way to a fuller, mellowed taste of stewed apples. Best enjoyed with grilled fish or seafood.
Taittinger Rosé NV
This rosé is made using ‘l’addition’ method where 80% of the fruit is made into white wine and the other 20% into red wine before blending. This ensures quality as well as the distinctive salmon pink colour. The nose delivers aromas of wild strawberries and delicate flowers, with a steely minerality on the palate. This rosé would make the perfect partner for any red fruit dessert.
Made from 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay exclusively from first pressings, Taittinger Vintage is only made in exceptional years of quality. Aged for 4 years, it’s distinct brioche and fresh bread characters develop into a sweet fruitiness reminiscent of candied fruit. The palate is fresh yet rich with an exceptionally long finish.
Nicolas Feuillatte is a relative newcomer in comparison as the brand was only created in 1976. Without a long history on which to build their reputation, Feuillatte has relied on quality and taste to develop a strong presence.
Nicolas Feuillatte NV
Feuillatte’s standard cuvée follows the house’s light, fresh style; with white flowers and a subtle aroma of almonds on the nose and a crisp, elegant palate. A versatile, great-value Champagne perfect for any celebration!
Nicolas Feuillatte 2004
This promising vintage is exceptional value for money. Baked apples and vanilla jump out on the nose, and carry on through to the palate where they integrate with hints of cinnamon and red fruit. Great matched with white meats in a creamy sauce.
Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé NV
This intense copper pink rosé is a classic blend of 10% Chardonnay, 60% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Menieur. Giving a lovely character of strawberry and raspberry notes on the nose which fully open up on the palate, it’s the perfect evening apéritif.
Prices valid until 31 October 2011.