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Natasha Hughes gets her lips round some fizz at the annual Champagne tasting

Published:  06 May, 2009

Annual Champagne Tasting and English Wine Producers Tasting 2009

Annual Champagne Tasting, London, March 2009


Times are increasingly tight for the Champenois, whose bullish price increases of 2007 now seem incongruous. Sales have dropped and value for money is, increasingly, something buyers of sparkling wines - at all levels - are actively seeking. Philippe Brugnon's Rosé Brut 1er Cru 2005 (rrp £27.95, Julian White Agencies) is a therefore a Champagne for our times. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, it shows a restrained red fruit nose, a streamlined mouthful of fraises des bois and an elegant herbaceous finish with just a hint of cranberry. Terrific value.
Louis Roederer's Brut Premier (rrp £34, Maisons, Marques et Domaines) lived up to its reputation, with its underlying richness and creaminess, as well as the most delicate brioche and honeycomb aromas. This is what the flagship wine of a great champagne house should be about.
One of the stars of the show was Jacquesson Millésime 1997 (rrp £70.45, Fields, Morris & Verdin). It had glorious aromas of peeled walnuts and ripe russet apples, honeyed notes with dried peel - amazing complexity on the palate and a singing acidity. It's not cheap, but it is stunning.


English Wine Producers Tasting, London, 23 April 2009


Three Choirs' Estate Reserve Bacchus 2007 (rrp £10.50) was an object lesson in just why this grape is attracting so much attention at the moment. With its punchy flavours of gooseberry fool and hedgerow flowers, its creamy texture and its cleansing acidity, this is a terrific summertime food wine. Perfect with a grilled Dover sole, but it could also take on the weight and zest of mackerel with a gooseberry sauce.


Camel Valley's Rosé 2008 (rrp £10.95) is a deep pink blend of Pinot Noir, Rondo and Dornfelder. It tastes like essence of strawberries, and has an intensity of flavour not usually found in English wines. Well balanced and persistent, it would be a great match for mildly spiced Asian dishes.


England has attracted a lot of interest for its sparkling wines, but I was quite disappointed with the standard shown in a line up of 20 or so bottles. One notable exception was the range from Ridgeview, of which the pick of the bunch was the Merret Grosvenor 2006, a 100% Chardonnay (rrp £21.95) that shows classic aromas of fresh-baked bread, citrus and white flowers. The acidity is incisive, but is pleasantly balanced by the depth of fruit and the dosage. The finish ends on a long note of pithy white grapefruit.