I recently had the good fortune to find myself at the Institute of Masters of Wine Annual Champagne Tasting, held in the Christie's auction house. Surrounded by beautiful paintings and buckets of the world's best Champagne, the only drawback was having just two hours to get through over 100 different bottles. Still, when duty calls...
There was a long list of wines I really liked on the day - here are just three of different styles that appealed on the day.
Bruno Paillard Brut Rose NV
It's now 30 years since the young Bruno Paillard famously sold his Jag to help fund the start of his Champagne house in a story that is an inspiration to would be winemakers all over the world. Not deterred by the lack of vineyards, cellar etc, he has created a leading Champagne house, and also owns a large part of the group now known as Lanson-BCC, which includes the Champagne houses of Lanson and Philipponnat. The Brut Rose is a lovely drink, mostly Pinot Noir but some Chardonnay, salmon-pink in colour and with an enchanting nose of strawberry and floral notes, and a creamy, yet refreshingly tart, palate.
Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 1999
As if the imprimatur of Winston Churchill wasn't enough, the house of Pol Roger was recently selected as the Champagne for the Royal Wedding. Their success is well deserved, as they continue to produce fine wines across the spectrum. Both the NV (White Foil) and the Sir Winston Churchill 1999 both showed very well at the tasting, although the latter remains very tight and needs more time. However, the pick of their wines on the day for me was the 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs 1999, made from their Grand Cru vineyards in the Cête des Blancs. Already over a decade old, this wine should continue to improve, although it is great drinking now, with lemon, apple and brioche on the nose, a beautifully balanced palate showing lively fresh fruit and a long finish.
Philipponnat Le Clos
des Goisses '98
My first time drinking the Clos des Goisses, although I'm not sure how given the chorus of approval I received from many friends on saying it was my favourite from the tasting. The wine is made from grapes grown in a walled (clos) south facing, sloping vineyard. Pinot Noir dominates this blend, along with Chardonnay, and it shows on the nose with elements of red fruit pushing through the toasty, nutty aromas. The palate is well balanced, with a very complex palate and a long, minerally finish. It was late in the tasting by now, but this wine still jumped out of the pack.