Introducing Taittinger in Kent: Domaine Evremond
Much of the wine news is rightly centred on the recent frosts that have now claimed some substantial victims in southern England right on the back of losses in Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Loire.
In defiance to these woes one of the wine world’s biggest names, Champagne Taittinger, held a very jolly day at their new estate, Domaine Evremond, in the Kent countryside, inviting us to plant vines and speak to their team led by family members Pierre Emmanuel and Vitalie Taittinger, as well English partner, Hatch Mansfield.
As we trod our way into the muddy fields, a light effervescing rain was upstaged by the generous pouring of Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne 2006 - a magnificently elegant wine that typifies both the history and fresh forward outlook of the sparkling world’s most famous region.
Brothers in vines: Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger and Master of Wine, Patrick McGrath, Managing Director of Hatch Mansfield
Wine and climate change
Unseasonably extreme weather is one of the early signals of climate change and is now making itself felt more often in the most famous vineyards in France and elsewhere. Although engineering solutions are being proposed to combat frost and hail, a future of uncertain vintages seems a very likely reality.
Another effect of climate change is that ideal growing conditions for many agricultural products are moving northward or to higher altitudes to stay cool. This has been one of the key drivers behind the boom in English sparkling and still wines.
Champagne Taittinger already have a strong cultural presence here in the UK sponsoring many events such as BAFTA and the Pink Lady Photography Awards. Planting some vines can only be a natural next step.
Kent producers generously pour their very fine wines
A taste of Kent
What added a great dimension to the day was the presence of local wine producers from Kent offering us a tasting of local bubblies. A gaggle of journalists crowded the benches seizing the opportunity to taste. The standard of these wines certainly provides one insight into why French growers are starting to consider viticulture in the UK.
There is a signature high acidity to English sparkling that is rounded off very nicely with a dosage of sugar. In Champagne, sugar dosage with smaller producers has come right down with levels of 6g per litre sounding high. Imagine the gasps when it was revealed that round, fresh and finely balanced Westwell Wines Pelegrim NV has 16g of sugar added. It’s this combination of fruit roundness and decent grip from the acidity that make these wines scream out for food. Why nobody is producing a book on bubbly gastronomy I have no idea!
Another reason we might see more French producers arriving on our shores is that England has a very similar range of chalky soils that can be found in Champagne. Couple this with the fact that arable land here costs around 1% of that of Champagne certified land in France. At that kind of price, combined with centuries of wine making knowledge, growing vines in England seems like a perfect short term hedge against climate change!
All this being said, I enjoyed my fair share of Comtes de Champagne and enjoyed a very pleasant rainy day gazing into the future of what we’ll be drinking some 7 or 8 years from now. As far as English wine is concerned the character may well be defined here but the bloodline connection to Champagne is hard to deny.
Read more about Domaine Evremond: Domaine Evremond - Champagne Taittinger's pied a terre in Kent
Kent English wines tasted:
Biddenden Pinot Reserve 2010
Biddenden Rosé 2012
Chapel Down Three Graces 2011
Chapel Down Kit’s Coty Blanc de blancs 2013
Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2013
Gusbourne Blanc de blancs 2013
Herbert Hall Brut 2014
Herbert Hall Brut Rosé 2014
Hush Heath, Balfour Leslie’s Reserve NV
Hush Heath, Balfour Brut Rosé 2013
Simpsons Wines Estate The Roman Road Chardonnay 2016
Squerryes Brut 2011
Squerryes Brut 2013
The Mount Vineyard Sparkling Rosé 2012
Westwell Wines Special Cuvée 2014
Westwell Wines pilgrim NV
Woodchurch Classic Cuvée 2013
Woodchurch Rosé 2014
I find myself eating far less meat than ever before for the main reasons that a lot of what we consume is poor quality, mass produced and environmentally damaging. That said, it is hard not to get excited in the colder months about the abundance of game meats that we have in Britain. What’s more is that they make the perfect accompaniment to a variety of wines.
Many wine apps have set out to please mobile users but often have ended up in the trashcan as lack of necessity trumps usefulness. Is the new “sommelier in your pocket” app, Corkscrew, about to change that?
Wines from this famous part of north west Spain are part of the modern British psyche. In this first segment of notes we taste 1 crianza and 2 reserva’s. These examples are great examples of what benchmark Rioja should taste like - rich and dangerously pleasurable.
What is it about this time of year that begs for open fires, roasted dinners and the taste of fine wines? It’s the latter that acts as a flowing ink joining the dots across memory and landscape. It connects our primordial selves to something we can’t quite describe yet, like soft caresses, translates into the language of pleasure. Yup, that is the work of damn good wine from Rioja!
The suave wine store and eatery combined, located in the Zig Zag Building on London’s Victoria Street, M Wine has just installed a pair of draught taps for customers to drop in and get refills of two deliciously drinking wines that could see a change in the way consumers buy their everyday drinking wines.
When one of London’s oldest cheesemonger’s, Paxton & Whitfield, sends an invitation for port and cheese matching, you never know who you might find in the room. This is after all the Queen’s cheese supplier, and, I’ve heard, the store was once a regular indulgence point for Sir Winston Churchill and Lord Byron.
Bruno Paillard is a big name in Champagne, both as a man and as a brand. It was a pleasure to be invited to the launch of the Champagne Bruno Paillard, ’06 Vintage Blanc de Blancs and to meet Alice Paillard, daughter of the man, and winemaker at the helm of the brand.
Caliterra winemaker, Rodrigo Zamorano compares 3 styles of this movable grape - Setting the scene for Malbec
The tasting was set up in the basement of Casa Malevo in Connaught Street London, a place famous for exceedingly high quality steak, a frequent food pairing for the malbec grape we were due to taste.
Bordeaux seems to be a wine region that we all perceive as being a haven of bluechip wines that mortals are denied access to. The £8-£20 price range for regular drinking wines is perhaps not as popular as it should be. Why is that? Does the region need more decoding. There are rewards for journeying into one of the world's most famous wine regions.
We caught up with Vitalie Taittinger at BAFTA in London to discuss the joys of drinking old vintages of Taittinger's famed Comtes De Champagne, as well as her excitement for English terroir and a quick insight into the 2016 harvest in Champagne.
Watch: Wine Tips from the Grape-Pickers Party
After days of picking grapes in one of the world’s most famous wine regions, the pickers get together to drink, chat and enjoy the drinks they are meticulously involved in the making of.
Also check out local winemaker, Nico’s, top tip for a white Burgundy from Saint Aubin that you don’t have to travel to Burgundy to get!
From Picasso to Pecorino Wine (not cheese!!)
What started in El Quatre Gats tapas bar in Barcelona, soon became an adventure in the Marche region of Italy, that lies along the east coast facing Albania across the Adriatic Sea. El Quatre Gats is famously where Picasso had his first solo exhibition as a young edgy artists in the Catalan capital and I was there dining with Dr Pia Casarini Wadhams, Director of Italy’s only Polar Institute, Il Polo.