Bubbles of delight

(by Susie)

Last night the corks were popping as we held our first ever Winchester Wine School Champagne Evening.  And what an evening it was as our capacity crowd enjoyed everything from Zéro Dosage to a stunning 1988 Vintage which had spent 20 years on lees.

‘A Celebration of Champagne’ was held at Hotel du Vin, Winchester, and the line up of wines was as follows;

  • Justerini & Brooks 250th Anniversary Cuvée NV- £18.20 www.justerinis.com
  • Bollinger Rosé NV- £45 Majestic, Oddbins, Waitrose, Selfridges, Harrods
  • Lanson Vintage 1988- £123.80 www.everywine.co.uk
  • Ayala Zéro Dosage NV- £25 Oddbins, Wimbledon Wine Cellars, BBR
  • Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1998 – £100 Majestic, Waitrose
  • Louis Roederer Carte Blanche NV- £35.99 Majestic + independents

There is something inherently exciting about the prospect of spending an evening tasting fine champagne and from the word go there was a buzz in the air.

A particular highlight was the Lanson 1988.  I had been lucky enough to be sent two bottles with different disgorgement dates for us to compare.  One bottle had been disgorged in 1993 and one in 2008.  So not only did everyone get to taste an aged champagne, they also experienced first hand the effect of extended aging on lees.  A truly unique opportunity and one that proved a great talking point.

The 1993-disgorged wine was undoubtedly the more sumptous, honeyed and generous of the two wines and Peter declared it his favourite.  In true Richards / Barrie fashion we didn’t agree and it was the more edgy, savoury and tenacious 2008-disgorged wine that got my vote – though for both of us there was little in it as these were two absolutely superb wines.  The audience was similarly divided, though the 2008-disgorged did just edge it.

The Taittinger 1998 was tasting predictably wonderful, all biscuits, lemon tart and stoney minerality, with terrific length and elegance.

I tried out a couple of little experiments as I’m always intrigued to see what difference drinking wines with certain foods can make.  Given this wasn’t a food and wine matching course (see details below for our next Food and Wine matching lunch) these were extremely basic experiments.  However, tasting a Zéro Dosage champagne before and after sucking on a piece of lemon was a revelation – I’ll say no more but trust me, just try it!  Also try demi-sec champagne with a strawberry and then a chocolate truffle if you want proof that sweet wines simply have to be paired with desserts of the same level of sweetness.

Adversity was turned to advantage as a corked bottle gave everyone the opportunity to smell a corked wine.

I also threw in a mystery fizz which deserves a special mention because it came from our very own shores.  It was the Nyetimber 2005 Classic Cuvée (£26.99 Waitrose) and it showed brilliantly, easily holding its own in some pretty starry company.  Well done Mark for spotting its origin and carrying off a hefty prize (a free copy of The Wine Opus, RRP £50) as a result!

At the end of the night, I went to empty the spittoons. For the first time ever, they were virtually untouched…

Please click here for more details of our remaining two Autumn courses which are:

  • Food and Wine Matching Lunch at the Chesil Rectory (Sat 13th Nov.)
  • Back to Basics Christmas Special (Wed 24th Nov.)