If the title is a little cryptic, that’s because I have a weakness for puns.
Blankety Blank was a low cost primetime UK game show in the 80s (and apparently Australia and elsewhere before that) which happens to sound like my favourite sparkling style Blanc de Blancs.
Mike at PBMMW came up with a food match for Blanc de Blancs which is smoked salmon and cream cheese crackers. As I’m not a cheese man at all (don’t get me started!) I thought I’d profer an alternative.
One of the sub-styles of Blanc de Blancs I omitted to mention in my previous post is Brut Zero, i.e. a Champagne with no sugar added after disgorgement. They are quite trendy at the moment, even receiving the terrible name “Skinny Champagne”, but they don’t always result in a balanced, pleasant wine.
So please look out for a good one – and they don’t get much better than this:
It has amazing purity and is almost saline – but still shows restrained fruit. And it’s a perfect match for sushi – with no sweetness to clash with delicate flavours.
Also try Pol Roger’s Pure, Louis Roederer’s Brut Nature or Ayala’s Brut Nature
Liberty Wines are a wine importers based in the UK and Ireland with an exciting range of Italian, Australian, New Zealand and other quality wines which are sold to restaurants and independent wine merchants. As well as the quality of their wines they are renowned for the quality of their service to customers and for the representation they give to the producers.
Although it is difficult to select only a few of their wines – as the average quality level is so high – below are my favourite sparkling wines shown at their February and October tastings.
Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2009
If you’ve read much of my blog before you might have gathered that I’m quite a fan of Nyetimber – not (just) for patriotic reasons but because I really rate it as a sparkling wine. And thankfully, I’m not in a minority, as the increasing quality level has been recognised in several competitions – and the 2009 is the best yet.
55% Chardonnay then 25% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier gives it a balanced assemblage of the classic (!) Champagne grapes. It really is fresh and creamy with a bit of soft flesh behind it. I can’t wait to try the Tillington Single Vineyard bottling from the same year!
Hattingley Valley Classic Cuvée 2011
A relative newcomer to the English sparkling wine scene. 71% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, 9% Pinot Meunier. Spent time in old Burgundy barrels – though fairly young so obviously not that long!
Very fresh and zesty lemon flavours from the Chardonnay, with a creamy finish. Would be great as an aperitif but could partner well with white fish and seafood.
70% Pinot Noir from the Côte des Bar and 30% Chardonnay from the Côte des Bar, Côte des Blancs and Vitry. Only the first pressing juice is used and 20% of the reserve wines were kept in large oak casks. Malolactic fermentation (MLF) was blocked for a third of the base wine to preserve freshness. It spends three years minimum on the lees, more than double the stipulated period. The key tasting note for me was apples – all manner of apples – stewed apple compote, baked apple pie, fresh apples off the tree. Just delicious!
Champagne Devaux “D de Devaux” La Cuvée NV
60% Pinot Noir from Côte des Bar and 40% Chardonnay from Côte des Blancs and Montgueux. This is a more prestige cuvée but still not from a single vintage; at least 35% of the reserve wines was aged in large oak casks. Spends a minimum of five years on the lees then a further six to nine months post disgorgement.
Although a fairly similar assemblage to the Grande Réserve NV this is a step up in quality and is a different style – altogether more sumptuous and rich, decadent almost. Hell, if you can’t be decadent drinking Champagne now and again, what has life come to?
Champagne Devaux Vintage 2004
97% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs and 3% Pinot Noir from the Côte des Bar – so this is almosta blanc de blancs. It spent 7 to 8 years on the lees (gives it a lovely creamy character) and then a further year post disgorgement before release (which helps it settle down and integrate properly). Fantastic lemon citrus flavours come through from the Chardonnay.
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV
Founded by the original “Champagne Charlie”, this house is now one of the most respected in the whole of Champagne – Tom Stevenson gives them rapturous praise. The Brut NV is one of the strongest on the market this side of luxury cuvées such as Krug. Since coming into common ownership with Piper-Heidsieck (originally founded by an uncle of Charles) a few years ago, quality continues to rise.
40% of the blend is made up of reserve wines (the maximum permitted amount) of up to ten years old. The precise assemblage isn’t disclosed but is undoubtedly Pinot heavy given the richness. Three years maturation on the lees gives some lovely brioche notes.
Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 1995
As much as I love the quality sparklers above, mature Champagne is in a different category entirely. This is 100% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs – 4 Grands Crus and 1 Premier Cru village. The nervy acidity it had at bottling served to preserve it as it took on new aromas and flavours over the years. Simple lemon has been replaced with brioche, nuts and candied fruit. It has the voluptuous texture without sweetness of salted caramel.
This is a complete Champagne which doesn’t need anything else with it, and in fact is so satisfying that it doesn’t need anybody else with it – I’d want to drink it all by myself!