Champagne

Winery Profile: Iron Horse Vineyards

Winery Profile: Iron Horse Vineyards

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 27th, 2012

Iron Horse

Entrance to Iron Horse Vineyards

In preparing JJ Buckley’s Champagne Report, we wrestled with the decision to keep the focus on wines from that famous region, or open it up and include other sparklers, especially those from California. In the end, we decided to restrain ourselves, but not without some measure of protest from long-time friend Joy Sterling, proprietor of one of California’s iconic producers of sparkling wines, Iron Horse Vineyards. So as I wrapped up work on our latest report, I took the opportunity to dig deeper into our local fizz market in order to gain some perspective.

Sparkling wine has a long tradition in California, with Korbel having the distinction of being the first winery to produce bubbly back in the 1880s. And like the wineries that produced still wine in the pre-Prohibition heyday, the state was also blessed with many sparkling wine producers. But the arrival and aftermath of Prohibition along with a federal tax scheme that appraises sparkling wine at three times the rate of still wine left few domestic producers making bubbly between 1930 and 1970.    (more…)

No 3-Trick Pony: Champagne’s Indigenous Varieties

No 3-Trick Pony: Champagne’s Indigenous Varieties

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 20th, 2012

GrapesJJ Buckley’s latest Champagne Report has just been released with new articles along with new winery profiles and updated reviews. Click here to download a copy. To give you a taste of this edition, today’s post is based on an article that looks at Champagne’s lost varieties which are currently undergoing a renaissance.

If there is anything that wine enthusiasts have committed to their memories, it’s that chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, in varying proportions, are the three grapes used to make Champagne. Like many other details about the wine and the region, that’s just a bit of the actual truth. Because as wine geeks and aspiring MS and MW students know, seven grapes are legally allowed to be used in the production of Champagne. All of a sudden, Champagne drinkers are hearing about grapes such as arbane and pinot blanc vrai, fromenteau and petit meslier in their bubblies. What’s going on and how did this happen? (more…)

Champagne’s Glass Warfare

Champagne’s Glass Warfare

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 14th, 2012

From which glass would you rather drink your bubbly?

Which glass would you prefer for your bubbly?

JJ Buckley’s latest Champagne Report is about to be released, with new articles on the region’s indigenous varieties and the movement towards drier Champagnes along with new winery profiles and updated reviews. To get you in the mood, today’s post looks at the recent debate surrounding the optimal glasses and decanters for bubbly.

Champagne has long been on the receiving end of rules—regarding how it is made, how it is labeled, and how it should be enjoyed. Over the years, we have come to accept these unwritten codes and perhaps even find them comforting, as they didn’t often fluctuate. But today, Champagne is witnessing revisions to concepts that were once considered sacrosanct, and they have nothing to do with grapes or labels. The changes have to do with glass in which our bubbly is served.

If there is one rule that has been generally accepted across the board, it is that sparkling wine is best served in a flute. For maximum ‘correctness’, the flute was preferably scored at the base to promote bubbles, then rinsed with water and dried with a towel once the night is done. The coupe (also known as the Marie Antoinette glass) was long ago decried as an inferior vessel because its broader surface allowed the wine to promptly lose its effervescence. Now, there are some in the industry who promote an alternative to both the coupe and the flute. (more…)

A Champagne in Any Other Glass…

A Champagne in Any Other Glass…

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 7th, 2011

JJ Buckley’s 2011 Champagne Report is out! The new edition expands on last year’s report with new articles, more wine reviews and overviews of additional domaines.

 To download a pdf file click here. The post below is an article from the report about a controversial new trend in drinking champagne.

Champagne has long been on the receiving end of rules—ones about how it is made, how it is labeled, and how it should be drunk. Over the years, we have come to accept those regulations and perhaps even find it comforting that they don’t fluctuate often. But today, champagne is witnessing revisions to concepts that were before considered sacrosanct, and they have nothing to do with grapes or labels. The change has to do with glass vessels.

Chuck pondering glassware, champagne in hand

If there is one rule that has been generally accepted across the board, it is that sparkling wine is best served in a flute, preferably scored at the base to promote effervescence then rinsed with water and dried with a towel. Along that same line of thinking is that the coupe, also referred to as the Marie Antoinette glass, fails to preserve bubbles since the broader surface allows what is in the glass to go flat more quickly. Recently, though, many in the industry are rethinking this.

Most significantly, a slow movement is afoot to replace the traditional flute with a classic wine glass. A number of winemakers and writers claim that in order to maximize the wine’s flavors and enhance aromas, pouring champagne in a burgundy styled glass is preferable to a flute. At the least, they claim, a wider and broader shape to the bowl of the flute is the minimum recommendation.

(more…)

The Fizz Biz

The Fizz Biz

Post by Chuck Hayward | September 28th, 2010

The Institute of the Masters of Wine is a London based organization devoted to the education of the wine trade which culminates in the famous Master of Wine exam, a rigorous four day series of tastings and essays. Equivalent in study to a Ph.D., there are currently 289 members who have completed the study program and are involved in the wine trade in occupations as varied as journalists to grape growers.

MW Tim Hanni digs deep to pour some more Champagne.

The average consumer will probably not have too much direct contact with an MW; that is something that usually occurs with members of the trade. Once a year, however, The Institute hosts a tasting where both consumers and the trade mingle with local MWs to raise funds for their scholarship program.

To do so, they assemble a formidable amount of top-shelf champagne and limit attendance to a few hundred. (more…)