Archive for ‘France: Champagne’

February 3, 2021

Champagne Tribaut Brut

We never got to a celebratory bottle of champers at New Year’s.  My recollection is I was asleep before midnight!  The joys of being old.

On the flip side we had champagne in January.  What did Ricky Gervais say in 2012 to the NYT journalist who contacted him at home on a weekday and saw him sipping champagne?  “Happy 6 o’clock-mas.”  (He’s since repeated that a few times, including Twitter, and sometimes modified with the f-bomb…)

Well.  93 points.  Gosh, Wine Spectator.  There was nothing much 90 points in this let alone 93.

The fizz faded; it was flaccid and unexciting on the pour and went downhill from there.  The toastiness and texture of the wine was uninspired.  Sure, on the one hand it was spectacular sparkling wine, and on the other it was forgettable champers.  I know it’s a dedicated family run operation, and I want to jump up and down for their sincerity and dedication, but this bottle lacked the liveliness and pep of its competitors.

Meanwhile, in January, BC Liquor put half bottles of Piper-Heidsieck on sale for $7 off.  That made two half bottles cheaper than a full bottle.  Of course it was virtually out of stock from the get go, I found a few in West Van, bin ends, but basically the Lower Mainland was out of luck.  How very BC Liquor.  As if none of the nearly three million people in and around Vancouver matter, market wise.  Anyway, long way to say how satisfying the PH is, nutty, toasty, an invigorating acidity.  From the spritz in a flute to the splash on your palate, Piper has an undeniable liveliness.  It’s not the best you can by, not by a long shot, but it oozes “Champagne!” if you know what I mean.  I wish we could have said the same of the Tribaut.

Price: The label said $50 all in but Champagne in BC is never $50 all in, even at $14 off for two splits.

Market Liquidity: Fleeting, like a winter sunset.

December 15, 2017

Moutard Père et Fils Grand Cuvée Champagne

Champagne, to generalize, is usually good.  Prosecco, in contrast, hit and miss.  Which is why, in British Columbia, Champagne is more or less $60 a bottle and Prosecco a fraction of that.  But there are always exceptions.  Witness the Moutard.


A special order and much lauded import at Everything Wine, discounted five per cent in advance of the seasonal festivities, it fails to impress.  Anthony Lane, in a recent review of Murder on the Orient Express, wrote that technically the murder in one of her novels is really the second death; the prose being the first.  Similarly, we couldn’t get past the banality.


It has all the stripes of something much better than sparkling and is pleasant to drink.  If you are the sort of person who must drink Champagne then why not get a bottle at a slightly reduced cost?  But without any flavour to speak of, dismal fruit, mild yeast, a light citrus lift, this can’t even complement crudités.  Sad.  (I should add that Decanter thought otherwise.)


Price: $60 at EW, although $56 on special before taxes.  Of VERY SPECIAL note: $40 all in at the LCBO in Toronto.  Alas, Buying Wines in BC is not one penalty buy many.


Market Liquidity: Tasmanian fizz anyone?

November 25, 2016

Drinking Wine in London, A Lot of Champagne, Discovering Grillo

The Cutty Sark in Greenwich at dusk.  Familiar to scotch drinkers...

The Cutty Sark in Greenwich at dusk. Familiar to scotch drinkers…

A short vacation in London.


And a lot of good wine.

The beer wasn't too bad either.  Young's Winter Warmer.

The beer wasn’t too bad either. Young’s Winter Warmer.

A flat white mid morning

A flat white mid morning

I bought a bottle of “grower’s” champagne from a local Co-Op (high street grocer) which was palatable and pleasant and came through on my credit card statement at $28 Canadian.  Not sparkling, not Prosecco, not cremant de bourgogne/loire, whatever, not methode champenoise, actual champagne.  $28 for 750 ml.  (Now, not to get too excited; at the 02 arena they were selling individual 250 ml bottles of Moet for 25 pounds sterling, so about $40 or, translated to 750 ml, $120 Canadian.)


BA serves actual champagne in the lounge, if you’re flying on points.  Henriot Brut and Brut Rose.  Neither, to my mind, were that memorable but they do retail in Vancouver for, wait for it, $80.


On board the reconfigured 747 (I would love to have been on the new Airbus, but not in the off season) they had a choice of three and I drank two sensational glasses of, first, Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle then Taittinger Brut Vintage 2006.  That Taittinger with its dry, nutty, spicy nose was the bomb.  I also sampled a most exquisite white, the A To Z Wineworks Riesling, 2015, from Oregon, which had the tart crispness of a Pink Lady apple with the honeyed finish of Rooibos tea.  And, shock of shocks, they had a CA Pinot, Sangiacomo 2013 from Sonoma, which somehow had all the lightness of raspberry with the layers of wood shavings and spice you’d not expect at 39,000 feet.


I also sampled a number of natural wines at Terroirs in Covent Garden, including a “too young” Gamay.  More on the natural wine issue in a separate post.


But the big find this trip was that many restaurants have started selling decent bottles of Sicilian Grillo by the glass.  Day was when you could get a very tasty Verdicchio or Gavi as a house wine, but no more.  Grillo, however, was hearty, herby, earthy and spoke of the seaside.  I really couldn’t get enough of it.  Dirt cheap too.

Lamb sirloin at Hix in Soho; a great reason for a few glasses of Medoc

Lamb sirloin at Hix in Soho; a great reason for a few glasses of Medoc

June 23, 2016

Drinking Wine in Istanbul, Vienna, Prague and Madrid


Just got back from three weeks in Europe.  We drank wine in Turkey, Austria, the Czech Republic and Spain.


Istanbul: The first big surprise is that the Turks make some half decent wine.  Some half decent white wine, anyway.  The second big surprise is that the cost is insane, OTC or in a restaurant.  Plonk (because, yes, they make some mediocre wine too) starts at nearly $20 CDN a glass!  Most bottles in a restaurant start at around $40 and the palatable ones are around $50.  I wish I could have done like the Turks, and stuck with Raki, but that would be like eating the unripe, sour green plums that are a delicacy there.


The one surprise was the Kayra Barrel Fermented Sur Lie Chardonnay. We drank a 2012.  We actually drank a number of Kayra wines, but this was the best, refreshing, sharp but not too acidic, nuanced oak, and with lovely notes of violet and green herbs.


Austria: A bomb.  I had my Wine Spectator list in my pocket at all times.  I was on the special lookout for F X Pichler.  I tasted glass after glass of Gruner Velliner and Riesling, from houses you’d recognize and at farmer’s markets with home-style vintners.  And, overall, it was disappointment after disappointment, start to finish.  Nothing had depth, or vigor, or held our interest longer than nanosecond.  I would write that it wasn’t a total disaster, except that even the sacher torte was dry.  The irony?  Probably the best Austrian wine we drank was the Peter Schweiger Gruner on Cathay Pacific, in North America!

st charles scaffoldingYou probably shouldn’t drink and go up the scaffolding elevator at St. Charles anyway.

spaghetti ice cream

Plus, there is always “spaghetti ice cream” instead of wine.

Wachau Riesling

If there was one decent wine we drank, it was a Riesling from Wachau, which was cool, crisp, with a lovely tart finish.


Czech Republic: Cesky-Krumlov, UNESCO heritage site.  Where we saw a waiter take the box wine, remove the box, then squeeze and knead the bag to get every last drop into a glass.

absintheYou can drink cocktails, superbly crafted cocktails, until you’re blue in the face.  Even in tiny tot towns they had bars with crushed ice, regular ice, large ice.  Absinthe was just par for the course.

But wine?  The sorry truth: They make local wine, mainly in boxes, that gives box wine a bad name.  I really wish I could be friendlier, “ribbon for participation Moravia” but there are more duds than not.  However, for whatever weird reason, restaurants around the country carry an amazing array of Italian wine: When was the last time you saw a “choice” of Basilicata at a BC Liquor store?  And the Czechs sell this wine at very reasonable prices.  We had wines from Puglia, Piedmont, Sardegna, Sicily, Veneto, Umbria, hugely accomplished reds, and rarely paid more than $22 CDN (in a restaurant!).

magnifico rosso

Some highlights.  This six year old superb Primitivo was less than $20 in a restaurant.  Add Puglia to the bucket list.


And I sourced this wine in Canada, not in BC, at $14.  It was a tad thin but eminently drinkable, especially, (need I keep emphasizing this? In A Restaurant) at, wait for it, $14 CDN, the same price you pay in a liquor store in SK.  It makes eating out in BC a woeful misery, so many $$$ for mediocrity.

wenceslasKing Wenceslas’ crown.  Yes, that King Wenceslas.


The weird thing is that when we actually spent a few bucks on wine, say more than $25 (in a restaurant) it was good, but not substantially better than the “OK” wines so modestly priced.  This Barbera was on the young side but there was a jammy complexity that was extremely appealing.

field amuse bouche

Amuse bouche at the one Michelin star Field in Prague.  Foie gras macaron and decadent cheese balls.


The alarmingly beautiful Spanish Synagogue in Prague’s old Jewish quarter.

madrid cathedral

Spain: We were only in Madrid.  To say we were in Spain is like saying a trip to NYC is a trip to the US.  But ohmigosh was the wine incredible.  Corner store with vintage Rioja at $10 a bottle.  Whack-a-mole brilliance on restaurant wine lists under $30.  Just for fun one night I bought the Pruno.  You can get it easily at BC Liquor for $28.  We paid less than $25.  It was one phenomenal glass of red after another.  One other sensational thing about Spain is how easy it is to find a wide variety of wonderful white Rioja; that’s a bit of a task back home.  And they bottle some magic.

madrid airport

The very creepy surreal arrival carrels at MAD airport.


We drank a lot of great red wine and some OK white wine, but too numerous start to finish for the blog.  One evening we had an interesting Priorat.  It wasn’t the best red we drank in Spain but (for me) the most interesting, particularly its smoky, woodsy, campfire impression on the palate.


That was at a lovely hard to find restaurant, Bosco de Lobos, in the courtyard garden of the architectural school.


Maybe the wine tasted so good because the ham tasted so good?


We flew home on points, so stopped off at the lounge for a snack.  Iberia had not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, but seven types of sherry in the Velazquez lounge at MAD.  Plus, get this, a wine counter with a wide array of Spanish whites and reds.

night flight

I’m not big on flying, but a little Deutz champagne at 39,000 feet helps.


December 24, 2015

Holiday Bubbles: Champagne Chiquet, Serveaux Fils & Godmé Père et Fils

Champagne Godmé Père et Fils, Brut RoseMarquis in Vancouver special orders a huge selection of “villages” champagne, for lack of a better descriptor, each holiday season. Buy six get 10% off. Of course even with the discount it’s a pricey proposition. But still, how else to experience something unique and interesting and so far away from the Codorniu at BC Liquor? We plowed through six in advance of the holiday season. Nothing had a wow factor but most of it was pleasing. Here are three (cost-comfortable) favorites, each under $60, the Canadian dollar “tipping point” on champers:


Champagne Gaston Chiquet, Tradition

Bone dry. Waves of citrus zest. High minerality. Long stony finish. With seafood (Jacques Pepin’s spectacularly decadent salmon rillettes), superb. As a sipper, well, so-so. Drank like a 14% wine, not a mere 12.5%. Would pair exquisitely with shellfish.Champagne Serveaux Fils Carte Noire


Champagne Serveaux Fils Carte Noire

A 50/50 blend of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. Yeasty, trace notes of mandarin orange. Settles in the glass with very light effervescence. It seemed thin, with neither the bouquet or richness on the palate you anticipate with champers. At a mere 12% ideal for brunch or AM celebrations. A very long nutty, pear finish. Tanzer loved it. For us, it wasn’t memorable.


Champagne Godmé Père et Fils, Brut Rose

Fun. Light and lively. A gorgeous brunch sparkler (we had it with mushroom leek frittata, croissants from Batard, scones and a fresh green salad). It seemed a little lightweight until we switched to BC sparkling and later Prosecco, both of which seemed dank and dreary comparatively. For me, for the purpose, it hit the nail on the head.

Champagne Gaston Chiquet, Tradition

November 8, 2015

Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne

A split before dinner. How civilized. It’s been a few years since we popped a Roederer. I’d forgotten how much the toasty yeast balances with the fruit. There is more fruit than perhaps you expect, but the finish has a lovely caramel note that is sharp and pleasant. If only all the apple cider artisans could take a page from Louis… At 12 per cent alcohol, refreshing (both meanings).  If you don’t mind spending the dough, highly recommended (and, truthfully, much better value than several non-vintage labels above it, hint hint Bolly). A few fewer bubbles than, say, Veuve.

Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne

Price: The bottle will set you back $70 at BC Liquor; the half bottles at independent shops will set you back $40.


Market Liquidity: And James Bond prefers vodka? It takes all types.

February 20, 2015

Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut Champagne

Happy Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year!


I didn’t celebrate CNY but I did celebrate Valentine’s (not alone of course!) and look at my gift.  A $70 bottle of sparkling.  Oooh la la.  Came with its own cool pack.

Perrier Jouet

I fell head over heels for this rich, creamy Champers.  Then I went to BC Liquor and saw how much it cost.  They have a review citing its apple flavour which gives way to lemon curd and warm bread.  I didn’t get that.  I got more peach/apricot, with an astringent passion fruit or tropical note; the yeasty notes are constrained.  A consistent and long lasting effervescence.  To wallow in.


Price: $67 at BC Liquor.


Market Liquidity: Why do rap stars bother with Cristal?

April 23, 2013

Krug Grand Cuvee Champagne

South America 2013 680 South America 2013 681

Superb with a giant shrimp Caesar salad

A wine that sells in Vancouver for $256. So that’s like a new Google Chromebook.  That’s like 80% of an iPad. That’s like half of a monthly mortgage payment for a condo dweller.  That’s like, in Canada, $700 before tax income.  Just joking.  But it’s a lot.  They keep it locked in a cabinet at the liquor store.

South America 2013 691

South America 2013 674

I will never buy this wine.  Ever.  Even if I win the lottery.  Even if I write a book more successful than Harry Potter and it gets made into a stream of movies with Ryan Gosling and Jessica Pare.  Even if I legitimately wine, er, I mean win seven Tour de Frances.  Never, ever.  Which is a huge shame (that I’m so cheap, to the bone), because this is one helluva champagne.

krug grande cuvee

We used points to fly Cathay Pacific from New York to Vancouver in First Class.  They offered us a glass of champagne while boarding.  It was over the top sensational.  Hugh Johnson, my wine idol, has referred to Krug as superlative and legendary and it is that to a tee.  It is a bucket list champers, and thank god I ticked that one off.  I drank it until they stopped serving booze, washed it down with some chamomile tea (served in a porcelain pot, how sweet) and woke up after an airline booze nap ready for more but the bar was closed.  [insert distressed emoticon]  I’ve had many fine champagnes over the years, La Grande Dame, Cristal, vintage Bollinger, and I can’t remember all the rest, which I used to get in London below cost in another lifetime, but never Krug.  Look elsewhere for superlatives and just trust me.  To top it off, CP served it well-chilled and fresh.  In Business on Lan and Air Canada their champagne was uneven, sometimes cold, sometimes lukewarm, sometimes effervescent, sometimes a little flat.  Not CP.

From the outside looking in, at price and availability, I always thought Krug a tad unctious.  How wrong.  Holy crow is it something to be reckoned with.  Maybe George Soros has a case or two he needs to write off for tax purposes.  George: Over here!

Well, I can only say this: Forget the Pauillac and the other heavy reds and I don’t know what whites they have on offer in CP First, and focus on the champers.  One guest in First rejected a glass.  He said, “champagne is a girly drink.”  To that all I can say is I’m ready to sport a vagina and stock up on sanitary napkins.

Price: Did I mention $256?

Market Liquidity: I surrender my manhood.