(2017) What a beautiful Champagme from Marc Hébrart, a blend of old vine Pinot Noir (around 60%) and Chardonnay, the vines more than 40 years old. It has a richly toasty nose, plenty of depth and lightly earthy, terroir substance here, the crispness of the mousse giving fine initial attack on the palate. Everything comes sharply into focus here, an incisive, thrusting core of citrus and taut Asian pear, but that coolness balanced by real depth of creaminess and that powerful, much more broadly painted toast. A touch of salinity completes a very complex but utterly delicious Champagne.
(2017) Made from 100% Loureiro, this is in effect a sparkling Vinho Verde, coming from the same region of Minho that runs from the Douro to the Spanish border, and made from one of Vinho Verde's mainstay grape varieties. There's an attractive lemony zest to this, a crispness to the mousse, with plenty of pert apple fruit and a hint of straw and flowers. Nine months of secondary fermentation in bottle adds a little creaminess, but it stays fresh and zippily moreish.
(2017) A 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir from Grand Cru vinyards in Verzenay and Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, I have to say I loved the easy-drinking charm, balance and delicate, fruity but gently creamy character of this Champagne. The nose has a pleasing touch of brine and nettle, but the cushioning softness of the mousse becomes quite sumptuous, with plenty of ripe pear fruit easing into peachiness, but all sharpened to a fine point by the acidity. Long and so harmonious, it's a gorgeous style.
(2017) A Blanc de Noirs made from 100% PInot Noir, this was disgorged 2nd September 2016 and is Extra-Brut, so with less than 6g/l of dosage. It has a touch of gold to the pale colour, and steady, minuscule bubbles. On the nose it is immediately 'serious', with some herbal and meaty, earthy aromas, wheatgerm and a background of lemon rind. In the mouth this is a powerful and intense wine. The mousse is creamy, but the onslaught of fruit and attack of acidity is formidable. Almost chewy in its intensity, it is a profound and mouth-filling Champagne of exceptional richness.
(2017) Crémant, France's other sparkling wines, are gaining in popularity and it is not hard to see why with an example like this all-Chardonnay, traditional method wine from Burgundy. The nose has delicate apple pie notes of pastry and creamy ripe pear and apple, a touch of citrus but real richness. The mousse is soft and rolling, adding to the expansive and easy-drinking quality of the sweet, ripe fruit, but the acidity is there giving this elegance and really good balance into a long, poised finish. For the price of entry-level own-brand supermarket Champagnes this delivers most impressively on quality.
(2017) From Chapel Down's single vineyard on chalky soils next to the Kit's Coty neolithic monument in Kent. It's all-Chardonnay and from and excellent vintage, and partially barrel fermented. Lots of streaming bubbles and a gorgeous nose, a hint of custard cream biscuits, full and generous with ripe apple and a hint of fragrant lime rind. The palate has a full mousse, very easy and approachable sweet fruitiness, but a streaking, pithy lemon and mineral acidity. Long and delicious, but with a serious side.
(2017) A grower family, bottling their own wines for and based in the Grand Cru village of Verzy, this is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, with 8g/l of dosage. Bottled in April 2014 I am presuming it is a 2013 base, with one third of the blend reserve wines. It was disgorged on 8th April 2016. It has a taut, fresh nose, with a little biscuity richness just showing through, some herbal touches too. Lots of fruit ripeness on the palate, the mousse quite firm, and a clean, incisive palate, pristine fruit with not too much development, and a racing fresh finish.
(2017) Despite bearing the legend "The botanical soft drink for wine lovers," do not expect this to taste like a de-alcoholised wine: it's very much its own thing, a lightly sparkling, herbal, bone-dry drink made from herbs, minerals, vitamins and amino acids that is certainly something of an acquired taste. On first sniff I found it aromatically odd, with pungent nettle, ginseng and chamomile 'high' floral and herb character, clove-like and medicinal. However I did grow to appreciate the fact that this is no weak wine substitute, but a fairly intriguing and grown-up alcohol-free alternative that has an under-ripe pear and citrus dryness and does keep you coming back for one more sip, even just in an effort to understand it. Certainly no shortage of character. Postscript: a second bottle tried around a month later seemed much less pungent, and was most enjoyable on a hot late May afternoon.
(2017) Made from 100% reserve wines, this first release is a blend of six years: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 1996 and 1988. The dosage is just 3g/l and the blend is 50% Pinot Noir, around 33% Chardonnay and the rest Pinot Meunier. Lovely hint of age, a gentle meat and smoke, vinous, with creaminess of texture, the palate dense and long, very vinous again, almost like an aged white Burgundy. I detected a lower pressure in this wine and indeed it is confirmed that it is bottle at just 4.5 bars rather than 6 bars for the yellow label. There is peachiness and lemon zest delicacy, but it is a fine, rounded food wine.
(2017) This Yellow label release is a 2013 base along with reserves from 2012, 2011 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 3% from 1999 making up almost 50% of the blend. It's always great to stop and think about such a familiar wine as Veuve yellow label, and realise just what a good wine it is. This has delightful autolysis, a touch of biscuit and light floral notes, which move elegantly on to a palate that's beautifully orangey and fresh, those nutty notes still there, a creamy but light mousse and fabulous clarity of acidity. Drinking beautifully. Widely available at around £40 - £45.