On 19 October 2017, Michael Palij MW hosted a remarkable (and possibly unrepeatable) tasting even by his own spectacular standards at the Cherwell Boathouse. ‘Bulles de Luxe’ was a blind tasting of 24 champagnes and sparkling wines, ranging from a £5 Aldi Prosecco to £150 wines from the very top producers. Think Cristal from Louis Roederer, Dom Pérignon from Moët and Chandon, La Grande Dame from Veuve Clicquot.
Michael warmed us up with a few selected staggering stats from www.champagne.fr. This is the world’s most valuable AOC by any measure. Closing on 5 billion euros annual turnover, with 300 champagne houses exploiting the labour of 15800 growers. Current stocks are around 1,500 million bottles – so no danger of running short anytime soon, despite annual sales of around 300 million bottles. The UK is the world’s top export market by a long way – around 22% of total exports – with the US ten million bottles behind our take of 31 million.
But to the tasting itself. Every bottle was wrapped in foil by the team of Michael, Graham and Phil, the most recognisable bottles (eg Cristal, Ruinart) were decanted. Members – in groups of seven or eight – then set off on their challenge. Score every wine out of ten points; make your notes and move on to the next table of three wines.
Top scorer on the night was the N.V. Bollinger Champagne Brut Special Cuvée, followed by the N.V. Maurice Vesselle Champagne Brut (imported by Michael). Top scoring vintage wine was the 2006 Aldi Monsigny Brut. Full scores have gone to the forty or so members who attended.
Tasting over and results compiled (thanks to John O’Brien for spreadsheeting) we tackled the remaining wine. As each bottle was emptied it was laid down like a dead man (as John’s photos show) and the tasters moved on.
A fabulous evening – with thanks to member Adam Guy for donating Laurent-Perrier wines, to Exton Park for their English sparkling and to Michael for sponsoring and sourcing wines from LVMH and Maisons Marques et Domaines without which it would not have been such a truly ‘luxe’ occasion.