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Champagne - more than just a type of wine, and more than a region in France, the very word Champagne conjures images of joviality, and it is seen as a fundamental ingredient in the recipe for any celebration, from the most polite of parties to scenes of reckless abandon. Because, when it comes to sparkling wine, there is Champagne, and then everything else. Pretenders come and go with the fashions, but Champagne remains the constant, the standard-bearer, the ideal to which all others aspire. Or is it?
Champagne’s long-held status as the tipple of choice for almost any celebration is something of a double-edged sword. There are few in Champagne who will dissuade you from buying a bottle and popping that cork regardless of the occasion, but does the association with all things festive and celebratory mean we don’t see Champagne for what it really is – a wine. Granted, it is one that has bubbles, but it is also a wine with an incredible scope of flavour and range of styles, from brut nature to demi-sec, white to rosé, vintage to non. A crisp, lemon-scented Blanc de Blancs is a very different bottle to a Pinot & Meunier dominated, aged vintage wine, and they are not all suited to the same occasion. So, here’s a few tips to enhance your next Champagne drinking experience- whatever the occasion!
Vilmart & Cie Champagne
Vilmart enjoys, and deserves, cult status among champagne producers being one of the very best growers’ champagnes there is.
As Peter Liem of Champagneguide.net says “Vilmart & Cie. is not only one of the greatest grower-estates in Champagne, but one of the finest champagne producers of any type in the region”. With Antonio Galloni of Vinous.com saying “When I think of finesse in Champagne, Vilmart is one of the first names that come to my mind.”
Located in the Rilly-la-Montagne, with 11 hectares of Premier Cru vineyard, and a heritage dating back to 1890 Vilmart is run by Laurent Champs who represents the fifth generation. Laurent brings a vitality, focus and skill that helps create exceptional wines through exceptional vinification.
Vilmart is one of the few organic growers in champagne (it helps to own your own vineyards) and each cluster is handpicked before the juice is fermented in oak barrels and foudres, enhancing the fruits’ roundness. There’s no malolactic fermentation (converting tart malic acid into milder lactic acid), allowing the fruit to retain its freshness and fine acidity to perfectly compliment the roundness and body of the fruit. 9-10 months in barrel, enhanced by batonnage, then a further 3-4 years in bottle for the non-vintage and 5-8 years for the vintages helps create some of champagnes most perfect wines.