By champagnediscovery, Feb 28 2016 03:18PM

In recent years there has been a marked increase within the natural wine-making World to produce cuvées without the addition of sulphites (or sulfites if you are reading this in the US).

So what are sulphites exactly and why the drive to eradicate them? Sulphites are derivatives of the element Sulphur and are principally used as a preservative. The most common form being Sulphur dioxide (SO2) which can also be found in all manner of foodstuffs, listed as the additive E220. Potassium metabisulphite (E224) and Potassium bisulphite (E228) are also used for the same purpose.

In champagne production, sulphites are added to the freshly pressed grape juice ostensibly to inhibit or prevent oxidation. It has a secondary function to eliminate harmful bacteria (particularly lactic) and wild yeasts which can seriously affect the wine’s flavour. Malolactic fermentation, often used in champagne-making to convert the tart Malic acid to the softer Lactic Acid is a useful tool to prevent the requirement for sterilisation/filtering.

The use of sulphites is obviously a benefit to the wine-maker and of course the drinker, ensuring a better quality product and one that will have the longevity to sit in a cellar – or other storage form. So what are the downsides? Well, there are a few and perhaps the most important to many is the fact that sulphites are an additive and therefore the less put into the wine, the more natural it is? Perhaps, but sulphites do occur naturally in the fermentation process, so even if none have been added to the wine, the bottle will still have to carry the “contains sulphites” warning. And, of course other substances can be added during the many stages of wine production, such as during fining and filtering.

Sulphites are toxic, albeit in large quantities and the level in wine is very small indeed. In fact much lower than the levels found within the food processing industry. Rest assured, even if you are drinking a lot of champagne the levels should be fine. That brings us on to the dreaded hangover headache that you may have experienced once or thrice? The blame for such was aimed squarely at sulphites. Recent research however counters this argument, perhaps suggesting that the headache is after all down to the amount of alcohol consumed, no doubt partnered to a little dehydration. Intolerance to sulphites is also believed to be very low and actually lower than that of alcohol although there is potential for those suffering from asthma to find their condition exacerbated by the chemical.

It is also believed by some wine-makers that sulphites can inhibit the particular identity of individual parcels/vineyards and even the given year and a better depth of flavour and purity can be attained without their addition.

It will be interesting to see if sulphites usage follows the trend of sugar where as with cuvées of extra-brut and non-dosé origin, we get to see more champagnes being produced with lower levels or without the addition of sulphur.

Sulphites reduction can be enhanced by modern gravity-fed pressing and disgorgement techniques which limit the opportunities for oxidation such as those used by Rémi Leroy who produces superb champagnes bursting with flavour. The first champagne we tried without the addition of sulphur was the cuvée “Violaine” by Benoît Lahaye, which whilst intensely fruity felt it could benefit from additional aging. Most recently, we tasted the cuvée “Sans Soufre” (without Sulphur) from Marc Augustin which was a delight, deep, complex and full of flavour. As with all aspects of wine-making, the end result through reducing or abolishing the use of sulphites will ultimately come down to the experience and skill of the wine-maker. And let us not forget, they only get to practice once a year!

Please click on the images to enlarge.

By champagnediscovery, Dec 3 2015 04:31AM

It’s that time of year when we like to remember those champagnes tasted by us for the first time and which left a lasting impression. Here are our 12 Champagnes of 2015.

“Rosé de Saignée” – Lelarge-Pugeot (Vrigny). 60% Pinot Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir from the 2012 harvest. 37 hours maceration, indigenous yeast, fermentation in stainless steel and zero dosage. Bottled in April 2013 and disgorged in July 2015. Vibrant with summer fruits such as strawberries and raspberries with hedgerow fruits like blackberries and a hint of spice. (Not yet released)

“Les Chétillons” 2009 – Pierre Péters (Le Mesnil-sur-Oger). 100% Chardonnay of a single parcel in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger from which it takes its name, elegant with good acidity, a touch of citrus with pears, giving way to brioche and almonds.

“La Matinale” – Tarlant (Œuilly). So named as the work undertaken to create this cuvée was required to take place in the morning; 45% Pinot Noir, 28% Chardonnay, 27% Pinot Meunier where the average age of the vines is 45 years. Malolatic fermentation prevented, it is rich, nutty with dried fruits, spice, caramel and honey.

“Francs de Pied” 2008 – Nicolas Maillart (Éceuil). 100% Pinot Noir of a single parcel from which it takes its name, fermented in fûts with a dosage of 3gl and no malolatic fermentation it is deep with earthy notes and pear tarte tartin. When tasted from a carafe, the flavours intensified with tropical fruits and a rich sherry-like quality.

“4 Elements Chardonnay” 2010 – Huré Frères (Ludes). 100% Chardonnay, vines planted in 1991 with a dosage of 3gl, vinified in foudres. Rich and complex with vanilla and tropical fruits such as pineapple and coconut.

“L’Originale” – Pierre Gerbais (Celles-sur-Ource). 100% Pinot Blanc, the base wine being from the 2010 harvest and vines of 80-100 years. Great finesse, acidity and minerality with floral notes.

“Lieu-dit Maisoncelle” 2006 – Jérôme Déhours (Cerseuil). 100% Pinot Noir of a single parcel of old vines from which it takes its name. The plot is situated mid-slope with a North-East exposure and silty-clay soil, rich in iron deposits. Fermentation and aging takes place in barriques. Deep, intensely rich with hints of dried fruit, nuts and cocoa.

“Les Prés Dieu” Guillaume Sergent (Vrigny). 100% Chardonnay of a single parcel from which it takes its name, the soil consists of scallop shells – much like that of Chablis. Guillaume’s wines are very young but bring an interesting flavour spectrum with citrus, green apples and grapefruit.

“Cru d’Origine” – Flavien Nowack (Vandières). 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, the base wine being from the 2013 harvest and bottled in February 2015 using 50% taille (second pressing which generally offers intensely aromatic wines – fruitier in youth but with less aging potential. Fresh, racy with floral notes and vibrant fruit such as oranges and plums.

“Les Epinettes” 2009 – Penet-Chardonnet (Verzy). 100% Pinot Noir dosed as extra-brut. Rich, smoky, intense with hints of figs, nuts and dried fruit.

“Fac Similé” 2009 – La Closerie – Jérôme Prévost (Gueux). 100% Pinot Meunier (there is a smattering of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris) planted in 1960, rosé made using the addition method. Vinified in fûts, malolatic fermentation allowed. Intense fruit with red berries, wild strawberries plus a hint of vanilla and spices.

“1959” – Michel Loriot (Festigny). 100% Pinot Meunier from 1959 disgorged on 18th April 2015; the day prior to Les Mains du Terroir tasting. Incredibly intense, rich and silky smooth, with coffee, vanilla, chocolate, cream and spice – like a fine Tiramisu in a glass. An amazing privilege for us! (Not for sale).


Lee and Gita

By champagnediscovery, Oct 24 2012 02:05PM

Welcome to our website. My wife and I are Champagne enthusiasts who love both the wine and the region. We have been touring the area for the last sixteen years, as often as our funds have allowed! We are not professionals but ordinary, working people who have simply become immersed in our passion.

For the last ten years or so, we have been focusing our attention on the hidden gems, the artisans of Champagne. Those smaller, quality conscious producers and grower-producers (domaines) who create excellent, seductive wines that are full of character.

Like many people we are becoming more interested in the provenance of our food and drink and champagne is no exception. It is now quite commonplace to find producers who work organically and biodynamically.

We are always on the look-out for the next new houses and cuvées to excite our senses. This website will hopefully share some of our experiences and arduous tasting expeditions!

Regular contributors to the Champagne-Ardenne forum on Tripadvisor, we can be found hiding behind the moniker: PsychoWarthog.

We hope you enjoy the site and will follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also contact us via the ‘Contacts’ tab on the homepage. We will endeavour to respond as quickly as possible and are happy to answer any questions or help with trip ideas.


Lee and Gita

"Don't wait for that special occasion to drink champagne. Create that special occasion by drinking champagne".

Welcome to Champagne Discovery

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