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The taste of stars

Few elixirs embody life’s celebrations quite like champagne. With a world of fine bubblies to discover, we recommend four fine pours that are sure to impress.
champagne

Whether it’s the exciting sigh of the cork being dislodged, the tickle of small bubbles on the mouth, or simply the luxurious taste, champagne has long been the drink of choice for those who relish life’s finest moments. Champagne sales are expected to reach 314 million bottles being shipped from Champagne for 2023, according to French industry group Comite Champagne. While the biggest markets are the US, UK and Japan, here at home French champagne continues to be seen as the hallmark of excellence.

champagne

House of Telmont
With a heritage dating back to 1912, and a home rooted in the landscape of Damery in the heart of Champagne, the House of Telmont is a storied cellar that prides itself on both a familial philosophy and a deep respect for nature.

Guided by the motto of In Nomine Terrae – ‘In the Name of Mother Nature’ – over the past decade Telmont has worked steadily towards organic conversion and today more than 80 percent of the estate’s own vineyards are certified as organic, with the goal of becoming one of a handful of fully-organic champagne producers by 2031.

“I’m proud of the wine‐growing legacy which has been handed down in my family from one generation to the next,” says Bertrand Lhôpital, fourth-generation Cellar Master, and the Head of Viticulture of the House of Telmont. “This heritage enables us to be in close contact with the earth and people, to work with the soil and create our wines the Telmont way.”

Aside from the excellent Réserve Brut, that ‘way’ is perhaps best experienced in the Réserve de la Terre, the house’s 100 percent organic champagne and arguably the purest expression of Damery terroir. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, this elegant champagne arrives with a bouquet of violets and spiced almonds, giving way to a palate rich with freshness, tension and harmony.

Telmont’s dedication to sustainability and a lighter carbon footprint is also reflected in the minimalist approach to branding and packaging. A lighter green bottle made largely of recycled glass is adorned with a simple label, with no wasteful cardboard packaging and a commitment to renewable energy throughout both production and the Telmont supply chain. It’s a forward-thinking philosophy that deserves celebration.

champagne
Veuve Clicquot 2015
In stark contrast to the ever-reliable character of non-vintage (often labelled NV) champagnes, come the remarkable vintage-specific releases of Champagne’s most venerable houses. It was Madame Clicquot who, in 1810, created the first vintage champagne, and in the centuries since her esteemed cellar has declared just 67 years worthy of a ‘vintage’ champagne. 2015, is one of the finest.

Vintage champagnes are always produced from a single vintage. It’s a way of bearing witness to the vagaries of that season; what nature provided, and what challenges were weathered. It is, thus, a wine full of character and intrigue, a portal to a year long since past, and a marker of the cellar master’s skill.

2015 was a remarkable vintage for the vineyards of Veuve Clicquot, with lower rainfall and good levels of sunshine providing all that the Maison needed to craft a champagne that captures a moment in time, a champagne of seductive bouquet, powerful palate and unforgettable vibrance. A wine for celebration, and cellaring.

champagne
Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial
In a history stretching back nearly three centuries, the house of Moët & Chandon has created a remarkable diversity of champagnes to suit every occasion, from the widely enjoyed Moët Impérial to the remarkable Grand Vintage Collection.

But times change, and tastes along with them, so kudos to Moët for leading the way in creating wines that walk the tightrope of complexity and sweetness, catering to a palate that prefers champagne to be rich and luscious, rather than dry and austere.

If that sounds like you, the Nectar Impérial is your go-to champagne this summer.

As with all the finest champagnes, Moët & Chandon’s Nectar Impérial is a carefully curated assemblage. Here Pinot Noir is the foundation, lending structure, while a generous portion of Pinot Meunier, often a mere supporting actor, contributes rich, rounded fruit complexity.

While the abundance of Pinot could be overwhelming, it’s all neatly balanced by the subtle freshness brought by a hint of Chardonnay. And, to ensure a textural depth, up to one-third of the assemblage is sourced from carefully selected reserve wines that allow the cellar master to ensure both consistency and complexity.

The end result is a champagne that harmonises a bouquet of vanilla sweetness with a palate combining ripe berries and summery stone fruit, with the slightest undercurrent of yeasty richness. Enjoy it well chilled, with fine food and company.

champagne
Bollinger Special Cuvée
It’s been more than half a century since Lily Bollinger made her now-famous quip about the best time to drink champagne. And, of course, Madame Bollinger is yet to be proven wrong. So if ever there was a champagne worthy of sipping at any time of day, Bollinger Special Cuvée is it.

A signature release from this boutique champagne House, a full 70 percent of the grapes used to craft Bollinger Special Cuvée comes from the House’s own vineyards, giving the cellar master remarkable control of quality and viticulture.

A classic blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, what this non-vintage brut champagne may lack in vintage expression it makes up for in consistency. Carefully blended to ensure reliability of style and quality, the depth and complexity of each bottle of Bollinger Special Cuvée is thanks to the high proportion of Reserve wines included in the blend. Aged in magnums under cork for up to 15 years, these remarkable wines ensure both consistency and a remarkable layering of flavour.

That depth is balanced by vivacity and freshness; a velvety palate of pear, brioche and fresh walnut, brightened by a bouquet redolent with aromatic complexity. Drink it, as Madame Bollinger suggested, whenever you feel the moment is right.

by Richard Holmes

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