User login

Prestige Tasting Champagne to George V

Prestige Tasting

Tasting Prestige Champagne

Tasting Prestige Champagne to George V

Jean-Michel Deluc

What an excellent reception! So many champagnes have rarely been assembled to be assessed professionally by such a group of sommeliers. And in an extremely prestigious setting too: the George V Hotel in Paris. Eric Beaumard is the Restaurant Manager of the ‘Cinq’ and more importantly he was ‘Europe’s Best Sommelier’ in 1994 andvice-champion at the world competition in 1998.

W ith the sponsorship of “Sommeliers International”, this reception was held on Friday 10th November 2006. The idea was not to arrange an umpteenth competition, but to organise a tasting that would enable expert professionals to discover or re-discover some little known champagne houses and compare their ideas about these wines with those produced by more legendary names. It was an opportunity to give an overall view of winemaking skill in Champagne, a few weeks prior to the festivities of Christmas and New Year when bubbles of celebration will flow freely. This event encouraged discussions between producers and purchasing advisers and indeed a large number of winemakers were present to answer questions from these consultants.

First-class tasters

For this occasion, all the well known personalities of the Paris Sommelier Association were present. First of all, its President Jean-Michel Deluc, Head Sommelier of the leading company for wine sales online, ‘Chateauonline’. Also present, the former President of this association, Philippe Faure-Brac, nominated the ‘World’s Best Sommelier’ in 1992 in Brazil. There were several Vice-Presidents in attendance too: Jacques Boudin, whose legendary whiskers can now be found at the ‘Atelier des Compères’, a restaurant he opened in March 2006 along with his associate Eric Sertour; Jean-Luc Jamrozik, from the ‘Baltimore’, who kindly agreed to attend, even though another tasting was being held at the same time in his own restaurant.
Honour where honour is due, the Champagne-Ardenne Sommelier Association was also represented by its President, Yves Chapier. Amongst the numerous tasters we saw: Robert Vifian, the well known chef at the ‘Tan Dinh’ Restaurant located in Rue Verneuil in Paris which is famous for its wine list; Marie-Claude Orieux, representative of the Association of Sommeliers’ Friends and owner of a wine boutique in Vignes de Marie; and Laurent Jouanne, Purchasing Manager for the website Chateauonline.

Illustrious champagnes

What about the champagne? Sixty champagne houses represented, one hundred wines and 230 bottles opened between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.! Here are just a few of the legendary names: Taittinger, Ruinart, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Jacquesson, Rœderer, Salon, Krug, Billecart-Salmon, Moët et Chandon…
As is the case before any important match, silence settled at the start of play. To ensure the finest professionalism, the vast reception room was separated into two areas. At one end of the room thirty sommeliers seated around tables concentrated studiously on wines served successively. The order in which they were tasted was as follows: first non-vintage brut champagnes, then blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs, vintage champagnes and lastly rosé champagnes. Each participant took notes. The tasting comments had to be complete: colour, nose, palate, finish and of course a suggestion for food & wine combination. After all, this is the sommelier’s role!
At each table, an association President collected the tasting notes. Discussions ensued and were passionate at times: “What do you mean that wine has reached its peak? Are you kidding, it still has at least five years!” Counterproposals came from all sides: “You suggest poultry in a cream sauce to accompany this champagne and I agree, but I think it would be more original to try it with Thai cuisine; white fish steamed with citronella for example.”

Yves Chapier, Anne-Marie Chabert (Oenologist), M. Saxby (Champagne Moutardier).

Philippe Faure-Brac.

Endless discussion

The atmosphere was quite different on the other side of the room. On a table near the entrance, a huge number of bottles stood ready to greet visitors; their presentation resembled the way in which vine stocks used to be planted in the past, with no set order or land surveyors’ calculations. So for this event, no hierarchy; vine growers’ champagnes were to be treated on an equal footing with the most well known brands. Given this ebullient abundance of champagnes, the crowd of visitors who attended the tasting included some notable names:

it was exclusively comprised of estate owners or representatives of champagne houses participating in the tasting. Certain names were extremely expressive: Charles Philipponnat, Tarik Taittinger … Invited by “Sommeliers International”, some friends from the Champagne region, other members of the sommelier profession and skilled connoisseurs gladly joined the ranks of these esteemed tasters. One such guest was Martine Lafitte, owner of Domaine Boingnères in La Bastide d’Armaganac in the Landes area she makes an internationally renowned Armagnac. Eric Beaumard and his colleagues are sure of its fine quality and Boignères Armagnac features on the wine list of “Le Cinq” Restaurant as well as on those of the group’s five other three-star restaurants in Paris.

But the large majority of tasters were well and truly of Champagne origin. This is the case for Bertrand de Telmont. He represents the fourth generation of the J. de Telmont Champagne House which owns 36 hectares of vines and makes wine from a total of 146 hectares. It is one of the twenty leading champagne houses: it produces 1.3 million bottles annually. But this company is not especially well known, because it sells essentially to individual customers … from its cellars and in fact, 15% of production is sold directly in Damery. Bertrand took advantage of this event to talk to sommeliers about the subject of champagne consumption. The surprise was that they all agree that blanc de blancs champagne tends to be appreciated more by consumers in northern France and northern Europe and that demi-sec is favoured essentially by those in the south. Does sun encourage an inclination for sugar?

Jean-Claude Fourmon, heir of the Joseph Perrier Champagne House, commented upon the advisory role played by the sommelier. Jean-Claude Fourmon exports 85% of his production and acknowledges the necessity of promoting his champagne with French professionals and especially those based in Paris. International customers who enjoy Joseph Perrier Champagne in their own countries are surprised not to find it on a greater number of wine lists when they come to Paris, which they still consider as THE capital of the art of living and good taste. This tasting therefore gave him the occasion to get to know some Parisian sommeliers better.