james debate
james debate

Saturday 11 July 2009

It's that time of year again, where I report back on my findings from that most wonderful of French regions, Champagne.

Pommery Pop

A good few days were spent around Épernay and Rheims involving much drinking, a few business meetings, and a whole lot of fun. I expanded my knowledge of Champagne to even more Champagne houses that I hadn't been to in previous years, and revisited a few old favorites.

As such I have decided to run the rule over the various champagne houses I visited during my stay and tell you whether or not they're worth your time and money. Enjoy!

1. Veuve Clicquot
A big, commercial, name in the champagne industry, and one that is known worldwide. Typically this is one of those champagnes that is simply not as good as you think it's going to be. This is not worth the amount they charge for it, but being a famous name, this is one of those champagnes that the eurotrash are always going to love picking up when they want to celebrate. I'm always skeptical when I see a factory with such an absurd abundance of merchandise, though the cufflinks were pretty cool.

However, at the end of a lackluster and boring tour, and a decent if not remarkable brut, I decided to splash out on the Grand Dame. This is an absolutely fantastic champagne, one of those wines that gets the balance between sweet and dry, acidity, and fruitiness just right, and very fine bubbles. Ultimately this particular champagne is up there with the very best, although at 100 euros per bottle (at the factory, not even in a shop or restaurant) it is definitely priced well above other champagnes of a similar quality.
Verdict: Moët-Chando

2. Prevoteau-Perrier
I visited these guys last year, but for those of you who didn't read the article from back then:
A small family business, this factory really has a very special personal touch and homemade feeling. We were given a tour of the place and enjoyed an overview of the bottling floor and the cellars underneath. Personally I enjoyed the tasting of freshly squeezed grape juice, as anyone who knows me knows i adore the stuff, only wish champagne companies would start selling it!

Very good value. Prevoteau is very affordable and also very good quality. The brut is decent as is the rosé and milleseme, but the highlight is the Adrienne, a sweet and very easy drinking champagne named after a local french actress.
Verdict: Moët-Chando

3. Pommery
Another big name, one that is very popular amongst the clubbing crowd. Entering the factory was an unusual experience, for as I would later find out on the tour, there was some form of art exhibition going on. So as we entered, the gates were wrapped in coloured paper and bars replaced with neon lights, looking like some mix between the Wizard of Oz and the Candyland board game. The grounds were filled with various modern art sculptures, and the main hall contained bright lights, disco balls and coloured windows.

This type of glitz pretty much sums up Pommery for me. Much of the tour was spent looking at these installations, the most interesting of which was a room full of electric guitars and finches, where the birds would land on the guitar strings and play a note, it was pretty awesome. It's a shame then, that the champagne was really quite mediocre. The best one I tasted was the Apanage, a very buttery and smooth tasting champagne.

However, what is worthy of note is the POP line of champagne, as featured in the picture for this article. I have yet to taste this, and I don't expect anything special, but this is just genius branding, small, brightly coloured bottles designed to look like 50s style soda pop bottles complete with straws. It's just cool enough to try once, even if it ends up not being much.
Verdict: Moët-Chandon't, but do checkout the POP

4. Champagne Mailly
Another small company that I had not tried before. Located on the edges of a small village in the hills that took us a good long time to find, but was worth the trip.

What stands out about this place is the friendly service, they even helped us with our car afterwards. For the most part the champagne is decent here without being spectacular, but makes up for it by being much more affordable than many bigger companies. However the highlight here is le Feu, a distinctly fruity champagne with a wonderful aroma, you won't taste many champagnes quite like this. Not necessarily better than other champagnes, just different.
Verdict: Moët-Chando

Debbie award for Best Bottle of Champagne: Veuve Clicquot "la Grande Dame"
Runner Up: Champagne Mailly "le Feu"

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