The Champagne Boutique

The New Champagne Elite

In Champagnes, Sommeliers on June 17, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Back in 2008 some told us that starting Aperitif Dinatoire and promoting Boutique Champagne in the UK would be foolish as the Grande Marques were in total control and monopolising the champagne sales in the country. Thankfully they were just a minuscule number. Some though, said that the task would be enormous and in a way they were right. For long now we have been convinced that the Champagne region is the most exciting region of all and the cards are getting re-distributed as more and more growers are proving that they can produce wines of the level, if not better, of top cuvees for a fraction of the price. Thanks to new techniques, mostly inspired by Burgundian influence but also by now famous Anselme Selosse, some houses have created real gems of champagne.

So, what has been happening, for the past year or so, is the appearance of a new kind of wine list in our restaurants where some risk-taking sommeliers and managers have literarily dumped the most common brands for lesser known houses. A question remain: why?

Lets have a look at a few champagne lists. (I apologise in advance that I didn’t ask the permission to the creators to use their work for the purpose of this post! Sorry guys but it is for the best! I hope you won’t mind.)

First case study is the champagne list compiled by Matthieu Longueres M.S. of La Trompette in Chiswick. The list is rich and full of different houses. A big change from the traditional list where there are featured around five or six champagne houses.

Out of 29 products on display only 1 is from a grand marque that is the Jacquart Low Dosage. That makes a stunning 3% representation…incredible. I guess this is due to the high quality of theses houses and their real value for money. This is also about offering diversity and an opportunity of discovery for the punter that makes those houses attractive to the sommelier.

Take another look at the pink champagne list of The Ledbury, a newly appointed Michelin star in London, and see what is cooking there…in champagne matters I mean. Out of four houses in representation none are actually grande marques. You would have found the un-avoidable LP rose but it is nowhere to be seen. Instead you have really stunning houses represented there in the like of Bereche, Pehu-Simonnet, Andre Jacquart and Billecart Salmon (Which is a bit larger but fine in its style!).

Some have a much smoother approach to presenting Boutique Champagnes like sommelier Mathieu Germond at two Michelin star Pied a Terre who still integrates some of the cuvees of great houses like Bollinger, Taittinger, Mumm or Krug with an average of 22%.

What we learn with these case studies is that the shift is clear and with much more impact than expected in 2008 and it is a very encouraging sign. One sommelier at a Country House Hotel told me recently that he made the drastic decision to not feature large houses anymore preferring to sell Boutique Champagne only explaining that this was much more exciting.

Exciting it is indeed and we will be looking at those new houses to be discovered in the UK and maybe sometimes will have to rate those winemakers in order to find out who really IS the New Elite of Champagne.

Can’t wait!


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