Diary-of-Axel-Ritenis Editorial

New Year’s Champagnes & avoiding F.M.C.G.’s!

Written by Aksel Ritenis

 

 


 

 New Year’s Champagnes & avoiding  FMCG’s!

 

I would have to admit that over the years I have “guzzled my share of commercial bubbly”,..or champagne,…so who am I to criticize the stuff that many of us will be celbrating with this very evening!?

I am finally becoming a bit more discriminationg about what I drink,…of course one can become a little blasse,..certainly it is a regular occurrence for such commercial champagnes as Moet&Chandon NV (known locally in Australia as Mo-eee!??,.. “Sacre bleu” ,…..the champenoise would be horrified at this mispronunciation,… iff they weren’t making so much money!!?)

 

and Veuve Cliquot NV ,..to be splashed around at various celebrations and events ,..but I can’t help thinking,..t in view of the millons of litres consumed globally , these two LVMH brands are declining in both quality and appeal!

 

Frankly, they now resemble other FMCGs in categories such as chocolates-“think Ferrero Rocher” –the same “glitzy packaging”, and they are regularly discounted by large chains such as Woolworths,.Dan Murphy’s or others …in other words sold on price not quality,..so to put it mildly ,”the social cache” of consuming these champagnes is diminishing rapidly,.,,,and the trickle “down effect” now makes this the “bubbly of choice” for the masses,.. who couldn’t tell the difference between champagne and spumante, but imagine it will enhance their social status!?

Of course LVMH spends fortune on advertising and marketing,,,,all designed to convince You “that drinking Moet makes You fashionable and is a sign of sophistication!.

Their “glitzy marketing” is wearing increasingly thin,..it is a a form of brainwashing ,,,and quite manipulative when you look at it objectively,…not dissimilar to the advertising used by the tobacco companies,..such as Benson & Hedges,…. or Peter Stuyvesant ,…”think of the exicting and sophisticated world of Peter Stuyvesant !?”

 

How very childish we must be ,…to be so easily manipulated by the large corporations ,…yet we sneer at the “Chinese obsession for status and image” in reference to expensive Bordeaux wines .(see the film Red Obsession)

 

Forgive me iff I am getting a but cynical,..but as a magazine publisher , ( who has “played the Moet and the LVMH game” )…You can’t help laugh at the ease with which they continue their “marketing manipulations” for what it is essentially just another high volume global FMCG !

So this year I am studiously avoiding the FMCG’s and instead opting “to drink less,.. but drink quality!”

 

I am going to chooses champagnes from smaller producers who offer incredible qhality for just a fraction more. There really is a huge difference in the the quality and complecxity of flavors in the “mainstream commercial bubblie” and “the hand made” .

During “the silly season” I had the opportunity to compare and contrast such chmapagnes as Moet & Chandon NV , Veuve Cliquot NV and Pol Roger NV with more serious wines,……that surprisingly don’t cost much more,..yet are infinitely more pleasurable to drink!

 

Now I am not suggesting that You “lash out “ and start drinking Krug,,,..or Louis Roederer Crystal ,let alone Bollinger Grand Annee (one of my personal favourites) No.,,,, not at all,..

It is not commonly appreciated that there are several Champagne Houses “which really do fly under the Radar” and produce exquisite wines ,that are only slightly,more expensive then the FMCGS !?

 

So this year I am going to recommend 3 Champagne Houses which represent only an incremental increase in price ,but a huge improvement in quality.!

In essence these are wines that you do not want to quaff or guzzle quickly but rather !?,..

They deserve the time,and effort ,.. to appreciate their exquisite flavours and aromas warm toasted brioche ,huge complexity , crisp citrusy acidity and long lingering palate,often with a hint of minerality,giving length and intensity.

 


 

 

Starting with a similar price ,,the first recommendation as an alternative to the “commercials”… is the Champagne Pommery Non Vintage,…

(Vintage Cellars was doing 2 bottles for $100.00 …Not bad at all!)

“Famous for dancing to its own tune, Pommery bucked Champagne tradition to make the first Brut (Extra Dry) wine in 1875 to cater for English aristocrat palates.”Today,..Pommery’s Brut Royal continues to be made in that style, sitting in the dry and refreshing aperitif category.. Soft, creamy and persistent, the blend is a third each of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for balance and complexity,..

I had a glass recently at the sophisticated Botanical Hotel (with one of the best wine lists in Melbourne) , where it is the House Champagne and really enjoyed it.

 

Champagne Pommery Apanage is also good,… but extremely dry ,…so not everyones “cup of tea” but for serious wine afficianadoes ,..of considerable interest and recommended with either Oysters or Caviar!

 

Undoubtedly,..one of my all times favourites is the GOSSET Grande Reserve,…I have been a fan of this stuff since it was launched in the Baltics at the famous Vincents Restaurant some ten years ago,…and have sought out the wines ever since.

 

It has always been an outstanding and distinctive wine,,,and the Grande Reserve (they have just redesigned the classic labels ),, stays on lees for a much longer time then the commercial champagnes ,and so has more complexityby far,….absolutely superbe and represents excellent value for money,…

 

In essence this is a wine that you do not want to quaff or guzzle,..

They deserve the time to appreciate their exquisite flavours and aromaswarm toasted brioche ,huge complexity , crisp citrusy acidity and long lingering palate,

 

I challenge You to an experiment !,…Drink the commercial stuff after a glass of the Gosset,,,and You will realize how lacking in character they are and why You guzzle them.!?

Gosset Grande Reserve is a blend of Chardonnay 43%Pinot Meunier 15%Pinot Noir 42% and Cuveee is made without malo-lactic fermentation to preserve the natural fruitiness of the wines.Bright and golden in colour with an attractive and expressive nose that is reminiscent of ripe red blackcurrants, wheat, dried fruits and gingerbread. The palate is dominated by refreshing mineral notes combined with a warm and consistent flavour echoing the wine’s richness .There is a gentle persistent freshness coming through and a subtle and beautifully crafted structure.

Hard not to appreciate this!

 

 

Iff Your a Chardonnay fan,.. try the GRAND BLANC DE BLANCS Brut, the golden yellow with delicate green tints typical of the great Blanc de Blancs and with very fine bubbles.

Tasting notes:

On the nose it has It is both mineral and floral with aromas of flowers and white fruits, apricot and plum. Very light notes of lemon, citrus fruits, crystallized quince and honey.Harmonious on the palate , complex and delicate with a great freshness. A crisp and well-structured champagne with finesse and the freshness makes it perfect as aperitif or with scallops, or with with crustceans.)

 

 

Another champagne that is impressive and I would wholeheartedly recommend is Champagne Delamotte

You can choose between the Brut N.V.,…the Blanc de Blancs or the Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs !

I found these notes from a Langtons 2012 tasting I attended in Sydney 2012,..and they are spot on.!

The Champagne House Delamotteis the alter ego, if you like, of Salon, that rare bird of the Cote des Blancs. The company does have 11 ha of its own vines (in Le Mesnil, Oger, and Avize) and makes a number of its own purchases, but it also inherits all of the Salon wine not required by Salon- which, in years when Salon doesn’t declare, means the entire harvest. Under the same ownership as the legendary Salon (and its next door neighbour), Delamotte produces some of the very best in Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagnes from the famous village of Le Mesnil.”

 

The Champagne House Delamotte have a practice of disgorging their vintage champagnes very late,.. and keep them on Yeast Lees for up to 10 Years so…little wonder the wonderful creamy and brioche like characteristics.

In his publication The Wine Advocate, critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. has called Delamotte “one of the best buys in exquisitely crafted Champagne.”

Wine writer Karen MacNeil refers to Delamotte’s blanc de blancs as her “desert island” choice !,.

Need I say anymore!

 

Wishing all our Readers and friends a Happy New Year !

Axel Ritenis

Sydney

 

 

 

Editor

 

Connoisseur Magazine

 

 

 

“Imported Wine” Boom in Australia!

When Australia’s leading wine retailer Dan Murphy puts a Spanish white wine on the front cover of their in house wine catalogue , You know there is something “tres important”fermenting in the marketplace”,….As a passionate advocate of Spanish wine,…. I have long recognized the potential for the Spanish white varieties to attract a Global following,..and become the next Trend or fad in the wine world,.. even in the Antipodies!

The strong “Ozzie” dollar has now made it possible to obtain a myriad of excellent wines for the “variety starved” Australian wine lover.I can still remember the jingoistic twang of the Aussie “we drink Australian wine around here”,.. ethos of a decade ago,…so it’s a relief to see Woolworths getting behind the consumers right to experience “great imported wines” alongside the diverse range of imported Gastronomy products like Jamon,Prosciutto, French Brie,Roquefort,olives etc., and other imported foodstuffs,already on offer. Australian wine consumers are now looking for something to “invigorate” or stimulate their jaded palates. A constant diet of the everpresent NZ Sauvignon Blanc, Australian chardonnay, or at best Riesling, “makes “Jack a dull boy”.Internationally there is now available a fabulous range of White wines varieties! At a time when the local Australian wine industry has launched a “scathing attack” on NZ wines (which now account for 40 % of white winesales) and specifically “the ogre” of the Australian wine industry the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc whites!New South Wales critics have derided this “generic style” of New Zealand Sauvignon, denouncing it as a “one trick pony”,so it becomes clear why…because Australian consumers are seeking out foreign wines as never before ,.. and its only a matter of time before they start drinking other whites such as Albarino,,, Godello ,Verdejo, fantastic Spanish whites or even the excellent Gewurtztraminer or Sauvignon Blanc from regions such as Somontano. Spanish Cava , as a methode champenoise sparkler can’t be far behind.

Having gone throught the Sauvignon Blanc phase,.. overconsumed on the “faddy” Pinot Gris as well and the local Pinot Grigio ( a pale imitation of true Northern Italian Pinot from Veneto or Collio) we increasingly suffer from “jaded palates”,…

Could it be that the “nuovo blanco”,…(and please remember I coined the phrase) exciting Spanish whites will capture the wine consumers imagination..as indeed Spanish gastronomy and Tapas already has!?

Pazo_Barrantes_Abarino_2011My guess is that Albarino is well placed to become the next global superstar in white wines !

There are some other Spanish whites that have great flavor profiles, including Verdejo in its Rueda or white Rioja guises,… and Godello,from the D.O.Valdeoras (also important for another groundbreaking Red wine called Mencia!)

….but my guess is that the apricot and white stone fruit bouquet and flavours of the Albarinowill be “all the go!”

This variety is made to exacting New World type wine making standards in the Rias Baixas ,,on the Spanish Atlantic coast …This is seafood country ,,so they have some of the best crabs, molluscs and seafood in the world ,,so it is not surprising that they have traditionally produced fabulous “dry whites ” to accompany their Seafood !

In my book Albarino is a rising star!

When Australia’s leading Wine retailer Dan Murphy, … puts a Spanish white on the front cover of their “in house” wine catalogue, You know there is something “fermenting in the marketplace”!

It was in the early to mid 80’s that Dan Murphy had great success with the Chilean range of Miguel Torres wines , including Sauvignon Blanc!

As an advocate of Spanish wine,.(and other European wines, after 15 years spent in Europe) I have long recognized the potential for the Spanish whites to attract a following,.. even in the Antipodies.

The strong “ozzie dollar” has now made it possible to obtain a good range of interesting white varietals that are a “sensory revelation” for the Australian wine lover, kept on a diet of NZ Sauvignon Blanc, Aussie Chardonnay , assorted “anaemic blends” and Riesling. Talk about palate fatigue !?I can still remember the jingoistic twang of the Aussie “we drink Australian wine around here mate ” ethos,. of a decade ago,…Thank God Australia is becoming so much more receptive to European wines and of course their is a Spanish Tapas and gastronomy boom on as well!

Of course one of the unrecognized pioneers of imported wines was my old boss David Farmer,.. (He was clearly ahead of his time),.. But there is a new generation of Australian afficianadoes,sommeliers and experts,who have spent sufficient time travelling in Europe and learning to love French,. Italian or Spanish wines and the whoe gastronomic experience with a passion that will not be subdued with “jingoistic refrains by the Australain wine lobby!”

So it’s a relief to see “the muscle” of Woolworths(the countries largest and best Purveyor of things Vinous) getting behind the Imported Wine segment,.. and facilitating the consumers right to experience “great imported wines” alongside the vast range of imported gastro products like Jamon, French Brie, and other Prosciutto, Parmegiano and a myriad of foodstuffs that Australia’s “Connoisseurs“now can’t live without!

 

“Pretend You’re in France-Or “Mouton for the Masses”!

Mouton_Cadet_Bordeaux_2002As a former importer and distributor of the prestigious Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux wines I had the good luck to sample a number of good vintages of the First Growth Mouton (and other wines in the Portfolio including Clerc Milon, D’Armaillac.etc.,) back in the days when a bottle could be had for a mere 300 Euros!

Today with the “astronomic prices” caused by excessive Chinese Demand for Investment wines, it is no longer possible for an “ordinary mortal” to access these wines purely for drinking pleasure …nowadays they belong firmly to the investment category of Wines,..purely for commercial trade like “shares , equities or futures in wheat or pork bellies !

Apparently even the Baroness Phillipina Rothschild is quite concerned about these market distortions”quel horreur” ,which have turned the traditional American and UK consumers off Bordeaux Fine wines in droves!.

Naturally many consumers are gravitating to ome of the excellent 2 and 3rd growths ,,which often are on a parr with the first growths without the extortionate pricetag.

Nevertheless ,.I was somewhat overjoyed to get a humble bottle of Mouton Cadet Rouge 2010 at my local (Dan Murphys ) Wine Retailer in Sydney, (where I am working on my memoirs amongst other things) for the ridiculous price of $10.00 ,…yes 10 Australian dollars !

Incroyable !,…I hear You say,,,but true nonetheless!

For such serendipidity we can thank the record level of the Australian Dollar vis a vis the Euro,.. and of course the purchasing power and dealmaking of Australia’s largest Wine retailer Dan Murphy.

Incidentally it was not 3 months ago,.. whilst transiting through Paris, that I spotted the very same Mouton Cadet Bordeaux Rouge 2010,…retailing for 10 Euros in French Wine Chain Nicolas,(the very same company that ran the UK’s Oddbins group into the ground-sacfre bleu!)so that really is proof of the exceptional value!

Now for the record , the 2010 was a fabulous vintage , so it is no surprise that even the basic Mouton Cadet really performed way beyond its class.(and of course the 1st Growth Mouton Rothschild 2010 vintage is priced at astronomical levels for serious investors,such as Chinese businessmen who “collect prestige labels” and Russian oligarchs! !

The accompanying Dan Murphy tasting notes ,.as follows are quite accurate.

Fine Bordeauxx from a fantastic producer,at a stellar price,..and the Pedigree shows;bramble and currants with cloves,olive and delicately honed tannin.A terrific and very typical portrayal of the grand region itself!

I recommend this wine for all members of the “lumpenproletariat” and for that matter connoisseurs of wine who may be interested to experiment with a great “monday night quaffer”!

 

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Aksel Ritenis

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