There can never be too much champagne.
The magical mix of beautiful wine and eager bubbles has been thrilling our mouths for centuries.
Every drop comes from a tiny portion of our planet blessed with the climate and soil that sets it apart as a unique terroir. Its misty chalky hills, peopled with families of toilers and magicians, effervescent with history, send precious bottles to every country near and far.
Thousands of kilometres down south, Australia does its duty to keep up with consumption of the regular shipments.
In total bottles popped Australia’s modest population now ranks 7th in the world. Behind France, UK, USA, Germany, Japan and Belgium and ahead of Italy, Switzerland and Spain. Per head, Aussies consume about a quarter of a bottle every year, whereas the French enjoy two and a half bottles each.
Bon vivants downunder are on familiar terms with the known crowd pleasers, from Moet & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Mumm and Lanson, through Taittinger, Roederer up to the mighty Pol Roger, Bollinger and Krug.
This antipodean enthusiasm is rewarded with a pin in the map in many boardrooms in Reims, Epernay and Ay.
Every year or so their representatives head to the airport and then while away the endless hours in a roaring metal tube, probably sipping a neighbour’s product, to make the trip Downunder.
Recently Sydney welcomed two gentlemen from less well-known champagne houses. They provided a stirring contrast. One has been established since 1856. The other since 2007. The old and the new, both vital and thriving.
Vve Fourny & Fils was represented by Charles-Henry Fourny who with his brother Emmanuel has been carrying the family flag since 1993. Says Charles: “If you don’t have the passion, you don’t take over.”
Their wines showcase the chalky terroir of the premier cru village of Vertus at the southern reaches of the Côte des Blancs. They source fruit from 30 vineyards and meticulously vinify each batch separately to be evaluated and blended later.
They also own one of the very few unique parcels of the district’s precious soil, the walled ‘Clos Faubourg Notre Dame’ from which they produce an exceptional wine made only in the best vintages which spend at least nine years in bottle before release.
The wines are distributed in Australia by de Bortoli who took TML to lunch at Café Sydney. Turning inside from the magnificent view over Circular Quay, we settled into some super Sydney seafood dishes with three champagnes. The Vertus Blanc de Blanc, the Grand Reserve Brut (80% chardonnay) and the 2008 Blanc de Blanc Premier Cru. The emphasis on the noble white grape is noticeable and crisply delicious. Low dosage gives these wines a consistent style of lively freshness.
Old World wines meeting New World cuisine. Quite a match. www.champagne-veuve-fourny.com
The new young face on the scene was presented by Hugues Villemain, Export Manager Asia Pacific, representing the House of Brimoncourt.
Now based in 19th-century buildings in the heart of Ay, the company was recently brought together by a couple of passionate champagne lovers, Alexandre Cornot and Arnaud Dupuis-Testenoire. They buy in grapes from the established premier and grand cru vineyards. Their small team has plenty of experience in the art of champagne and their efforts have paid off. Primarily enjoying a growing and glowing reputation in France and also in the USA, Downunder is a new world to conquer. They will do well. The wines, of course, are totally enrobed in the traditions of their land but they have an independent and modern ethos that will appeal to a new generation. The labelling is clearly classic but with a swish of impertinence, such as the scarlet lining beneath the black foil on one bottle (remind you of some wonderful shoes, perhaps?) Hugues showed TML four wines. The Brut Régence, an elegant white floral pointed wine, seductive to drink and share. The presentation pack features a giraffe, the only animal that doesn’t drink alone.
The Blanc de Blanc is 80% Grand Cru, a seductive aperitif, all subtle brioche and brightness. Its presentation pack feature a quote from Longfellow about the charms of ‘simplicity’.
The Brut Rosé is 50% pinot noir, a delicate pink sparkler for summer drinking, with hints of raspberries and melons.
Finally the Extra Brut, a delightful whoosh of rich complex bready flavours, intense and lingering for special occasions.
These are all fine wines staying true to the traditions of centuries, observing all the tiny details, but reaching out cheekily and knowingly to a younger audience. It is a long long path but they believe in their grandchildren cheerfully embracing Brimoncourt.