For many years, I failed to see the point of Champagne - over-hyped and over-priced, it always struck me as a triumph of marketing over common sense.
Last year, however, I went to a number of Champagne tastings and began to see what the fuss was all about, remembering again why I had been so impressed by the samples on offer at the end of a cellar tour at one of the better-known Champagne houses in Epernay over 20 years ago.
A chalky hill 90 miles north east of Paris may seem an unlikely place for what is generally held to be the world's most prestigious sparkling wine - and indeed the still wine it produces is generally quite thin and acidic.
|The montagne de Reims|
But, a few years' aging on its lees and a secondary fermentation in bottle can turn this ugly duckling of a wine into an elegant oenological swan.
Champagne's approach to wine-making is surprisingly New-World, with blending across vineyards and vintages to achieve a consistent "House Style" with little sense of specific terroir, which puts it somewhat at odds with most of the rest of France.
A further parallel with the New World is that many Champagne houses do not grow all their own grapes but buy in from growers across the region.
The grapes used for Champagne, however, are amongst the most noble there are - Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the great grapes of Burgundy (plus the lesser-known Pinot Meunier which it is generally not found anywhere else).
There are of course Champagnes and Champagnes - there are around one hundred Champagne houses and 19,000 smaller vignerons (vine-growing producers) in Champagne, but only a small number of these have achieved the kind of household-name status that allows them to command premium prices.
Forget-Chauvet (pictured left), is based in Ludes and is part of the Patrimoine des Terroirs association, whose wines have I have been finding impressive recently, so I had reasonably high expectations.
Ludes, according to the company's website, is a "typically Champenois village situated 8km from Reims with 275 hectares of vines on the Montagne de Reims" (see map below for more details on location).
Pale gold in the glass, it pours with a fine mousse and is initially crisp and elegant, with a rich, creamy texture from long aging on the lees. There is plenty of ripe fruit acidity, giving both good structure and balance.
After around 90 minutes, with a bit more air and warmth, typically complex Champagne aromas of nutty, oatmealy brioche and biscuity yeastiness are revealed whilst the texture becomes rich and mouthfilling with a long, refreshingly smooth yet savoury finish.
Possessed of plenty of finesse, it also has the richness to match with food and we had this with roast pork.
Forget-Chauvet is not yet available in the UK, but costs €15 per bottle in France and can be ordered from the producer. At that price, it represents much better value than many of the household-name brands that are more instantly familiar.
Champagne Forget-Chauvet - 8 rue Victor Hugo 51500 LUDES - Tél. +33 22.214.171.124.73, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Provided for review.
Forget-Chauvet - http://forget-chauvet.isasite.net/
Patrimoine des Terroirs - http://patrimoinevin.canalblog.com/