This year’s Champagne harvest is now underway across villages in the region

With the nights drawing in and temperatures dropping, it’s finally wine harvest time across Northern Europe. And the Champagne region has already announced its start dates for this year’s harvest.

Villages across the Champagne region in France are now harvesting grapes. The start date varies for each variety of grape and each village. This is to make sure the precious Champagne grapes are harvested at their peak ripeness.

 

What makes the Champagne harvest special?

Each year, all grapes harvested in the Champagne region are carefully hand-picked. This adds to the special atmosphere that always surrounds the Champagne’s region’s strict regulations. It’s all part of the steps necessary to produce the high-quality, unique sparkling Champagne that is loved all around the world.

The rules state that only grapes from delineated, specific plots across the appellation are used to make Champagne. The region is around 90 miles north-east of Paris and covers an area of less than 80,000 acres. From how the grapes are planted, grown and harvested, to the winemaking process itself, every step is carefully regulated. There is a carefully controlled system of adjustments and refinements that all come together to make Champagne, including how it is blended.

 

Champagne is fighting back against climate change

The growing season in 2019 has had to deal with various challenges from climate changes. This includes extremely high temperatures throughout the summer. And, as with many traditional growing regions, Champagne is developing innovative solutions to adapt for the future.

From growers to suppliers, the Champagne region’s industry is united in working together to combat the changes taking place due to climate change. They are also focusing on maintaining the high quality which is Champagne’s traditional strength.

Jennifer Hall is director of the Champagne Bureau in the United States. She says that climate change is a growing problem for the Champagne industry: “The region is committed to sustainable development and seeks to do its part to reduce its environmental impact and protect the unique terroir of Champagne.”

 

Reducing carbon footprint is a priority for wine makers in Champagne

 Champagne is one of the most progressive regions in terms of reducing its emissions. Back in 2013, it was the first wine region in the world to initiate an audit of its carbon footprint. This led to a campaign focusing on reducing the carbon footprint of the Champagne region by 25% by 2020, and by 75% by 2050. During the last 15 years, Champagne has reduced the carbon footprint per bottle of wine by 20%, which is close to target.

It has also reduced the use of nitrogen fertilisers by 50%, and now recycles 90% of all industrial waste and 100% of all wine by-products and effluents. To boost the motivation of the region, the Comité Champagne introduced a certification standard in 2015 for wine growers in the region to prove their environmental commitment. Between 2015 and 2019, more than 20% of the wine growers in Champagne have been certified, and from this 15% are certified “Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne”.

 

For a full and detailed list of all of the harvest dates across villages and by grape in Champagne, click here.

Alternative Ways to Pair Champagne and Food

We all know the classic pairings for Champagne. From caviar to oysters, these traditional options are tried and tested delights. But why not try something new or perhaps a little unusual? There are a wide range of foods that pair perfectly with Champagne and step outside the ordinary. This week, Ideal Wine Company brings you some alternative ways to pair Champagne with food.

Ideal Wine Company Champagne and food pairings
We all know the classic pairings for Champagne, but here are some alternative ways to pair Champagne with food.

Macaroni Cheese – soft and creamy match made in heaven

When thinking of food to serve with Champagne, macaroni cheese may not be the obvious first choice. But when the balance of flavours is right, these two work together incredibly well. There are a few important variables to perfect with your pasta before this can work. Make sure that your cheese is not too sharp, so consider opting for a softer creamy cheese with flavour. A good smoked gouda is perfect. When it comes to the Champagne, your wine needs to be acidic enough to cut through the cheese. Balance is key to pairing Champagne and macaroni cheese, but a great rule of thumb is to keep the cheese soft and let the wine be slightly bolder. The perfect comforting pairing!

Spring rolls with spicy sweet chilli sauce – opt for sweetness

This popular dish is often a snack or starter and can make a surprisingly good pair for Champagne. The goal of this balance is to reduce the fat of the spring rolls and increase the lightness of the vegetables. To do this, look for a Champagne with low acidity and opt for a big bubble finesse. A good rule to remember for pairing spring rolls and Champagne is to meet spiciness with sweetness. The more heat you add, the sweeter your Champagne should be. This provides a delicious balance that is unexpected but delicious.

Fried mushrooms – look for fruity and earthy notes

Although it may sound unusual, Champagne and fried foods are the perfect pairing. The greasy richness of these foods is elevated by the sweet bubbles of Champagne. A great example of this is fried mushrooms. Try opting for a Blanc de Noirs, a white sparkling wine made with dark grapes such as Pinot Noir. The earthiness found in mushrooms is complemented by the rich fruity and earthy notes that can be found in options such as a Blanc de Noir. A slight sweetness will go a long way in lightening this dish.

Fish tacos – high acidity for zingy food

Fish tacos present a wide range of flavours. From zingy lightness provided by the limes to the heat of the chilli to the subtly of the fish, there is a careful balancing act of flavours in place. A super dry and crisp Champagne will fit perfectly into this. These wines have little or no added sugar, meaning they’ll keep up with the zesty flavour of the dish. If the fish has lime or salsa added to it, it’s key that you find a Champagne with even higher acids. This means the wine will taste bright. As well as this, look for a good sharpness and minerality prevents the wine from tasting too flat. With a good balance, Champagne and fish tacos create a light and lively pairing.

Don’t be afraid to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to your Champagne pairings. While the classics work well, there are plenty of alternative pairings that can widen your use of Champagne. There’s no longer any need to save the Champagne for special occasions!

The Perfect Wines for Your New Year’s Eve Party

What better way is there to ring in the New Year than with friends, family and a good glass of wine. No matter what your preference is, see out the year in style. From reds to white to sparkling, Ideal Wine Company has amazing suggestions for the final party of the year!

Ideal Wine Company New Year Wine
What are the perfect wines for your New Year’s Eve party?

Champagne – synonymous with celebrations

The ultimate celebratory tipple, champagne really is a great way to toast the new year. Whether you’re heading out to a party or staying in, this full-bodied wine with a rounded sweetness is a perfect choice. Its citrusy freshness adds a complexity to a fruity expression. Try a dry option if you don’t want something too sweet. Alternatively, you could try other sparkling wines if you want to break away from the seasonal norm. Prosecco, for instance, is less intense than its French counterpart and pairs well with light cheese and dark chocolate. Perfect for parties.

Unusual red blends – an adventurous change

This party season, why not try something completely new? A blend of red wine brings together all the flavours you look for in a wine into a surprising yet delicious glass. These create a memorable experience for all who try them, the layers of depth, complexity and rich flavours offering a twist on a classic. Try expanding your blend choices. A classic Cabernet and Merlot blend always goes down well. But if you’re feeling adventurous, the unique blend of Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Petite Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Mourvedre, Grenache, and Cinsault currently gaining popularity is sure to be unforgettable!

Pinot Noir – a go-to for elegance and refinement

New Year’s Eve is a time to enjoy the classic staples done well. This light-skinned grape offers a less intense red that pleases both red and white wine drinkers. Offering an exotic bouquet of ripe red fruit, Pinot Noir is a graceful addition to any party. Notoriously difficult to perfect, a well-made Pinot Noir is a truly delicious and memorable choice. Try finding a vintage from 2010 or 2012, both of which were good years for this variety.

Vinho Verde – a refreshing option

Gaining in popularity over recent years, Vinho Verde is perfect for those who enjoy a crisp and refreshing glass. This Portuguese white is light, fizzy and easy to drink. Look out for the more serious versions of the wine being created. These textural and dry offerings often include notes of citrus and pear. As a lighter option than most, this wine is perfect to enjoy with a heavier New Year’s Eve meal or if you want to stick to a less intense option.

This New Year, find a wine to suit your palate that mixes well with a variety of foods. Whether you want to toast to 2018 with unexpected red or white, or a classic glass of sparkling wine, there’s a wine out there to keep everyone happy and in a fine celebratory mode!

How to make the perfect Mimosa

In the runup to the summer months, cocktails are coming back in full swing. Some of the most iconic cocktails also have the simplest recipes – easy to follow so you have more time to sit and relax! Ideal Wine Company discovers the trick to making a perfect Mimosa for the upcoming summer months.

Ideal Wine Company mimosa
Making the perfect Mimosa.

A bit of background

A Mimosa is one of the most popular cocktails, with citrus tones it is a refreshing summer drink to enjoy with family or friends! It is traditionally served in a tall champagne flute at brunch, and is composed of equal parts of champagne (or an alternative sparkling wine) and a chilled citrus juice. It was believed to have been invented in 1925 in the Hôtel Ritz Paris by Frank Meier. It is thought to be named after the common name in Europe for the yellow flowers of Acacia Dealbata. Similar to a Mimosa, Buck’s Fizz is a variation made with twice as much champagne to orange juice.

The recipe

If you have the time, using freshly squeezed orange juice will leave a lighter, tarty flavour on your palate. It is more delicate than shop bought orange juice which means it makes your Mimosa more enjoyable and tasty!

A classic Mimosa recipe uses equal parts sparkling wine to orange juice, this is the perfect ratio for this tasty cocktail. However, if you are making Mimosas for a party or large group of friends, using less wine will make sure you get maximum usage whilst saving too. An alternative to save on wine but still get enough of an alcohol to juice ratio, is to add a splash of orange liqueur.

When making a Mimosa, the number one rule is to always pour the sparkling wine first before topping with the orange juice. By doing this it ensures that the cocktail has the chance to mix together on its own, which avoids a sticky mess at the top if the glass! There is no need to stir the cocktail either as this will cause the wine to become flat.

Top tips

A top tip for making a Mimosa is to use a dry sparkling wine rather than a sweet one. Spending around £10 on a sparkling wine is advised for a good quality; as well as this using Cava from Spain is an affordable choice. Alternatively, a dry Prosecco is a great option for a Mimosa if Cava isn’t your drink of choice. Another top tip is not to go too cheap in your choice of sparkling wine, this won’t help your drink have delicious taste it should.

A key tip when making a Mimosa is to never serve it warm, the wine and orange juice should be kept refrigerated until they are ready to be served. After pouring the first round, place back in the fridge to keep them chilled and fresh.

Stocking up

If you fancy spending your weekends making delicious Mimosas ready for the summer months, why not visit the Ideal Wine Company Champagne section. Or alternatively Prosecco from the Burke’s Peerage Selection.

How Champagne Became Associated With Hollywood

The history of cinema is drenched in Champagne, for example silver screen icon Marilyn Monroe supposedly bathed in it. This is why many people regard it as the ultimate luxury drink. Shedding light on this popular perception, we explain how Champagne came to be associated with Hollywood.

Origin story

Recently, London newspaper The Evening Standard traced the beginnings of Champagne’s association with Hollywood to 1928. This is the year that Alfred Hitchcock’s jazz age comedy Champagne was released. The film opens with a close up shot of a glass of Moët & Chandon, introducing viewers to the “millionaire’s lifestyle through the lens of his drink” and sparking a silver screen revolution.

Explaining how ubiquitous Champagne has become across film, since the release of Hitchcock’s comedy, Moët & Chandon’s Head of Heritage, Veronique Foureur, said: “Think of a famous actor or actress… He or she has probably drunk Moët & Chandon in one or more scenes.” From Audrey Hepburn in Love in the Afternoon to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and Leonardo di Caprio in The Great Gatsby, the brand really has become a silver screen stalwart over the years.

Glam factor

Foureur then outlined the reasons why Hollywood fell in love with Champagne, the first of which is the drink’s “glam factor.” It has long been associated with the royalty of Europe, for example Cristal was developed on the orders of a Russian Tsar. Hollywood is America’s royalty, so it makes sense that we would associate the traditional drink of the elite with the most famous people on earth.

But, she argued, Champagne may have started off as the drink of kings, but Hollywood has turned it into the ultimate symbol of social mobility. In The Seven Year Itch, for instance, Marilyn Monroe quaffs Champagne while eating crisps (which is actually palatable). Scenes like this made Champagne into an attainable luxury, as they show that it’s something average viewers could enjoy in their everyday lives.

Industry lubricant

Foureur also argued that Champagne is also the lubricant that keeps Hollywood turning, strengthening the association between the two. Moët & Chandon, she added, has been quaffed by attendees of the prestigious Cannes film festival since the 1950s. It has since become popular at movie showcases held in cities like London and Venice as well, ensuring that its popularity endures into the 21st Century.

Today, The Evening Standard argued, you are just as likely to see Champagne on the silver screen, as you were during the golden age of Hollywood. The drink flows heavily through Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Meanwhile the iconic spy James Bond continues to be associated with Dom Perignon, a brand whose products are featured on Ideal Wine Company’s Champagnes List.

Success symbol

It’s clear, therefore, that Champagne came to be associated with Hollywood, because it’s the ultimate symbol of success. A-listers started consuming this signature French drink because of its historic links to European royalty and in turn, this popularised the concept of Champagne as a luxury item among the general public. The next time you host a celebration, consider ordering a bottle of Champagne, so you can raise a toast and turn the event into a true occasion, worthy of Hollywood itself!