Just when Champagne producers thought things could not get worse with flat festive sales and the rise and rise of prosecco, along comes the guru of fizz, Tom Stevenson to put in his size 12s. In “the first of a regular series of columns for Wine-Searcher” he fingers “five overrated Champagne houses and five that are underrated.” The sacred cows skewered are Bollinger, favourite fizz of Vinimark, Jacques Selosse the wet dream of wine anoraks, Jacquart a Co-op superstar, Gosset owned by the family of Anne Cointreau of Morgenhof fame and Henri Giraud imported by bubbly Inke Sandri.
When did you last read bad things about grande marques? Tom eviscerates them. “More nonsense is spouted about Champagne than any other wine. The danger begins when a famous producer goes downhill, yet still receives acclaim, or when an intrinsically faulty Champagne develops a cult following. Some merchants and critics erroneously describe flawed characteristics as indications of autolysis or maturity, about which they obviously have little or no understanding. When overtly oxidative, sherry-like aromas are highlighted and eulogized as a point of difference in a hand-crafted Champagne, I know that the wine world is going to hell in a grape basket.” Oh for a Tom to tell the truth about some sacred cows of SA wine. Unlikely in a rotten situation of patronage by producers and wine assessments made with labels in full view.
So what does Tom praise? Some unexpected choices: Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, both Heidsiecks (Chas and Piper) and a Co-op, Palmer. More famous as a Bordeaux blend. Tom lays it on, double thick. “Many otherwise astute wine drinkers have been persuaded to believe that faulty characteristics in some Champagnes are not only acceptable, but actually desirable.” He should come to the Swartland and taste those oxidative/oxidized whites made in Co-ops and passed off as boutique beauties, praised to the skies by rent-a-UK-wine-writer.