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My Top Five Man-Champs

WARNING – To write my top five man-champs so you can surprise your dad on Father’s Day, I do use a bit of gender stereotyping which I am not entirely comfortable with. So I don’t offend or annoy anyone I want to be super-clear upfront that I know I am stereotyping and that I am sorry for it… in a way.

Let me quickly explain. Of course, it is as ridiculous to say all men like robust, rich champagnes as it is to say all women like delicate, pretty, pink champagnes. And I know those stereotypes are complete bollocks because the champs on this “man-champs list” are actually probably all from my own personal top 5 all-time champs. I totally adore bold, robust, high-pinot champagnes and will pick them over a blancs de blancs pretty much any day (except probably a crazy hot Queensland summer’s day). And in case you don’t know it, I am a woman (that’s me below in a happy snap visiting Charles Heidsieck, aka ‘heaven’). BUT…

In my experience doing tastings and introducing men to champagne (something I’ve been doing for about a decade), there is a trend for men to gravitate towards the styles I am sharing below. At least when they are first trying champagne… because my game plan is to suck them in with what they are generally more comfortable with before I start to blow their minds exploring different styles before they find their true champagne style. And I have caused all sorts of dramas many times over when I have had ladies bring their men “who don’t like champagne” along to a tasting, only to have the guys walking out totally in love with champagne. And me in a lot of trouble because now the wives/girlfriends have to share the champs with them!

PSSST… I talk here about finding your champagne style. What is that?

You can find your champagne style with my champagne style guide.

(It’s free, just share your email address and you get the added bonus of joining my ‘happy champers’ list and get an occasional Sunday morning champagne brunch update from me).

So now that I feel I have justified my gender-stereotyping… shall we talk about my top five man-champs? Or Father’s Day will have been and gone before you finish reading my blog post!!!!

My top five man-champs

There are some old faithfuls in this list you (may) have heard me rave about before as well as some new champs from producers that I met (and fell in love with!) on my trip to Champagne. I have much more to come from the newbies… this is just a teaser but don’t for a second think of the old faithfuls as any less extraordinary now than the last (maybe ten) times I wrote about them.

1. Bollinger Special Cuvée

Bollinger is the perfect place to start this list of Father’s Day champagnes. The Bollinger style is timeless and distinct, characterised by full-bodied richness, complexity, power and robustness. Technically, the pinot-heavy blend contains up to 60% reserve wines, 40% of which is famously fermented in oak barrels and produces a complex and rich wine which lends itself to a masculine style. See my pic below in the famous barrel room at Bollinger – they have the most barrels of any producer in Champagne.

But getting back to super-blokey-ness that might impress the dad in your life even more, Bolly is actually the official champagne of James Bond. Bolly certainly suits the Bond brand… sexy, suave, and very, very manly! The two icons have enjoyed a long and strong partnership since 1973.

Bolly has been featured in 15 Bond films with my favourite Bolly/Bond moment being when my favourite Bond, Daniel Craig, pops a bottle of 1990 La Grande Annee with Vesper in Casino Royale (2006). But credit for the most Bond-worthy scene-stealing Bolly moments go to Roger Moore and Jaws in 1979’s Moonraker. Moore’s seduction of Holly Goodhead with the quote, “Bollinger? If it’s ’69, you were expecting me.” is legendary, and Jaws, the film’s evil assassin, introduces a novel way to open a bottle of Bollinger R.D. using his teeth!

Drinking Bolly, watching Bond, and playing “spot the Bolly” actually sounds like a fun way to spend Father’s Day with the dad in your life!

But Bond aside, Bollinger is a serious wine and one I always recommend to men and red wine drinkers wanting to try a champagne. While fancy wine critics say things like “full-bodied” or “bold” or “up-front” or “powerful”, I actually relate the Bolly experience to the rich, powerful, soulful voice of Adele. Who happened to sing one of the best Bond themes ever (in my opinion) to what is one the greatest Bond film of all time… Skyfall.

So if Bollinger is Bond’s champagne of choice (the sexiest spy on the planet), who is your dad to argue?

Some technical details about this man-champs… The Special Cuvée is the result of blending harvest grapes with reserve wines, some of which have been aged in magnums for 5 to 15 years. 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Meunier, from more than 85% Grand and Premier crus, with 8 to 9 grams per litre dosage.

The best deal around right now for the Bollinger Special Cuvée is at Dan Murphy’s for $70. Or step it up a notch with a 2009 Bollinger (Bond) Spectre Limited Edition gift also from Dan Murphy’s for $290. Or for the ultimate in luxury, try to get your hands on the SPECTRE Crystal Set 007 wine cooler. They made just 307 coolers which retail for around US$9,500!

2. Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve 

Moving on to the next wine in my top five man-champs list, Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve. When people ask me “What’s your favourite champagne?” (which I am asked a lot!), I can never answer that I have just ONE fave champagne. I always say it depends on my mood or the occasion or the budget… but I will always admit to loving two champagnes just a little bit harder than the rest. And this is one of them. (The other one is also in this list – see number 5).

And that’s because it’s a truly spectacular non-vintage wine… arguably one of the most remarkable non-vintage champagnes on the planet.

Technically speaking, this is why it’s so spectacular:

  • Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve is renowned for including 40% reserve wines dating back as many as 15 years (most champagnes’ reserve wines venture back far fewer years).
  • Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve spends at least 6 years ageing – the minimum is 15 months but most NV champagnes are aged 3 years.

Now I know that sounds like nothing but a bunch of words and numbers but as soon as you try this champagne you will instantly taste what that all means. Age brings a richness to champagne that once you see, smell and taste it, it will be instantly recognisable. The characteristics I associate most with aged champagnes are the taste of honey and a distinct, deep golden colour. Charles Heidsieck considers time the 4th dimension of its wines and the age shines through in this wine with honey, brioche, and velvety ripe fruit laced with vanilla.

You’ll soon work out I like describing champagne in non-champagne terms… like Bollinger and Adele. I have an ongoing debate with a close friend over my description of Charles Heidsieck… it’s classic and smooth but also indulgent and sexy and a favourite as I’ve said. So for me Charles Heidsieck is like Idris Elba. My friend and her husband fight hard for a George Clooney reference but I am standing by Idris. 

Don’t know who Idris Elba is?

Now you do (you’re welcome!)

Need more convincing?

Just in case you’re not getting it…

One last time…

Is it getting hot in here? OK… I’ve had my fun, I’d better share some technical details of the wine! The blend is equal amounts of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay with 11g/l dosage. And as I’ve said 40% reserve wines and average aging 10 years (for an NV!!!).

Where to get yours? Champagne Gallery has it on sale at the moment for $88.

3. Champange R. Pouillon 

A complete change of pace from two big houses to now a small grower producer making incredibly exciting champagnes in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ (right next to the famous pinot noir village of Aÿ). Fabrice Pouillon from Champagne R. Pouillon has been working in the vineyards and making champagne for 20 years. His grandfather started making champagne in 1947 after a long family history of growing grapes to sell to the big houses. Fabrice makes just 50,000 bottles a year and in Australia we get a really small allocation of his wines so when they land on our shores, if you can get them, do it!

When I first tried Fabrice’s champagne – the 2008 Chemin du Bois (100% pinot noirs, 4g/l dosage) – it really blew my mind. But how does it make my man-champs list? I’ll tell you.

I was at dinner with two GFs and their husbands when I brought along the Pouillon. The husbands are red wine drinkers through and through, although they’ve both visited Champagne with me so I know they enjoy champagne more than the average guy. So when I came to open the champagne for the main course, the boys both said they were going to move on from champagne and drink red wine. Which I was VERY pleased about because I wanted more champagne for me. Unfortunately, I was a little too obvious about how pleased I was and they sensed they might be missing out on something and decided to have a “small” glass of the champagne to try it. Which turned into a top-up and then a second glass. Which sucked for me because I had less… BUT it is also why I know this is a cracking man-champs. If it could lure those two blokey-boys away from their red, you know it’s good.

So while we talked about Charles Heidsieck and time being an important element for them, Fabrice says he needs the best quality grapes to make high quality champagne. His first focus is on the grapes while they are on the vines. And he is a grower producer (RM) so he only uses his grapes to make his wines so he knows exactly where they come from. And exactly how to let the origin be expressed in the champagne … but more about that coming up from my exclusive full interview with Fabrice when I was in Champagne.

Fabrice has a crazy-good range of champagnes which I tried with him on my visit (yes, more of that coming too) and you probably can’y get your hands on the wine I first fell in love with from his range, the R. Pouillon Chemin du Bois Blanc de Noirs 2008 but Emperor Champagne stock the range so what is available in Australia, you can get there.

And Fabrice is a dad too (I’ve used a pic of him with his kids in honour of Father’s Day) so if you do pop this on Father’s Day, have a toast to him (and tag him on insta or FB – I’m sure he’d love to know you are enjoying his wines!) 

4. Andre Clouet Dream Vintage 2006

To take another change of pace, we are going to flip from Fabrice’s 100% pinot noir to a 100% chardonnay champagne. And I want to give you a bit of context about my own dad to explain why this wine made the list.

So my dad has never really liked champagne. I mean… at all! He has spent years tasting what I am pouring, and most of the time says something like “bloody hell…. how can you drink that $%#@?” And he is constantly amused by my need to photograph every bottle I open and post to instagram and often asks why I don’t want to “instagram his XXXX beer bottles?”

In fact, the only time he has ever actually asked for a second glass of champs from anything I am pouring was the first time I poured him a glass of Krug (which might be coming in at number 5 on this man-champs list – spoiler alert).

So when I opened the Dream Vintage 2005 (pictured from my first try of the André Clouet blanc de blancs) and took a whiff and ooohed and aaahed, and said something like ‘I smell… baked apples and honey!’, my dad scoffed and replied that he smelt ‘rhetoric and bulls%#t‘.

But then he actually tasted it and did something quite remarkable… and asked for a second glass! While I kinda got his appreciation for Krug because it is a very powerful champagne, my dad never drinks white wine. So for Dad to enjoy a white wine, I salute you André Clouet!

Dad is now quite proud of himself, deciding his taste in champagne has a $170 minimum.

Like my dad, I did really enjoy this 2005 dream vintage (100% Chardonnay) from André Clouet. Clouet is actually a house that specialises in pinot noir from Bouzy and Ambonnay but he swaps some of his Pinot grapes with a Grand Cru grower in the Côtes des Blancs, to make this blanc de blancs.

Getting your hands on this collection (here in Australia anyway) is hard so when it is in stock somewhere, stock up. At the moment Prince Wine Store has the 2006 Dream Vintage listed online for $140.

5. Krug – the king of champagnes 

And the first champagne I ever served my father and he asked for a second glass. He is now of course accustomed to enjoying champagne (with me for a daughter, there isn’t much choice!) but for a long time he resisted… until I served him Krug.

Krug Grande Cuvée is a blend of around 120 wines from ten or more different vintages. You can instantly taste the high proportion of reserve wines (between 30 and 50%) and being a non-vintage does not detract from its finesse. Krug actually say the fullness of the Krug flavour can’t be expressed in a single year… and that more than twenty years are needed to craft each bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée. Before the wine rests on lees for six years. So you’re talking 26 years of finesse going into the bottle you open on Father’s Day.

So how does it taste? Indescribably good. It is rich and spicy and nutty, full of ripe fruit and hazlenuts but you can taste some tangy citrus and the strong presence of honey to show its age.

It’s definitely a champagne that deserves food! The last time I tasted Krug was at a degustation in Champagne (at Assiette Champenoise in Reims) and the Krug was paired with Brittany Blue Lobster. (The course before the Krug was the new vintage Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 2004 paired with caviar… I was in heaven). Chef Arnaud Lallement (pictured with me below about halfway through the menu) actually prepared the lobster in homage to his father, which seems a fitting place to end this Father’s Day post.

Ooops – can’t finish it without telling you where you can get some Krug for your dad…  Champagne Gallery on sale now for $255.

If you drink or buy champagne this Father’s Day, don’t forget to tell me about it in comments below or post a pic and tag @bubbleandflute #bubbleandflute #happychampers #manchamps 

on facebook and instagram.

PS – I also can’t finish without saying …  I love you dad xx. I love you so much that on Father’s Day I am actually going to leave you for the Effervescence Champagne FestivalBut I will be thinking of you while I am there and finding a new fave champs just for you xxx

Bubble & Flute promotes the responsible consumption of alcohol for individuals of legal drinking age in their country.