Talking Wine – December 2019

Pol Roger have now opened two of the recently discovered 23 bottles of 120 year old champagne. These bottles were discovered when work started on a new packaging facility on the site of a building that collapsed after heavy rain in Feb 1900. Many bottles were damaged or half full but those rescued are thought to be from harvests between 1887 and 1898.

The bottles were opened very carefully to a small group of press and invited guests and both wines, believed to be from different vintages, amazed the attendees with their lively character. Although lacking any fizz the 1897 (they think) has aromas of spice and vanilla and the flavours were similar to old Armagnac. The second one (possibly an 1887) had remarkable freshness with citrus and exotic fruit according to the reports.

Champagne takes on a very different flavour profile as it ages and I’ve never had anything older that a 1953 but it is intriguing drinking old wine, especially champagne, which becomes very nutty and concentrated in my limited experience. Good champagne does improve with ageing and I always love to keep a few older bottles just for fun. However don’t expect a cheap champagne to improve much – start with a decent 1er cru quality and try a bottle every few years.

You might be interested to hear that the students of the Royal Agriculture University in Cirencester have made their own dry white wine – about 15,000 bottles from the Ortega grape with small amounts of Bacchus, Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc thrown in. The University purchased a small 2.6 hectare plot three years ago and the students have cultivated and hand harvested the grapes themselves – under strict guidance! Cotswold Hills white wine is delightfully crisp and aromatic and has been bottled in cans and glass. It is sold in the Midcounties Cooperative retailer at about £14.95.

I’m not sure if it is available in the student bars but I suspect there will be enough students on site who could afford it.