Live a sparkling life…

A dinner date with Charles

Charles_Heidsieck_e_il_Nuovo_MondoI recently attended a magnificent Charles Heidsieck degustation dinner in Brisbane, Australia, prepared by celebrated chef Jason Peppler and hosted by Australia’s own champagne connoisseur Bernadette O’Shea and Charles Heidsieck’s brand ambassador Andrew Correy.

The champagnes by this house are extraordinary and they are deservedly rated as one of the greatest houses in Champagne. Charles Heidsieck was one of the first wine merchants to take champagne to the United States and he was widely known as “Champagne Charlie”!

On his return to Europe in the mid-1800s the company label was popular with the royal courts of England and Belgium.
In more recent years the house’s reputation for quality grew enormously due to the brilliance of former Chef de Cave Daniel Thibault, with the wines under his guidance reaching an almost mythical status before his tragic passing too soon in 2002.

These champagnes are remarkable, offering a blend of one third of each varietal from a single year (representing 60% of the overall blend), with the remaining 40% made up of reserve wines. Simply, it means that every bottle features many fine vintages and the proof is in its extraordinary aroma and flavours!

The wines age underground at the house premises in Reims in 11th Century chalk cellars for between three to fifteen years, which is key to their finesse. Since 1990, all the non-vintage bottles display the dates both of their cellaring and disgorgement – something for the sharp-eyed connoisseurs!

Some of the world’s greatest palates say that the Brut Réserve is the very best non-vintage champagne. I sincerely love it too!

The beautiful champagne we had the pleasure of drinking on this special night included:
• Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve (non vintage)
• Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve (NV)
• Charles Heidsieck Brut vintage 2000
• Charles Heidsieck Brut vintage 1999
• Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millenaries 1995

The iconic Taillevent is coming to London


The iconic Parisian restaurant Taillevent is bringing its brilliance to Cavendish Square, London in September 2015. Set to become a notable addition to the London gastronomy scene, Les 110 de Taillevent will deliver a relaxed style brasserie with a focus on the wine experience. The Gardinier family-owned group behind the two-Michelin starred Le Taillevent will bring a unique wine and food matching brassiere with 70-80 covers, plus a small terrace offering around 12-14 seats.

Les 110 de Taillevent aims to be a more relaxed incarnation of the original restaurant which opened its doors in Paris in the aftermath of the Second World War. Featuring a hundred and ten wines by the glass, paired with contemporary and seasonal French dishes, guests will experience the spirit of Le Taillevent.

During an interview with Hot Dinners recently, Laurent Gardinier, one of the three directos of the Taillevent Group, confirmed the rumours. “It’s true. It’s going to be called the 110 of Taillevent. The two parts of DNA that make up Taillevent are wine and food. One key part is that we rank the wine by price, we have four categories of white selected by price and then we pair that with the food that we serve. It works very well in Paris which is why we decided to open it in London.”

Interior architect Pierre-Yves Rochon, who created the decor at the Parisian location (and is also credited with the new look Four Seasons and the redesign of the Savoy) is drawing inspiration from the brasserie’s concept and pays homage to wine production. A chic and warm setting, the design draws on the green of the vine, rich earth tones and oak-barrelled wine casks. Incorporating the colours and materials of viticulture into all elements of the design, Pierre-Yves Rochon honours the theme at every turn. Specially commissioned artworks will adorn the walls, further extolling the beauties of the vineyard.

Making the French form of art-de-vivre accessible to Londoners, the wine list will feature rare and singular wines, patiently curated over three years by Pierre Bérot, Cellar Director of Taillevent Paris. Pierre’s vast experience managing the myriad bottles of the house cellars has resulted in a list that evokes the richness of the collection and introduces some of its greatest treasures. Guests will be offered the choice of four wines, in 70ml or 125ml measures, exactingly matched with their choice of four starters, fish, meat, desserts or cheese dishes.

Taking the art of pairing to new heights, Les 110 de Taillevent London will present this innovative concept beginning at breakfast. Light and hearty dishes will be matched with cold and hot drinks. A special Wine Time menu at the bar, offering small plates and carefully chosen wines, will be available in the early evenings, continuing through to their meticulous dinner menu.

Les 110 de Taillevent London
16 Cavendish Square
opening hours: 7am – 11pm

Twitter: @110london
Instagram: @110london
Facebook: 110TailleventLondon


What’s in a glass?

Available at BURKELMAN. Visit

You could be forgiven for thinking that all champagne should be served in a traditional flute or flat coupe glass, but for most champagnes – especially more complex older wines – the shape and make of your glass matters more than you might imagine.

The liquid decadence of intricate and mature champagne requires a little more science for the perfect sparkle. Only a wider, voluptuous glass that curves back in towards the top will present the bubbles correctly. Something like a traditional wine glass but with a little more savoir faire!

Ultimately the bubbles in champagne are more than just a visual delight, playing a pivotal role in your experience of the wine. The shape, structure and material thickness of the glass can affect the stream of bubbles, the flavours and vitality of your champagne. It is a key reason that glassmakers originally invented the flute, recognising that the open-mouthed design of an old fashioned coupe means death to the mousse.

The pressure inside a champagne bottle is five to six times as great as the pressure in the surrounding room, one of the reasons that the bottles have to be so thick. Once the bottle is uncorked, the huge amount of gas dissolved within in the liquid begins to escape with the famous rush of the pop of a cork.

The glass you then pour your prized champagne into should be at least well-polished, as even the slightest speck of dust or imperfection will plume bubbles from that point. The only acceptable place for your bubbles to stem from is the base of your glass. Most high quality manufacturers will roughen the bottom of their glass to ensure they start where they are supposed to.

A clean glass will have a narrow plume of bubbles, with the bubbles growing in size and speed as they rise toward you. Pulling the liquid up with them as they go, a sort of underwater fountain effect is created as the liquid then travels back down into the glass once the bubble has escaped. The bubbles also collect aromatic molecules and deliver them directly to the surface to be released once the bubble is free, delivering tiny droplets onto the clean space at the top of your glass. The nose of your champagne is very important and the bubbles present the flavour before you even take your first sip.

Essentially this means that if you love your champagne, it’d be wise to be selective about matching your wine to your glass. In a flat coupe glass, the bubbles are slow and produce less aroma as they flavour is delivered gradually and fleetingly. The flute, however, allows for powerful bubbles and delivers the flavours quickly to a limited glass space at the top, so will still mean you tend to lose the full experience. These options are appropriate for a young wine, but will not really showcase the complexity of a grand cru.

Philippe Jamesse is the head Sommelier at famed, 3-Michelin-starred restaurant Les Crayères in Reims and he worked closely with Gerard Liger-Belair (a champagne physicist – what a great job!) to engineer pure glass perfection. It was remarkably simple, he says. For complex, older champagnes use a wider glass that curves back in towards the top and keep the volume low. The shallow liquid means that small slow bubbles can deliver aromas slowly, allowing the wine’s complexity to properly develop, while the large space at the top of the glass will confine the aroma for your enjoyment.

Philippe’s advice echoes the thoughts of Richard Geoffroy of Dom Perignon, who suggested serving older champagne in white wine glasses to ensure the flavour isn’t stifled. Philippe has delivered on this recommendation and taken it to the next level by designing glasses specific to unique houses and even for vintages, to enable a fuller experience. Cést magnifique!

Occasions when Champagne should be enjoyed.

Champagne is synonymous with prestige, fun and celebrating! Why must we wait for a specific date?

Madame Lily Bollinger was asked “When do you drink champagne?” and the formidable woman replied:

“I only drink champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”

Madam Lily Bollinger

Madame Lily Bollinger

Genuine French champagne is produced exclusively in the Champagne region of France and its winemakers must abide by very strict laws. The word Champagne itself is protected and ensures that only wines from this region may use it.

Champagne is the most well known and superior sparkling wine in the world, discernible in taste and style from any other sparkling. The champagnes made by every house are also different – offering anyone interested in either learning about wine, or just enjoying drinking the very best, an exciting world of options!

If you want to buy French champagne you have  many choices between labels, possibly more brand names than you know. Moet boasts supreme flavour, finish and quality; and the house of Dom Perignon has a unique signature, each sip typically fresh and sharp. Each of these bottles would be ideal for celebrating or enjoying on a warm summer’s day. Champagne is the ideal choice for any occasion from commiserating to toasting, feeling optimistic, or simply enjoying your life. Champagne goes superbly with many foods too, from fresh fruits to seafoods, pastries and breads.

Every stage of drinking bubbly is enjoyable, from the time the cork is prised free of the bottle, to the bubbles fizzing in the glass. The only rule is that champagne is best served chilled in a high quality glass – no plastic please, this is champagne! Using champagne for celebrations has always been a popular practice, from christening yachts to race car drivers spraying adoring fans! There is definitely something magical about that pop that instantly lifts everyone, even the cork!

You can enjoy this zestful drink at any time of the day or night, with friends or alone, at a birthday, anniversary, wedding, or even a funeral. There is a bottle to suit.  It can be a changeable drink too, mixed into cocktails or with juice if you really must water it down. (Tip: strawberries are a no-no in French champagne as the acidity will change its balance and taste, so keep those for sweetening some other sparkling wines!)

No matter your reasoning for popping the cork and pouring a glass, the only thing that you are guaranteed is that there will be none left!

A French Adventure: Bon voyage!

My fantastic French adventure has begun in style, relaxing in the Singapore Airlines Kris lounge at Brisbane airport with my first glass of champagne.

My friends and I have begun with the sublime instead of working up to it, which might have been wiser! We are drinking the matchless 2002 Dom Perignon. This champagne’s pinot has raspberries galore, at the back is yellow peach with a red centre, ripe nectarine, spicy hints of cinnamon, ruby grapefruit and a taste of pistachio nuts, with a hint of crème brulee. There’s also a layer of baked honey sweetness over the berries.

We’re being very selective about the lounge snacks we’re offered to go with such lush champagne. Macadamia nuts go very well with champagne, and a great example of a match is the 1996 Philipponnat for its crunchy, creamy macadamia nut taste. Bernadette has a stash of macadamias in our luggage as a gift when we visit the house of Philipponnat – the family adores them too.

The Dom is a hard act to follow, but we do! We open a special, half bottle of Krug Grande Cuvee non-vintage. Krug is a big, blokey, powerful champagne. It tastes heavily of pinot meunier. Most companies do not use pinot meunier like Krug does, because they prefer to blend their wines using pinot noir to soften it.

This champagne is earthy, like mushrooms picked freshly out of the dirt or like grainy breads. The nose is vanilla, forest fruits and oak. The 100% oak makes it smoky, rich and complex.

There is a smoked almond and hazelnut, roasted cashew flavour to the Krug, and the front palate is blueberries and dark cherries. It’s proving ideal with our mixed nuts and seaweed mix, as it can really hold its own.

Much later, in business class on the plane from Brisbane to Singapore we drank Bollinger non-vintage as their new standard business class champagne, and specially ordered for all the passengers by Bernadette. Tired already, we girls slept whilst Bernadette was offered more Krug from first class! To be fair, she did try to rouse us!

On reaching Singapore we drank Duval-Leroy non-vintage in the lounge and were joined by friends for the next leg to Paris. I found this champagne to be very high chardonnay and I will share more about the differences later, but it had a lot of lovely bread, pastry, citrus and white flowers on the nose and in the mouth. It would go nicely with a lot of dishes or as a glass to share on a warm summery day with friends.

It was lovely, especially after so much champagne, to go to sleep and dream about arriving in Paris in just a few hours….bon nuit, mes amis!