Discover Artisan Champagne

Author:

Share this post


Artisan Champagne
Illustration by Eleanor Crow

This autumn, we’re turning our attention to our most treasured sparkling wine region. Champagne offers an enormous wealth and diversity of style. However, this is often at risk of being overlooked in favour of the ‘big name’ brands. But all is not lost, explains Davy Zyw, as is proved by our Artisan Champagne winemakers.    

A few titanic Grandes Marques names and brands made the wines of Champagne famous. Their uniform cuvées trained consumers to expect consistency in Champagne styles.   

There are many wines to celebrate amongst these. However, they have only ever given us a binary view into Champagne. It’s a region which holds a huge wealth of terroir, style, winemaking talent and philosophy. This is why we’re focusing our attention on a new selection of wines – ones which represent the very pinnacle of artisan production.  

What is Artisan Champagne?

Artisan Champagne sits separately to the region’s “big-business” image. This category includes smaller-scale, lesser-known – and in many cases, undervalued – producers. Many of these producers craft grower Champagnes and own the winemaking process from start to finish. Their wines do sit outside the uniform style we have come to expect from the region. However, they represent a huge span of innovative approaches, winemaking techniques and terroir.  

Champagne is at the cusp of a climatic, cultural and commercial change. We believe our trailblazing Artisan producers are driving this shift, crafting wines with fresh vigour and confidence. Now is a fantastic time for customers to discover the new start of this historic region. 

Artisan winemakers and sustainability

The champagnois feel the effects of climate change acutely. Recent growing seasons tested both vines and terroir. They also exposed who the best farmers in the region are. Now, there is increased division between the vignerons who are responding correctly, and those who are not.  

Sustainability is at the core of the Champagne psyche. We are proud to support the increasing biodynamic, organic, and sustainable farming methods many of our Artisan Champagne producers practice.  

Artisan winemaking styles in Champagne

Blending sites, grapes and vintages is still paramount in Champagne. However, increasingly, many are choosing to vinify single crus separately, akin to Burgundy. This practice is not new, but it is becoming progressively popular – and it allows us to appreciate terroirs through a transparent lens.  

One of the best examples of the quality of this selection are Alexandre Penet’s lieux dits from the north-facing, Pinot Noir vineyards in Verzy and Verszenay. The wines are brave, detailed and self-assured. They will appeal to the most discerning of Champagne and Pinot Noir lovers. Or, look to young Bernard Doussot of Clandestin. Bernard trained in Meursault, before bringing new energy to the region’s southern vineyards of the Cotes des Bars.  

The future of Artisan Champagne

At Berry Bros. & Rudd, we certainly believe each glass of Artisan Champagne brings pleasure. But, there are commercial rewards to the region’s new guise. Increasingly, we are seeing growth in the Artisan producer category, with some releases even surpassing the price points generated by the most established prestige cuvées. Artisan Champagne doesn’t just bring delight to our dining table: now, wines from this category are proving a savvy, cellar-worthy investment too.  

Our full Artisan Champagne offer will be landing soon. You can browse other articles on Champagne here.

Category: Champagne and Sparkling Wine

How sustainable are glass wine bottles?

Author:

Share this post


Glass wine bottles have long been the favoured packaging for fine wine

Since the 17th century, wine and glass have proved to be an enduring, unbeatable partnership. But why have glass wine bottles remained the packaging of choice – and what environmental impact are these having on the industry? Adam Holden explains.

At our St James’ home in London, you can view the evolution of glass wine bottles. These range from the earliest, dumpy “onion” bottles of the 17th century to the straight-sided, upright examples preferred some one or two hundred years later. They all bear a crest, initials or a cipher to identify the owner; in past times, the bottle was far more precious than the liquid within and was used time and time again. An early, unwitting sustainability initiative.

Glass is wine’s ideal companion. It’s inert, easy to clean, infinitely recyclable (though infuriatingly, not always recycled – we send about 130,000 tonnes to landfill every year), can be coloured to defend against UV, and is impermeable.   

The environmental impact of glass wine bottles

Glass offers huge benefits in the long-term preservation and development of fine wines. However, it also has an environmental impact.

Making glass involves melting raw materials – principally silica sand, soda ash, and limestone. Doing this requires sustaining furnace temperatures of 1,600°C or higher, for around 50 hours at a time. Naturally, this requires an enormous amount of energy – energy which is largely derived from fossil fuels.

Glass production accounts for 42% of Berry Bros. & Rudd’s total carbon footprint, equivalent to around 9,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Any business hoping to achieve net zero – including us – needs to make a change.

The future sustainability of glass

The good news is that the glass industry is firmly on a path to decarbonisation. In 2021, Encirc360 – a member of the Wine & Spirits Trade Association – successfully made glass using biofuels and cullet (the glass pellets that result from glass recycling). This process used 90% less carbon dioxide than standard. Meanwhile, at their plant in Northern Ireland, they are studying the effects of using animal slurry for fuel.

Glass Futures will open their world-leading research facility in 2023. Through this, international research and development into decarbonising the glass industry will be enabled. First, they plan to drive a move towards electric power and then to green hydrogen. Employing an ever-increasing percentage of recycled material is also on the agenda.

Glass wine bottles across Europe

Continental Europe is where the majority of our producers source their bottles. Here, there are equally encouraging projects afoot. FEVE (the European Container Glass Federation) have been working on a project to build hybrid “furnaces for the future” – replacing a portion of natural gas with electricity ahead of introducing biofuels and hydrogen. This project has unfortunately run into funding difficulties, but the FEVE team continue to work towards decarbonisation with their members. Their work is essential both for the future of the glass industry and the planet.

There is hope, and we all need to play our part. We must recycle our glass, and we must put pressure on the government to make it easy for everyone to do. We must stop sending 130,000 tonnes of an infinitely recyclable material to landfill every year.  

Glass and fine wine are a partnership which will continue to endure, but only if there’s a solution which also helps to secure the future of the planet. 

Explore more articles on sustainability in the wine industry here.

Category: Sustainability

Own Selection food pairings for early autumn

Author:

Share this post


An illustration of roast lamb on a bed of red onions, surrounded by roast potatoes, garlic, carrots and rosemary, with two glasses of red wine in the background. It's a delicious food matching for our Own Selection Cotes du Rhone.
Illustration by Eleanor Crow

The return of fresh mornings and ever-darker evenings heralds autumn’s approach. This transitional back-to-school season marks a shift in the dishes we crave: out with the barbecues and bright salads, in with chicken pie and salmon en croûte. Such fare, inevitably, calls for delicious wines to match – and our Own Selection range is perfect for the job. We asked three of our experts which wine they’ll be enjoying this month, and which dishes they’ll be savouring alongside.

Fresh, fruity Riesling

What to eat with it: soy and ginger salmon

Riesling is, unquestionably, the wine world’s worst kept secret. Fantastically versatile with food and endlessly adaptable in the winery, it is a caped and booted “super grape”. 

Made for us by lauded Mosel producers, Selbach-Oster, our 2019 Own Selection Mosel Riesling is an exemplary choice for the gastronome. Perfect for mid-week dinners with friends, toasting a successful week of work or for more scholarly wine-pairing evenings, it will see you through many vinous occasions and will please all manner of palates. With its layers of fruit flavours, complexity and palate-cleansing quality, its rambunctious nature belies its seemingly timid 10% ABV. 

I love this wine with soy and ginger salmon – it is an outstanding combination. The invigorating acidity (characteristic of the variety) penetrates the oil of the fish and the heated kick of the ginger while contributing its own flavours of tart green apple, lime zest and greengage. The subtlest hint of sweetness on the finish pairs so elegantly with the soy sauce, you’d think they were made for each other. 

For maximum entertainment, serve to friends who don’t know or declare they don’t like Riesling – you’ll have a room full of new fans and converts in no time.

Alexandra Gray de Walden, Fine Wine Specialist

Spicy Côtes du Rhône

What to eat with it: roast lamb or chicken pie

Ever since I first became aware of wine, my idea from my parents of what a “nice bottle of red” should look like was, quite simply, a “Rhône wine”. Even now, after years in the wine industry introducing my parents to an amazing variety of wines from across the world, my biggest “ooh!” always comes from bringing a red from the Rhône Valley to the table.  

The Own Selection Côtes du Rhône, to me, is the perfect blend not only of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache – of grape growing and oak maturation – but of class and comfort. A complex mix of red and dark fruits, beautifully spiced with a touch of sweet vanilla, the balance of fruit and body is always a crowd pleaser when it comes to a casual drink with friends but is also, most importantly, a perfect food wine.  

Despite this being a French wine, I always associate its enjoyment with the most English of fare: a Sunday roast lamb with potatoes and redcurrant jelly, a comforting chicken pie chock-full of gravy, or some well-deserved bangers and mash after a long walk in the English countryside. The quintessential autumnal wine, this has the warming spice and rich fruits to curl up with when the nights get chillier, but still has that beautiful freshness to pair perfectly with lightly spiced meals and rich sauces. 

Katie Merry, Buying Assistant

Bright, rich Champagne

What to eat with it: salmon en croûte or fish and chips

Champagne has long been the first choice to accompany any celebration, party, or milestone in life, and with good reason – there are few alternatives better suited to such occasions – but I want to know: why does the Champagne end with the canapés?  

I’m an advocate of popping the cork with the feeblest of justifications, but gastronomy is surely where Champagne’s most underappreciated potential lies.    

There is a wealth of riches to work with when it comes to food pairing: vibrant acidity; effervescent texture; saline minerality; the full spectrum of young, taut, dry styles to rich, sweet, complex and savoury. The trademark biscuity, toasty character goes with just about anything – what doesn’t work wrapped in puff pastry or on a tart base? – and mature examples develop stunning aromas of praline, honey, and occasionally truffle or mushroom.  

One Champagne I have been diligently testing over the years is our Berry Bros. & Rudd Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs. A textbook Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay), it is bright, defined and mineral, with brisk acidity balanced by rich texture and concentration.   

Salmon en croûte with buttered greens makes an excellent pairing, as does the modern classic of fish and chips. Courgette fritters with cashew cream or mixed charcuterie with hard cheeses are other favourites. Treat it as you would lightly oaked white Burgundy (including serving in a wine glass) and you’ll be very happy indeed. 

Tom Leigh, Account Manager

Category: Miscellaneous

Shirakawa: unearthing a forgotten Japanese distillery

Author:

Share this post


Ahead of its limited release, Stephen Bremner, Managing Director at the Tomatin Group, discusses his discovery of the earliest-known vintage Japanese whisky to have ever been bottled. 

Whisky, by nature, is incredibly collectable. The prized gems in any enthusiast’s collection comprise limited runs, rare vintages and underrated distilleries. But every now and then, a truly unbelievable release comes along – with a story to match. 

This release from Shirakawa is one of them. Three years ago, something truly special was unearthed in its long-abandoned distillery: 1,500 bottles of single malt whisky from 1958. 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SHIRAKAWA 

Although there is much excitement for this incredibly rare release, Shirakawa wasn’t always lauded for its whiskies, as Stephen reveals. “During its lifetime, Shirakawa actually produced a variety of wine and spirits,” he says, “particularly shōchū, a distilled Japanese drink usually made from rice, barley and wheat.” 

However, quality whiskies were also produced in this time. From 1951 to 1969, the malt whiskies that Shirakawa produced were rumoured to be brilliant, but they were ultimately destined for the famed “King” and “Ideal” whiskies by Takara Shuzo – Shirakawa’s parent company. The constituent parts were clearly good enough to be blended into the world-famous names, but the distillery was never afforded the opportunity release their own single malt. 

Records show that whisky production was discontinued in 1969 – which marked the start of the distillery’s collapse. The fall of Shirakawa’s whisky production in the 1960s feels somewhat ironic, given the meteoric rise of the category in Japan in the mid ’80s. But by then, the distillery’s focus lay elsewhere. 

“By the early 2000s, Shirakawa was on its last legs,” Stephen says. “In this time, it was only used as a bottling facility.” The buildings were demolished in 2003, and the land was donated to build emergency housing after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in ’11. And so Shirakawa’s potential was left a mystery – one to be uncovered by a curious Stephen Bremnin. 

AN UNLIKELY DISCOVERY 

“I had become intrigued by Takara Shuzo’s history of malt whisky production in Japan,” Stephen explains. “Very little was known of Shirakawa, but undeterred, I kept asking questions, hopeful that some liquid trace of its existence remained somewhere.” After an exhaustive search through Takara Shuzo’s company documents, it seemed that this famed distillery’s secrets would remain just that – secret. 

That is, until 2019 – when 1,500 bottles of 1958 single malt whisky were discovered from Shirakawa Distillery. 

“When I discovered the year the bottles were from, I was completely astounded,” Stephen recalls. “I soon realised that what we had discovered was extremely rare. If it wasn’t for this discovery, Shirakawa would have remained a lost, unknown distillery – destined for the history books. It only felt right that we released this bottling to share with the world.” 

“LIQUID HISTORY” 

So how does a bottle of Japanese whisky fare over 64 years? Extraordinarily well, as it happens. Whisky critic and expert Dave Broom reports an “expansive palate and succulent texture” with a drop of water showing “clear maturity and a hint of incense.” 

It’s clearly an exciting dram, but in the eyes of an avid collector, what makes the 1958 Shirakawa so special? 

“Shirakawa 1958 offers a window into the history of Japanese whisky,” Stephen says. “For collectors, this is an opportunity that will never arrive again. This is a rare and unique chance to taste a piece of liquid history.” 

Register your interest in the 1958 Shirakawa here 

Category: Spirits