Sometimes a little indulgence is a good thing

On Wednesday we had the pleasure of welcoming Malcolm Davis from Duval Leroy to Ireland for the second time. Last time he visited he gave a champagne masterclass to a very privileged group in our shop, here in Cork. This time, the masterclass involved only four of us over a quiet meal (bar the roar of Germany vs. Holland in the background), giving me a fabulous opportunity to pick his brain about arguably the finest wine of them all.

We kicked off just as the football did. The first of three different wines we enjoyed was Duval Leroy Brut NV, of which we enjoyed two bottles before the main course arrived. We were in good spirits as you can imagine, but for me it did nothing but reaffirm my belief that as a benchmark champers, this one can’t be beaten. Not a million miles off the big supermarket brands in terms of price (€40), but distinctively better in my opinion. Clean, fresh, light on its feet, and with a nice savoury, yeasty backdrop – overall perfectly balanced.

The star of the show was Duval Leroy Femme de Champagne. This was the first time we’d tried the 2000 vintage (pictured), as we have a little of the 1996 remaining in stock. There’s a considerable step up in price here, but we are into Dom Perignon territory here. As you’ll see from the product page of the 1996 vintage, it wasn’t short of great praise and recognition either. And nor will the 2000 vintage. The main difference I found compared to the non-vintage (NV) were the exrta layers of flavour, making me savour every drop like it was my last. It was beyond the fresh green appley, youthful fruit of the first Champagne. Nuts, toffee, toasty oak, brioche, prunes and honey brought a fabulous dimension to the wine, and as it really started to open up (and it took maybe 10 or 15 minutes initially), I thought it went beautifully with my seafood linguine.

We finished on the dry Brut-Rosé. Even after the high of the Femme it was still a rosé that stood up and demanded we take took it seriously. It proved a lovely one to finish on, bringing something else to the table – up front red fruit and a palate cleansing freshness that you wouldn’t quite get with the 12 year old Champagne that preceded it. In saying that, the Femme has pretty of miles left and I think will only continue to develop further complexity in the coming years.

I finished the evening thinking wouldn’t it be nice, if price wasn’t a barrier, to open Champagne on any given night without a need to celebrate. To be able to treat it almost as an ‘everyday wine’. For the vast majority of us, myself included, we can’t afford to drink Champagne all the time, but I still think whenever we do decide to splash out on a bottle it should be treated as an everyday wine and not exclusively as a celebratory wine. For me personally, I think it’s too good to share at a party or give to someone who doesn’t appreciate a nice drop.

My idea of enjoying Champagne is between two people over a meal or by itself on any given day, even if not everyday. If anything, make that the celebration.

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