It’s Thursday evening, and I am back at Laithwaite’s in London bridge for a sparkling wine tasting. Not only am I happily drinking, I’m learning! I had always taken it for granted that the bubbles were just there. I had never considered how they got there in the first place. Looks like we might owe a bit of our happiness to the Benedictine monk, Don Perignon, or perhaps, to Christopher Merret, the first to document the deliberate addition of sugar for inducing the second fermentation in the production of sparkling wine. I’m happy to leave the experts to bicker over that one, but in the meantime, I am quite thrilled to discover that sparkling is not made by throwing still wine into a soda stream.
On to the tasting. We started with the Theale Vineyard 2010 sparkling wine, where I had the epiphany that I am generally not a fan of Chardonnay, bubbles or not. Next was the Dominio de Los Duques Brut NV from Valencia, yum, followed by the Fili Asolo 2015 Prosecco. A fresh and fruity little affair that tasted to me, quite distinctly, like popping candy. That happily slugged down, we moved on to the Abbesse Crémant de Loire Rosé 2015 which I thought was delicious, while, quite amusingly, the girl sitting opposite me hated the smell, but could quite happily drink it if she held her nose at the same time.
It wouldn’t be a complete bubbles tasting without a bit of Bolly. The Bollinger La Grand Annee 2005 Champagne was to me, like drinking pure liquid gold. Delicious! I couldn’t help but wish I could be Lady Bollinger when she said;
“I 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’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it — unless I’m thirsty.”
― Lily Bollinger, House of Bollinger Champagne
It was so interesting to hear what a distinct and lasting impact Lily Bollinger had on the Bollinger brand, literally holding it together through wartime after the death of her husband. After further research, I was fascinated to read of the profound influence women have had on the modern world of champagne. In the 19th century, when Nicole Barbe Ponsardin and Louise Pommery considered the visual importance of the bubbles and reduced the sugar to develop a brighter, drier, brut style. Cut to the 21st century, and women including Marie Louise Lanson de Nonancourt (Champagne Laurent Perrier) and Carol Duval-Leyroy (Duval-Leyroy House) are still continuing to exert a profound impact on the industry. Additionally, one can’t go past the romance of it all, never mind the story of Marilyn Monroe famously taking a Bolly bath in no less than three hundred bottles.
We finished the evening with a very delicious bottle of McPherson’s The Full Fifteen Sparkling Red from South East Australia and then I very happily wobbled home. Another night, another boozy dinner. Bubbles! What a joy! It’s hard not to feel joyful with bubbles in front of you.