Royal Wedding – Prince William Champagne (with insider’s tasting notes)

Independent drinks manufacturer and distributor, Halewood International, has just launched Prince William Champagne to celebrate Prince William’s upcoming wedding to Kate Middleton on April 29, 2011. They will be releasing a limited edition commemorative label, using the exclusive rights it has to the ‘Prince William’ and ‘Royal Wedding’ trademarks.

Insider’s tasting notes:

“The Champagne is soft and elegant, with a biscuity aroma and generous rounded fruit flavours.”

Besides being aged for over 2 years, Prince William Champagne is made predominantly of Pinot Noir and balanced with a touch of Chardonnay.

This superior quality Champagne was selected by the Chalié Richards buying team and is produced by the BCC Group, the second largest Champagne group, which is made up of Champagne Houses Boizel, Chanoine, De Venoge, Philipponat, Bonnet and Lanson.

Prince William Champagne is expected to retail for £25 and will be distributed by Halewood’s fine wine division, Chalié Richards.

Liz Palmer

CHAMPAGNE AND CIGAR PAIRING – Celebrate!


Leaving aside, for the moment, the indisputable fact that tobacco isn’t as popular as it used to be for reasons we need not repeat here. The 21ST Century is hardly devoid of connoisseurs eager to set aflame a finely wound Cuban cigar when the right occasion arises. And what better occasion could there be but to celebrate with a Cohiba or two along with a glass of your favourite champagne this Valentine’s Day, an upcoming birthday, wedding, or any other special event throughout 2011?

But, would it surprise you that Scotch and brandy are scarcely the only types of alcoholic beverages that have a tendency to pair well with cigars?

In fact, champagne can serve as an excellent accompaniment to that set of cigars you might have been saving for one of these occasions. The reason? Evidently, according to our sources, the inherent flavour profile of tobacco would appear to have a natural affinity for being paired with white wines that sparkle; and the ethereal delicacy of many types of champagne lend themselves incredibly well to only enhancing the enjoyment of as fine a premium Cuban cigar as a Cohiba – La Línea, Clásica, Maduro, or otherwise.

More importantly, like all other premium products, there are certain recommended guidelines to follow when deciding on what specific champagne is best paired with what specific type of cigar. As a general rule, it would stand to reason that lighter-styled champagnes, or ones with a greater focus on finesse and style than richness and intensity, ought to be paired with cigars of a more delicate and elegant disposition, perhaps even a cigar of smaller size. Alternatively, for more powerful types of champagne (from top cuvées to the most prestigious vintages) your best bet would be probably to seek out cigars with greater assertiveness and longevity, not to mention ones boasting a larger dimension. If you have a few champagne and cigar-loving friends to share these with, so much the better!

~ Champagne Outing In Style ~ With Five Sommeliers and One Apprentissage Sommelier

As a practising (and practical) Sommelier, it has long been a rule of mine to confine my examination of fine wines to dry land only, citing the importance of dexterity and balance; in other words avoiding, for instance, tasting delicate, delicious Champagnes on a 38-foot sailboat stationed several hundred metres off the coast of Lake Ontario. And yet, this is precisely what I undertook recently on the brilliant watercraft of avid boaters Liz Palmer, Wine Writer and Apprentissage Sommelier, with partner Robert Roland (jazz piano extraordinaire), both active affiliates of Port Credit Yacht Club, soon to play host to a multitude of fine wine tastings for its members. Also in attendance were fellow sommeliers Kate Hatherly, Richard Wah Kan, and Wanda Wang.

Of my hosts, let me just say that they are experts in combining the pleasures of wine and sailing with remarkable contentment — I believe the phrase “This Is the Life” was uttered on more than one occasion during my time aboard. Boarding Déjà Vu on a sunny thirty-degree afternoon, I was first treated with a refreshing serving of J’adore Tiffany Champagne Cocktail™ a creation of Liz’s own making, comprising one-thirds Champagne, mango juice, and pink lemonade. Delicious, refreshing, and strongly mango-flavoured, these were served in unusual conical-shaped glasses, which Liz had procured on her most recent expedition to Paris, from the Eiffel Tower.

The Champagnes:

Casting off and sailing out onto the water, we first partook of a lovely half-bottle of Chassenay d’Arce Brut NV ‘Sélection’ (89+/100, priced well under 20 Euros), comprising 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay, sourced from the Aube winegrowing region of Champagne: revealing lovely scents of delicate toasted biscuits, lemon, pears, dried nuts, and spice; complex and elegant, though definitely lighter-styled. Quite interestingly, the claim to fame for this smaller-scaled house is its participation with various famous artistic establishments (including the Louvre) in organizing wine-and-art events. Usually, when one hears about such activities, one tends to think of Veuve Clicquot or Moët & Chandon, not the smaller houses – a real coup if you ask me.

Our second Champagne was the exceptional Drappier Brut Vintage 2002 ‘Millésime Exception’ (93/100, approx. 90 Euros), comprising 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay: starbright, pale straw colour, offering incredible scents of fresh toast and biscuits, switching to pears, hazelnuts, lemon, green apples, brioche, and spice; extremely complex, stylish, moussy, and crisp; disgorged in March, 2010.

The Accompaniments:

With such marvellous Champagnes, Liz and Rob were wholly up to the task of providing a wide array of delightful food accompaniments for the afternoon. On her latest visit to Champagne, Liz had been able to procure a lovely packet of authentic ‘Roses de Reims Biscuits’ Champagne biscuits, used primarily as a palate-restorative by the locals whenever they partake of some bubbly. Combined with an exquisite helping of locally: (Champagne) crafted pork liver pâté, cheeses, crackers, and Californian berries (where else?), it was assuredly clear that all things edible only served to enhance what was truly a lovely Champagne-and-sailing outing … utterly worthy of mention in the inaugural column of ‘Wine Waves’ and GAM on Yachting.

Julian Hitner and Liz Palmer

Air France “l’Espace Affaires” – Crossing the Ocean in Style

I am beginning my ten-day journey to Paris, the Champagne Region of France and Belgium. I am flying “l’Espace Affaires”/Business Class from Toronto to Paris, and looking forward to the “Business Class” travel experience with Air France.

Settling into a large comfortable seat with a welcoming glass of Champagne, a copy of the Air France in-flight magazine immediately gets me into a “Parisian” mood. The magazine consists of Paris spring fashion trends, locations of the best restaurants as well as comments on what is going on in the art scene. This in-flight magazine is a fashionista’s dream come true; lots of French-styled shoes, dresses, purses…. In between sips of Deutz Brut Classic, I’m handed a dinner menu and wine list by one of the coiffed, well-mannered flight attendant who speaks both French and English.

The wine offerings are superior, and it is refreshing to see a well-constructed wine list that has ample offerings. I notice there is a reference on the menu that the wines have been chosen by Olivier Poussier, the World’s Best Sommelier in 2000 – this is an added bonus. The attendants place a white linen tablecloth on my table, immediately followed by fresh, delicious baguettes with creamy butter. I choose Saint-Veran Chateau de Fuisse 06 a nice easy Burgundy, to pair with my choice of seafood hors d’oeuvre of marinated shrimp, served with miso and ginger sauce, served with soba noodles.

The main course of grilled tournedos of beef with scallion butter, potatoes au grain, broccoli and tomato truly melts in my mouth, particularly paired with a glass of Clos Triguedina Cuvee Prince Probus 05. This is another perfect match and an excellent choice with meat and game-nice intensity and refinement.

Fine china, silver and an impressive wine list coupled with first class service, make me feel like I am in an exclusive international restaurant, not on an airplane! I skip coffee and chocolate torte, and decide to get a few hours of sleep. I found sleeping a delightful and restful experience. The tilted seats turn into a perfect horizontal position and pillows and quilts are quite abundant. Within a few hours I awaken to the smell of fresh coffee brewing…Y E S I’m almost in Paris. The French-style breakfast consisted of juice, yogurt, fresh fruits with pastries, lots of coffee, and Champagne if I want – so perfect!

My “l’Espace Affaires”/Air France Business Class experience has truly proven to be Crossing the Ocean in Style!

Liz Palmer
Wine and Travel Writer

Bouillon Chartier – ZAGAT Paris Restaurant Review … MY STEAK FRITES!

I didn’t waste any time, I just landed in Paris – I dropped off my luggage and headed to the 9th arrondissement to have lunch with Ryan Ebner, a BNP Paribas Analyst. He’s an expat Canadian living and working in France and thoroughly enjoying it. Ryan and I both picked Bouillon Chartier to meet for lunch because of its historical charm, its popularity, great prices and good reviews from my 2010 Zagat Paris Guide (page 67).

This bistro is a perfectly-preserved relic of an old Paris, with glass-globe fixtures, tables jammed together, coat racks high above the tables, and a menu that hasn’t made a single concession to any of the culinary advancements of at least the last three or four decades (so I was told by some frequent dinners).

The specialty for lunch was a 20 €/person combination of Steak Frites with a glass of house red. Just barely after putting our order in the waiter came back at rapid speed with our glasses of wine, baguette and butter. We were impressed. The house red was a basic vin de pays and welcoming.

The steak was delightfully tender and flavorful served with remarkably fresh, crispy frites, and topped off with their secret sauce.

We were very pleased with the overall service and we both felt restored. I definitely would go back again for lunch or dinner to Bouillon Chartier to soak in this old Paris setting as it is one of the last of the bouillons standing.

On to my next venture in Paris …… Shopping? Chocolate? Champagne?