Douglas Blyde headed north of the border this week in the company of Willem Pinçon, Senior Brand Manager for Liberty Wines. The tour took in a new, subtly-branded, Charles Heidsieck wine room at the Michelin-starred ‘Number One’ restaurant at the base of the five-star Balmoral hotel.
Overseen by Head Sommelier, Damien Trinckquel (previously of Edinburgh’s The Caledonian, and, in London, La Trompette) the space is visible from three corners of the restaurant, featuring a marble counter and mirror evoking, in shape, the bottle-like natural chalk arch deep within the Champagne house’s famous third-century Crayères. Large formats kept at the hotel include the ebullient Brut Millésime 2006 in magnum, which was poured with a particularly indulgent foie gras doughnut canapé devised by new head chef, Matthew Sherry (formerly of Northcote Manor, Lancashire and Edinburgh’s Castle Terrace). Then, the amber-coloured, gently sparkling, truffle and saffron-scented bottle of 1979 was served with carefully raised Scottish and English unpasteurised cheeses and truffle honey. A standout dish was smoked sturgeon, beetroot and oscietra caviar lavishly paired with mango-scented Rare 2002.
The following day saw the launch of Charles Heidsieck’s inaugural Coteaux Champenois Ambonnay Rouge ‘19, hosted at the pretty in pink, Monachyle Mhor Hotel set on the banks of Loch Voil, Perthshire, 70 miles north-west of Edinburgh. Drawn purely from Pinot Noir planted on a single plot, Les Champsots, in Grand Cru village, Ambonnay, ‘the Chambolle of Champagne’ said Pinçon, grapes had been subject to, ‘a millefeuille’ of carbonic ice. The wine was aged for 15 months in four and five-year-old former Burgundy barrels, with the result being fresh and precise which dilated with oxygen revealing notes of raspberry, strawberry and blueberry at once. To best express such a profile, chef de cave, Cyril Brun, just appointed winemaker of the year 2022 according to Guide Hachette, believes the wine is ‘beautiful to drink now’, though it can age for ‘five to 10 years, rather than 10 to 20,’ said Pinçon. With an RRP of £85, a maximum of 150 bottles are allocated to the UK market, offered in cases of three, plus 50 magnums will cost £190. Previously, Charles Heidsieck debuted four still site-specific chardonnays from 2017, each from a different village (Villers Marmery, Vertus, Oger, and Montgueux). Pinçon commented that although production of Coteaux Champenois only accounts for some ‘50-70,000 bottles per year’ from the entire Champagne area, he expects to see a significant increase in still wines imminently, ‘because of climate change.’
To emphasise a link between the natural world, ingredients and wine matching, Monachyle Mhor’s chef-patron, Tom Lewis led a mushroom foraging expedition prior to the tasting of the Coteaux Champenois through the nearby Kirkton Glen with his dogs, Tinker and Rose, highlighting the differences between potentially hallucinatory false chanterelles and the real deal, while plucking ceps so substantial that if they had they been found in Italy, ‘they would be something you’d sell your grandmother for.’ In advance of the return of Charles Heidsieck’s Champagne Charlie cuvée, due next year, Pinçon also took the opportunity to show the magnificent 1982 from magnum – ‘the only Charlie to be bottled in this format.’