Celebrating 25 years with Master of Wine: Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler
What better way is there to celebrate Rocco Forte Hotels’ 25th anniversary than with Champagne?
Champagne is renowned as one of the world’s favourite wines, and its producers are raising the bar to create the perfect glass. As we look towards our sparkling future, we speak with Master of Wine Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler from Private Cellar to discover the latest news and trends about our favourite bubbles.
Why do you think Champagne is such a celebratory drink?
"Because of its bubbles – they lift the spirit and give an instant sparkle to celebrations. The taste too, as there is nothing like it; and the versatility – Champagne comes in so many styles, from bone dry to sweet, so it can be matched with anything. Everyone has a favourite brand because Champagne is consistent. It’s also unique as it takes so long to mature."
What Champagne trends have you noticed recently?
"There is a move towards organic and biodynamic viticulture, with more emphasis on the health of the vines and the land on which they are grown. Producers are aiming for zero herbicides by 2025.
The region is committed to sustainability, reducing CO2 emissions per bottle and recycling water. Ruinart’s second skin case is an example of an environmentally friendly version of the traditional Champagne gift box; it’s nine times lighter than its previous packaging.
There is also a trend of allowing bottles to mature in the cellar for longer so they develop more biscuity, brioche flavours and aromas. We are seeing changes to the dosage level too – the amount of sweetness added to the wine after disgorgement – with more styles emerging such as brut nature or zero dosage, giving a very dry style of wine."
Which Champagne brands are you excited about?
"We are big fans of smaller producers who make wine from their own grapes, rather than selling them. One of my favourites is Legras & Haas, which was established in 1991 and is now managed by the founders’ three sons. They have a core range but never stop experimenting – their vintage wines are some of the best I have tasted.
It’s exciting to see big names innovating with new releases such as Louis Roederer’s Collection series – which is focused on vintage attributes – and Bollinger’s PNVZ series, which highlights vineyard sites and specific grape varieties".
Which Champagne houses are worth investing in?
"We hope our customers will buy wine to drink, rather than for investment. We recommend that customers see it as a bonus if they buy wine that makes money, as they will have something delicious to drink if it doesn’t. If pushed, I would suggest buying new vintage releases from Krug and Dom Pérignon but research before you buy."
Which other sparkling wines do you recommend?
"There are many quality Champagne-method sparkling wines so there is something for every budget.
The English sparkling wine scene is incredibly exciting, and it is interesting to see so many estates which are now part-owned by French owners. Pommery is producing Louis Pommery England Sparkling and Exton Park’s wines, also based in Hampshire, are made by the French winemaker Corinne Seely. Likewise, it’s fabulous to see the entrepreneurial spirit of Ambriel, owned by Charles and Wendy Outhwaite, who planted on virgin land having identified the perfect greensand soil in West Sussex. Rarely do we have an opportunity to see a wine scene developing at such a pace.
I also recommend Crémants from France and Méthode Cap Classique from South Africa. In South Africa, Matthew Krone, a 12th generation Méthode Champenoise winemaker, is crafting superb sparkling wines for Aristea as well as making his own limited release Méthode Cap Classiques. His experience is evident in his classy wines. "
In short, the world of Champagne – and of Champagne-method wines – is diverse and exciting, giving consumers a huge pool of quality wine to choose from.
Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler is one of just over 400 Masters of Wine in the world and is a co-founder of Private Cellar.
Ask one of our Sommeliers for advice or discover more about organic, natural and biodynamic wines.