Fea­ture: Sparkling wines

Noth­ing says cel­e­bra­tion like sparkling wines and Cham­pagnes but in­creas­ingly fizz tra­di­tions are be­ing dumped and new ex­cuses are be­ing found to pop the cork on bub­bly, says Julie Bax­ter

Onboard Hospitality - - Contents -

For gen­er­a­tions we’ve paired roast meats, steaks and rich meaty casseroles with a glass of red wine, but in a move which star­tled tra­di­tion­al­ists, a team of in­no­va­tive Euro­pean chefs has now in­sisted that Cham­pagne com­ple­ments such meals just as well!

The chefs were work­ing on a food and fizz col­lab­o­ra­tion in­volv­ing no lesser Cham­pagne aris­to­crat than Moët & Chan­don, and their five course menus were each paired with a dif­fer­ent cham­pagne.

Dis­pelling the myth that only red wine should be drunk with beef, chef Damien Adams, ex­plains: “A roast sir­loin main dish pro­duces an ex­cit­ing and un­ex­pected pair­ing, high­light­ing the Pinot Noir grape in the Moët & Chan­don Grand Vin­tage 2008. This Cham­pagne has a longer time in the cel­lars, to de­velop more in­tense flavours and a fuller body which stands up to the rich­ness of the dish, the same way we’re used to with a red wine.”

As well as beef, the chefs paired ham hock with Brut Im­pe­rial, trout with Rosé Im­pe­rial and meringue with Ice Im­pe­rial Rosé.

Per­haps that was all just a pub­lic­ity stunt but it cer­tainly made peo­ple think again about Cham­pagne, and in other parts of the sparkling mar­ket other tra­di­tions are be­ing aban­doned fast too.

If you close your eyes and vi­su­alise the land where your glass of bub­bly came from you’re prob­a­bly think­ing of ru­ral France, but now a cham­pion of in­de­pen­dent wine, Vagabond, has be­gun mak­ing sparkling wine in the heart of Lon­don. Vagabond’s ur­ban win­ery, is lo­cated at Bat­tersea Power Sta­tion

and is sell­ing UK-grown Bac­chus, Pinot Noir Rosé and a sparkling Pét-Not (its own take on Pétil­lant na­turel).

Grapes are sourced in the UK by wine­maker Gavin Mon­ery, who says: “We’re mak­ing wines with the same tech­niques and at­ten­tion to de­tail as the best es­tates in the world. English wines are gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity and Lon­don has been at the cen­tre of the global wine trade for 200 years, so it was a per­fect fit for us to lo­cate a win­ery in the city.”

Vagabond’s md, Stephen Finch, adds: "In the midst of an ex­plo­sion of craft brew­eries and brew­pubs we asked our­selves: 'Why should brew­eries have all the fun?' An ur­ban win­ery can bring the ex­cite­ment and ed­u­ca­tion of a top-flight win­ery to the city.”

Break­ing with tra­di­tion

UK startup, The Un­com­mon, is bring­ing an­other new twist to UK sparkling with its English sparkling in a can, pro­duced in line with the high­est EU qual­ity rat­ing, Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin, the same grade given to Cham­pagne.

The in­au­gu­ral re­lease is a lightly sparkling dry white, with notes of pear and elder­flower. The wine is made from 100% Bac­chus grapes, har­vested from vine­yards at the fore­front of new bio­dy­namic tech­niques, re­duc­ing the need for pes­ti­cides and chem­i­cals.

Buoyed by global trends in favour of sparkling wine, founders Henry Con­nell and Alex Thraves wanted to cre­ate a con­tem­po­rary wine brand de­signed to be un­pre­ten­tious and fun, and also do their bit to raise the pro­file of English wine.

Cans can

Fo­cused on con­ve­nience and cut­ting wine wastage, the brand looks at sus­tain­abil­ity too, claim­ing sin­gle­serve alu­minium cans can help re­duce the bil­lions of wine thrown away each year - fizz that’s gone flat. The cans chill in just 15 min­utes; are in­fi­nately re­cy­clable and light­weight with a car­bon footprint 80% lighter than glass.

Euromon­i­tor re­search sug­gests cans are cer­tainly here to stay for wines although it recog­nises that it is tak­ing the tra­di­tion­ally con­ser­va­tive sparkling in­dus­try time to come on board with the idea.

Wine in a can is al­ready spik­ing in the U.S. and is a hot topic of de­bate among purests. It has the ben­e­fit of porta­bil­ity, ver­sa­til­ity and dura­bil­ity and clearly re­flects the mil­len­nial in­cli­na­tion for mak­ing fizz less for­mal. The lower cost plays to this de­mo­graphic too.

It's a trend mir­rored in the U.S., where year-onyear sales of canned wines is run­ning up 43% as con­sumers be­come more open-minded to al­ter­na­tive for­mats for fizz.

Ore­gon-based pro­ducer, Union Wine Com­pany, led the charge, caus­ing a stir when it re­leased a Pinot

Noir in a 12-ounce can to try and en­cour­age the “beer­i­fi­ca­tion” of wine. Oth­ers such as No­mad­ica have fol­lowed with sparkling whites and rosés in a can and Tinto Amorio, a low-calo­rie sparkling red wine cock­tail with lemon has been an­other U.S.

Con­sumers are be­com­ing more open-minded to al­ter­na­tive for­mats

for fizz

Pro­cessco pas­sions

The classic style of Cham­pagne also faces chal­lenges from Ital­ian and Span­ish sparkling wine pro­duc­ers. Prosecco out sold Cham­pagne last Christ­mas by ten to one and by 2020 the world­wide con­sump­tion of Prosecco is ex­pected to sur­pass 412m bot­tles. That’s an es­ti­mated in­crease of 36% over five years, com­pared to Cham­pagne’s fore­casted 1% growth.

Most Prosecco is made with the Char­mat method, where fer­mented wine goes through a sec­ondary fe­men­ta­tion in big steel tanks rather than a bot­tle, which means it is quicker to pro­duce than Cham­pagne and hence pro­duc­ers are more able to re­spond quickly to in­creas­ing de­mand. It's a trade­marked wine that must be pro­duced in cer­tain ar­eas of north east Italy if it is to be called Prosecco, and should carry DOCG (the most pre­mium range) and DOC la­bels to con­firm its Ital­ian qual­ity as­sur­ance. It of­fers de­grees of per­lage too, from fully sparkling spumante for those who pre­fer strong bub­bles, to friz­zante for a gen­tler, lighter sparkle.

Bot­tega has been at the fore­front of this growth, es­pe­cially in the on­board sec­tor, and it TGV rail con­tract surely marks some­thing of a land­mark mo­ment. The renowned French high-speed train op­er­a­tor se­lected Bot­tega Il Vino dei Poeti Prosecco

DOC, in the 20cl (mini bot­tle) ver­sion for its on­board ser­vice and the list­ing clearly had a spe­cial value for the Ital­ian win­ery and dis­tillery be­cause usu­ally the French are more in­clined to se­lect French wines, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to sparkling.

Bot­tega Prosecco was cho­sen for its fresh­ness, ver­sa­til­ity and ease of con­sump­tion, qual­i­ties said to be par­tic­u­larly ap­pre­ci­ated dur­ing a train jour­ney. Fur­ther­more, the small bot­tle is a one-serve size which ad­des man­age­abil­ity and prac­ti­cal­ity, and lends it­self par­tic­u­larly to on­board ser­vice.

The Bot­tega mini bot­tles are in­deed al­ready listed by over 20 clients world­wide, in­clud­ing Bri­tish Air­ways, Air Canada, Easy­jet, Vir­gin At­lantic and Swiss.

Valentina Dalle Mule, ex­port man­ager for air­line busi­ness at Bot­tega, says: “Bot­tega mini bot­tles have be­come the undis­puted best sell­ers in this niche for buy-on-board, of­fer­ing choices from pre­mium qual­ity Prosecco to the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar sweet Moscato. They are unique, ver­sa­tile and mod­ern prod­ucts, and bring a touch of qual­ity and gen­uine­ness in an in­creas­ingly glob­alised busi­ness."

Last year Bot­tega saw a 3.6% in­crease in duty free and travel re­tail sales and added new pack­ag­ing sets:

Prosecco mini bot­tles

have be­come an undis­puted best seller

on­board

a two-bot­tle set, a four-bot­tle set and an ice bag with four bot­tles. Dalle Mule adds: "The most im­pres­sive growth is com­ing from UK air­lines for buy-on-board mini sparklers, and Asian air­lines for in­flight duty free".

An­drew Brown, md at sup­pli­ers Rat­cliffe and Brown, con­firms the on­go­ing love af­fair with Prosecco say­ing: "Ev­ery­one wants Prosecco, it's a global phe­nom­e­non! It's easy to drink, not as al­co­holic as cava or Cham­pagne and has an at­trac­tive colour and flavour to suit a broad range of palates. Sales are go­ing from strength to strength."

Cava fight back

Spain’s largest Cava pro­ducer Freix­enet is even jump­ing on the band­wagon with the launch of a

DOC Prosecco, in a bid to em­u­late the pop­u­lar­ity of the Ital­ian fizz. Launched in May it is the first time the pro­ducer has of­fered an Ital­ian sparkling and re­flects the fact that Cava sales fell un­der the shadow of the more bouyant Prosecco.

Much of the growth in sparkling has been driven by the mil­len­ni­als for whom a bot­tle of fizz adds a dash of style and a sense of oc­ca­sion to foodie-fo­cused life­styles. Classic Cham­pagnes are seen to be be­yond their bud­gets and in the U.S. mil­len­ni­als have turned in part to the cheaper op­tions and Cal­i­for­nian sparkling wines. The U.S. sparkling sec­tor has grown by two mil­lion cases since 2010, ac­cord­ing to Im­pact Data­bank. In­creas­ingly it is be­ing served for non-spe­cial oc­ca­sions and as a drink with din­ner or within cock­tails. Calls for rosé sparklings are also on the rise.

Delta has added a Pro­cessco to its com­pli­men­tary op­tions, load­ing mini bot­tles of Avissi Prosecco on international long-haul flights.

Cham­pagne style

De­spite the chal­lenge from other choices, Cham­pagne re­mains a mark of qual­ity and style for those in the pre­mium cab­ins and that isn't likely to change any time soon.

Pres­tige Cu­vée Cham­pagne is nor­mally re­garded the top Cham­pagne and in the UK (the sec­ond big­gest mar­ket af­ter France) sales con­tinue to rise - up 88% since 2010. Pink Cham­pagne is also see­ing good growth.

Bri­tish Air­ways re­cently an­nounced it was ex­pand­ing its range of Cham­pagnes and English sparkling wines to add Gus­bourne English Sparkling Wine and Lan­son Rosé Cham­pagne in First, Ca­nard-Duchêne Cu­vee Léonie Brut Cham­pagne and Cham­pagne Besserat de Belle­fon in Busi­ness.

And Malaysia Air­lines has just un­veiled new Cham­pagnes - Du­val Leroy Fleur du Cham­pagne Premier Cru NV in Busi­ness and Joseph Per­rier Cu­vee Josephine 2004 in First.

Cham­pagne, it seems, con­tin­ues to have its own magic aura and is un­trou­bled by the up­starts fizzing else­where in the mar­ket. And I guess if you've paid sev­eral thou­sand pounds for your long-haul flight in a pre­mium cabin you're go­ing to ex­pect to drink Cham­pagne, whether you like it or not!

Cham­pagne sales con­tinue to be strong de­spite the rise of other

sparkling wines

From top: Sin­ga­pore Air­lines keeps up its Cham­pagne tra­di­tion; No­mad­ica puts its sparkling wine in a can

suc­cess - in­spired by the Span­ish wine cock­tail ‘Tinto de Ver­ano’.

Fac­ing page: Bot­tega's cool bag set; Bri­tish Air­ways add sparkling rose; and a UK first - sparkling English wine in a can from The Un­com­mon;. This page: Bot­tega Pro­cesso now on­board TGV, France

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