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Champagne in Reims

As the summer draws to a close, some of our team headed to the beautiful and historic city of Reims in Northern France. Famed not only for its towering gothic cathedral, but its setting in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, renowned for its sparkling white wine (Champagne). Here our team spent a day tasting at the Charles Heidsieck winery led by head sommelier Guillaume Kaczmar, following his introduction of the new L’Ortolan House Champagne by the legendary Wine House.

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The Wine House – established in 1851 – has a colourful and remarkable history, mainly owing to its founder Charles Camille Heidsieck (also known as Champagne Charlie, a French Dandy who was the first to promote Champagne in the US back in the 19th century), who had a strong passion and confidence that he translated into his wine making. His concentration centred around the producing and ageing of wine, a legacy that remains today. Heidsieck has an outstanding number of accolades, having been named Sparkling Winemaker of the Year thirteen times in the International Wine Challenge (IWC), in addition to a number of silver and gold medals at the IWC.

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Our team enjoyed a tour of the 2000 year old chalk cellars built by the Romans at 30 metres deep (they used to be chalk quarries). Today there are only five Champagne houses using those white, muted cellars for the wines to lay dormant in, at a constant temperature of 10C-12C and 90% humidity; the perfect environment for Champagne ageing. They were then met by Thierry Roset the Maitre de Cave whose humility, devotion and dedication to his work are as pure as the chalk of Reims cellars’. He has been at the helm of Charles Heidsieck for 25 years, and dedicates his work to injecting the original spirit of the Wine House into his creations. Spending two hours with the wine connoisseur he shared his passion, spirit and secrets behind the craft of the unique Champagnes with the team. The team finally finished the afternoon with a tour of the vineyards around the Montagne de Reims – high places concentrating most of the Grand Cru of Pinot Noir production in Champagne.

Our guide was very informative and told us about the difference of

soils and climate, all those little details that French often refers to with the word ‘Terroir’.’

A variety of champagnes were tasted by our team including a number made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Monier and Rosé. Depth and texture are stated as the key characteristics that Charles Heidsieck champagnes should embody, demanding refinement at each stage of the process, and our team certainly concurred with this.

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The first wine to be tasted was a still 2013 Chardonnay, harvested in October it is described by our team as delicate and smooth, with a fruit finish. Followed by the Pinot Noir from the Ambonnay region, an ideal complement to the warmer months in Spring and Summer due to the ripe, fruity notes the wine possesses. This very rare opportunity to sample the wine is its still state, provided an interesting tasting in the art of Champagne blending. With Guillaume stating, ‘For a Sommelier it’s fantastic as the wines are still, and you are able to focus simply the flavours and structure of the wine without having the bubbles that often are a third dimension that can change the tasting experience a lot.’DSCF1931

Next on the list included three Chardonnays from ’99 ’98 and ’96, which due to their long ageing process in the maze of forty-seven chalk cellars beneath Reims, and having been kept at a constant temperature allows for a distinctive development in taste and quality. They are described as complex with a long finish, specified as having the ‘texture of butter – creamy’, with the ’96 maintaining a warmth and woodiness with a hint of freshness. This is a ‘Vertical’ tasting of the Chardonnay (Vertical standing for the same wine on different years). Once again a master class with Thierry to understand the importance of the climate on the final quality of the wines.

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One of the oldest Champagnes sampled was the ’95  Blanc de Millenaires, a Chardonnay distinguished by its floral and candied citrus notes, remaining fresh even with the creamier notes of almond and dates. Sixty carefully selected crus are chosen for this blend, with a minimum of three – ten years in the cellar. Vigilance and a sense of awareness are vital at every part of the process in order to produce a Brut that has its own personality and set of characteristics.

The pièce de résistance, however, was the Champagne Charlie from 1981 of which there are only a few bottles remaining, and was a privilege and delight to sample.

‘It was a perfect way to conclude the tasting, so that all the team could understand the evolution and the potential of such great wines and that Champagne is much more than a name and a luxury symbol.’

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‘A Champagne made by kind hearted and generous people, for Champagne connoisseur or casual wine lovers….’

Guillaume commented, ‘When thinking about Champagne the first cliché that comes to mind are about strass and gold, celebrations, bubbles, and quality times. However, a Sommelier always looks at it as any other wine (because yes people tend to forget that Champagne is part of the big wine family), I always look for the honesty, the love and the passion behind the bottle and inside the glass.’

The pursuit of excellence that Charles Heidsieck strive to achieve is evident in their carefully nurtured sparkling wines, and the intense flavours created. Left in clay cellars to bring their style to perfection, they are highly regarded as one of the finest sparkling wine makers, and this is illustrated by the extremely positive response from our team. Maciej Chorazyczewski our assistant restaurant manager remarked, ‘It was truly a memorable experience about which I will most certainly share to all my friends, colleagues, and guests’.

Guillaume KaczmarBorn and bred in France, Guillaume was raised on a totally organic diet so no surprise that he was keen to continue the tradition of biodynamic, organic and natural wines at L’Ortolan.

Guillaume’s interest in wine was first kindled when he worked as a tour guide in Pauillac while taking his degree in Tourism studies. The Château Lynch-Bages winery produces some of the finest and most expensive Claret in Bordeaux.

One of the best experiences of Guillaume’s life followed next as he took a year out to travel to New Zealand to go ‘woofing’ – working on organic farms. His rich experience included a post in the South Island in a stunning vineyard fed by a glacial lake facing the Alps producing some of the leading New Zealand Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Guillaume returned to France to study wine in Sommelier School, gaining a National Diploma. Then a further 6 months of study at the International School of Wine where he graduated as top of the class.

He decided to follow a career in the hospitality industry in a role where he is able to try wine every day.

 

‘There are so many factors that make wine unique – the climate, region, grapes – you never stop learning’.

 

‘Les Sources de Caudalie’ hotel and spa in the Pessac Leognan wine making region was Guillaume’s next post, as Sommelier in the fabulous Michelin starred restaurant. In addition to Château Smith Haut Lafitte produced in the famous family owned winery, they also produce a range of world class  beauty products made from the crushed grape skins.

Guillaume was interested in moving to England to immerse himself in the new wine culture where the market is wide open with wines from all over the world easily available.

After an enjoyable and challenging year at two Michelin starred Whatley Manor Guillaume joined us as Head Sommelier earlier this year.

Guillaume has already made his mark at L’Ortolan delighting guests with his wine recommendations and introducing a new house Champagne, Charles Heidsieck.  Going forward he plans to  …

Continue to champion biodynamic, organic and natural wines with a good selection of unusual wines as well as more familiar names. Provide the highest standard of wine service with the main focus being pairing wines with the fabulous menus at L’Ortolan’.

 

To contact Guillaume:

Email: guillaume.kaczmar@lortolan.com

Telephone: 0118 988 8500

twitter @kaczmarkaczmar

 

Coravin

We are really proud to introduce our guests and wine lovers to a brand new device for wine pouring, ‘Coravin’ , that we believe is about to revolutionise fine wine service.

Coravin

Basically, the Coravin allows us to access very fine wines of rare vintages and complexity by performing the neat trick of extracting wine from a bottle without actually opening it.  So, there is no effect on the quality of wine in the bottle or its aging process.

Thanks to this device we are now pouring a selection of ‘Fine Wines’ giving you the opportunity to discover some of the finest vineyards around with a glass of wine or a flight pairing with the Gourmand Tasting Menu.

Fine Wine Selection

 

How does it work?

A long, thin needle is inserted through the foil and cork into the bottle.

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Then, Argon (an odourless, tasteless, harmless, inert gas) is pumped through the needle, creating pressure within the bottle that pushes wine back out through the needle.

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When the desired amount is poured the needle is withdrawn creating pressure within the bottle that pushes wine back out through the needle.  The cork, thanks to its very elastic nature, seals itself up when the needle is removed.

It will not work on a bottle sealed with a screw cap or an artificial cork, however it is perfect for old and valuable wines that are rarely found poured by the glass.

This is a very exciting revolution for wine lovers which we are very honoured to be promoting at L’Ortolan.

The ‘Fine Wine’ Selection:

White Wine

Loire Valley

Sancerre « Les Caillottes », Francois Cotat, 2011

Burgundy

Chablis Grand Cru ‘Vaudésir’, Gerard Tremblay, 2010

Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Folatières’, Chavy Jouet, 2012

Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru, Remi Rollin, 2003

Red Wine

Bordeaux

Les Ormes de Pez ‘Cru Bourgeois’, St. Estèphe, 1996

Château Haut Bailly ’Grand Cru Classé’, Pessac Léognan, 1999

Burgundy

Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, Domaine Arnaud, 2008

Tuscany

Sassicaia, Bolgheri, Tenuta San Guido, 1999

 Dessert Wines

Canada

Ice Wine, Inniskillin ‘Gold’, Vidal (37.5cl), 2012

Hungary

Tokaji Aszú, 6 Puttonyos, Dobogo (50cl), 2007

I am looking forward to telling you more about Coravin at L’Ortolan, over a glass of Chateau Haut Bailly 1999, probably one of my favourite Grand Cru of Pessac-Leognan, that I am delighted to pour by the glass.

Guillaume Kaczmar

Head Sommelier


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We are very excited to introduce Charles Heidsieck as our new house Champagne.  Chosen for its individuality, exclusivity and downright deliciousness we look forward to sharing this wonderful Champagne with our guests here at L’Ortolan.

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Charles Heidsieck was founded in 1851 by the legendary Champagne Charlie himself. Charles was a dashing figure in Champagne, known as stylish gentleman and dandy who travelled extensively selling his Champagnes to the royal courts of Europe and American high society. He famously invested in the underground cathedral-like chalk cellars under Reims, originally dug out by the Romans 2000 years ago. The cellars are a unique place to age the Champagnes (only five Champagne houses today own original Roman cellars) as they remain an ideal 10ºC throughout the year and have a perfect levels of humidity, silence and stillness. They are still used today to house all the Charles Heidsieck Champagnes as they age.

JudithVandenHoek@KarineGarnier

JudithVandenHoek@KarineGarnier

Today the Charles Heidsieck Champagnes are recognised by industry experts as some of the very best to come from Champagne and win countless awards and accolades. The winemaker Thierry Roset places great importance on the reserve wines used in the production of the non-vintage blends. The Brut Réserve contains 40% reserve wines with an astonishing average age of 10 years, and is aged a minimum of 36 months in the Roman cellars. It is a Champagne with wonderful richness, complexity and balance.

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In 2013 the Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve was named the number one non-vintage champagne in the world, by FINE Champagne magazine. The wine was awarded the International Wine Challenge Trophy for non-vintage champagne, the Best in Show Award from the Sommelier Wine Awards (as well as Gold and Critic’s Choice), and was the only non-vintage champagne to be awarded a Master Medal in The Drinks Business Masters.

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Enjoy a chilled glass of Charles Heidsieck Brut N.V. with our celebration Champagne Lunch offer…

Champagne Lunch

Three course lunch with Chef’s appetiser and pre-dessert and a glass of Charles Heidsieck Champagne.
£39 per person

Tuesday – Saturday lunchtimes from 1st May

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Head Sommelier Guillaume Kaczmar has only recently joined us but already has a solid idea of how the wines and wine service will be going forward.  Following on from his predecessors and the interest L’Ortolan has always had in unconventional but authentic wines, Guillaume intends to carry on in the same tradition.

‘ We try very hard to source most of our wines and produce from honest people who work hard, respecting the environment they are living and working in, giving the best of themselves to get a lot more in return.

It is with great pleasure and excitement that we will be promoting the Real Wine Fair’ event, an independent festival taking place in London every year in April, showcasing wines from all around the planet, gathered around the same spirit of minimal intervention and respect for nature.

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Throughout the month of April you will find at L’Ortolan, in addition to the numbers of organic, biodynamic and natural wines, two organic wines poured by the glass, pairing our Chef’s set menu, from my region of origin, the South West of France.

Both organic, one dry white from the very south on the edge of the Pyrenean mountains, Jurancon, Clos Lapeyre, produced with the intriguing indigenous varietal ‘Gros Manseng’.

And the other one full bodied red, Luc de Conti, Château Tour des Gendres La Gloire de mon Père, from the Dordogne region with a traditional blend of Malbec, Cabernet and Merlot.

I am looking forward to meeting you here at L’Ortolan to tell you more about the wines…’

Guillaume Kaczmar, Head Sommelier

 


The Real Wine Lunch is available throughout April
£37 per person, includes a 3 course lunch with Chef’s appetiser and pre-dessert and a glass of organic wine.
See the menu and book online here.

 

Our talented pastry chef Charlotte Duncan recently spent a day learning new chocolate skills from Will Torrent at Barry Callebaut.

Going on my first chocolate course at the Barry Callebaut headquarters was something  I would recommend to any chef.  It was great fun learning with Will Torrent, an ambassador for Barry Callebaut, 1 of 150 ambassadors worldwide. We made mini desserts and decorations which was great for learning new flavour combinations and chocolate decorating skills.  Learning more about the chocolate that I use everyday, and the developments which the company is making to ensure the best quality chocolate, makes it seem that bit more special when I use it!

 

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Alan Murchison is also an ambassador for Barry Callebaut and his and Charlotte’s latest creation  is a spectacular ‘Chocolate Tasting Plate’ for two which is available on our current A la Carte menu.  As far as we know we are the only restaurant in the UK serving the Cacao Barry Boa Sentença chocolate – its stunning!

CHOCOLATE FOR TWO

Boa Sentença fondant, caramel and puffed rice slice

iced white chocolate parfait,

white chocolate and caramel dome,

Madirofolo sorbet

choc tasting plate

P1020127-kmFormer L’Ortolan chef, Ben de Souza, recently arranged for Executive Chef Alan Murchison to demonstrate the preparation and cooking of fresh produce for year 9 & 10 Food Technology students at his former secondary school, Piggott School, Wargrave.

A classroom full of eager students, watched in awe as Alan inspired his young audience with his culinary skills over two lesson periods. The first session detailed how to de-scale, fillet and pan fry a selection of round and flat fish including mackerel, sea bream, tuna and brill. The second demonstration included the savoury delights of an afternoon tea.

Year 9 student Olivia Munns commented ‘It was great to see a professional in action. He showed us a range of ingredients and ideas for presenting food.’

Year 10 student Natasha Ostrowski who attended the afternoon tea demo said ‘He made simple ingredients look really good. It was interesting to hear about the industry and work experience.’

The classmates were very impressed with Alan’s creations. They also showed genuine interest in the hospitality profession and the sourcing of the fresh produce used at L’Ortolan to create our delicious dishes.

We hope Alan has sparked some talent and enthusiasm in some budding future chefs!

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