Drink up

Tim Kitchener-Smith forces down champagne, all in the name of work

If you go to the elegant Hush restaurant in Mayfair within the Hush Courtyard at 7 Lancashire Court, Brook Street, W1 to try their fine dining, you may notice your waiter scuttling out the door and returning with your chosen bottle of wine. He isn't popping round to Threshers but to Hush's wine cellar, La Cave @ Hush, just around the corner in the little lanes. This bijou place also serves as a very fine wine boutique and private room and is advised by Tim Kitchener-Smith who gives us a monthly heads up on what's what in the world of wine. Tim is currently writing a book on French wine and soon to appear on TV.

One of the joys of being in the wine trade unsurprisingly is tasting as much of it as possible, whilst chatting as intelligently as you can to the person who’s made it, and then, best of all, walking off in a sort of horizontal direction, and without having to pay for it!

Naturally when it comes to Champagne you can guarantee that when you yourself advertise a tasting it’s going to sell out seconds after you’ve pressed ‘send’ on your computer. I’ve been privileged enough to have hosted some pretty rare customer tastings over the last few years at Hush – the full range from the likes of: Roederer, Taittinger, Bollinger, Krug, Moët & Chandon, Dom Perignon, all Grande Marque Champagne houses and all of which I’m sure you’re familiar with. However, one house unknown to most but turning a few heads in the London on-trade at the moment is Devaux, and their stunning non vintage cuvee – Cuvée ‘D’.
Devaux is sited at the foot of the Champagne region, just outside the medieval city of Troyes. A non vintage blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir the overall taste experience is elegant, rich yet refined, and altogether a real pleasure at any time of the day. The only problem is, if you’re a buyer for a restaurant and you’re choosing the house Champagne, it’s nigh on impossible to stray away from the big Grande Marque houses, simply because you know they’ll sell themselves. Our house Champagne here at Hush is Taittinger, a worthy choice, and certainly a style which you will always say ‘yes’ to a second glass of – the ultimate taste test when choosing a brand. So why am I raving about Cuvée ‘D’ then…

Abi Rooney-Smith (another great double-barrelled surname) who is the Champagne account manager for Devaux recently tried her luck by recommending Devaux Cuvée ‘D’ to Nigel Sutcliffe – co owner of the ‘Crazy Bear’ bar and restaurant in Whitfield Street in Fitzrovia – a seriously cool place if ever there was one by the way. Nigel’s current house Champagne is Bruno Paillard non vintage, nothing wrong with that, but changing brands, especially as a house pour in your favour is potentially worth a small fortune. Abi suggested a tasting of ten Champagne brands, all wrapped up so that we wouldn’t know what they were, and boldly suggested that her Champagne would come out top.

Just to make the tasting as fair as possible, Abi invited eight of the trades most distinguished sommelier’s and wine buyers along, and the venue, well that what was easy – La Cave!

Each of us tasted through the range and marked each wine out of 20. Categories included, in no particular order: colour, complexity, depth of flavour, acidity, balance, bubble size, drinkability, and longevity.

So, the result, in reverse order, and a few of you may be shocked by this…
Veuve Clicquot, Perrier-Jouët, Moët & Chandon, Bruno Paillard, Bollinger Special Cuvée, Devaux Grande Reserve (their entry level non vintage), Dampierre ‘Cuvée des Ambassadeurs’, Taittinger, Roederer, and yes, well done Abi - Devaux ‘Cuvée ‘D’…

Nigel is negotiating prices as we speak, and, if you want to know the retail price, £27.50, it certainly is a must try for everyone.

For information on future wine tastings, please contact me at: tim@hush.co.uk

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