Wed 11 Sep 2013

Tasting the Champagnes of Alfred Gratien


This was a fine opportunity to taste the Gratien range in wonderful surroundings off the Champs Elysées, at Restaurant Laurent.

The weather was glorious: perfect blue sky and a warm 27º or so. Somewhat bored gendarmes were everywhere, expecting maybe a Syrian attack on the US consulate or disgruntled vignerons on the presidential palace.

The current team at Alfred Gratien - Nicolas and Jean-Pierre Jaeger

The current team at Alfred Gratien – Nicolas and Jean-Pierre Jaeger

The occasion was a press lunch for the Paris wine hacks and I was there representing maybe the old enemy. Lunch was served on a terrace with the roof of the Grand Palais close by.

Champagne is often dismissed as mere bubbly, something to refresh and seduce, yet it was Alain Seydoux – now long retired as head of Alfred Gratien – who always impressed upon me that Champagne was a wine which just happened to have bubbles.

And of course, Alfred Gratien is a quite distinctive Champagne, and very much a wine in all its weight, complexity and length of flavour.

Proceedings got under way with two versions of the same wine, the Non-Vintage Brut. Version A had been bottled without dosage but, for my taste, version B (the normal Brut) seemed better balanced and on a hot day was absolutely delicious.

We were then treated with the following parings:

Alfred Gratien Blanc de Blancs ChampagnePig’s trotter with slices of steamed potato. Quite appetising and worked really well with the 2007 Blanc de Blancs, a grand cru chardonnay of great distinction and finesse.

Next was a take on bouillabaisse but served in a jelly. The best wine was the 1996 Vintage which was completely outstanding. A great vintage which had been somewhat dormant but which is now completely brilliant.

The same vintage was also served with sweetbreads but a better match was with Rosé Champagne, where the added body provided a better foil for the richness of this dish.

Two cheeses were served: Comté and Camembert and the wine chosen was the still youthful and full-flavoured 1990 Vintage. Champagne and cheese? Who would have thought it? The Camembert didn’t really work but the Comté was a triumph.

A rather lovely peach tart was then served with 2006 Cuvée Paradis. This is a gorgeous Champagne: rich and succulent, it coped well with the tart. This newly released, lovely and creamy wine will be available over Christmas, and is highly recommended.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer for Champagne


  1. Nicholas G.W.Playne says:

    As Champagne is so expensive, to my mind unrealistically so, could you please offer members one persons comparison, perhaps Marcel Orford-Williams’ view, between Alfred Gratien made inside ‘Champagne’ with the sparkling wines made just outside. I have always found that ‘Sparkling Saumur’ is even better if kept a few years. Perhaps this would fall at the first hurdle of etiquette and be an unacceptable approach!! I would find it very interesting to know more about the two products in a comparative way.

    • Marcel Orford-Williams says:

      Each to his own! The two are very different, and taste different, and the Saumur can certainly keep a year or two. Production methods are not the same with the champagne being very much hand made and therefore more costly to make. In fact, Gratien make more money out of Saumur than Champagne.

  2. N.M.Ridley says:

    Suggest that our Society
    Does an offer on half bottles

  3. Tom Bennett says:

    Pigs trotters, “steamed” potato, sweetbreads and supermarket cheese, I think members should admire Marcel’s devotion to duty or at least to champagne. I was once speaking at a lunch in Paris where the main course was sheep’s brains. Unlike Marcel I cannot remember what we were drinking,

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