Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Amazing Champagnes of the St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar in London – But no English or Other Sparklers

Pictures: St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar and Big Ben in London

The Amazing Champagnes of the St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar in London – But no English or Other Sparklers

The glamorous St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar is arguably Europe’s longest Champagne Bar. It offers an amazing selection of Champagnes in the heart of London, but if you ask for England’s world class sparklers like Nyetimber or other sparklers, the answer is no.

The Place

St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar is situated just next to the tracks were the Eurostar arrives, below the magnificent Barlow Shed, allowing a full appreciation of the amazing architecture of the historic Victorian St. Pancras Station.

The Eurostar provides a very comfortable way of traveling from Paris to London in a little bit more than 2 hours. You leave at the Gare du Nord in Paris and you arrive at St. Pancras, the new railway station close to King’s Cross, in London.

Pictures: St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar in London

It is a truly unique and stunning venue. The set up is very nice and comfortable with a range o different seating options. It is a formidable place to celebrate the arrival in London or wait for the departure of the train for Paris or Brussels.

The Food

I did not eat anything. I just had a glass of Champagne. The all-day menu is elegant and light. Next to the Champagne Bar is an Oyster Bar. They had 6 different varieties, both native and rock oysters, on the menu, when I was there a few weeks ago. In addition, the Oyster Bar is part of a very nice restaurant, if you want a more complete meal.

An Amazing List of Champagnes

The St. Pancras Champagne Bar has an outstanding and very wide selection of NV Champagnes as well as older vintage Champagnes. The exchange rates are currently: BP 0.82 = Euro 1 = UD$ 1.28.

It offers 16 Champagnes by the glass, ranging from a NV Pommery Brut for BP 9.50 to a 2000 Dom Perignon for BP 26.50. Most of the glasses are in the BP 12 to 15 range.

If you want to go for a whole bottle, the St. Pancras Champagne Bar has a selection of about 100 0.75 liter bottles, most of them from well established producers.

Pictures: St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar in London

If you are in a group, you can go for a larger size: The bar carries Magnums, Jeroboams, Methuselahs (= 8 bottles) and even super large sizes, for example:
NV Pol Roger Brut Reserve Salmanazar (= 12 bottles) for BP 950;
NV Laurent-Perrier Brut Balthazar (= 20 bottles) for BP 1000.

No English Sparklers

The English sparkler Nyetimber's Classic Cuvee 2003 was crowned champion of worldwide sparkling wines in the 2nd annual "Bollicine Del Mondo" competition in Verona, Italy, last year, impressing judges more than sparklers from French legends such as Bollinger, Pommery and Louis Roederer. But you won’t find it on the list of the St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar. Only Champagnes are poured.

The Nyetimber upset was part of the changes that are going on in the global wine market. New wine countries are emerging. They are emerging for two reasons. Some of them are benefiting from climate change as the northern border for wine growing is pushing up. Others are emerging countries and with the general economic expansion, the demand for wine and the production of wine is also going up. England is a prime example of an emerging wine country because of climate change.

The UK now ranks a lowly 63rd on the list of the world’s wine-producing countries, but Nyetimber confirmed what many experts have been saying for some time: UK sparkling wines can compete internationally.

What is Nyetimber? For all the innate Englishness of the Nyetimber Manor Estate, Nyetimber as a commercial vineyard has always enjoyed international influence. A couple from Chicago, Stuart and Sandy Moss had the unusual ambition to find a location outside France where it would be possible to produce sparkling wine to rival champagne. They established Nyetimber Manor Estate in 1986 and - amid much industry skepticism - began the vineyard planting in 1988, using the three classic champagne varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. In 2001 the Mosses decided to retire back to the States and sold the Nyetimber Estate to the songwriter and record producer Andy Hill as a rural retreat. Nyetimber’s present owner, Eric Heerema, bought the Nyetimber Estate in March 2006. It is now the largest vineyard estate in the UK at 350 acres under vine.

Nyetimber brought English (sparkling) wine on to the world map. Will other countries follow? Russia used to produce famous sparklers, but the industry has suffered badly from many decades of communism.

What about German Sekts?

Gemany is one of the largest sparkling wine markets in the world. One out of four bottles of sparkling wine is consumed in Germany. Sparkling wine produced in Germany is called Sekt.

Sekt is made in all German wine regions, both in the méthode traditionnelle and charmat method. There are three groups of Sekt makers: (i) large and (ii) smaller Sekt houses, who only make Sekt and (iii) winemakers, who make predominantly wine, but complement their wine selection by a few Sekts.

There is a dozen or so large Sekt houses. They produce more than 2.000.000 bottles each annually. Most of these large Sekt houses were established in the 1800s. At that time, there was only one method known to produce Sekt, the méthode traditionnelle. But in contrast to the champagne houses, the large Sekt houses have all moved to the charmat method as main method of the second fermentation after World War II. Like the champagne houses, Sekt houses do not own vineyards, but purchase the base wine from winemakers. Overall, these Sekts are reasonably priced, are of good quality, but with the introduction of the charmat method are no longer in the same class as their counterparts in the champagne region.

The smaller Sekt houses, like the large Sekt houses, do not own vineyards, but also buy the base wine from winemakers. They also tend to have a long history and often links to the champagne region, beautiful facilities and old cellars for the second fermentation and storage. The big difference is that they typically have not gone the route of tank fermentation but continue to ferment in the méthode traditionnelle.

Geldermann in Breisach makes its Sekt exclusively from French wines imported from the Loire valley. The two Germans Deutz and Geldermann founded a Champagne House in 1838 in the Champagne, and the Breisach (Baden) outlet became their German branch in 1904 for tax reasons. Another one is Kessler, in Esslingen (Baden-Wuerttemberg), the first German Sekt house, founded in 1826 by Georg Kessler, who had worked for Veuve Clicqot.

Finally, increasingly, there is a number of top quality winemakers, who, in addition, to their still wines, have started to include Sekts in their portfolio. These Sekts are typically vintage Sekts, from a specified vineyard, made of specific grapes, often Riesling, in the méthode champenoise and with little or not dosage (brut or extra but). There is a large and growing number of winemakers who have started to produce world class Sekts. Unfortunately, their production is very limited and difficult to find in the US. The most recent premium Sekt is Primus, made by the Wein- und Sekthaus Barth in Hattenheim, the first German Sekt made from a Erste Lage Base Wine.

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller with Norbert Barth and his Primus

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1 comment:

  1. Dear Dr Schiller,

    From the Producers of Balfour Brut Rosé - our Multi-Award-winning Pink Fizz - is most definitely listed at St Pancras Grand Restaurant and Champagne Bar. St Pancras have been a great supporter since we launched the Balfour and it has become a popular mainstay on their list. It is listed under Rose Champagnes and Traditional Method so maybe you missed it! You can't have missed our beautiful copper ice-buckets on the bar? The Balfour is beautifully packaged so maybe you thought it was Champagne!

    Kind regards,

    Karen Hargreaves

    Sales & Marketing Director