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Michael's in-depth interview with Eugene Engel

When it comes to sparkling wine, there’s very few individuals as passionate and knowledgeable as Eugene Engel. To give you a little insight as to his knowledge; Eugene is an International Sommelier with an extensive wine education background. Michael sat down with Eugene for a quick Q&A as he knew there would be none better to provide some background on the amazing beverage.

MB: You have the knowledge (and title) to do anything within the world of wine. Why Champagne?

 

EE: Champagne has always been my favorite because it is both fun and luxury. There has always

been an interest from the start of my love for wine in general.

 

MB: You’ve spent considerable time within the Champagne region, can you provide our readers an appreciation as to why Champagne is more expensive than other sparkling wines such as Prosecco and Cava?

 

EE: Aging and handpicked, and a very labor-intensive wine making community with strict standards and guidelines.

 

MB: What are the permissible grape varieties allowed in Champagne?

 

EE: The most widely used are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. However, you will also see Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Petit Meslier and Arbane.

 

MB: A lot of Champagne is labeled NV (Non-Vintage). Who decides when a wine will be of a specific vintage? Is vintage wine always better than NV wine?

 

EE: Vintage Champagne is always a better Champagne because it is not a blend of different years from different growers. It’s just more focused with lots of attention to quality rather than quantity. Not all years are a vintage year. It really depends on a year without a lot of rain or hail.

Also, hot climate change has changed the harvest to August when previously we picked in September.

 

MB: What is a grower champagne and where does the term come from?

 

EE: A Grower Champagne is owned and produced on their own property. They do not buy grapes or juice from outside their property or controlled community. The term came from the fact that it’s the growers personal land and grapes and bottling, and nothing brought from outside the winery.

 

MB: You represent Paul Goerg, Pol Couronne and Carbon. How do you discern between the three houses?

 

EE: I actually now represent 5 different houses Paul Goerg (Côte des Blancs), Pol Couronne

(Montagne de Reims), Edouard Brun (Vallée de la Marne), Infinite 8 (The Aube) and

Champagne CARBON is my super luxury brand. So, I represent a different house in all of the 5 major regions of Champagne.

 

MB: Your brands don’t have the budgets that the big names have. How do you compete against Veuve Clicquot, Moet and Dom Perignon? Do you look at it as competition, or is it a different experience?

 

EE: We do not compete with them. They age for the 15 month minimum in the bottle.

Our Champagnes are aged 4-5 years for entry level, 8-10 years for Vintage and prestige cuvees.

We sell much of our 2nd and 3rd press to the bigger houses, so we live together and promote together. We are all part of the same community and mindset.

           

MB: Let’s face it, most of us can’t afford to drink Champagne on a Tuesday night. What is your go-to sparkling wine on a Tuesday night budget?

 

EE: I’m a bit different and quite spoiled. I drink the best and only the best. Life is too short to drink based on price.  I say spoil yourself because you deserve it. And always share it with great friends & company.

 

MB: Sparkling wine consumption is up. I find customers no longer need to be celebrating a special occasion in order to pop a bottle. What do you see happening over the next five years? Will this trend continue? Are there any trends coming out of Champagne that we should could an eye on?

 

EE: The trend is going up and getting exciting with old vintage becoming popular. Non-dosage and lower-dosage are also becoming more popular. We dodged a big setback last week, as Champagne was excluded by the US tariff on wine from France.

 

MB: You’ve got a really impressive résumé. For someone looking to get started in the wine business, where do you suggest they start?

 

EE: Education is always key. Book knowledge is good, but going to the regions and meeting the wine makers is the best way to understand it all. Touching the soil and learning the history of the area and its culture. And of course, tasting – the more you try the more you develop a palate for wine.

 

My hope is that you feel more knowledgeable and excited for your next encounter with Champagne (or sparkling wine). To quote Eugene, “life is too short…drink Champagne!”

 

Cheers,

Phillip's 

Nobil Food Services

Passion Vines

Valentina's Trattoria Italiana

THE MAGAZINE

 

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