The brands of the major champagne houses are recognised worldwide. In addition, an increasing number of small top producers are establishing themselves, producing very individual, original and extremely high-class champagnes. Champagne expert Bernhard Meßmer explains what is important.
Bernhard Meßmer comes from a family of winegrowers in the Palatinate and has been running the "einfach geniessen" wine school in Munich since 2003. In 2016, he was named Germany's best champagne trainer by the CIVC Champagne Association. As a merchant, he specialises in vintner champagnes and imports champagnes from around 60 winegrowers, mainly directly.
Bernhard, what fascinates you about champagne?
Bernhard Meßmer: Champagne has so many incredible facets. Until now, it was enough that it was "just" champagne. Now it's more about quality, origin and character. The region is changing. New, inspiring champagnes are coming onto the market almost every month.
In addition to the established big names, there is a small but growing number of top producers who are celebrated by critics and the press and who are already being snapped up by importers. And of course I'm fascinated by the fact that these champagnes can simply be great sparkling wines.
How did you get into champagne?
Bernhard Meßmer: I wasn't really interested in champagne for a long time. But then I came into contact with champagne from high-class small producers. I realised straight away that they were different: really dry, full of tension, distinctive and sometimes with a "vinous" character. Then I started travelling around Champagne and visiting wineries. These are mostly very unpretentious people. Winegrowers who strive to produce ripe and healthy grapes through thoughtful and foresighted work in the vineyard and then process them into wine and then Champagne with as little intervention as possible. Many of these winegrowers work organically. For them, champagne is a wine (with bubbles) and not champagne as a luxury drink In Focus. That inspired me!
When did you start specialising in champagne?
Bernhard Meßmer: I started seriously specialising in champagne around 2010. I quickly recognised the potential of vintner champagnes. There was very little of it in Germany, as hardly anyone was interested in it. In 2018, we launched our champagne subscription. That changed everything again. We never thought it would be so successful back then. Every two months, we send our subscribers two great champagnes with descriptions and a video. It's a great way to be guided through the new, exciting Champagne and make discoveries. Since then, we have started buying specifically for our subscribers and expanding our programme.
Bernhard Meßmer: Today we have a unique range with more than 300 champagnes. Champagne is therefore the central theme of our online shop einfachweinkaufen.de. A key element is the aforementioned Champagne subscription. With our self-developed champagne finder, we help our customers to choose champagne themselves. With just a few clicks, they are presented with champagnes that they are sure to enjoy. We provide information and expertise free of charge online with our champagne magazine and glossary. In Munich, we share our enthusiasm for champagne in numerous champagne seminars. And most recently, we have also been advising the catering trade and specialist retailers on the design of their product ranges. Champagne therefore plays the main role for us and also gives us great pleasure!
Bernhard Meßmer: That's relatively simple. Because there's little you can do wrong and you can just go ahead and try it out. The salt and fat in food harmonise perfectly with the freshness of champagne. You just need to make sure that the partners are on a par in terms of intensity. Good vintner champagnes have a medium or pronounced intensity and go well with practically all dishes that are not particularly restrained or opulent. In addition to classics such as oysters and fish dishes, champagne tastes excellent with Italian antipasti, risotto or pasta. It also goes well with French haute cuisine, vegetarian and grilled dishes, from sausages and roast vegetables to beef and lamb. For the latter, it should be a Pinot Noir champagne, the base wine of which is best aged in barrique barrels. Champagne also cuts an excellent figure with good home cooking.