Last Saturday night found me sipping vintage champagne from the biggest bottle I have ever seen at a celebration dinner in the cellars of J Dumangin Fils on the Montagne de Reims. A Nebuchadnezzar holds the equivalent of twenty normal 75cl bottles and is not the easiest vessle to pour from. Indeed, a special metal contraption on wheels was used so that the bottle could be lifted sufficiently to fill the glasses of the gathered throng.
I had been invited by Gilles Dumangin and his wife Anne-Luce to join in their birthday celebrations and the ten year anniversary of their taking over the running of the family business. That afternoon, we had been treated to a tasting of Dumangin vintages going back to 1982 all of which had been disgorged some three weeks beforehand with a dosage of 4.4g of sugar to enable an easy comparison. I was struck by the strong, honeyed and sometimes sherry-like taste of some of the older Champagnes and my favourites were the 2002, which we were to drink again later as our ‘nebuchadnezzar’ aperitif and the big, bold and yeasty 1990.
I had travelled to Champagne with three good friends from Yapp Brothers, Dumangin’s UK stockist – Meirion Williams, Bianca Ford and Jonathan Hoad and great travel companions they were. We stayed in a B&B on another Champagne domaine, Trichet-Didier in nearby Les Trois Puits which suited our requirements down to the ground with lovely rooms, superb breakfasts and half a bottle of Champagne offered to parties of two.
Back at Dumangin that evening, a dinner of Champenois specialities was presented by renowned local Chef Thierry Landragin who heads the Restaurant de l’Abbaye in Hautvilliers. A magnum of Dumangin Grand Réserve accompanied our starter, a ‘buffet aromatisé aux spécialités Champenoises’ and the 2000 vintage was perfect with the delicious lobster and salmon main course. Salad and cheese dishes followed and we ended the meal with a plate of Champenois desserts having enjoyed Gilles’ rosé Champagne and Ratafia de Champagne (a regional vin de liqueur) along the way.
Gilles is a fifth generation Champagne producer and succeeded from his father, Jacky, in 2001. The Dumangin family’s tireless efforts to produce the best possible Champagne from their own grapes has been recognised by the prestigious French wine guide, Guide Hachette 2008, which awarded the Dumangin Grand Réserve a Coup de Cœur. In the UK, you can buy the Dumangin Champagnes at Yapp Brothers of Mere and I heartily recommend them to you.