Peter Ranscombe toasts the return of Champagne Pommery to the Fringe with a laser show at The Signet Library.
I HAVE very fond memories of lasers – they were a big part of my course as a physics student at St Andrews – but I’d never associated them with drinking wine… until last night.
The Champagne Pommery bar returns to The Signet Library in Parliament Square for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and this year the venue is also playing host to “Stillness at 136.1Hz”, an audio-visual art installation created by Chris Levine, the artist behind portraits ranging from the Queen and the Dalai Lama to Beyoncé and Kate Moss.
As guests sit at their long tables, beams of light travel from one end of the room to the other, rotating through a series of colours, with the odd sin or cosine wave appearing above the entrance every now and again, while at other times spots of light patrol across the walls.
Although the accompanying hum of noise didn’t hit the spot for me, the sparkling wines being served by bar operator Heritage Portfolio impressed.
I openly admit that I have a blind spot when it comes to some of the big Champagne house brands – reaching instead for trendier “grower” Champagnes made by smaller producers – and so it was great to have the chance to try Pommery’s “seasonal” range.
Instead of sticking to traditional labelling terms – like “brut” and “blanc de blanc”, which, let’s face it, probably don’t mean a huge amount to many consumers anyway – the company markets the four sparkling wines with the names of the seasons.
Springtime (£14 a glass, £69 a bottle) is the brut rosé – or dry pink – wine in the range and was packed full of strawberry, raspberry and red cherry aromas on the nose, with the ripe strawberry flavours on the palate being joined by sweet golden delicious and royal gala apples.
Its rich fruit flavours and twist of off-dry sweetness created an ideal balance with the crisp acidity and the whole package was a great match for the cold meat on the sharing platters.
The Champagne’s acidity was much more pronounced in the Summertime (£14 a glass, £72 a bottle), with the peach and apricot on the nose leading into pear and red apple on the palate, with some bready notes on the finish.
The acidity in the summer selection – a “blanc de blanc” made from just white chardonnay grapes – and its lighter feeling in the mouth would make it a great aperitif.
The Falltime (£14 a glass, £69 a bottle) – a nod to the American market, I suspect, or perhaps “Autumntime” just didn’t have the same ring to it – was a very different style, with much richer and rounder toast, caramel and biscuit aromas and flavours dominating the peach and red apple notes.
Its much more savoury style meant that it paired really well with the sharing platters and I can picture its extra-dry blanc de blanc characteristics working especially nicely with some salted nuts too.
The “blanc de noir” or Winterime (£14 a glass, £69 a bottle), made from pinot noir and pinot meunier red grapes, marked a return to the fruiter flavours on the nose, with red apple, strawberry and raspberry.
On the palate, those fruit flavours were much fresher, with apricot scooting in to join the red and green apples.
What marked out all four of the seasonal Champagnes for me was the intensity of the fruit flavours, especially on the nose – I sometimes find big brand sparkling wines a bit dull, but these aromas were expressive and inviting.
After tasting a flight of the seasonal sparklers, it was great to return to the Champagne Pommery Brut Royal (£10 a glass, £59 a bottle, £120 a magnum), the more familiar cuvee or blend, made from 35% chardonnay, 35% pinot noir and 30% pinot meunier.
With toast and golden delicious apple on the nose and then crisper lemon and granny smith apple on the palate, it felt fresh and lively, with a rounder buttery note on the finish.
Guests can also opt for the Pommery Champagne Experience (£49), which consists of four, 50ml glasses, one of each season, followed by a 125ml glass of the guest’s favourite. Find out more about Stillness at 136.1Hz at www.stillnessom.com