Champagne Castelnau, the substantial Rheims-based cooperative which produces 9m bottles a year, has just had a brand-refresh. The new, clean, attractive labels have been updated. The refresh is intended to take the brand forward in the competitive market of the second decade of this century. Here is the old and the new:The new design is very attractive but the best thing of all is that the quality of the wines remains unchanged. The company has high standards and will take this forward: a high proportion of Chardonnay in the blend (40%, sourced in the Montagne de Reims and so a bitter riper and fuller), 20% of reserve wines and a remarkable six years on the lees for the Brut Reserve and even longer for the vintage wines.
For the London launch, we were treated a full tasting of the range including some old vintages. The stars of this show for me were the Brut Reserve which balances freshness with the aforementioned toasty six years on the lees very well and, at the other end of the scale, the great 1990 served in magnum. Some of the intervening vintages – 2003, 2000, to a lesser extent the 1999 – I found a bit tough with an emphasis on development, rather than fruit. But I loved the fresh and candied lemon of the 1990, long and savoury while retaining Chardonnay’s leanness. Also very good was the new prestige cuvée: Hors Categorie, a multi-vintage blend with a fine, focused, intensity and green apple and toasty notes. While the labels may have been updated, the wines continue to perform splendidly.