Wine of the Week

Geoffroy Expression Brut Premier Cru NV

Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy with his daughter Sacha at Taste Champagne London last month

As Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy reminded me last month, while introducing me to his daughter Sacha, I first visited him in the early 1990s just after he started out on his own. He was one of a small band of quality minded independent growers I discovered on my first few visits to Champagne – all of whom I still greatly admire — a group which included Pierre Larmandier, Didier Gimonnet, Jérôme Prévost plus Philippe and Elizabeth Chartogne-Taillet (whose son Alexandre now runs things).

Fast forward some three decades and the family winery is now in spacious premises with an attractive house adjoining, on the north side of the grand cru village of Aÿ where they moved in 2008 and the Geoffroy wines have evolved considerably. Back then the business was based in Cumières, where most of their 14 hectares of vineyards are still located (the others being nearby in the adjacent crus of Hautvillers, Damery and Fleury-la-Rivière).

Expression where black fruit dominates

Three quarters of their holdings are planted with black grapes – this is essentially Pinot Noir and Meunier territory – and this particular cuvée is a blend of 50% Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir, plus just a splash of Chardonnay (10%). As Jean-Baptiste reminds me, it’s always a blend of two harvests, in this case 2013 and 2014. Some of the 2013 reserve wine is kept in large oak casks. It was disgorged in July 2018, so that’s nearly four years lees ageing (of the youngest component) and close on 12 months on the cork, post-disgorgement. Few, even top, big name houses manage that.

The back label gives details of the assemblage, precise blend and disgorgement date in keeping with the best practise in Champagne

What immediately strikes me is a lovely mouth-watering, apple fruit freshness, plus good texture on the mid palate. It’s very moreish and not quite Extra Brut in style at 8gm/l dosage, though the wine doesn’t go through malolactic fermentation which certainly helps retain its zip. It’s not however austere, but rather a rich, characterful, distinctive wine made by someone with a passion for his craft.

Armit Wines: Price £32.12 a bottle, £192.64 per six bottle case www.armitwines.co.uk

Waitrose still boasts one of the best Champagne ranges in the High Street

While the Waitrose Blanc de Noirs, currently our ‘wine of the week’, is no longer on offer, with Father’s Day fast approaching there are still a couple of other champagnes on a deal that are drinking really well and represent great value.

The Waitrose Brut Vintage 2007 (the ‘05 preceded it), which has been the grocer’s vintage champagne offering for well over a year now, is at or near its apogee. It’s a rich, generous style with a majority of Chardonnay in the blend (52%) plus Pinot Noir (42%) and a smidgeon of Meunier (6%) that’s made for Waitrose by the CRVC co-op in Reims where the excellent Castelnau wines are produced.

The winemaker there is the very experienced Elizabeth Sarcelet, who has worked in the winemaking team she now heads since 1985. Previously tasted in October 2018 when it was already showing ripe peachy fruit plus a quite luscious, fleshy mid-palate, it’s a very decent example of seductively mature vintage champagne that’s now showing a distinctive toasty note on the finish. Down £4 from £25.99 to £21.99 until next Tuesday, 18 June.

Contrasting styles from the Côte des Blancs Grands Crus

The style of the Duval-Leroy Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs is quite a contrast, although partial oak ageing for nine months rounds out some of the fresh acidity you’d expect from an all Chardonnay fizz entirely sourced from six Côte des Blancs Grand Crus: Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Avize, Cramant, Chouilly and Oiry, this is still a wine that could happily be cellared further. The oak also adds a spicy element and more texture to the mid-palate. An all grand-cru Chardonnay from a bigger name would set you back considerably more than the usual price tag of £39.99 and until 18 June its £10 off at just £29.99.

However, if I was out to really impress a wine loving father with a top-quality champagne retailing for under £40, on the extensive Waitrose fizz list, for me it would have be Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 2012. Made by the modest but talented winemaker Gilles Marguet, at the small co-op located in the centre of this celebrated village, this is a wine you could put away in a good cellar for a decade easily. I have a magnum of the 1988 vintage in my own cellar and I’m not at all worried it’s already had over three decades ageing on the cork. I regularly buy its NV brother – Berry Bros & Rudd Blanc de Blancs by Le Mesnil priced at £33 – and for just £2 more at Waitrose you are getting a noticeable step up in concentration and richness, from what’s likely to be seen as one of the best two vintages of the current decade (it may be challenged by 2018 some suggest).

Wine of the Week

Waitrose Blanc de Noirs Brut NV

A 100% Pinot Noir based Blanc de Noirs all based on the 2014 harvest

Back on great form this succulent, apple tarte tatin fizz is simply a delightfully moreish drink. Made for Waitrose by Alexandre Bonnet which is based in Les Riceys, the largest single cru in the Champagne appellation, it shows how good Pinot Noir from the Côte des Bars can be — for those that didn’t already know and haven’t tasted such excellent examples as those made in this southernmost part of Champagne by the likes of Michel Drappier, Serge Mathieu, Fleury and Devaux, to name but four.

This 100% Pinot Noir Blanc de Noirs is all based on the 2014 harvest, and the mellowness and savoury notes from this extra lees ageing — time in the bottle that’s usually only given to vintage champagne — show to good effect. A great gift for Fathers’ Day next Sunday or any other day for that matter and you can buy it currently for under £20 a bottle.
Waitrose Blanc de Noirs down from £22.99 to £18.39.

Demarville to leave Clicquot and join Laurent-Perrier as cellar master

Dominique Demarville

Veuve Clicquot cellar master Dominique Demarville is leaving the company at the end of the year to take up the position as chef de cave at Laurent-Perrier. Recruited to replace him at Clicquot by the retiring cellar master Jacques Peters back in 2006, Demarville has apparently again been sought out by the soon to retire incumbent chef de cave at Laurent-Perrier, Michel Fauconnet, planning his succession. Fauconnet is 67 this year and has worked at Laurent-Perrier since 1973.

This news about one of the highest profile winemakers in the whole of Champagne, comes from the reliably well informed website of Sophie Claeys. It was Claeys who was first with the Continue reading “Demarville to leave Clicquot and join Laurent-Perrier as cellar master”

Dom Pérignon launches 2002 P2

Dom Pérignon 2002 P2 and the original release

Bruno Paillard, who has long championed the use of disgorgement dates on his own champagnes, and those of the brands in the wider BCC group, has an anecdote he is fond of bringing up to emphasize the importance of post-disgorgement ageing. He feels the more venerable the wine, the longer it needs to recover from the shock of disgorgement. In much the same way as an older person is likely to take longer to recover from a serious operation than a younger one. It makes sense. Champagne is unlikely to perform at its best Continue reading “Dom Pérignon launches 2002 P2”

Champagne shipments fall as exports overtake French domestic consumption in 2018

Worldwide Champagne shipments dropped by 1.8% in 2018, falling some 5,523,085 bottles from 307,379,350 to 301,856,265. This is the lowest level since 2009, when the market suffered a significant fall in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis dropping to 293.3m bottles, and close to the level in 2004 of 301.4m bottles, though at Continue reading “Champagne shipments fall as exports overtake French domestic consumption in 2018”

Ten pink champagnes to delight (and fit different budgets)

Pink champagne ticks all the boxes. It looks great in the glass, it is softer and often more generously fruity than white champagne, making it more approachable for those that dislike champagne’s inherent acidity. It elevates an ordinary occasion into something special. And many feel that, when it comes to Valentine’s Day, it’s a must.

Pink champagnes tend to be more expensive than their white counterparts, sometimes, and notably in the case of a handful of prestige cuvées, Continue reading “Ten pink champagnes to delight (and fit different budgets)”