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”
Franck Bonville Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Avize
I’ve been to see Olivier Bonville, the winemaker at Franck Bonville in Avize several times over the course of many years. While I’ve always liked his wines, I hadn’t come across them recently. But a good friend produced a bottle of Avize Grand Cru Blancs de Blancs as a delightful prelude to Sunday lunch, the other day. I was so impressed Continue reading “Revisiting an old favourite”
Vincent Chaperon, right hand man of Dom Pérignon chef de cave Richard Geoffroy, was in London earlier this month to launch the P2 version of Dom Pérignon 2000. Interestingly, he also bought along the original 2000 release aged on the cork since its disgorgement several years ago in 2007. We went along to see him and asked him to talk us through the quite considerable difference in tasting profile the same wine has when it gets a decade and a half of lees ageing.
See the interview video:
Too few restaurants offer a decent selection of half bottles on their wine lists, though the trend towards listing a number of wines served in 25 and 50cl carafes, now seen in many more casual dining establishments, is to be applauded. Half bottles of champagne are particularly handy, especially if there’s two of you and you plan to have some wine too. Just a glass of good fizz is rarely enough.
While quite a few champagne houses now seem reluctant to produce half bottles, citing quality issues and the fact that they mature more quickly, I see that (speed of development) as an advantage in certain instances. A half bottle of Krug is a welcome Continue reading “In praise of half bottles’ faster maturing”
Over the years I’ve come to like the champagnes made by Gosset more and more. As Didier Gimonnet said to me on a recent visit to Cuis, producers should be judged on the quality of their whole range, not merely on one super-charged cuvée that they produce in minute quantities, as he suggested some commentators are apt to do. But as with the excellent Gimonnet wines, I’d be very happy drinking any Gosset champagnes, Continue reading “Gosset Celebris tasting: 1988 to 2004”
Because of strong demand, the deal on Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2006 at Majestic due to run until 9 May has ended prematurely. The best prices for this serious, vintage champagne are now £35 at Morrisons and £39 at ASDA.
Although it was not officially launched until May 2014, I first tasted Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2006 on 23 January in 2014 with winemaker Benoît Gouez. He described it as “a very attractive, ample vintage that’s more open than 2004”. The blend is made up of 42% Chardonnay, 39% Pinot Noir and 19% Pinot Meunier. The Meunier is to bring the freshness to the blend normally delivered by the Chardonnay which Gouez says in ’06 were “ripe and Burgundy like in style”.
When first tasted over two years ago, it was already showing attractively, Continue reading “Moët Grand Vintage 2006”
With Waitrose 25% off all six bottle purchases of wines and champagne running for a further four days, it’s a good time to take a quick look at the champagnes they showed at last month’s tasting to pick out the best deals. As I have mentioned in the latest retail offers page, these are mainly on the wines that don’t usually get discounted by this much and are regularly well priced, namely the Own Label champagnes.
Of these the stand out wine on tasting last month was the Waitrose Blanc de Blancs Brut NV which is supplied by Maison Burtin — part of the BCC group, the largest in Champagne after LVMH, that also owns Lanson and Philipponnat among other brands. This was showing very attractively with some peppery, spicy notes and a distinctive biscuity textural complexity in the mid-palate which many big name brands would be happy to boast of. Buy six bottles and the price comes down from an affordable £24.99 to a bargain £18.74.
The other wine I’d stock up is the Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 2007 vintage, down from £33.99 a bottle to £25.49. I thought it was the non-vintage blend of this wine, still very good indeed which I tasted last week at a brilliant Berry Bros & Rudd ‘Artisans Champagne’ tasting (of which more shortly). But in fact Waitrose no longer sell the non-vintage cuvée this is an all Grand Cru vintage cuvée and an even better buy. One reader has already pointed this out to me, buying some last week when sadly the discount was a little smaller, but hopefully he will still be happy with the quality in the bottle. (I’m opening a bottle of the Le Mesnil 2004 in a minute to remind myself how delicious this wine gets with more age).
I also notice that on the groceries website (waitrose.com) Heidsieck Heritage which is made by P&C Heidsieck and was very decent the last time I tasted it (it wasn’t shown at the May tasting), is just £17.99 so this would come down under the 25% off deal to just £12.49 which makes it a pretty good buy for a party.
In praise of magnums
Waitrose champagne buyer Ken McKay told me that under their recent full review of sparkling wine and champagne they have delisted some champagnes in order to increase the range of sparkling wines, but at the same time, because magnums have been selling well, they have increased the range of larger formats they are offering from the start of June and they had five different champagnes in magnum at the tasting. They were Lanson Black Label (£67.99), Laurent-Perrier (£77.99), Pol Roger £77.99), Louis Roederer Brut Premier (£84.99) and Bollinger Special Cuvée (£89.99).
These all showed well, except for the Pol Roger which was curious subdued – in my experience magnums of champagne nearly always taste better than bottles of the same wine, sometime significantly so. Speaking to James Simpson MD of Pol Roger at the London Wine Fair this may be explained by the relatively recent disgorgement of this wine and I note that is doesn’t appear on the Waitrose list yet, so perhaps they have decided to hold it back a couple of months, by which time it should have recovered from the shock of disgorgement.
Helpfully Lanson actually put the date of disgorgement on the magnum — in this case June 2014 – so you can make a judgement about when to drink it. Given the already fresh, crisp Lanson style, I’d keep it until Christmas, by when it will have mellowed further. Of the other three, Laurent-Perrier, a good all round aperitif style that’s light and refreshing, will be on offer from 24 June, so I’d wait until then if you want to buy some. The Bollinger Special Cuvée, which usually really shines in magnum, is not quite mature enough but already good. The star of the quintet is the Louis Roederer Brut Premier, very good in bottle the last few times I have tasted it this year, in magnum it is even better, deliciously lively, spicy, complex, with a long long finish. This too will be at a great price from 24 June if you can bear to wait that long to try it. Sadly magnums are not included in the present 25% off deal.
There are two ways you can shop this offer at Waitrose online by going to www.waitrosecellar.com to buy by the six bottle case or through the grocery channel at www.waitrose.com There are 61 champagne options in waitrosecellar.com and 41 through the grocery channel, but more magnums on the former site.
My tweets about Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve and how not many other non-vintage champagnes can boast eight years bottle age seems to have aroused quite a lot of comment and interest. The current cuvée of this wine was put in the Charles Heidsieck cellars in 2008, the back label tells anyone who cares to read it, revealing the wine itself is based on 2007 harvest in Champagne. Is also tells us when the wine was disgorged, in this case 2014. There is a plan, I am told, to move towards pinning down the disgorgement date a little more, as Charles used to do when this wine was known as ‘Mis en Cave’, which would be helpful, especially when the disgorgement is relatively recent. For drinking now there is quite a difference between something disgorged in December or January 2014.
A few days later I found myself having lunch in Koffmanns enjoying a bottle of Philipponnat Brut Réserve where the back label informs the drinker of the exact composition of the wine by grape variety; the year of the harvest base; the % of reserve wine in the blend, the dosage (8gm/l) and the month and year of disgorgement – as you ask this was May 2013, so the wine had benefitted, and I use the word advisedly, from around 20 months ageing on the cork after disgorgement. Why can’t all serious champagne producers do that?
Devaux champagnes, which those trying the current Charles Heidsieck range could also have tasted at the recent Liberty Wines event, are trying another approach and giving an age statement on their new labels. Thus the Cuvée D, their premium non-vintage style where the relatively large amount of reserve wine used is partly aged in old oak barrels, has a band around the bottle neck saying ‘5 years’. That’s the minimum amount of time this wine — on impressive form with some character and complexity that only time will bring – ages on its lees. This brand is produced by the go-ahead Côte des Bar, Union Auboise co-operative (so clearly such a strategy has support from within the négoce and the co-ops, not just grower producers).
Another recent weekend tasting treat was the satisfyingly rich and savoury Benoît Marguez 2006 Blanc de Blancs from Ambonnay. Again this helpfully had both the month and year the wine was cellared (July 2007) and the disgorgement date, spring 2012.
The Champenois are, we are told, trying to introduce some simple reforms to the appellation to increase the minimum amount of time a wine must be kept before it is sold both before (when ageing on its lees) and after disgorgement. These proposed changes are being discussed as part of the 2030 review and while it now looks like there will be some delay before any such meaningful changes are going to be introduced, there is still hope that they will be. This may not be in the interests of the producers geared up to provide European markets with cheap champagne — these are no doubt the producers objecting to the proposed changes — much of which is not worthy of the name, but it certainly is in the long term interests of the region as a whole.
Happily there are already a number of enterprising producers showing the way ahead and it is to be hoped that their numbers will be swelled by the many who adopt such good production practices but don’t necessarily shout about it, further isolating those that cut corners.
Lanson Gold Label 2002 v 2004
Inspired partly by the Tesco ‘Co-buy deal’ (still about 4 hours to go on this as I write, see http://www.buyapowa.com/deal/2790 and order before 6pm today ) on Lanson Gold Label 2002 we opened a bottle of this impressive example of the top class 2002 vintage for our Fizzy Friday tipple this weekend. The bottle I had in my cellar was disgorged in March 2011, it helpfully says on the back label (see picture below) – Lanson is the first of the major houses in Champagne to do this on all the wines in its range – so while I personally am trying to keep back as many ‘02 vintages as I can for several years yet, three years post-disgorgement age give this wine every chance to shine now.
And shine it did. The first thing to note about Lanson vintage is that the grapes for it are impeccably sourced. Only five Grands Crus – the highest rated vineyards in Champagne – are used, with the 47% Chardonnay in the blend coming from Cramant and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the Côte des Blancs, while Pinot Noir grown in Aÿ, Louvois Verzy and Verzenay accounts for the remaining 53%. This combination gives impressive initial clarity and freshness allied to a richness, concentration and power in the mid-palate. Returned to the next day it had opened up with pronounced toasty smoky notes, ripe quince fruit and an attractive palate intensity that suggests it has a long future ahead of it.
Scouting for bargains on ASDA’s website a couple of days ago I noticed that they are offering the current 2004 Lanson Gold Label vintage at £30 a bottle if you buy a case, down from the regular price of £40 and matching the best price that can be reached under the Tesco ‘co-buy deal’ if another 20-odd buyers sign up for it.
Time to get the 2004 Lanson out of the cellar to try the two side-by-side. The blend in this case is pretty much the same, 48% Chardonnay set against 52% Pinot Noir, but this time the white grapes are also sourced in Avize and Oger (two other Côte des Blancs Grands Crus), while Pinot from Bouzy is used instead of Louvois, but the backbone remains Aÿ, Verzy and Verzenay. The biggest difference is one of vintage with the ripe, high quality Chardonnay from ’04 giving this wine a luscious creamy texture that makes it very moreish drinking now, despite two years less ageing and in the case of the wine from my cellar, only a year’s post-disgorgement age.
People generally don’t realise how good Lanson’s vintage champagnes are but anyone tasting either of these two should start to get the message. Buy them while the price is so attractive, you won’t be disappointed. Either wine can be cellared further too.
The 2004 Gold Label is on offer at Sainsbury’s for £31.35 if you buy six bottles or more from 30 April
Ruinart has in fact already begun putting disgorgement dates on its vintage wines, starting with the 2004*vintage released in 2009, Frédéric Panaiotis confirmed at the recent launch of Dom Ruinart 2002. “I wanted to introduce disgorgement dates at Ruinart when I first came here [from Veuve Clicquot] five years ago,” he told me, “but only for Dom Ruinart and the vintage wines, it’s too complicated to manage for the non-vintage.
“We started with the back label of the vintage 2004. We only have two different back labels for vintage and it’s released in two batches so it’s easier to do. Dom Ruinart is released in four batches with 25 different back labels so it’s very difficult to manage but we are going to do it soon, giving the month and year of disgorgement.”
Veuve Clicquot is also moving in this direction and plans to go further, eventually putting the date of disgorgement even on its non-vintage Yellow Label, or at least supplying this information via its website or a QR code on the bottle. Cyril Brun from the winemaking team at Clicquot says at present they give both the date of disgorgement and the dosage, but only for the Cave Privée range [re-releases of older vintages]. But he confirms: “We are currently working on extending this step by step to the rest of the range.”
These moves from LVMH owned brands follow the decision at Krug to make this detail available for all the wines in their entire range (except Krug Collection) bottled since July 2011 via a unique ID code on the bottles you can look up on the Krug website.
*We don’t officially see Ruinart straight vintage wines in the UK, because the marketing people at Moët Hennessy have decided to concentrate on promoting Ruinart Blanc de Blancs and rosé NV styles that are positioned at a slight price premium to vintage and being cheaper to produce (they are not aged for nearly the same length of time) are more profitable. But you could in fact find them in the UK at Nicolas shops until very recently (priced at £62.99 vs the Rosé and Blanc de Blancs price of £63.50) as the chain made all its champagne purchases in France.