Sunday, March 14, 2010

Champagne tasting @ Skål - 13th of March 2010

It’s always a pleasure when my local Champagne pusher put’s on a Champagne tasting. You get a lot of good insight and you get to compare. Comparing has its ups and downs. Of course when you are home and having a bottle of Champagne, you also do a comparing thing against your preference sheet. However on such a day, when it’s all in front of you and you can shift from one glass to another, it’s suddenly something else. You look for a winner and you look for a looser. This is not always right. It’s a much more hardcore way of judging, as you get into a mind game where you focus more on errors that you would normally do.

So please take these notes as snapshots, and you can be sure I will re-taste many of these wines in near future – home alone, with plenty of time to get “the right conclusion”. 6 out of the 19 wines where served blind. Almost all of the wines where picked directly from the shelves as the room temperature was 12 degrees.

About the photo’s. Yes sorry, they are not that great. I normally shoot around 125 pics during such an event, but I only took about 25 images this day. I tried to focus on the Champagnes. But I like the one with Mads – good atmosphere from the light which just touches half of his face.

Here we go:

NV Marie Courtin “Efflorescence”

Deep-layered fruit, with notes of dark bitter chocolate and a gentle spicy touch. But the wine is far from chocolate in profile. It’s indeed very focused and with air, a note of raspberry skin comes forward - bringing “brightness” and a solid fruity touch to the wine. It has exceptional balance and it’s a killer QPR. Very good start.

2006 Roses de Jeanne (Cédric Bouchard), Les Ursules

I love this Champagne and I simply just adore the style of this producer. Even without any dosage it has a very seductive approach with ripe vivid fruit impressions, but amazingly sleek in profile. It’s slowly starting to loose it’s shy layers from release and notes of almonds are coming forward. Almost candy like, without the sweetness at any point taking focus. The Pinot character is certainly also there, with smoke of black raspberry and a lot of currant in the aftertaste. Stunning stuff.

2005 Roses de Jeanne (Cédric Bouchard), Les Ursules
Served blind

Totally different. No way near as appealing to the 2006 vintage. It’s much more a wine of mystique, where you don’t get the same fruit kick and instant pleasure. Playing more on secondary nuances of brownish apples, dust and black cherry spices. Even though everyone around the table preferred 2006 – the 2005 has improved with cellaring. Give it another year or so.

(Our host; Mads Rudolf)

2006 Bérèche Instant Rosé No 1

Have really looked forward to taste this again and sort of getting confirmation on my first encounter with this cuvée, which I found absolutely wonderful. Once again staggering stuff. Again it's a simple rosé - meaning, easy understandable raspberry/strawberry flavors, but it's so understated, so linear, so fragile and it simple just hits my preferences on how I like a rosé Champagne to be. With air, notes of currant, apricot and smoke appears - all wrapped extremely gentle and classy. Loved it.

2007 Jerome Prévost "La Closerie Fac-Simile Rosé"

A macerated (8 hours) Champagne and a bit more rustic in its character compared to Bérèche. As explained in the intro, this is a situation where you search for errors, as it immediately is clear that you didn't like is as much as glass rival; Instant Rosé No 1 from Bérèche. It's hard for me to describe what exact note sticks out, but some element is disturbing. It has more salty red fruits (cherries and apricot) than Bérèche. The body is also larger - spicier and again rustic. When I first tasted this wine at home, the 2 last glasses was by far the best, where it started to evolved oxidized notes, but also quince and just obtained better balance. I am rather confident that within 1-2 years, this will be a very different bottle of Champagne. So cellar please.

2005 David Léclapart "Alchimiste Rosé"

I don't mind a challenge, but this rosé Champagne is too much for me. I can't help to always have in my mind the outcome of a tasting where we tasted it in vintage 2001 and how much cellaring benefitted this Champagne. But if to judge the Champagne in front of me, it's not good. The nose is bizarre - holding notes of cheese, cranberry, sherry and rusty iron. The style is aggressive and with an almost tannic profile, it's tough Champagne to drink and like. I wonder if in 10-15 years time, this Champagne is one of the finest rosé around and I will seriously regret that I don't have any of them in my cellar? (Alchimiste is macerated for 24 hours)

2004 Benoît Lahaye Millesime

Any Champagne served next in line to Alchimiste will be like a fresh breeze. This was no exception. Delicious and juicy, with sweet flowers and cookie scents. Maybe a bit sweet on the finish line and not holding that much complexity - but thumps up for it's immediate killer pleasing style. As my wife said “A good Champagne to drink if getting really drunk” – why even bother writing a tasting note – priceless.

2004 David Léclapart "L'Amateur"
Served blind

Talk about fresh - like your tongue is stuck on an iceberg, but at the same time with extremely energetic flow from the glass; seawater, cold iron and of course linked to the extremely high level of minerals. Still young, but drinking so well at this stage. Impressive stuff for the entry wine of David Léclapart - Bravo. 2004 is gone here in Denmark – I suggest buying the 2006 vintage, should be at the same level, if not better.

(My wife, Signe - also participated in the tasting)

2004 Larmandier-Bernier , VV de Cramant

There is nothing wrong with this wine - in fact it's good Champagne. I find myself on the same path of fixating too much on things you didn't like. So just keep that in mind. The nose is classic in a sense of flowery and apple scented spectrum. It's juicy with ripe and almost mature fruits. But maybe this easy understandable style is what prevents if from being razor sharp in tallness and attitude. I found the overall impression leaning too much towards a polished style. But I should praise for its sound and appealing drinking pleasure, despite the lack of magic dust.

2004 Agrapart, "Minéral"

Now, I have already heard whispers about Pascal Agrapart being very satisfied with his 2004's. Oh yes - I think the rumors are correct. Singing from the glass, with bright juicy fruit, apples, pears, flowery, mineral infected and just damned pleasing to the palate and mind. What an entry level of a wine.

2004 Agrapart , "Avizoise"

Even better than Minéral. "More of everything" as one taster remarked, but the fruit is even juicier, brighter and the energy is just better. But it also holds pockets of luxurious fruit, such as; peaches and pineapples - which didn't exactly hurt the mouth coating appeal. Impossible to resist at this stage and it’s a must for the all Champagne lovers.

2004 Agrapart "Venus"

When the warm-up to "Venus" had been like this, I much say I had pretty high expectations. I wasn't disappointed. Incredible Champagne - with edges of diamond cut precision and there is absolutely no fuss whatsoever here. Purity is on a scale of its own, handling high level of chalky flavors at a breathtaking focus. The scale of fruit is not as approachable as "Minéral" and "Avizoise" - but deeper founded and highly complex. When you taste it you get a sensational pure and chalky finish and as our host told us, it's like a small film of chalky dust on the tongue. What an accomplishment - the star of the tasting was found. There is 1.700 bottles available of this cuvée - I suggest you start the search now.

NV Krug Grande Cuveée
Served blind

This Champagne was deliberately served colder than all others - in order to hide the higher dosage. Unfortunately (or maybe not) our host forgot in the fridge, so I reckon it was served around 6 degrees cold, where he had planned it to be served somewhere around 9-10 degrees. Anyway it was ravishing delicious - fresh, toasted, vanilla, honey, citrus some nutty flavors and basically just classic. A big pleaser and I don't think anyone didn't like it. However with warmth, some concerns came forward. I - and others detected a note of sulfur. It's not on a level where it ruins the wine, but enough for it (with higher temperature) to loose a lot of life. Compared to Venus, which I tested it against after the tasting, it had no chance at all. And it's not at all complex - what you see is what you get. But again I would like to stress out this hardcore way of judging and concluding on such a day. Its' indeed a nice bottle of Champagne, but I found it to lack a lot, if going into magic section

1989/1990 Leclerc-Briant “Les Chévres Pierreuses”
Served blind

This Champagne was WACK!!!! I think the conclusion went in the direction of being over the hill. The nose consists of; burned honey, malt/beer flavors, fireworks and sawmill. Taste is simply just unpleasant. Water please.

2000 André Beaufort Millesime
Served blind

Ketchup (was it Heinz?). Have you ever been to a tasting where one (or maybe you) detects a note in the wine and suddenly that note is the only thing you can smell? This was such a situation. Ketchup – nothing else. My brain didn’t work beyond the ketchup barrier. However on the palate, it’s not ketchup, but a rather strained high level of sweetness. But for some odd reason – I agreed on this Champagne possessing rather good freshness - better than Krug and Leclerc Briant. However, still controversial stuff

2004 George Laval Hautes Chèvres

The next Champagne divided the table – or should I say, some didn’t agree with my observations. I see some fruit exoticness from this producer. The fruit is very velvety – creamy if you like. In this Champagne I found pineapple, which I later adjusted to mango. Also very flowery and notes of popcorn came to my mind. On the palate it’s firmer – with chalky expression on the finish line –still very young. I think the depth of these Champagnes sometimes stuns you and what actually causes me to think of them being velvety, creamy and exotic. Still brilliant Champagne, but maybe in this line-up, I missed some tallness.

2004 George Laval, Les Chênes

Feels too young, as it doesn’t stretch itself completely on the palate. The nose has promising features of these almost overripe fruit sensations, where notes of mango, flowers and honey are present.

2002 George Laval, Les Chênes

I didn’t write any notes on this, other than “nice nice nice”. Having just tasted it, I can only confirm my TN (you can see it here)

NV (2002 base) George Laval, Brut Nature Cumiéres (Magnum)
Served blind

The last wine of the tasting is usually the one you don’t bother writing any notes. Just relax. However, this Champagne was impossible to resist. Maybe it was the magnum format, but it seemed this Champagne has an energy-gear like no other, with a silky, tickly vibrant fruit core – loaded with spices, cherries and currant. Champagne and magnum is the perfect marriage….think I have said that before – but it’s true.

Then all the bottles were put on the table with bread, cheese and sausage.



Anonymous said...

And if you hadn't left early, it would have been 23 and a few reds. Luckily you don't get hangovers by drinking biodynamic wines. Or..

Thomas said...


Tell me more, please.

Biodynamic wines don't bring hangovers, just mornings where you are quit sure, the day before was more fun.

....The report is almost finished. Just some final details are missing and some image b&w conversion



Dan Samsøe said...

nice report & great pictures :-)
especially the glass picture and Signe of course

Anonymous said...

Great write-up once again, Thomas. Did you bring the Ribolla glasses yourself, or have you convinced Mads to buy some?


Thomas said...

Thank you, guys.

Yes yes...the geek brought his own glasses.



Morten said...

Hi Thomas,

Thanks for a (as always) really thorough and great report. I had actually promised myself to go to the next Champagne tasting @ SKÅL, but unfortunately I had made other plans!

Do you know if the Bereche Rosé is sold out? I only have one bottle, but could use a few more of this baby :)


Thomas said...

Hi Morten,

Thank you.

Sorry for late answer – just returned from a small trip to Paris.

Could have been great to see you – maybe next time.

I am not sure if the Rosé is sold out yet – but there is certainly not many left I am sure.


Morten said...

Hi Thomas,

No probs - hope you had a nice trip - could imagine Paris is very nice at this time of the year!
I called Mads and actually they still have a some left of this beauty, which is beyond my understanding! :-)

But from your notes it sounds as if there are a lot of other stuff that's worth exploring!


Jiles Halling said...

Nice article and it must have been a even nicer tasting occasion.

Next time you or your fellow champagne fans are in Champagne lease come and visit.

My wife an I have a Bed & Breakfast in the village of Verzy and I also have my own champagne web site and blog

Meanwhile it would be great to swop ideas about champagne

Jiles Halling