All images are clickable and will open a larger format.
April and May has of course offered a good deal of Champagne due to Terre et vins de Champagne. But it’s also the coming of spring and now slowly summer, which adds even more Champagne and white wines. This is logical for most of us, but I recently noticed, while attending a tasting with US-reds, that I am increasingly very negative biased towards wine with strong alcohol profiles.
I have to be realistic about this and it seems kind of ridiculous to use this site to bash one after another of these types of wines. I simply don’t understand these wines anymore and should you be of another opinion you should probably look elsewhere for advice. Below are the wines I tasted during a US-tasting, which my very good friend Anders hosted. It should be noted; that I have tasted a fair amount of SQN wines and among those listed the SQN wines once again offered some sort of edge and allure, despite a violent strong and dense fruit core. I have even listed some Italian wines, which I also had a very hard time with. I don’t know if it’s appropriate to say that I feel worried, but thing is, I am getting more and more picky and wines that I use to love are now giving me a very hard time do a degree where I simply can’t drink them.
2004 Merryvale “Profile”, Napa Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon blend)
But let’s focus on some of the interesting wines I have tasted – especially my Champagne encounters have been magnificent.
2005 Vilmart “Grand cellier d’or”
Blend: 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir
It’s not always right to compare….I think I have said that right? Sometimes the diversity is more interesting. Well….let’s see if I can navigate through my own rules, because this is a tricky one. You see, this wine was a starter to what lead to a rather crazy night where 4 happy people shared a good deal of Champagnes. Anyway….a good starter which secured instant pleasure with it’s rather seductive nose of vanilla, walnuts and spices. However, when the next wine was poured it collapsed in comparison. Suddenly it was too sweet and almost vulgar. Still let’s remember it for really fair laid-back drinking Champagne. So what was the next wine?....well…read the next tasting note.
2004 David Léclapart “L’Artiste”
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Since the bell rang for an open window on the ’04 “L’Artiste” I have had it 3 times and I sense that I will soon have drunk them all. This Champagne is simply mind-blowing stuff. It’s like a razor blade of minerals and it’s enters with so much soil energy and purity that you are completely blown away. It’s like a crystallized bath of seashells, baby banana and green apples. There is not much else to say about this Champagne – it’s a small masterpiece.
(2002 David Léclapart “L’Apôtre”)
Other: L’Apôtre is a lieu-dit of La Pierre St-Martin with vines planted in 1946 and made only in oak.
(The neck of Billcart-Salmon)
1996 Billecart-Salmon “BdB”
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Damn!!!...It’s not there yet. Still very shy and it’s like the fruit is covered with a fine film of milk. It has some flowery stuff and sweet vanilla pastry thing going on, but really not more than that. I have to recommend another 5 years of cellaring.
Jacque Selosse “Rosé” (twice – but different disgorgement dates)
I have had this twice and the “normal bottle” – disgorged 2nd of February 2009 is with 7 g/l dosage and performed like it always does. It still fells like a big teddy bear – a real seductive breed, which I like, when I have it in companionship with food and friends (You can read a more detailed note here). The second bottle is the latest release and it’s disgorged the 26th of November 2010 and has only 2 g/l of dosage. The wines feels much more fragile now, if you can say that about Selosse. It’s saltier, slimmer and despite the flavours is still turning towards strawberry, apricot and Asian spices; it has so much better balance. It almost feels like the Champagne isn’t blended with so much red wine, but that is just an assumption from my side. Anyway it’s the best Selosse rosé I have tasted.
(1999 Selosse Vintage)
1999 Selosse Vintage
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Can you ask for more? Well maybe, but if we stay in Selosse own universe, this is close to perfection. Despite having tasted it twice, this is by far the most impressive ’99 I have had. It’s a volcano of Selosse with quince, clove, honey and evening perfume. These notes are normal for Selosse and the taste is also a full-blown dense, waxy – almost creamy mouth feel. A Champagne of such a profile could easily fall into a category of vulgarity, but it’s poised with an enormous energy, which drives this powerhouse of a Champagne into a seamless presentation. WOW!!!!!!!
NV Selosse “Contraste”
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir
Maybe one of the final releases of Contraste, as the back label already gives information about the upcoming split of the two vineyards in Aÿ and Ambonnay from 2004 vintage and forward. So maybe a bit sentimental or just the fact that I was sharing this bottle with Champagne loving friends, because it turned out to be the finest Contraste I had ever tasted. The notes are typical Selosse or maybe we should say typical Contraste, because it’s deep and sensual Pinot Noir, which flirts with walnuts in layers of honey. The most adorable aroma was however the note of orange blossoms which took the complexity and seductive appeal into a heavenly stage. I think I have one single bottle of Contraste left in my cellar – I cross my fingers it’s from the same disgorgement date. Magical.
(Old Krug Rosé)
NV Krug “Rosé”
Don’t ask me how I know it’s disgorged in 1980 – I don’t. My friend, who brought this bottle just, said it and the information might have been on the cork, because I couldn’t find anything on the bottle. Anyway – it makes good sense that it’s a really old bottle. It’s just on the verge of tilting over – fruit wise that is. However the funky tertiary aromas and a really vivid acidity had the ability to crank up the complexity and despite some emerging mould aromas on the nose, I overall really liked it.
2008 Jérôme Prévost La Closerie “Les Béguines”
Blend: 100% Pinot Meunier
Being served after Selosse (The 1999 vintage) is never funny. But! Someone has to do it and I chose a former student of him; Jérôme Prévost. This is the second time I have this promising 2008 vintage and I think you have to pinch yourself in arm when having this – it’s that good my friends. These spices are so sophisticated and they take shape of aromas, which are so complex and impossible to fit into normality. You can detect some black cherries and a wicked note of licorice, but it’s so subtle and refined. The taste is still very tight, but you already have this remarkable sleek texture. It will be interesting to follow this ’08, but I think we have potentially the best Les Béguines here (so far that is).
2004 Bérèche Instant "Le Cran" Vintage
Blend: 55% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier
I am not sure about the dosage in this bottle, as it was a sample, not the official release. However I suspect 4 g/l, like the official release of this Champagne.
Raphäel have really lifted his Champagnes into a level of weightlessness and lush fruit appeal, which brings them lots of allure. However, I have had my concerns about this Champagne – especially it’s level of vanilla from the oak as it joins forces with this level of dosage. However it’s like the balance point are correct and it’s typical Bérèche with adorable notes of apples, pineapple and baby banana.
(2004 "Le Chênes")
2004 George Laval “Le Chênes”
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
On Paper I shouldn’t have served this Champagne, as we already had too much to drink. However I am glad I did it, because we only drank 3 glasses so there was a good excuse for me to have some more Champagne the day after.
It’s an unbelievable Champagne with an orgy of passion fruits; mango, kiwi and overripe peaches. I have sometimes found the overripe element too much in Laval’s wines, as they get anchored with biodynamic notes of wet hay. But I have to admit he is a producer I have to pay more attention to. In this 2004 there is nothing overripe despite these notes are heading towards this passion fruit thing. This Champagne completely took me by surprise by showing such remarkable class and sleek elegance. It’s seriously one of the most exquisite 2004’s I have tasted.
2002 Bollinger “La Grande Année Rosé”
Blend: 62% Pinot Noir (6% red wine from a parcel in Aÿ ) and 38% Chardonnay.
After having spent a day with Cédric Bouchard, Benoît Tarlant and a quick stop @ Bérèche our last stop on this trip to Champagne was l'Assiette Champenoise, where we both stayed and had dinner at their ** Michelin restaurant. The food was rather good and probably the best place I have tried in Champagne. I missed a larger selection of grower Champagne on the rather expensive wine list, but it’s slowly coming I am being told. After so much grower Champagne I thought it could be fun to taste something from a big house producer and I was rather happy about my choice. Despite it’s holding a bit back (again a reserved 2002) it’s a solid good GA rosé. It’s classic Bollinger in terms of a sound concentrated style with deeper layers of red fruit. However Bollinger balances it out great with lighter breezes of flowery perfumes. At this stage I found the purity and definition lacking a bit behind in terms of what I had just tasted that day, but still it has lots of time ahead of it to stretch itself and gain more complexity.
There is seldom a month without my daily drinkers, which in most cases are Laherte “Brut Nature”, Laherte 2006 "Vigne d'Autrefois" (Much better on day 2…so cellar 2 years more), Tarlant Brut Zero (normal and Rosé….see a small video here) and the latest Benoît Lahaye Brut Nature (2008 base). All great and some enjoyed over 3 days and still showing remarkable freshness and delicious drinkability.
2007 Fanny Sabre “Mersault Charmes”
Mersault is known to be fat, oily and buttery and if you kick in a good deal of oak you get a combo, which I not always a fan of. But in the hands of Fanny Sabre – a woman (maybe that’s it), you suddenly have a Mersault, which is shining with remarkable clarity and poised elegance. Sure you have some buttery components, but it’s more in the line of toasted bread and some smoky subtle sensations. There are additional fruits from melon and apples, which has companionship of straw and hay and all in all it’s adding to the complexity of the wine. The taste is fine vertical line with ends in a slim vivid finale. Loved it.
2009 Julien Altaber “Bourgogne”
I don’t have much information about this producer, which is completely new to me. Apparently there is a link to Derain and him. He has worked there, but if he still does it – I don’t know? First impression from the nose what nothing more than a simple table wine. Notes of melon, smoke, flowers, citrus and straw and a taste, which ends far too warm with a dull, polished structure. At this level – only it’s purity it worth mentioning, as it falls into yet another rather boring “Chardonnay”. However!...It took a turn, after an hour or so and really firmed up and became far more delicate and it’s purity was penetrating trough the layers and suddenly it wasn’t just another Chardonnay. Sadly it didn’t loose its polished structure, which prevented a real acidity smack. Still an okay wine and very fair priced.
2004 Riesling Spätlese “Hermannshöhle”, Nahe, Germany
Lovely – light, fresh with honey and peach. Taste is very vertical and it’s drinking so well.
2006 Riesling GG “Hermannshöhle”, Nahe, Germany
Very strange wine. Blends in some botrytis, yet it also has a raw side with this fennel thing on the nose. It ends in a combination of snaps and acacia honey. Not good – even on day 2 and 3 it was still completely out of focus.
2005 Riesling Auslese “Hermannshöhle”, Nahe, Germany (0,375cl bottle – tasted twice)
First time in late April it was served in Zalto Universal and here it performed the best. It’s seriously one of the best and most exquisite dessert wines I have had in a while. So lush, ripe, and intense - yet so ballerina light. Amazing drinkable stuff.
(Like that label and the wine is good too)
2009 Vini Viti Vinci “Irancy”, Burgundy, France (100% Pinot Noir)
Well – looking at the label and tasting the wine got me in a good mood. The wine has a lovely instant and juicy red fruit appeal. Drinking incredible well at this stage and it could easily be one of those few reds I could consider drinking this summer.
2001 Poggio di Sotto “Il Decennale”, Tuscaly, Italy
This wine was dismissed by the DOGC as a Brunello di Montalcino due to a too light colour. Well, since the big fuss when it was released, it has actually gained some of its colour back. Brunello or not – it’s a beautiful wine, with a good deal of red fruit, refined spices and it’s a wine I loved for it’s tallness and delightful and intellectual style. Taste is solid Italian with clean, refreshing and fine tuned matching concentration to the package. Just a notch below Soldera’s Case Basse, but a great wine, with lots of cellar potential. Decanting is however required at this stage.
That’s what I remember….this might be the last post before the summer break, but I have a big Champagne tasting coming up tomorrow, so let’s see how much time I get.