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(Notebook are ready - hit me)
Saturday the 11th of June I had the pleasure to thrown my wine club a decent tasting. We had the whole day @ Søllerød Kro, which is almost like coming home for most of my guests and me. It’s with pleasure, I repeat myself when I say how well Søllerød Kro once again performed and how restaurant manager Jan Restorff, like no other, can be the perfect host.
The tasting was divvied in two simple sessions. First a lunch serving with 21 bottles of Champagne…just to clean the taste buds ;-). The first session was also an attempt to conduct a concentrated blind tasting, which is not always easy with these guys, as they just want to relax and have fun. The blind guessing was there to eliminate people’s prejudices about old vs new and the increasing debate about dosage or the lack of it. I think it worked well and it was fun to see how the level of dosage was a subject in flight 1 & 2 and then no one really paid attention to it.
In the second session for the dinner, I wanted us to relax, so after the lunch serving and a 45-minute stroll in the beautiful surroundings, I revealed the line-up for the dinner.
It turned out my guest thought we were short on bottles and went treasury hunting in Søllerød Kro’s cellar – not that we were exactly thirsty – but still I didn’t stop them ;-).
Here is the line-up and a short description of the wines:
Intro – outside in the beautiful weather:
2004 Bérèche “Instant Le Cran” (55% CH, 35% PN, 10% PM – Dosage 4 g/l)
It didn’t performed like last time I had it, where it was singing. As a starter you notice how oak and dosage collide a bit. It’s taking its friskiness and focus a notch down and I would have liked some food. My mistake.
Nv (Solera) Laherte “Les Clos” (*7 grapes - 0 g/l dosage)
* 18% Chardonnay, 14% Pinot Noir, 18% Pinot Meunier, 8% arbanne, 15% petit meslier,17% Pinot Blanc and 10% fromenteau
I chose Les Clos to match the freshness and lime appeal of the first dish. Sadly this bottle of Les Clos was herbal (mostly black tea) and so shy. First time I experience this with Les Clos.
2007 Demarne-Frison (50 CH, 50% PN - 0 g/l dosage)
It shined and did what I hoped it would do. Sensorial vivid sweetness of yellow fruits and a vibrant clean-cut mineral finished. I loved it – so did the table.
(Classic Søllerød dish)
2008 Cédric Bouchard ”Les Ursules” (100% Pinot Noir - 0 g/l dosage)
Magical bottle of Champagne, with currant perfumes and notes of black cherries- all wrapped up in a sleek corset of elegance and raciness. Probably the best Les Ursules I have tasted so far.
2006 Cédric Bouchard ”Les Ursules” (100% Pinot Noir - 0 g/l dosage)
Sadly corked. I replaced it with
2000 Tarlant “Vigne d’Antan” (100% Chardonnay – 2 g/l dosage)
Despite being the blind passenger here and clearly showing it’s the only Champagne in this flight made from oak….and of course from a quite different terroir - it revealed a remarkable rich and creamy character. Yet once again it’s also a Champagne with a racy soil footprint of sandy spiciness. I can think of very few of the released 2000’s, which I like more than this.
2005 Cédric Bouchard ”La Bolorée” (100% Pinot Blanc - 0 g/l dosage)
Tough choice….that is to choose between 2008 Les Ursules or this Champagne as the winner of this flight. I think “Les Ursules received the most applauds – however for me there is something incredible and insane about this La Bolorée, which just makes me adore it even more. The 2005 La Bolorée is really ahead of its aging-curve, compared with the 2006 vintage, showing churned buttery components topped with ginger and exotic fruits. Stunning Champagne.
(Anders - or "Svenne or "Borgmesteren")
2004 David Léclapart ”L’Artiste” (100% Chardonnay - 0 g/l dosage)
However let’s just compare them. Both remarkable pure Champagnes with bright chalky appeal and also two Champagnes with a floating style. Yet, Artiste is rawer and it shows clear signs of it’s birth in half in oak, half in enameled steel, where “Vénus” is only made in oak. Vénus presents itself creamier, toasted and friendlier - yet I have to admire Artiste for it’s bright flavours of mint and frozen iron, which sets off an outrageous energy. I couldn’t pick a winner here – loved them both.
2003 David Léclapart ”L’Apôtre” (100% Chardonnay - 0 g/l dosage)
2004 Cédric Bouchard ”La Haute-Lamblée” (100% Chardonnay - 0 g/l dosage)
Cédric Bouchard had already dazzled the table and I had a good feeling this one wouldn’t disappoint either. It’s miraculous Champagne and almost against the odds with 2 year old vines supplying this adorable, fragile Champagne, which is filled with, candied citrus, flowers, oregano and morello cherries (just before they are ripe). The acidity is of clarifying Chablis character with immensely tallness and elegancy. Magnificent Champagne.
2004 George Laval ”Les Chênes” (100% Chardonnay - 0 g/l dosage)
Have just tasted it and have very little to add. Note is in this post – it’s magic Champagne with an orgy of passion fruits served into a sleek corsage.
(Spiegelau Adina glasses)
2006 Béreche Instant Rosé (55% CH, 40% PN, 5% PM - 0 g/l dosage)
2004 Cédric Bochard ”Le Creux d’Enfer Rosé” (100% Pinot Noir - 0 g/l dosage)
I chose to serve Béreche Instant Rosé a few minutes before I served the next two, as I feared it’s fragile style would die in comparison. But I made a mistake here, as I hadn’t studied hard enough, as I was under the belief the next two rosé Champagne both was saignée. But no – Prévost Fac-Similie is in fact an assemblage.
Anyway it’s 3 stunning rosé Champagne, but still very different. Bérèche are indeed fragile with its salty red berry fruits. I can never get tired of this Champagne, but as I have tasted it 6-7 times now in it’s youth I would like to see what layers it will put on with cellaring.
“Le Creux d’Enfer” is better when you have it alone (see that note here). Here it stands out too much as it’s sooo bone dry and particular. It didn’t really unfold as I have hoped it would do and this is the second time I have it in a big line-up where it didn’t deliver as it did when I had it home alone.
Prèvost has made a stunning rosé in 2008. Just the colour is breathtaking – a mixture of Strawberry red and salmon. It’s what I would call a really sensual rosé with a round and pleasing appeal, where the oak is delivering this charming look. However don’t be fooled, as it has yet another dimension where it’s able to lift itself to a fragile and subtle stage with terrific elegancy.
2008 Jerome Prevost (100% Pinot Meunier - 0 g/l dosage)
Many of my guests had never imagined Pinot Meunier could reach such kind of quality, which was right in front of us.
The 2008 Prévost is one hell of a devilish Champagne, which still is in its youth, but the level of fruit in this 2008 is really impressive and then these sophisticated spices, which even takes on the aroma of orange peel. Taste is creamy concentrated and with sleek elegance
The 2006 are more about honey and slightly oxidation patterns coming forward with the oak playing the drums in the background. In comparison the 2008 is almost of scary quality – but the 2006 is also divine Champagne.
Then comes Les Barres and I take on a new dimension of Pinot Meunier. You have again sophisticated spices, but also blackberries combined with a bright flowery and citrus sparkle. It takes Les Barres higher in energy and freshness. Unbelievable good Champagne. WOW!!!
Bonus Champagne donated by Mads.
A very raw Champagne, which I always associate with David Léclapart – and in most cases L’Artiste, which proved to be correct (yes…I actually guessed something right). Vintage…well here we guessed a bit wrong – it turned out to the 1999, which was the debut release from David. It’s demanding Champagne, with this raw style of straw and freezing iron, which gives some darker fruits phrasings. Still I am familiar with this kind of Champagne and I really loved it.
1996 Selosse (100% Chardonnay – 0 g/l dosage)
A Champagne I have always put on a pedestal as being one of the most impressive I have tasted and perhaps the best 1996 there is. It’s the first time we saw notes classic Champagne in terms of autolysis aromas. I think it’s holding back a lot on the nose, where it doesn’t unfold to the same intensity it had in it’s youth. It’s still impressive stuff with a very rich and lush taste which goes in the direction of vanilla flavours from the oak, honey and quince.
1996 Salon (100% Chardonnay - ? dosage think 5-6 g/l)
I have tasted this Champagne twice and have always loved it – but it’s been a while since we spooned. To cut it short, it’s really disappointing. It flirts with classic lime / flower – which reminds me of a Danish ice cream called “Champagnebrus”. Then comes the note of sulphur, which makes the journey very hard for me to continue. It goes like it always does with sulphur – the Champagne or wine losses energy and becomes flabby and dull.
I know that Salons track record is deadly impressive and one shouldn’t rule out long shy phases – but here and know it falls completely out of focus in terms of what had been served so far.
(So good food)
1988 Selosse (100% Chardonnay)
I have saved this Champagne for a special occasion and thought it was time to serve it. Don’t get me wrong guys, I would actually have loved to spend some more time with it (and more than 1-2 glasses), as it seems like it had several layers it didn’t have the time to release. At first nosedive I thought the oak was pretty dominant, but then it puts on a new dimension of fresh floral awakening and apple scents. The taste is overwhelming intense with a pretty high acidity. Really nice.
1988 Salon (100% Chardonnay)
I always loved the ’88 Salon. I think it was a panel splitter. Sadly I couldn’t see its beauty as the mid-core reveals over the hill fruit. Maybe not a representative bottle – it shouldn’t show itself this tired.
P A U S E
1996 Bollinger GA (magnum)
Bollinger seldom disappoints and in magnum it should have been a home run. But NO!!!...My God, what a boring bottle. First time my sweet spot is challenge and I perceived it as too high dosed as it makes the Champagne loose tallness. I even noticed the note of sulphur, but it was only small – but still not adding anything positive. The notes where classic Champagne with walnuts, dark bread and caramel. Overall –and Pardon my French – but what a crap bottle.
1996 Krug Vintage
So now it can’t go wrong – Krug is the God of big House Champagne. Nope – no luck here either, but it’s still better than Bollinger and Salon. You sense Krug’s immensely concentration, but unfortunately it’s covered with darker fruits patterns and spices, which lacks definition, purity and overall makes it heavy. Last time I taste this Champagne was in May-2010 and it was singing – so I could speculate if we were dealing with a closed bottle. Maybe – maybe not, it wasn’t impressive.
1996 Pol Roger Winston Churchill
So far the dinner hadn’t been that successful and sadly Winston couldn’t get the party started. It’s a very “dark” Champagne. Had I been able to include dark and mysterious it would have been great, but we have again sulphur and then it gets tricky for me. Notes was something like walnuts in cheese combo, not exactly something which is know to kick off freshness and energy. The taste is very soft and polished – pleasing for some maybe, but to me rather dull.
Let’s get some red wine.
(All Case Basse was just opened when we arrived with no decanting)
2004 Soldera, Brunello ”Case Basse Riserva”
Case Basse is the best Italian wine there is - end of case…and don’t sue me, you won’t win ;-).
The 2004 vintage is a miraculous offering and easy the best young Brunello I have ever tasted. Think of what you want in an Italian wine (red fruits has to me among your dreams) and you will have it here. It has tons of fresh red fruit embalmed in the finest Tuscan herbs with new saddle leather and smoky tobacco. The taste has the exceptional curl with a rather volatile acidity but it’s adding to the friskiness of the wine. WOW!!!!...and Thank you Holst for your donation.
The worst thing about the 1999 was to be in this line-up. It’s a solid good wine, but it has lost the fresh red fruit and deals with dryer elements, which turns the wine more smoky and reserved. The taste is seriously concentrated with this high-pitched acidity.
So again we meet my darling. This is the fourth time I have tasted the 1983 Riserva and it’s my last bottle. It’s sooooo good my friends. With absolutely no aging signs whatsoever. It’s actually closer to the 2004 than the 1999 as the red fruits are also here – not young and smooth though, but saltier, more subtle, dryer and with so much finesse. The taste is every Italian wine lowers hottest dream with so much warmth soul and class. Will I ever taste it again?
2001 Voerzio Barolo ”Cerequio”
Not bad, but sadly too soft a style of Barolo for me. The oak turns it too a bit too charming, warm and polished.
2001 Sandrone Barolo ”Cannubi Boschis”
Replaced with a bottle donated by my good friend Anders;
2001 Altare Barolo “Brunate”
Very stylish stuff, despite absolutely no decanting time. It had a teasing note of plum, which sometimes tricks me to go off toward too high alcohol, but that wasn’t the case here and with air it gets companionship of the most adorable note of roses. Taste is very refined and curls beautifully. Very good.
2001 Aldo Conterno Barolo ”Granbussia”
Granbussia also deals with plums, but they are pretty sensual driven and sweet and it’s really hard not to be swept away with its style. I started to write on my paper if in fact were too polish, but sometimes you just have to let go and enjoy it for it’s great drinking pleasure.
Overall I think the Barolo flight here worked fair – I think Case Basse had made it’s impression and it was like we had taken a few gears down.
1996 Jacquesson ”Vauzelle Terme Aÿ” (100% Pinot Noir)
It’s getting a bit hard to focus this late. I remember this as a pretty intense thing. My notes says, dark Pinot, honey, quince and a bit aggressive on the oak. But it’s also a Champagne which is in pretty good balance despite it’s really intense. Solid Champagne with good potential.
NV Egly-Ouriet ” Blancs de Noirs Vieilles Vignes” (100% Pinot Noir)
Very soft, oily and missing energy….but okay it’s late.
Bonus red wines: Donated by Max, Dan and Mads...are you nuts!!!!,but thanks
2008 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belail “Aux Reignots”, Burgundy, France
All I have tasted from this producer has made me smile. This wine might be a bit polished, but who really cares when it’s drinking this well. We are dealing with incredible sexy Pinot Noir – but fruit wise leaning towards blackberries, soft plum and this elastic smooth appeal both in nose and mouth. It curls so sexy and has so much allure. I wish I could afford this stuff….DAMN!!!
2006, Georges Roumier Chambolle-Musigny “les Amoureuses”, Burgundy, France
Classic Burgundy with red cherry fruit, yet also rather spice driven. I would liked to have spent some more time with it in order to get the red fruit more in front of the spices….if possible? Still a lovely and impressive wine.
2006 Jean Foillard “Pi 3.149”, Beaujolais, France
A real teaser this late. “Trick” worked – the table (me included) went for Burgundy with very delicate mixture of kirsch and plums. A wine which drinks exceptional well with so delicate and fresh fruit appeal.
Some thoughts…mostly the Champagnes
The day after such a tasting you fell rather miserable. When my brain starts to work again, I digest through all those many wines. Often I get a text or one of the guys calls and you take the journey once again. Geeky – but it’s a part of sharing wines with likewise geeks and I love it. Then another friend calls…and so on….the wife is rarely impressed.
Anyway.... most times I often get the question, which one did you like the best? I can’t answer, because I don’t see it like that. Maybe “La Haute-Lamblée”, “Les Barres”, “Les Chênes” was the best ones (that was some of peoples’ favourites), but to take out "Venus", "L’Artiste", "Selosse vintage", "Prévost" or even"Demarne-Frison" or "Bérèche Rosé"…help!!!...etc, seems almost ridiculous and like amputating a patient, which is not sick. I couldn’t live without these wines in my cellar and they all have something to offer.
The big house Champagnes (Oh no...that debate again) really disappointed me – or was it just a confirmation of what I already knew? First of all – I have always some sort of skepticism of concluding from one glass tastings – even more when it comes to Champagne. Secondly, the big houses where also pretty much outnumbered by the growers in this line-up. Thirdly; the vintages vs small and big were too far off to really call it a battle and it wasn’t what I wanted for this tasting. Fourthly – some of these Champagnes have impressive track records and are able to cellar for a long time - so long shy phases can't be ruled out.
However (there is always a however….)
Not once were the poise, purity and nerve in favour of Bollinger, Pol Roger, Salon or Krug.
One of my guest; Bent – who were rather sceptical vs some of these small growers two years back said: “The big houses more or less taste the same – the have the taste of “Champagne”. The growers are very individual with strong personalities". I agree completely and I have over and over mentioned how important diversity is to me – without it, it becomes one tone, one substance and then I am out.
I will of course respond to the comments there will be after this post – but this is the last post before the summer break. I will be back late August or early September. There is a big tasting on the 3rd of September ,which I think will be mostly red Burgundy – so that might be the first report.
Take care, drink well and have a great summer.