Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Champagne tasting; ”Latour”

After having returned from Champagne about a week ago - one should think that I have had enough bubbly stuff in my system. But NO - 1st of May, I had my farewell Champagne tasting for the "Latour" wine group.

Despite the fact, that a Champagne tasting can always get me excited, I also had some pre-anxious fears. How would the new producers present themselves? Would only one glass be remotely enough to show some personality, from such young wines I was about to present? Would the classic Champagnes have the last laugh?

I don't think the latter was the case, even if Champagne tastings can be rather difficult to base conclusions from. So please take my observations more like a snapshot of only one glass.

Most of the wines were opened 20-30 minutes before serving and for some wines I recommended the tasters to use white wine glasses, instead of classic tight flutes.

Personally I tasted from Spiegelau Adina "White Wine", Zalto and Juhlin.


2004 David Léclapart "Amateur"

2004 David Léclapart "Artiste"

2002 Jacques Lassaigne

2003 David Léclapart " l`Apôtre"

1999 Deutz "Cuvée William Deutz Rosé"

NV Jacques Selosse "Rosé"

1999 Dom Perignon

1999 Bollinger La Grande Annee

2005 Vouette et Sorbée "Blanc d'Argile"

NV Jacques Selosse " Version Originale"

1997 Vilmart " Coeur de Cuvée " (Magnum)

2006 Jérôme Prévost " La Closerie"

2002 Michel Arnould "Mémoire de Vignes "

1979 Louis Roederer " Vintage" Magnum

Joker : 1996 Billecart-Salmon "Blanc de Blanc "

2004 Amateur was exceptional good - showing this 2004 linearity, which I am seriously a sucker for. Otherwise I sensed some smoke and in general a very vibrant, slim, high acidity and alive wine. 2004 Artiste was however rather shy in comparison. I was fairly alright with its taste, where it showed potential. One glass seemed not enough for this wine and I would have to advise 3-5 years of cellaring, if to conclude something. Overall, standing side by side - Amateur took the last straw this night. A good start I think - these wines were picked to show purity and tickle the taste buds.

Next flight I wanted to show some more depth, but still hold the purity from flight 1. I was a little surprised about 2002 Jacques Lassaigne. More expressive on the exotic - almost sweet and delicate fruits it had. There is a fraction of classic autolysis notes here also. The worst "problem" for Lassaigne was however it's flight rival - 2003 " l`Apôtre". Readers of this blog, should already by now know, that I am a big fan of this wine - and this night it was singing. Incredible stuff - lots of complex layers and a fresh, lush and majestic profile. By far the best Champagne so far.

Next - the Rosé Champagnes, where I deliberately wanted to show two very different styles. The 1999 Deutz was really good - but way too young. Some tasters found it overly shy, but I have to say, that this tight red berry perfumes, iron, iodine is filled with class and elegancy. The taste has so much potential to offer - so it's just a matter of cellaring (5-7 years).

I keep on tasting Selosse's Rosé, even though it's not a favorite of mine. I am not sure, if this disgorgement was with a lower dosage than normal, but it was definitely one of the better I have had. The wine is still teddy-bear soft, with its pronounced oak, strawberry and sweet biscuit perfumes. Elegance is not a term I would use here - and you can for sure discuss if it's a complex Champagne or not. Oh well - some liked it - some not, I am probably in the middle, where I can easily see myself enjoying a couple of glasses with appropriate food, but I can also see the monotonous evening ahead of drinking a whole bottle of this stuff.

So now we headed for two very classic Champages. I have suggested cellaring for the 1999 Bollinger GA - so why did I pick it? To match the 1999 vintage of Dom Perignon. But it's the wine I remember the least from the evening - so please cellar now, Thomas!!! 1999 Dom Perignon - now this is interesting. I had predicted two outcomes. People would swarm like little bees and praised it classic big-house Cuvée Prestige vintage appeal - but no. I think most of them, took the other path, where the so far rather pure and vinous wines had made their impression. Personally I was shocked about the level of sulfur in this wine. Now sulfur is not a note, which doesn't necessarily turn me off - but here it was off the charts. Otherwise it's so toasted, giving way too much vanilla and taking away overall clarity. What happens here, is that the wine falls short of showing energy - it's simply doesn't possess the vibrant life of some of the Champagnes we tasted this evening and for me the "product" is almost dead. The best part about Dom Perignon is its mousse, which I find rather mouth coating - but overall, it still fells so soulless. I know that the easiest thing to say about a huge big house production cuvée Prestige - but that's exactly how I fell. So I will, with several others around the table - have to mark it as dull, disappointing and a monotone Champagne.

I wished I had given the 2005 Vouette et Sorbée "Blanc d'Argile", more time to open - easy to say afterwards. This night it simple didn't perform as I had wished. It seemed molded in flavors and never really defined itself. In the other glass - we had a real darling - NV Jacques Selosse " Version Originale". Juicy green apples, with baby banana, seriously bio-driven and pure - adorable stuff and the best bottle I have ever had of this wine.

Talk about a reserved wine - 1997 Vilmart " Coeur de Cuvée " (Magnum). What a shame - had I known it to perform like this with a turbot soup, I would have picked an older vintage. Citrus and hay - was what I sensed....ahhh...bummer. I had the chance to taste it on day two - where I was home alone with remaining chesses from the day before. Still tight tight tight, but some butter coming out in the citrus fruit core - but very linear and high acidity stuff, which should prove well for cellaring.

I decided to pour a joker wine, which I already had ready - 1996 Billecart-Salmon "Blanc de Blanc". Off course very young, but already with a lovely flowery spectrum, some butter and dead Billecart-Salmon classy and elegant. Both nose and taste had this insane 1996 electric appeal and acidity. I look forward to taste my remaining bottles in - let's say 10 years time.

With Italian Cannelloni I presented two respectively 100% Pinot Meunier and 100% Pinot Noir Champagnes. I find Jérôme Prévost very interesting. It's Champagne of mysteriousness, great personality and with enormous potential. The 2006 is a humble masterpiece - with a refined spicy expression, but still showing the most delicate Pinot Meunier style I have ever come across.

It's the first time I taste the 2002 Michel Arnould "Mémoire de Vignes ". The wine fell a little short compared to Prévost, but still I found it rather interesting, with delicate notes of red currant. Both wines did exceptional well with the Cannelloni, in my humble opinion.

The tasting was starting to come to an end. Donated by my good friend, Claus Holst - a rather rare bottle came to the table. 1979 Louis Roederer " Vintage" Magnum. Claus had bought this bottle on auction in France and the risk in always the condition. Oh yes.....it was perfect and perfect means a super rich, fresh and exotic nose of mango and coffee beans. Exceptional complex stuff - and perfect with the cheese.

So - a very memorable tasting comes to an end. Thanks to all the "Latour" boys, for the gifts and for being so open minded towards unknown Champagne territory.

There are more pictures here - and thank you Carlo, for shooting some pictures also.


Ps. I had written all the disgorgement dates down - but I can't find them now. On the NV stuff - I recall disgorgement dates around the autum of 2007 and in general rather fresh releases

Friday, May 22, 2009

Champagne Visit - Jacques Selosse

The very last stop on our Champagne trip was with Anselme Selosse in Avize.

I guess I where no different than many other wine lowers, than to be familiar with the wines from Jacques Selosse as an alternative to the big Champagne producers, when I first tasted his Champagnes back in the mid-nineties . Already at that time possessing exceptional quality and very fair priced. Since then - much has happened and Anselme has gained cult status in the Champagne region and unfortunately prices have followed.

My ability to speak and understand the French language is unfortunately non-existent. I was one of those who chose the math-line in School, as I already knew, by the age of 10, that I was (like my father) going to work in a Bank. Luckily our little group, already knew that Anselme where going to speak in French (and fast), so we have brought our own interpreter (and Champagne expert aka, Mads Rudolf) to help us.

Selosse's facilities are a big room - almost looks like a big warehouse - just with lots of small oak barrels. Even though the room one some points are like a production hall and messy, it's also rather beautiful - with lights pouring in from the windows it gives the room an almost healing calmness.

Anselme is passionate about his work and it's clear that besides making damn good wines, he is still a strong voice for those who believe in bringing "natural" wines to the world. I remember one of the attendees to this visit (we were not alone - about 13 people was here) asked him if he could point out the vineyards - just roughly where some of them where located. "Just follow the weeds - Anselme replied"
His pioneer role, has since his breakthrough wine - the 1986 Vintage (more on that later), been not only an alternative to the rather conservative Champagne scene, but also an inspirational source for many of the new and young generation, which these days are flowering like never before. The good thing about Anselme is that he always is up to something, as it seems like his mission to tease, provoke and simple turn things upside/down in order to keep showing different terroir expressions and most importantly his formula of showing it.

Anselme seemed to be in a very good mood and he generously poured us some various Vins Clairs from the 2008 vintage. Once again - razor sharp definition and the material seems of incredible high quality. After that we went below to the cellars which was lot bigger than I would have thought. On second thought, Anselme in general blends 3 vintages in a NV release and keeps the wines 3 years on its lees - so it requires some space. Anselme took a 1999 Vintage (yes) and a Rosé and said - "Pick a year". All where quiet - but Mads said - "1986". I don't know exactly what Anselme said to Mads - but clearly Mads had to explain himself for picking out such a rare and prestige wine. They exchanged very few words and Anselme just walked straight out and I think we all thought - No 1986 today. But then he stopped - and just before us, where a box of 1986's. He told Mads - Look how few bottles there are left...then paused...and took a bottle - YES!!!!! - thank you, Mads.
He disgorged it on sight and we started pouring this legendary wine. Uhhh - what a nose - exotic for sure, but still holding a good proportion of apple and exotic juices, but its age is also pronounced with an oozing note of truffles. Taste is rich - fresh and rather nice if you ask me.
Hard to follow such a wine - and when sticking your nose into the 1999 Vintage, you needed just a few seconds to re-address and clear the taste buds. Of course very different Champagne - energizing apple, citrus, butter fruit and immensely concentrated stuff. I have read that it's holding close to 14% alcohol - which I can't confirm - only teld you that it's really wild.
The Rosé was next - seems better now. Still a charming teddy-bear Rosé, but the now lower dosage (from 7 >> 4g/l) takes some of the sweet biscuit notes a fraction down, gives more edge and presents a more balanced Champagne.

But it wasn't over yet. A new wine was next. I am simply not able to offer you the correct details on this wine, but I can assure you, that it has very little to do with bubbly Champagne. A dark liquid hits the glasses, sweet fortified stuff - sherry character and Selosse goes outside, where has two barriques standing - directly in the sun with the next vintage of this stuff. I guess Anselme still likes to have fun and has a small Sherry-man in his belly. Anyway - interesting stuff.

A great visit - I have to learn some French.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Champagne Visit - David Léclapart

After we have had a great outdoor/nature lunch, overlooking the Côte des Blancs landscape with freshly cut hams and cheeses from the local market (and not to forget a splendid 2005 Ulysse Collin BdB), we headed for David Léclapart in Trépail.

I had high expectation before this visit. The wines from David Léclapart have indeed moved me. 2002 "l'Apôtre" maybe one of the finest and most complex Champagnes I have tasted and his entry-level wine; "Amateur" and it's sister "Artiste" are both insanely fresh, energetic and pure Champagnes.

David is the sort of person you immediately like. Friendly, warm, dedicated and so relax and humble. We started in one of his vineyards/parcels - more specifically the Vineyard "Pierre Saint Martin" where l'Apôtre is made from. The vines are planted in 1946 and since David took over, as his father passed away in 1996, he has transformed everything into biodynamic winemaking. Take a closer look at the picture of the vineyard. Look how green and fresh it is. Flowers, herbs, grass and kinds of life of; ants, beetles, insects are there. Both parcels beside this vineyard, which doesn't belong to David - looked like instant death. Chemicals had killed any living organism there - certainly gives you something to think about, right?

David production facilities are very spartan and the same goes for his cellars. But for some reason I found this rather appealing. His personality is so authentic - and so are his wines, so the facilities are just "David" - if you know what I mean?

We tasted all the cuvée's from vins clairs - 2008 vintage, which already have a high intensity, but man we have to wait 4-5 years for those. We also tasted his red wine - "Eden". Very floral and delicate wine - the absolute best example I have tasted so far of this cuvée.

David took us back to his house, where he poured the 2005 Artiste. Great stuff - follows the path of the 2004 with immensely energizing apple fruit and with frozen seawater particles flying round the palate. The 2005 "l'Apôtre” was next. Still young, but already showing several layers of complexity. My first impression about the 2005, was that it was a bit rounder - closer to the 2003 than 2002 - but I will have to taste it again. Next - 2005 Alchimiste. I really want to understand this wine - but the high level of cranberry, iron and its Sherry character is something that spooks me somewhat. I would really like to taste it with proper food someday.

The last wine was out of this world - and the first time I taste it - the 2000 "l'Apôtre". Creamy and sensual with a load of flowery spectrum and a brilliant note of freshly churned butter. Again the layers of complexity is breathtaking and I think by now it was not only me around the table which realized that "l'Apotre" is in a league of it’s own.

Indeed a very memorable visit - I have the feeling I will come back someday.

Next was Anselme Selosse.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Champagne Visit - Ulysse Collin

The first stop @ day 2, was Ulysse Collin in Congy. Once again a young man greats us - the very friendly Olivier Collin, which now makes wines, from the some of 9 hectares of vineyards in the Collin belongings. The Collin family has never themselves made wine, but rented the vineyards to Pommery. However, it was always a dream for the law-student Olivier to make his own wine and to study winemaking he took a year of a stagiaire with Anselme Selosse. That year changed his life and when I asked him about it, he describe it much as a before and after life.

Only one wine is currently available from Ulysse Collin - a Blanc de Blanc which comes from a small 1.2 hectare parcel called Le Perrières. But later, Olivier will release another wine from the estate - a Pinot Noir Champagne (more on that later). I am not sure how large the production will go, but it has gradually increased since the first vintage (2004) as Olivier obtains more land with the drop-out of these old lease contracts.

The first visible sight at the estate was the barriques. Clearly a sign of the Selosse inspiration. Others can correct me here if I am wrong, but it seemed to me, that Olivier really wants to take the step to biodynamic winegrowing. As he said - "there are risk involved in biodynamic winegrowing", but he admires those who succeeds with it.

We tasted several vins clairs with Olivier – both from traditional oak and barriques - also first and second press from the various parcels - all from the very promising 2008 vintage. Very very interesting, once again. Here we also saw the first glints of the upcoming Pinot Noir - which already in vins clairs version was rather interesting (very conservative stated ;-) ).

Later we tasted the real deal - the 2006 Blanc de Blanc. Really nice - touch of vanilla from the oak, flowers, citrus, well balance and has the right level of fragileness to keep it interesting and elegant (btw - it's without dosage). It seemed a little better defined than the current 2005 and I will for sure pick-up the 2006, when it hits the market sometime in early 2010.

The Pinot Noir - well well...shall I really tell you about it, or buy the whole Danish allocation for myself ;-)? It's good - really good....no...what the hell - it's fantastic. Still possessing some of its pinky color it holds a natural 13.7% alcohol. Olivier told us, that he had some problems getting the wine approved for its high alcohol and secondly as an Extra Brut. But as he said, he just waited and waited for the grapes to be perfect. Perfection is not always about simple maturity, but the right levels of phenols are also crucial. It’s the kind of wine where you stick your nose in and immediately you are in love. Indeed charming, with raspberries, redcurrant, apricot and vanilla. It was almost too good, if you understand? I speculated (just for a second or two) if it was the kind of wine which actually could be a little too much of everything and turn out monotonous, if to have a date with a full bottle. But no - I will have to say, despite its almost sensual healing appeal. It's truly one of the sexiest Champagnes I have ever tasted. And please, Olivier - keep the natural, slightly pink color please, when it's released in early 2010.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Champagne Visit - Bérèche et fils

Our last stop of the day was Bérèche et fils. As with Laherte, the young and new generation has taken over, with Raphaël Bérèche as the winemaker. Raphaël and Aurélien Laherte actually went to school together and are today best friends. A few days before we arrived in Champagne the two had put together a huge success with "Terres et Vins de Champagne". I suggest you read this article, from Peter Liems blog, to get more insight

Unfortunately our appointment with Raphaël was late in the day, so we didn't have time to see the cellars. But we did see some of the closest vineyards and taste some wines.  The family owned Bérèche et fils in Craon de Ludes owns 11 hectares and the closest 3 ha is now biodynamic grown. With time the other 8ha will follow the same bio-path.

Back at the house, Raphaël generously poured us a range of Champagnes. As with the wines, from Laherte, it's actually the zippiest, fresh and vibrant wines I prefer the most. The incredible charming Extra Brut Réserve is Champagne which fits in so many categories; a perfect welcome drink - the Champagne at the table when the family is together - but also with food as it flavours and acidity appeals so broad. You can only have to little of this stuff in your cellar. Another interesting wine from is the solera Champagne; Reflet d'Antan". You will find a TN on my blog on this wine, and I can for sure recognize it's high quality and interesting flavours - even if it's a wine which doesn't appeal that much to my preferences. The bottle we tasted with Raphaël, had been open for 2 days. Still fresh, with wild sweet exotic fruits of mango and banana juice.

Unfortunately I didn't get to taste his latest project, a new Rosé – the "L'Instant Rosé". But I have the feeling, that I will taste it later this year.

For more information about Bérèche et fils: http://www.champagne-bereche-et-fils.com/

Friday, May 8, 2009

Champagne Visit - Deutz

Obvious there where a rather big contrast from our first visit to small producer Laherte Fréres to big house @ Deutz, which was our next stop.

We where greeted by director Jean-Marc Lallier of the Deutz family at the beautiful house in the center of Aÿ. After we had had coffee we took a small stroll in the gardens which lead to the production hall and cellars. I didn't actually know this, but Deutz uses no oak at all - only stainless steel tanks. I would have thought that the impressive Rosé Cuvée William Deutz saw some oak, but no - the philosophy is to make elegant wines and keep the traditions.
The cellars were an impressive historical site. Like a big underground maze with about 2.1 km of small paths. Not the worst place to get lost as 8 million bottles are lying there. 

Back at the house again we taste 3 wines - the NV Brut Classic, 1999 Amour de Deutz and the 1998 Cuvée William Deutz. The standard cuvée had signs of too high dosage in my opinion, but did have a subtle nutty feeling, which was fair - but overall a rather anonymous wine. The 1999 Amour was way too young, but I really liked the structure of this wine, which could turn out to benefit the wine with 6-7 years of cellaring. The 1998 CWD was however rather open for business, showing spices, dark bread and chocolate flavors. I don't see this being a long distant runner, but for drinking now + 8 years it's a real pleaser. 

I have to say that I have feared this visit could have ended in a trivial big house guided tour (which I have tried before), but Jean-Marc Lallier was more than committed and showed great hospitality to us as gave us insight in the historical evolution of Champagne and the house of Deutz.

For more information on Deutz: http://www.champagne-deutz.com/presentation/index.html

Monday, May 4, 2009

Champagne Visit - Laherte Fréres

Driving directly from Denmark, with only a few hours of sleep we arrived safely and almost on time @ Laherte Fréres in Chavot on a sunny April morning. We where immediately greeted by the young Aurélien Laherte, which is the new generation of the estate.

After a visit to some of the vineyards we headed for the cellar and had a rather interesting vins clairs tasting of the different cuvee's of the estate - mostly the very promising 2008 vintage. This is the first time I taste vins clairs, from Champagne and it was truly something else. First of all it's of course rather different from the final product as there are no bubbles. Secondly there is an old myth, that the still juice from Champagne is a horrifying sour liquid. I can assure you that were not the case.
Vins clairs is extremely perfumed and an incredible mineral and high acidity drink. Those of more experienced knowledge than me, says the vins clairs is an excellent way of judging the raw material before prise de mousse begins. As I don't have any reference in this category I can only say that it was fascinating and especially the clear differences of; terroir, barrels, acidity level and even the first and second press of the grapes.

After the cellar we headed back to the tasting room and tasted some of the wines. The entry level is Tradition brut (not tasted) and after that follows the Brut Nature Blanc de Blanc. I adore these crisp, sensational fresh and pure offerings and the Brut Nature is just that kind of wine. Even though the wines which followed higher in the Laherte pyramid (2002 Prestige Brut, 2004 Les Vignes d'Autrefois) are more complex wines, I still missed the utterly fresh attack from the Brut Nature. However the other wines clearly have potential to age and evolve more complexity., The 2005 Les Beadiers Extra Brut Rosé de Saignée was incredible interesting with its currant notes, even though it's not a rosé for everyone. But served with the right food it could work magic. The last wine served was also the most interesting - "Les Clos". Les Clos is a debut wine, which is being released as I write these lines. Le Clos is taking it's philosophy from the Solera method and with a rather interesting grape mixture of; 18% Chardonnay, 14% Pinot Noir, 18% Pinot Meunier (so far so good) and 8% arbanne, 15% petit meslier,17% Pinot Blanc and 10% fromenteau (I believe the latter is a cousin of the Pinot gris grape). Apparently over time all of these grapes have been grown in Champagne and in the 250 years of Laherte history. The wine had so many interesting layers, but above all a killer and precise acidity attack - truly something else. I can't wait to see how it will evolve.

For more information about Laherte Fréres: