Saturday, November 14, 2009

29 Champagnes

On account of the release of a new book on Champagne written by Mia & Mads Rudolf: - "Champagnebibelen" - 29 grower Champagnes was tasted @ Restaurant Noma on 6th of November 2009.

The second part of the book is portraits of the 29 growers you will see listed here below, in alphabetic order. I am still reading the very interesting first part of the book, which is a deep and personal insight to Champagne from the author couple, touching upon all possible angels and raising questions on the many paradoxes the area of Champagne offers. I will write something on the book, when I have finished it.

(Mads Rudolf)

The following winemakers where present at the tasting; David Léclapart, Vincent Laval ,Amaury Beaufort, Bertrand Gautherot and Isabella & Jacques Diebolt.

Flight 1

2001 Pascal Agrapart "Cuvée Venus"
100% Chardonnay
Dosage : 0 g/l

A wine I have tasted before and one hell of an accomplishment in such a difficult vintage (and a debut release for this cuvée). It's flowery with some traces of yeast, autolysis, toast, corn and dark bread. It's not as full-bodied and lush in fruit as 2002, but fairly high clarity and linearity are adding to its profile and quality. On the palate it doesn't stretch itself completely, but still it's a wine which is very hard not to like and drink.

2002 Amaury Beaufort "Polisy Millésime"
80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay
Dosage: 9 g/l

I almost have 2 TNs on this wine as it changed so much character in the glass. Unfortunately, version 2, ended up being the dominant outcome, as warmth in the glass adds to the sweetness and puts it's components out of balance in my view. Notes like; coconut, pickled cucumber and sweets is not something I favor and it's sort of a shame as the wine started fairly well with a spicy interesting fruit core. I guess the simple trick is to drink it chilled.

2003 Françoise Bedel & Vincent Desaubeau "Dis, vin secret"
86% Pinot Meunier, 8% Pinot Noir, 6% Chardonnay
Dosage : 0 g/l

Only tasted this Champagne once before (blind) and it's richer than I recall and almost exotic with emerging coconut flavors. However it's also very deep Champagne, which also plays with a flowery window and even some herbal notes. Taste has the same feeling, with a very mouth coating mousse feel. Even if it's infected by the warmth of the vintage its wide spectrum of flavors insures its balance and makes it interesting.

NV Raphaël Béréche "Reflets d'Antan"
Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay 1/3 each - Solera method since 1990
Dosage: 7 g/l

I still recall my first encounter with this wine and can't help to think how good a match it was with my Asian chicken dish and could easily see myself enjoying a glass with that type of food again. However, if to judge it here - in this lineup, it's too much of everything. The sweetness, despite a fairly medium dosage is overwhelming - not overly heavy, but sweet enough to take nerve away from the wine. Not only the rising sweetness, but I also find its structure too oily. Its purity is rather yummy though, bio driven with baby banana and mango, but again the sweeter notes of cookies, caramel and fudge are of such disturbing character. A shame really, as it has such an interesting profile.

2004 Jean-Louise Bonnaire "Millésime"
100% Chardonnay
Dosage: 10 g/l

Primary notes of citrus and flowers, but by far the weakest Champagne so far. It lacks concentration and focus. Pretty dull.

2006 Cédric Bouchard "Les Ursules"
100% Pinot Noir
Dosage: 0 g/l

I have always found it difficult to taste the wines from Cédric Bouchard in big tastings. There are incredible sleek and rarely represent the "lowest cleavage" in the line-up. This time was no exception, standing there in the glass, feeling shy and not really giving much. However, knowing what it is, I always find some resemblance to something I call diamond dust. It's a metaphor and yes, I have no clue how it taste like. But it's a reflection I use to describe a combination of black cherries, red currant, herbs, minerals and this incredible sleek feeling and yet seriously concentrated taste. The hard roughness of the uncut diamond, but also the sleekness and elegancy when it's cut....(I'm seriously mumbling now). Anyway it comes down to, what I have often touched upon, that Cédric Bouchard Champagnes have such a strong character, more a feeling to drink them and you seldom think of Champagne when you drink them, but man they are fantastic.

NV Emmanuel Brochet "Le Mont Benoìt"
23% Pinot Meunier, 32% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay
Dosage : 0 g/l

I was so pleased to see how well this wine did in this line-up as it has been a one of my favorite daily drinking Champagnes. It's simple, pure with Granny smith apples, citrus and immensely drinking pleasure. I love it for its NO FUSS agenda and I get thirsty every time I think of it.

2002 Laurent Champ / Vilmart "Grand Cellier d'or"
80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir
Dosage : 9g/l

It was discussed around my table if this wine was corked or just an off-bottle. I found absolutely no traces of TCA, but admitted it seemed somewhat mature for its age - so just maybe flawed. White Burgundy was my first paper notation, creamy, pleasing, butter and not that complex. In fact I was rather disappointed as it's too much of everything. But I'll mark as a suspicious bottle and perhaps I will get the chance to re-taste it.

2002 Alexandre Chartogne "Millésime" (Cuvée Mariage de Périne & Alexandre")
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay
Dosage : 7 g/l

Maybe it had a mid-palate hollowness, but there was still some allure about this Champagne. I think it was the delicacy and weightlessness, which I found interesting and it certainly didn't hurt either that it had clarifying acidity. Overall - Brilliant elegancy and to state it shortly a Champagne in good harmony and drinking well right now.

NV (2005) Olivier Collin
100% Chardonnay
Dosage: 0 g/l

A Champagne I have tasted 5-6 times now and it I have tried bottles which has seemed to mature somewhat faster and bottles which are as tight as a young Chablis. This comes somewhere in the middle and although you can sense the vanilla perfumes, slightly nutty flavors and some oxidation signs, its still seems young - especially on the palate with its Chablis resemblance. I liked it a lot and I think it did really well this day. I look very much forward to taste the 2006 vintage, which should arrive within 1-2 month here in Denmark.

(Isabella & Jacques Diebolt)

Flight 2

2002 Jacques Diebolt "Fleur de Passion"
100% Chardonnay
Dosage : 7 g/l

Perhaps the most intense Champagne so far. Its nerve and energy is something else and you know there is a true gem in the glass. A mixture of fragile chalky Chablis and a self-confident Montrachet. However - and I could be wrong, but a note of sulfur came forward in the glass as it warmed up. Could again (as with Dom Perignon) be the result of a reductive style, but it was certainly not making me happy.

2004 Pascal Doquet "Vertus 1. Cru"
100% Chardonnay
Dosage: 4,5 g/l

I found a funny note of white cola, which I sometimes compare to parsnip. However, it has a good "bio" purity with expressive and charming sweetness (not too much) and even if it didn't make me go backwards it was still a good Champagne.

(Mia Rudolf)
2004 Charles Dufour "Simplement Blanc"
100% Pinot Blanc
Dosage: 0 g/l

Very different Champagne. Bizarre, mysterious, but also some sort of intriguing affect as you simply had to pay attention. Easily the spiciest Champagne I have ever smelled. Hard to describe exactly what the notes are, but in the direction of herbs, thyme and blackberries. The taste is very rustic, but even if I doubt there will be wall to wall cases of this Champagne in my cellar, I couldn't help to smile a little bit about it. Think I will try it again someday, in order to have proper time to reflect.

NV Francis Egly "Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru"
100% Pinot Noir
Dosage : 4 g/l

An old relative and a Champagne I used to be very impressed by. To some extend I still are, even if my preferences have changed dramatically over the past year. This Champagne is the sort, which could probably go for the lowest cleavage and gain a lot of Parker points and win blind tastings - among the blind...hehe...just kidding. Anyway, it's impressive stuff and seriously tightly packed, like a bomb ready to go off. When its flavors are released it explodes with enormous concentration and a waxy, slightly oxidized fruit core of; walnuts, dark bread, flour and exotic evening perfume. It's big, bold and like hugging a big Teddy bear. But - there is a lemon note, which really saves it - you especially feel it on the palate as it's in rather good balance, even if it's very opulent Champagne. However it didn't like warmth in the glass, where its flavors and fairly low dosage took it more to a flabby ground. Overall - seriously impressive stuff, but I need it in small dozes (a glass or two, not a full bottle).

2000 Jean-Pierre Fleury
Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay 1/3 each
Dosage: 6 g/l

Really disappointing. Maybe Egly-Ouriet killed it, but it had really nothing more than flowery scents and breadcrumbs to offer.

2006 Bertrand Gautherot / Vouette et Sorbée " Saignée et Sorbée
100% Pinot Noir
Dosage : 0 g/l

As you might have seen, I just tasted this. I did absolutely brilliant this day and everyone around my table loved it. Red Burgundy with bubbles; cherries, mandarin and flowers. Stunning.

2006 Olivier Horiot "Séve Rosé"
100% Pinot Noir
Dosage : 0 g/l

More direct and aggressive compared to Vouette et Sorbée. It's again this presence of cranberry, iron which makes it rustic and almost tannic on the palate. I am always a bit puzzled by such a wine, even if I find myself (also on this day) using a lot of time with it. It's the curiosity in me that really wants to learn about these macerated Champagnes, because they WILL change a lot, when cellared (I know that from David Léclapart's Alchimiste). Overall on this day - one glass only, I remained puzzled and never really smiling.

NV Benoìt Lahaye
90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay
Dosage: 0 g/l

A fresh breeze - but of course it might be related to the rustic neighbor Rosé glass from Olivier Horiot. Great sparkling energy rises from the glass, bio driven with baby banana, flowers and lemon peel. The taste drops a bit short though, but I end up liking it for its simplicity and freshness.

NV Aurélien Laherte "Les Clos"
18% Chardonnay, 14% Pinot Noir, 18% Pinot Meunier, 8% arbanne, 15% petit meslier,17% Pinot Blanc and 10% fromenteau
Dosage: 0 g/l

You can see a more detailed TN here. But I would still like so say a few words about it. Around my table it was discussed if its acidity was a bit immature. It might be valid for you to know that the 7 grapes are harvested at the same time, which certainly provides some aspects for different acidity profiles. I can confirm that it indeed has a very high pitched acidity. But seriously, I love it when it "hurts" like this. There are 3 factors that interest me here. 1) The 7 varietals of Les Clos are combined seriously interesting, 2) The wine is as fresh as crystallized limejuice and 3) The high-pitched acidity doesn't only posses "acidity", but also it's also a balance factor element of the vivid freshness from the nose and the high level of minerals, which also present themselves on the palate. Admitted, I'm an acidity Junkie, and maybe that's why I love it so much.

2005 Pierre Larmandier "Terre de Vertus"
100% Chardonnay
Dosage : 0 g/l

It's wrong of me to conclude, by just being a simple amateur and not having sufficient material of TNs to conclude on such a broad subject of a specific vintage. But, based on the 2005's I have tasted, they tend to have a distinctive roundness to them. I tend to favor the linearity from the Vintage 2004 better and also the very promising 2006 vintage. This Champagne is very likeable, but again I found this roundness, which by all means enhances richness and flavors, but I really missed this linearity and focus. I will shortly show you what I mean, as I have just tasted the 2006 Terre de Vertus, which seriously impressed me. Sorry...the notes on this was, chalk, lime, flowers, butter and roundness. I have written, "funny mid-palate feel (roundness again)" and even with warmth in the glass I wrote roundness again.

(Vicent Laval)

Flight 3

NV Emmanuel Lassaigne "Vignes de Montegueux"
100% Chardonnay
Dosage : 4 g/l

Again a Champagne of simplicity and great clarifying freshness. Not particular complex, but surely likeable notes of apples, vanilla and lime. Taste has a vibrant slim mineral feeling. Lovely stuff.

2000 Bernard "Special Club"
100% Chardonnay
Dosage: 5 g/l

I haven't written many things about this wine, simply because I didn't like it at all. It's surely made in a rich style, but way too warm a clumsy for my preference.

2002 Vicent Laval "Les Chênes"
100% Chardonnay
Dosage: 0 g/l

The winemaker at our table were Vicent Laval. Unfortunately my French is as good as my Swahili, but Mia Rudolf helped me as my interpreter. I have always found this Champagne to have a profile like no other and I was of course curious to know more about it. I don't know if I actually got the answers I was seeking, from the very friendly, smiling and humble Vicent Laval. I think I got the message that wine at this level takes; hard work and talent, but above all discovering the possibility of exploring terroir by old parcels and by releasing them as a single cuvée. 888 bottles were produced of this magic Champagne and I would strongly recommend you to start looking for some of them. At this day, this Champagne was out of this world delicious. Again, the nose are incredible deep scented - Bâtard-Montrachet with bubbles, but also this exotic fruit core of mango, kiwi and lavender. The taste is on one hand creamy, sensational rich - but with enormous scope and elegance. One of the most irresistible Champagnes I have tasted in a while.

(David Léclapart)

2004 David Léclapart "L'Apòtre"
100% Chardonnay
Dosage: 0 g/l

I just put my pen down here and relaxed for a while as I have just tasted it. It didn't do particular good at the opening. It seems shy and I remain even more confident that it will soon go into a tunnel and close down for XX-time. However, after the tasting I went over and checked out some of the remaining heeltaps; and filled my glass with some 04'Apótre. Much better now - and again this uncompromising soil expression, with juicy apple/pear scents. David Léclapart stood next to me and we talked about how slow starters Apôtre are and also about decanting and its future potential.


"It's also a slow starter at home, Thomas,,smiling.. (I love this guy ;-) ). no - it's not something I would recommend for Champagne, because when you have done it, there is no way back. By just opening, you can slowly follow it. Put on some music and relax. Potential... Yesterday I tasted the 1999 and it's still so young, which makes me happy. My best guess is 25-35 years".

2003 Christophe Mignon 100%
Pinot Meunier
Dosage: 0 g/l

Tough to follow the 2 previous Champagnes and it might have tricked my judgment. This Champagne seems shy and distant in character with only fragments of citrus. Strange. Didn't get to taste it afterwards.

NV Franck Pascal "Brut Nature"
57% Pinot Meunier, 5% Chardonnay, 38% Pinot Noir
Dosage: 0 g/l

Very perfumed nose and I am not sure it’s in balance. Notes of; flower water, soap and dried paper. Taste is of the same breed and making an awkward impression. Surely, in such a big line-up you will always conclude a bit faster and I would really like to taste it again, even if it didn’t do well at all.

2006 Jérôme Prévost "Les Béguines"
100% Pinot Meuiner
Dosage: 0 g/l

I love this Champagne. It's maturing a bit faster than I would have imagined, but still I see lots of potential for the patient drinker. The tickly, highly sophisticated nose still has the spicy fruit core, but emerging signs of oxidation are on the rise, with notes of walnuts, honey and liquorices. Taste is intense, spicy and with great precision. Brilliant.

NV Anselme Selosse "Initiale"
100% Chardonnay
Dosage: 4 g/l

On this day, Intiale seems friendly, giving, but far from great and compared to its glass-neighbors, it doesn't posses the same quality. It should be noted, that there are huge bottle variations when it comes to Initiale and I have had better version than this bottle...and yes...damn...I didn't write the disgorgement date down

2000 Benoît Tarlant "Vignes d'Antan Chardonnay Non greffé"
100% Chardonnay
Dosage: 2 g/l

Last wine of the day. It's incredible how rich and vivid this Champagne is, but at the same time it's also a very subtle drink. Knowing that the wine is made with ungrafted vines in sandy soil, you can't help to notice how elastic its fruit core is. It's not really about a chalcky Bdb, but more the feel of its style and expansion of the rich and giving fruit core, it has to offer. Did that give any meaning? Anyway - taste it and you will know what I am mumbling about ;-). Loved it, once again.




Anonymous said...

what an interesting tasting!!
hope to hear from you and share a bottle or 8 soon.


good food said...

Hi Thomas

This is just to let you know that I have mention you on my Politiken blog: ;-)

Fabulous photos by the way on this Champagne post! You've really become an excellent master of photography. :-)


Thomas said...

Thank you both ;-).

Andreas – I am sure that we will drink some Champagnes together some day and now -Trine has even given me another reason for coming to Stockholm, with her review of Mistral (Looks stunning, Trine).