Monday, May 24, 2010

What else in March, April and May 2010

Let’s start the other way around –with the red wines. I am beginning to have an appetite for reds again. But this time, it’s especially fragile examples, with clean red fruit. Everything is of course pointing in Pinot Noir direction >>> Burgundy, but the wines from Jura is something I hope to explore even more in future. Even so, the last few months also brought some of my same Old Italian wines – both good and bad, as you will see.

German Spätburgunder Diel “Caroline”, 2005 vintage, is a wine I have enjoyed with great pleasure in the past. Every time I have tasted this wine, I have simply just poured it into the huge Riedel Sommerliers Burgundy Grand Cru glasses and the wine has instantly been singing. But not this time. The first half of the bottle was a huge disappointment, as the cherry notes were overripe, almost grilled, and not possessing the clean fruit I always search for. Also notes of pâté and burned rubber were a part of the aromas. However, the second half of the bottle, where I had rested it for an hour, was much better. Still not up to the quality I remember it for, but now demonstrating clean and seductive red fruit. Overall, even if judging by the second half of the bottle, I still missed a lot of layers, better curl around the tongue and the last note of purity in order for this wine to really impress me.

Italian reds are always regulars at these wrap-ups as I still have a fairly large stack left in my cellar. 1999 Ornellaia was one of them and what a huge disappointment it was. The nose consists of fairly boring blackcurrant notes with a lot of oak influence, which results in aromas of dark chocolate and vanilla. I find the complexity very low here and it's basically Bordeaux in an Armani suit. For some it works – but not for me. If to find anything remotely positive - it should be that the wine seems somewhat shy. It could be a phase – who knows? The recent “1999” Percarlo was not good either.

Speaking about Percalo, well on a cosy Monday, after a game of squash with my good friend Claus (have forgotten who won the match ;-)), we had a relaxing dinner with our families. 2001 Percarlo was my wine and what a wine. Served directly from the wine cabinet and of course a touch cold, it provided sensational appeal. Bursting out of the glass, with Tuscan spirit and red fruit all over it. The oak influence is obvious and maybe a notch too much for the intellectual taster, but my my, it’s so bloody seductive and so fruit driven that the irresistible-factor is killing all causes for doubts. We all loved it and to me the 2001 Percalo ranks among my all time Percarlo favourites.

The same night we had a solid good red Burgundy, the 2006 Robert Chevillon Nuits St Georges “les Vaucrains” – which is still very tight, with a lot of bitter components and spices, but the potential is there, even though the red cherry red fruit is not fully giving now. Curls great on the palate and despite its age serving complex drinking pleasure. Cellar 4 years.

If my memory is still intact – the last red wine on that Monday was the 2007 “Langhe” from Aldo Conterno. A good pasta friend for daily drinking, but could have had a better level of purity.

More Italian, but served the week before was the 2001 Barolo “Marenca” from E. Pira. It ended up being a fantastic wine, even though in didn’t posses much of the red fruit I also hunt in this region. In fact the wine is “black” – covered with dark cherry notes, dark chocolate and black violent fruit – but this is so genuine and with enormous concentration, that I had to surrender myself. What a great effort and I even have more of this in my cellar – even if there is absolutely no hurry to drink.

I also tasted a brand new wine from Burgundy – more specific Macon. A 2007 Mâcon-Cruzille "Les Rosiers" from Domaine Clos des Vignes du Maynes. Blessed with bright red cherry aromas, cool tempered, slim, elegant – but yet so expressive and with enormous drinking pleasure. I will taste it again and dig deeper into details.


Only a single one, if my memory is correct….should the Danish spring/summer weather start to show a more friendly side I will hopefully have much more “whites” for you. In May I had a 2008 Bourgogne blanc “Le Combe” from Domaine Derain. Even if it’s an entry level wine, it showed vivid buttery sensations, flowers, hay and melon. With air, the buttery components took a step back, allowing the flowery components to come forward and you get a lot of Puligny Montrachet association. I will hopefully taste it again – but also try other “Derain” whites.


I held a small seminar on Champagne, which was a lot of fun. I am not trained at this, but in order to make it work – not only for me - but also my audience - I took the role of a wine geek and basically just tried to send small dozes of inspirational Champagne virus in my audience direction. I had of course also brought some Champagnes which I also tasted - just a little bit of – just to test you know ;-).

NV Marie Courtin “Resonance” – silky and spicy – and a true bargain.

NV Agrapart “Terroirs” – flowers, butter, apricot – classic drinking.

2006 Cédric Bourchard “ -Inflorescence” – sleek, ripe, pure and always nice

2005 Ulysse Collin BdB “ -Toasted, oily, butter, quince – but a bit evolved I think.

2003 Bedel “DIS vin Secret” – “Bio”, warm hay, spices, exotic, powerful.

NV Laherte “Les Clos”, Fresh, electric, lime and demon high acidity – yummy.

I early May I tasted a recent disgorged (Nov-09) V.O. Version Originale from Selosse. It started a bit tame, with a somewhat oily and too oxidised profile. However, as the Champagne rises in temperature and the bubbles are secondary, a vinous beauty unfolds. The nose is now delivering pure apple fruit, ripe sensations and deep oaky perfumes. Once again, a Selosse Champagne, which started oxidized and dull – but with air gained tallness and balance.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


By driving to Champagne by car, I decided to prolong the trip by an extra day. The car came in quit handy, as I quickly arranged an appointment with Benoît Tarlant up in Oeuilly, where I had never been.

I have met Beniôt before in Copenhagen and of course also the day before at Terre et vins de Champagne. He is like many of the other wine makers - I have met from Champagne, a kind a warm person.

Before I had the privilege to met Benoît and be sort of, becoming more acquainted with his range of Champagnes, I always thought of Tarlant as being a fairly big and conservative wine grower. But I have slowly realized, that this is not the case. It seems to me, that Benoît is a person with enormous passion for his work, not on a mission to change, but more on a path of untameable curiosity. Benoît’s father; Jean-Mary - has for a long period embraced balanced viticulture with no use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Benoît are of course taking the same steps in order to improve soil quality, but also fine tuning the future potential of the Tarlant vineyards. This is seen in the recent introduction of the 2 single-vineyard cuvee’s. The Blanc de Blancs “La Vigne d’Antan” from ungrafted vines, where the phylloxera is not able to penetrate due to the very sandy and siliceous soil. The second one is the 100% Pinot Meniuer; La Vigne d’Or which vines dates back 1947.

But it doesn’t stop here, as I was about to see and also taste. Benoît has 2 new projects in the pipeline – or maybe more? – who knows? I am not even sure if I allowed writing about them, but I can tell you this much that one is still unmanned (currently just labelled with a "WW" marking on the bottle), was one of the most intense Champagnes I tasted on this trip. Another project is called "BAM" (Pinot Blanc, Arbanne, petit Meslier), but I better stop here and let Benoît reveal their true identity, when they are ready to be released.

And of course there is Discobitch, which just tells you, that some of today’s Champagne makers just likes to have fun. Benoît heard the song "C'est beau la bourgeoisie" by the French pop group Discobitch and immediately loved the song, which became a number one hit in France. Called the group and told them that he would make a Champagne called “Discobitch”. Despite its funky name and nightclub appeal, Discobitch is the real deal, as it’s basically cuvee Louis juice which is an extremely mouth coating and giving Champagne.

We tasted several vins clairs in the cellar and the whole Tarlant range in the tasting room – I think we had 16 wines in front of us. I love his simple Zero Champagnes, both the “Brut” and the “Rosé”, which the sort of Champagnes which just brings you in good mood, with their clean and vivid fruit. The 2002 “La Vigne d’or” is being released shortly and I strongly urge you to look for it. I would still cellar it though, just a year or two and it’s a power Champagne, but yet with the right finesse and balance. We also tasted the “2002 La Vigne d’Antan”, which is no way near ready yet. A Champagne with clarifying and vinous character, but currently so shy. Its release is still unknown, but it could take some time.

Benoît, if you are reading this, thank you so much for your great generous hospitality, I hope to see you again.

For more information:

2006, Julien Meyer "Heissenstein Pinot Noir", Alsace

Zero Sulphur
Glass: Zalto Burgundy

I thought it would be fun to publish this TN now - next to the sulphur infected Comtes de Champagne. I will still have a post on Tarlant for you later and also I will do a small wrap up of some of the other wines I have tasted in April. Plus I will attend a Krug Tasting this Friday.

I have actually tasted this wine before in 2004 Vintage some time ago, where it was served blind at a small tasting and I remember guesses flying in the direction of Burgundy and Leroy.

I served it rather chilled, around 14 degrees and just poured it directly from the bottle. 14 degrees is cold, but it’s all right, as the wine is already born very cool tempered and you will only bring out even more divine and sensational freshness. It’s filled with red raspberry fruit, sweet cherries and everything is so bright, pure and intense. It’s extremely seductive, yet very complex and one of those wines you can get lost in, by just sniffing it. On the tongue it curls with magical precision, slim and utterly refreshing. Like my wife said – “Can it be better than this?”

It’s worth to mention. I served it with a rather rustic lamp dish with carrots and thyme, where I in “the old days” would have served a rustic wine – let’s say a Chateauneuf du Pape. But this wine did it so much better, as the it’s bright flavours, low alcohol - combined with it’s sweet raspberry notes, was so cleaning and refreshing for the taste buds.

I rushed away to my local wine pusher and picked up a six-pack of this. I have already had it twice since…oh dear…my Champagne purchase plan is already destroyed.

1996 Taittinger "Comtes de Champagne"

"I have seen things that I can’t deny" (Fox Mulder, X-Files)

I have tasted this Champagne at least 10 times before and I have always been thrilled with it. But it has been at least two years since I have touched it and since then a lot of water has floated into the river of Champagne experiences.

For that reason, I was really looking forward to taste it, as I saw it as an opportunity for taking a current “temperature”, on how I would feel about a very traditional and highly respected Cuvée Prestige.

It’s a pretty bottle and that’s probably the best thing I can say about it. The nose is out of the scale toasted, with dull smoke and trying-to-seduce-me-vanilla flavours – only making it flabby and loose nerve. It’s filled with sulphur notes and combined with the toasted aromas it’s without a doubt (in tough competition with 1996 Dom Perignon) one of the most impure Champagne I have tasted in the last two years. It should be noted, that I am confident it’s sulphur, but in the case of Dom Perignon, some have suggested it’s the result of winemaking without oxygen. If anyone out there could clarify this, I would be interested, because it’s aromas, which are very annoying to me.

For sure it has some flowery and citrus flavours, which could have made a difference, but they are so covered in this sulphur hell, that they never come to life. On the tongue the wine is dead – no energy, no life, no acidity smack, no soil expression – just awful. It’s the first Champagne in a while, where I was not able to finish the bottle – half of it went in the fridge for day 2, where it hadn’t improved at all.

So how can I be ecstatic over a bottle of Champagne and two years later, literally hate it? Can if be phase for the wine? I doubt it. I think it’s me. The fact that I in the last two years have tasted more Champagne than I have in the last 10 years – and most importantly, falling in love with very pure Champagnes. I know where this is going. It’s the same old trivia about little man grower and big house evil Grande Margues. Why has it to be like that – why can’t it just be the pursuit of the taste of good?? I think it’s a little more complicated than that – also because the paradoxes are obvious there and Champagne – like no other region – has this unique and odd setup.

I hope you, as a reader know that I have no agenda other than use this innocent blog as my personal diary and share wine experiences. But admitted – I am sometimes puzzled by Champagnes paradoxes and don’t really get the idea of Champagne as a brand and not a wine with a birthmark from Mother Nature.

This dilemma will keep haunting me. I have a fair stash of Grande Margues in my cellar – I hope the deliver better than this one.

Glasses – several used as I hope one of them would make it shine. The Zalto kept the sulphur notes more calved, where it in the Adina glass, the sulphur notes was like a hurricane.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Terres et Vins de Champagne 2010

(Aurélien Laherte)

Last year Raphaël Bérèche and his friend Aurélien Laherte decided to put on a little tasting event @ Goutorbe's beautiful Castel Jeanson Hotel in Aÿ – named Terre et Vins de Champagne. The tasting was a huge success, demonstrating how much attention and curiosity some of the new frontiers on the Champagne scene are causing. Unfortunately I didn’t know about this tasting last year and only discovered it’s existent when I read about it on Peter Liems blog. Luckily this wasn’t a one off event and I am confident that Terre et Vins will be a recurring, not to miss, champagne event for all farmer fizz lovers.
Still the 2010 event will be remembered (hopefully) as a very odd Terre et vins de Champagne year. I am of course speaking about the eruption of the Icelandic Volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which caused air traffic across Europe to stop and cause complete chaos. Most of those attending from Asia and US missed it - even Peter Liem missed it - what a shame. My own situation didn’t look good either. I was supposed to fly to Paris – meet up with some friends for lunch and head by train to Epernay and attending the event early Monday morning. But no – my flight was already cancelled on the Saturday before my departure. I had already set my mind on staying home and my Plan B basically came down to rinsing my sorrows with a great bottle of Champagne. But luck came my way in the very last minutes. My best friend, Claus and I- had some weeks before the event talk about what a shame it was, that he couldn’t come to Champagne with me, as he was expecting some guest from US. But the flights from New York to Copenhagen was of course also cancelled, so he called me and so we made a quick decision and started the car.

So early Monday morning the 19th of April, I had my first glass of Champagne in my hand. Why can’t all Mondays be like that?
Click here to see which producers participated.
Each producer had brought about three 2009 vins clairs samples and in most cases the matching Champagnes from the current release. It’s of course really interesting to taste so many vins clairs for comparison and getting an idea about the 2009 vintage. But it takes enormous concentration and it’s hard when you just stand up and also want to make conversation with the some of the very friendly producers. I started writing notes, but simply stopped shortly after and just tried to use my senses.
Here are some of my personal highlights. Forgive if I have forgotten some – they where really not any bad Champagnes present.
It’s always difficult to present a vintage, which comes next to a highly acclaimed year. Already in my visit to Champagne last year, I saw how ecstatic the producers where towards the 2008 vintage. 2009 is not at the same level – so it seems at this early stage, but early days still suggest 2009 as being a solid good year.

(David Léclpart)
Aurélien Laherte served the latest release of Les Clos, which you may remember is a blend between the 7 Champagne grape varietals. It’s also a Solera Champagne, with has its starting point in 2005. The newest release is even better than the first – more layers and again incredible fresh. I love the fact the grapes from Le Clos are harvest at the same time, giving some of them this high pitched grape notes and one hell of an acidity smack. Freshness is the key for Laherte and his splendid Brut Nature is a great QPR for all purist hunters.
David Léclapart poured his astonishing 2006 Amateur (see my review here), which to me was better than 2005 Artiste and 2005 Apôtre. The 2005’s feels like they do not possess the same bright energy of the 2006 vintage. It might just be a matter of cellaring. David’s 2009 Vins clair are like floating black mineral nerve – it takes a lot of focus and experience to judge these wines.

(Pascal Agrapart)
That was actually also the case with Pascal Agrapart’s vins clairs, but still more chalk driven samples and not particular friendly and flowery perfumed as some of the other vins clairs. But tasting Pascal’s 2004 Champagnes makes you realize what such juice can be transformed into. All his 2004’s (Mineral, Avizoise and Venus) are brilliant. Especially 2004 “Venus”, which I have already tasted a couple of times before, is magical.
From Agrapart I walked over to Raphaël Bérèche, which style is completely different. Already at Vins Clairs level do you have wines with more vivid fruit sensations, such as lush peach scents. But both his vins clairs and Champagnes seems bound for an even more slim, elastic and elegant style. Raphaël poured his not yet released 2004 Vintage (Non-dosage), which made me smile a lot. It’s ones of those Champagnes which holds vivid ripe fruit, making them seem sweet, but it’s really an extremely seductive Champagne - yet fragile and very mouth coating on the palate. I think we are talking September before it will be released. I can’t wait to taste it again.

(Raphaël Bérèche)

(Benoît Tarlant)
The diversity of Champagne is highlighted at such an event – just take a producer like, Tarlant – which sent their top man to the event; Benoît Tarlant ;-). Benoît presented some of the most concentrated Champagne at the event. He presented a newly disgorged version of 2000 “Vigne d’Antan”, which was more broad shouldered than the first release. He also brought a fresh disgorged 2002 “Vigne d’or”, which was once again a volcano (a good one) of dark Pinot Meunier fruit, with quince and honey notes. It will need another 6-12 months to settle down I think and it’s being released shortly. I will have more “Tarlant” for you, as I visited Benoît the next day.
What else?

(Champagne makes you smile)
Alexandre Chartogne is a name to look out for. His wines are not available in Denmark yet, but he makes fantastic feminine wines. I will hopefully taste his “2002 Fiacre” in near future, so I can get more acquainted with his style. Françoise Bedel and her son Vincent Desaubeau was also present. Their wines are really dense with a significant trademark of biodynamic winemaking. They have made an fantastic accomplishment with their “Dis, Vins Secret” in the difficult vintage 2003.
One should not forget Benoít Lahaye either, which makes really fresh and drinking friendly Champagnes at bargain prices.

(We where nursed with fresh Parma ham and cheeses all day)
So it ended here one should have thought. But as I stayed at Hotel Castel Jeanson, where the event was held, why not join the wine makers in a small after party, where I got the chance to taste almost all of the Champagnes again. It was suggested to me, that I should have taken some pictures from this very cosy and joyful get-together, but some moments are just better enjoyed while you are there and shouldn’t always be captured on “film”. The only thing I can “illustrate” for you is that a Champagne cork can actually fly around 50 meters, if you give it a decent push – just ask Benoît Tarlant ;-).
A special thanks to Aurélien, Raphaël and Benoît for your generous hospitality – see you next year.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

NV Tarlant "Rosé Zero"

( Shot with aperture f/1.2 - causing a lot of out of focus blur)

The datasheet for this wine can be found on Tarlant’s homepage – click here
Glass: Zalto and Spiegelau Adina – both great.

Most wine lowers peruse to taste perfection and when they come close and even have a glint of perfection, some claim they will hunt that experience/taste/smell over and over again, as it where a drug.

I am no different –and yet, while polishing my halo, I have increasingly embraced the simplicity of a glass of wine – and in this case a glass of Champagne. Today I want wine and in particular Champagne, to be a natural rhythm of my life. Even if I had the financial freedom to buy the worlds most sought after wines, I would still drink, what I refer to “simple” wines, as they fall more natural into my needs and bring balance to the perception and evaluation of wine.

Why all this mumbling? Well – It’s easy to define great, when you can label a wine with multi layered complexity adjectives. But “simple” can also have it’s own beauty – even if the word in this context, always makes you think of something not great.

You have probably guessed it by now and I have already written half of the TN with this intro. This rosé is simple. Filled with fragrant red raspberry/strawberry and apricot notes. It has a great appealing and clean vivid fruit load. Taste is mild, simple and refreshing with a gentle spicy touch on the finish line. At no point did you realize it was a non-dosage.

It simply makes me happy to taste Champagnes like this.