Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Champagne Shaken AND stirred

A visit to Cédric Bouchard.

I have always been drawn and fascinated by people who have the ability to think out of the box. It’s the result of two things. First – I hate flock mentality, which I have been dealing with the last 19 years in the financial markets. Secondly – I have a soft spot for the rare and those who takes things to the limit. I am feeling alive when that happens. However it’s not necessarily the road to success, but in it’s path I always see the opportunity to learn something. When it comes to wine I find it almost crucial to see wine as a challenge, as I like the thought of staying alert and curious, despite I know I am getting older and patterns have started to form.

Cédric Bouchard challenged me for the first time in May 2008 when I tasted the 2005 Les Ursules. I found it fascinating more than I really was ecstatic about it. But there was something there – like the first time you listen to an album and it’s all a big mess, but slowly it grows on you and after a while everything falls in place and suddenly you only hear shear beauty.

Cédric Bouchard has also challenged my belief of what Champagne is and maybe I was a sitting duck for that dilemma, but fact is – today I see Champagne offering far greater spectrum and funny enough he ranks among my favourite producers. All of his Champagnes are true gems with fascinating profiles; strong personalities and Champagne would be a poorer place without him.

For some odd reason, during my early days as a Champagne interested person, I never considered the Aube region of Champagne to be taken serious. In fact, when I first heard about “Aube” I had to examine a bit closer, to really understand where and what? Today, I think very few Champagne lovers will still refer to Aube as the “The Ugly Duckling of Champagne”. The swan transformation has indeed occurred and producers like eg. Vouette et Sorbée, Olivier Horiot, Marie-Courtin, Demarne-Frison and of course Cédric Bouchard are producing Champagnes which has changed and diversified the Champagne landscape even more.

Still, with my very limited knowledge, I consider Aube to be rather different. There is something urban – something Jurassic about the soil feel in some of these wines, which is truly inspirational and fascinating. In some areas of Aube you have historic proof of nature biting back with formations of chalk which is 100 millions years older than those you will find in Côte de Blanc. Even the villages here are different. Older – more middle age and you will find no polished facades or avenues with flower settings.

On my way to Celles-sur-Ource, where Cédric resides, I passed a white car – “That was him”, I shouted to my friend in the car. And yes…it was him. He pulled us over when we entered his hometown, as he also recognized my big Danish head and took us up to his place.

The production facilities of Cédric Bouchard are very austere like I have seen @ David Léclapart. It’s a one-man operation, from the work in the vineyards, cellar to disgorgement, wrapping and packing of the bottles. He makes roughly 6.000 bottles divided on 4 different cuvees (Les Ursules (100% Pinot Noir) / La Haute-Lamblée (100% Chardonnay) / La Bolorée (100% Pinot Blanc) / La Creux d’Enfer Rosé (100% Pinot Noir)) and 8.500 bottles of entry level wine; the 100% Pinot Noir “Inflorescence”.

The dogma of Cédric Bouchard is; one grape, one harvest and one parcel. “Blending doesn’t interest me, he says”. His yields are also ridiculous low. “I only want the best and even if a vintage from a parcel is good, but not the best – I will not make it". He practices sort of natural viticulture, but he is not certified organic or biodynamic, as he doesn’t like to be following specified methods. Nor does he like to be defined to belong in a certain category. He is also realistic and with so little land at his disposal, loosing a vintage due to dogmatic methods could bankrupt him. “I have only sprayed with chemicals once and hope I will never have to do it again, he says”.

Dosage would be like writing his own dead wish – it will never happen. Dosage is associated with Champagne and the more you get to know this guy, you begin to understand that he doesn’t really want to be associated with Champagnes paradoxes of mass production, glamour and whatever could be interpreted as “classic Champagne”. He even suppress the bar pressure to about 4.5 atmosphere (normal is roughly 6) as he in general don’t like bubbles, but also to bring forward the vinous side of his Champagnes.

All his Champagnes are made in steel, but as he is off curious nature and still sees himself on an experimental level he has an experiment going on in oak. The experiment is Coteaux Champenois – both white and red. The white comes from Chardonnay row in the Le Creux d’Enfer vinyard and the red is from the same vineyard and Les Ursules, just Pinot Noir. He is still sceptical about wood. “Steel will always bring more purity to the wines and I will always prefer steel for my wines”…but he continues, “Oak does something to the wine, which I find interesting and I want to learn more”. The two Coteaux Champenois will only be released in magnums in a ridiculous low number of 146 bottles, starting with the 2007 white and 2008 red.

In his cellar - Cédric had lined up 6 bottles for us to taste.

We kicked off with 2008 Inflorescence, which is a 1.49ha Pinot Noir plot called “Val Vilaine” in the village of Polisy . The Vineyard belongs to his Father, which he also shares cellar with, but it’s Cédric who makes the wine. In fact it was also his father, which kicked off his entrance to winemaking by giving him a go with the Les Ursules vineyard back in 2000. But despite family blood and sharing cellar, their philosophies about Champagne making and general relationship are in complete and colliding contrast. Their relationship is constant key to frustration for Cédric and it’s obvious they can’t continue making Champagne under the same roof. Cédric hopes he can obtain a cellar up for sale in a nearby village, which will give him a fresh start and the opportunity to expand a bit. I doubt you will see him produce a lot more bottles, unless he obtains more land, but from 2014 he will have the space to label all of his wines, except “Inflorescence” as official vintage Champagnes. But he is also planning releasing a cheaper Champagne than “Inflorescence”, as he wants his wines to be for everyone to enjoy. In fact when asking about his sudden cult status, he is very aware of keeping his prices fair, so they can be enjoyed by real wine lovers, he says. Again – it’s the same pattern; he doesn’t want anything to do with the “dark side of Champagne”. Who can blame him?

The 2008 Inflorescence was by the way splendid – with divine ripe and pleasurable forward fruit and it’ the best vintage I have taste so far. Already at this entry level you get a sense of what the Cédric Bouchard fuss is all about. You can find a more detailed note here.

Next up was 2003 La Parcelle. I have only read about this cuvée until now and it’s again Pinot Noir from a 0.73ha parcel called “Côte de Bechalin”. This Champagne is not made by Cédric, but by a close friend of which Cédric bought the vineyard in 2007. This 2003 Vintage is also the final release of this cuvée. But it’s great Champagne and despite being from the opulent 2003 vintage, you have great red fruit and that sleek texture.

I have really looked forward to taste 2008 Les Ursules, which was next. We are still in Pinot Noir land – 0,9721ha and this vineyard are located in Celles-sur-Ource and the wine, which initially formed the making of the house “Roses de Jeanne”. Les Ursules is from release always a bit more backward, compact and more structured than Inflorescence. It posses greater layers of complexity and I tell you the 2008 vintage is more than good. I am totally in love with those black cherries and currant perfumes. 2008 Les Ursules is more of everything and despite it has plenty of cellar potential you have to try it now.

The next Champagne was the 2006 La Haute-Lamblée (100% Chardonnay). It’s a tiny tiny plot 0,071 ha with very young vines planted in 2002. Amazing so young wines can produce this kind of quality. I have tasted the 2006 once before in Berlin Sep-2010 and I found it absolutely adorable. But back then – I considered it to be rather transparent with its lush, ripe and yellow fruits. Now – it’s contracting a bit, showing more young Chablis like character with the minerality really biting back. It’s giving more structure even if we are still dealing with this sleek type of Champagne.

Already now, after 4 Champagnes, I was thinking, “This is heaven”, despite we are in a cold dark cellar. However more was to come. Next was 2006 La Bolorée (100% Pinot Blanc). La Bolorée (0,2107 ha) was one of 3 parcels for sale, but Cédric was far from the only interested buyer. So what to do? They drew lots and Cédric won La Bolorée. He was not at all happy about his award. “I took up a spade and dug a hole in the ground to see what I had obtained”. He encountered a south exposure vineyard with old Pinot Blanc planted in 1960 with soil on chalk. He now smiled and now knew he had obtained something beyond the ordinary, because La Bolorée is the only vineyard from Cedric solely on chalk where the other Champagnes are on argilo-calcaire soil. “The soil of La Bolorée is something else he says…and he continues “I see my Champagnes as small individuals personalities, just like people and this is what I want to bring forward”. La Bolorée are indeed a Champagne with a strong personality and maybe his most demanding Champagne. The 2006 are far shyer than the 2005 debut vintage. Incredible compact Champagne with a strong herbal touch it’s not easy Champagne to understand. It twists your mind and takes Champagne to the limit – but it’s also holding your attention and slowly making you understand as the herbal notes transform into sophisticated notes of ginger, wet rocks and hay. Personal, I can’t get enough of this Cuvée and I think it’s the one with the best cellar potential.

Just before I headed to Champagne I tasted the 2004 Le Creux d’Enfer rosé. Here it was again – one of the 475bottles made. You can read a more detailed note here, but I can confirm that this bottle was breathtaking as well

So that was it. Cédirc Bouchard more than fulfilled my expectations. He is truly fascinating with a strong passion in his heart and producing some of Champagnes most significant wines.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

2011 Terres et vins de Champagne

(Get ready to revolt)

(Sorry to disturb - Pascal Agrapart)

(Pascal Doquet)

(Alexandre Chartogne)

(Les Barres and Le Heurtebises from Chartogne-Taillet)

All images are clickable and will open a larger format
It’s the morning after "Les ateliers Mets et Vins de Champagne" and the official Terre et vins de Champagne day. From my hotel window @ Hotel Castel Jeanson I could already observe buzzing activity as the growers started to line up the bottles. The background music was a mixture of on sight disgorged Champagne popping, blending in with bird singing. The visual scene offered blue skies, crisp spring air and all together it was not exactly lowering my appetite for Champagne, even though it’s only 09:30 in the morning.

When I signed in and got my booklet for the 2011 event, I could already feel that the 2011 would be far more packed compared to 2010, where Icelandic Volcano Eyjafjallajökull had an unfortunate lead role. It’s impressive to see how each Grower makes the same passionate speech about their wines, not matter if’s a professional or amateur person - and that’s from early morning to 17:00 where the event closes down.

For me Terre et vins de Champagne is not so much about going from one producer to another and write bulletproof tasting notes. That’s not what I do – there are so many other people, which are better than that – eg. Peter Liem and Brad Baker, which also attended the event. I find it difficult to absorb so many tasting samples under such circumstances. I see Terre et vins de Champagne as a tipping-my-toes-event of what I need to examine a bit closer when I return.

It works like this. I try to get a feel of the overall quality of the current vintages presented in vins clairs (2010 this year) and to take the temperature of how the different growers have evolved since last year. The latter is not always easy, as a producer might present a vintage, which is far more difficult than what he served last year. That was eg. The case with Agrapart, which presented his 2005’s, which is not on the same level as his staggering 2004 range. As these producers aren’t exactly known for complacency, there might be brand new cuvee’s to taste. So there is a lot of things to notice in order to get the impression right. Later on the day, I sporadic re-visit again. It might be something that I wish to compare – confirm and in most cases how a single Champagne stand out after having tasted so much.
With lunch, I always try 2-3 different Champagne.
I can’t go through all the producers, but no one should really be left out as all have something interesting to offer.

(Champagne Jeaunaux-Robin)

(Aurélien Laherte)

(Olivier Horiot)

(Aÿ is hometown of Champagne Goutorbe)

Here are my overall impressions.

If to judge from Peter Liem’s article on the 2010 vintage and speaking to the producers and tasting their vins clairs, it seem quit clear that the 2010 vintage was a pretty challenging one. Benoît Tarlant told me how his Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier was ripped open as someone had whipped them. It was impossible to prevent botrytis from entering. The horror story can unfortunately be heard by many of the other producers and it’s the result of very dry spring and a devastating amount of rainfall between August 15 <> 17th, which amounted close to 85mm rain in 3 days (normal for the whole month is around 60mm).

Chardonnay is however a different story and was in general saved by millerandage and I found many vins clairs from Chardonnay pretty intense and promising.
One of my first stop was exactly about Chardonnay; Pascal Agrapart. His 2010 vins clairs are singing with confidence and it’s a journey I am used to, where you get the trio-treat of; Mineral, Avizoise first, then on of my darlings of the côte des blancs; “Venus”. All vins clairs are very linear – Avizoise takes in tropical fruits such as pineapple and mango and Venus is a soil driven beauty.

Another Pascal was next – namely Pascal Doquet. Once again a grower which is constantly smiling and there is an aura of friendliness around this guy. His 2010’s vins clairs are all Champagnes with strong personalities and from this harvest he is full blown certified organic Champagne producer. In vins clairs his rosé is the most wild one of them. I liked the perfumes better than the structure of this wine. The Vertus and Mesnil (both BdB) are both beautiful. In Champagne he presented the 2004 “Vertus” and 2002 "Le Mesnil-sur-Oger". Both are strong terroir specimens, where the Vertus show the spicy component of the clay soil and the Mesnil are a very vertical chalk driven Champagne. I preferred the “Mesnil”, however the “Vertus” is a gift to the “table” with its great structure and spice-box.

Already at the 2010 Terre et vins de Champagne, I was fascinated by the Champagnes of Chartogne-Taillet. Luckily we now have a Danish importer and I can’t wait to explore his Champagnes even more. Young Alexandre Chartogne was once again present. His 3 single vineyard Champagnes, which all hasn’t been released yet, where some of the most exiting Champagnes of the event. The 2007 Orizeaux (100% Pinot Noir) is sophisticated stuff and a Champagne filled with energy. It has this vivid and floating style, which is a trademark of Taillet, yet it’s poised with a strong soil footprint. "Le Heurtebises" is the name of the second single vineyard Champagne. It’s 100% Chardonnay from 43 year old vines and even though the 2007 served at this event is still awful young with plenty of lemon zest and mineral overload you once again sense the magnificent potential the Champagne which had lots of warm soil energy. The third one, which is the only one who has been released, (yet Taillet had concerns about it’s evolvement and have actually stopped selling it for a while) is called “Les Barres”. It’s the first release in 2006 vintage; 100% Pinot Meunier from 55+ old ungrafted vines (sandy soils like Tarlant’s Vigne d’Antan) - or vieilles vignes Françaises, if you prefer. Like Jérôme Prévost “Les Béguines” it’s taken Pinot Meunier to higher grounds with sophisticated spices, sleek structure and despite Les Barres feels somewhat shy I am always intrigued with Champagnes which uses very low volumes to impress. Les Barres was one of my lunch Champagnes. It did exceptional well with some cheese and ham.

(Champagne is fun - Raphäel Bérèche right)

(The Voodoo Child, aka Ebbe)

(Benoît Lahaye)

(Emmanuel Brochet stopped by)

(Fabrice Pouillon)

Sadly David Léclapart wasn’t personally present at this event. David is one of the kindest wine producers I have ever met, so it wasn’t the same tasting his wines without him there. David’s 2010 are all very promising. In Champagne I found 2007 “L’Amateur” a bit weird. It feels very “steely” and cold and it’s almost like the fruit is frozen and it’s resulting in a very short and slim finish. However, I have learned that David’s wines are very “emotional” things and tend to find themselves in very weird and awkward phases, so it’s too early too dismiss 2007 “L’Amateur”.

The 2006 “L’Artiste” was however utterly sensational. It might be indifferent to compare, but it’s very close to the staggering 2004. I love this raw chalky and straw’ish style it has with fresh apples and lime. I can’t wait to taste 2006 L’Apôtre now. However we would have to settle with 2005 "L’Apôtre" – aren’t we hard to please. I liked it much better this year. It has lost some of its funky potato notes and is now showing deeper fruits scents and round oak feel. It’s not there yet and I would still cellar just a couple of years more.

It’s making me proud to see how Aurélien Laherte is making progress. This young, friendly and incredible humble winemaker has since the birth of “Les Clos” (now called “Les 7”) demonstrated that he belongs among the very best. But it doesn’t stop there – there are improvements all across the Laherte Land and even his bargain “NV Brut Nature” offering is constantly delivering simple authentic drinking pleasure. After I had visited almost all of the producers I returned to Laherte to have a glass of “Brut Nature” and I delivered as it always do. Aurélien presented the newest release of "Vigne d'Autrefois" in 2007 vintage. It’s a very interesting Champagne which plays a game of spices and minerals being blended together. 2007 seems like a delicate and feminine vintage, but there is a lack of structure in those Champagnes I have tasted so far. Even better was the 2007 “Les Empreintes”. A biodynamic farmed Champagne from 40% Chardonnay (1/3 is Chardonnay muscaté) planted in 1957, 40% Pinot Noir planted in 1983 and 20 % Pinot Meunier planted in 1965. It shows exactly Laherte ability to balance a rather rich Champagne, yet preserve sophisticated Asian spices and a balanced sleek mineral finish.

Olivier Horiot is not new to me, yet I have only tasted his Rosé and red wine before. Olivier seems like a very playful person, yet his intense look tells you the guy means serious business when it comes to his wines. They are all very bio-driven and maybe it’s not so political correct Champagnes, but I really like this urban and wildness they have. I see it like this – the more diversity the better. The 2004 Sevé (100% Pinot Noir) has some rather funky aromas of wild cherries. However it’s a bit too nutty and waxy in profile. Having said that I would like to taste it again. The 2006 “5 Sens” (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc and Arbanne – 0 g/l dosage) was probably one of the most floral wines of the event. Incredible funky Champagne, waxy style, yet with poised citrus fruits. I will have to taste it again some day.
Raphäel Bérèche, another young Champagne producer, which is always smiling like life is just a big playground. You can only be in a good mood when you are around him and his Champagnes are constantly getting better. It’s the result of more and more purity with ballerina weightlessness and it’s simply brilliant. Extra Brut Réserve and Beaux Regards prove my case, with juicy, light and crystal clear flavours. His new Pinot Meunier “Vallée de la Marne Rive Gauche” (4 g/l dosage) is pretty irresistible with a very seductive creamy approach with very subtle tones of citrus and spices.

(Françoise Bedel)

(Champagne Couche)

(Serving Champagne makes you thirsty)

(Benoît Tarlant)

(Peter Liem)

One of the worst things about being a poor consumer is that you will always miss out on some of the many great Champagens growers. I feel like that with Benoît Lahaye, which wines are even so fair priced. He really impressed me this year by kicking off with a new cuvée called “Violaine” (50% Chardonnay / 50% Pinot Noir) made entirely without sulfur. The 2008 present at this event demonstrated incredible vivid pure fruit composition and with a singing energy both in fruit core and palate nerve. His 2006 vintage is also worth looking out for. It’s vivid bright fruit with remarkable clarity and a real seductive Champagne.

And how can one forget Benoît Tarlant – so kind, fun and generous. I also visited him a few days after and I am really into his BAM (Pinot Blanc, Arbanne, Petit Meslier), which he also presented in vins clairs at Terre et vins. I have a thing for these very bright flavoured Champagnes, which might be categorized as particular when they go a bit too high pitched. However, when BAM here, knocks over the barometer of energy, I am sold. Benoît might blend the first release of BAM with some reserve wines; to smoothen out those “particular” notes somewhat (don’t do it Benoît….or save a mono-vintage case for me ;-) ). But let’s see. The 2010 Vigne d’Artan in vins clairs seem to have survived the rough weather of 2010 and it’s such a great wine. I also like the Pinot Noir “Mocque Tonneau”, which is very aristocratic. In Champagne he presented a later disgorged version of “Cuvee Louis” (still 1996, 1997 and 1998 vintage). A bit more autolysis has infected this Champagne, but overall it’s still the same great stuff. The 2002 Vigne d’or was also there. It’s a rollercoaster of a Champagne, but I would seriously give it another 2-3 years of cellaring as it seems to have some waxy baby fat components stuck on it’s structure.

I am already looking forward to Terre et vins de Champagne 2012.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

“Les ateliers Mets et Vins de Champagne”

(Winemaker, toastmaster of the night and with the finest moustache north of equator; Benoît Tarlant)

All images are clickable and will open a larger format.
The day before the actual start of Terre et vins de Champagne, I had the privileged to take part in "Les ateliers Mets et Vins de Champagne", where each of the 18 producer presented a wine, with a matching 18-course standing tapas dinner. Behind these small mouthfuls of food, floating in a good solid tempo was no other than Château Les Crayères Philippe Mille and Dominique Giraudeau from Le Grand Cerf. Three sommeliers organized the wine/food pairing game; Philippe Jamesse of Les Crayères, Maxime Mantsch of Le Grand Cerf, and from my local backyard; Ulf Ringus (former Noma) from Relæ here in Copenhagen.
As you can imagine, after a 12-hour drive from Denmark - I needed a rest and Champagne with good food was a fairly good cure on a Sunday night. Below are my observations and despite giving some colour on food & wine, it should really be remembered as a joyful and relaxing event.
Menu: Wine (food)

1. 2004 David Léclapart "Amateur"; (Oyster/Seaweed)
Everything David has made in 2004 is pure magic and the Amateur is no exception. It has this raw chalkiness, combined with straw and grassy notes which makes it a beautiful linear and pure Champagne. Food: I am not an oyster fan, simply due to the texture, so I was happy to see a deep-fried specimen show up. However the oyster tonality was a bit too strong for my taste.
2. 1996 Pascal Doquet "Le Mesnil-sur-Oger"; (Oyster/Salmon/Caviar)
Food & wine was spot on here. And what a Champagne it was. Really refined with immensely friskiness, hay, slim chalkiness and sophisticated spices. Impressive stuff - bring me more
3. 2004 Laherte Frères; (Scallop/Vanilla)
A rather overripe and dense Champagne with components of vanilla and pineapple, which on paper should have been perfect to orchestra the food. However, despite the beautiful visual compositions in the small tin-boxes (see image), the sweet scallops and sweet vanilla aroma didn't have a sufficient counterpoint to balance the dish. It resulted in lack of subtleness; freshness and sadly the pairing didn't work.
4. 2005 Francis Boulard (magnum); (Lobster/Chocolate Tartlet)
So we continue to play with sweetness around classic raw ingredients. It's a tricky game, which challenge both mind and wine pairing. I liked the Champagnes raw and lime zesty appeal, but unfortunately there was a teasing note of pâté in the Champagne, which took away balance. The food wasn't a match made in heaven either, but the small bit was on it's own for sure tasty.

5. 1994, Tarlant Saga; (Pâté en Croûte)
This Champagne had a quit evolved nose of brownish apples, brioche with a solid touch of autolysis. The food came along just perfect, anchoring the full-bodied style of this Champagne. On the last meters, the Champagne drops a bit too soon, but still pretty well done on this vintage.
6. 2001 Hubert Paulet "Risleus"; (Pork/Peanuts)
The shift from Tarlant to Hubert Paulet was twisting things a bit up in my mind. I might have served them the other way round, but fair enough let's see what's happening here. This Champagne was like pure summer and sunshine. A very charming breed, which certainly could be of use, for the joyful days of life. However, if turning to a hard analytic approach, I found the Champagne too sweet for my palate and it didn't really match the food either.
7. 1996 Chartogne-Taillet; (Soy-sauce Duck/Sesame)
Again these shift in style - which always causes me to pause and use some time to level with the new wine. We are more old school again, with autolysis prints, but a devilish frisky acidity really lifted the Champagne, which underlines a trademark of the 1996 vintage. Food had Asian flirtations, which was easy for me to understand, as I have drunk a fair portion of food with Sushi and Asian dishes. Overall super pairing.
8. 1999 René Geoffroy Empreinte; (Foie Gras/Mango Jelly/Gingerbread)
Oh dear. My increasing appetite for Champagne is almost dropping the other way down, when it comes to foie gras. I need foie gras in small dozes and this bite wasn't bad, but not something I was ecstatic about either. The Champagne had a few dilemmas' to deal with. The sweetness paired fairly okay with the dish; however its structure suffered really hard with the fois gras, as I didn't seem to have the bite and acidity.

(The menu - page 1)
9. 1977 Pouillon & Fils Ecueil ; (Foie Gras/ Cereal)
I think only a Sauternes could have matched the food - which had the same viscosity as a chocolate mousse. Here the foie gras violated my limit of what I can take and it wasn't good. The Champagne was an entire different matter - what a stunner in such a difficult vintage. Perfectly mature with fresh appealing notes of newly washed sheets and mango. A bit of cheese flavours also came forward, which took it a notch down, but overall couldn't spoil the fun. Great!
10. 1982 Agrapart & Fils Minéral (magnum); (Morel/Poultry)
Magnums and Champagne is sometimes times two in size and quality. To think of it, I have never tasted a Champagne in magnum, which has disappointed me. This is no exception, even though it took some time for it to open up. At first rather shy, like the flavours was lying in a mist. You sensed that we are talking mature Champagne and slowly rose to the occasion with immensely freshness and frisky acidity. When the food was served it was like - yes....of course. Combo of something with funky forest flavours and light fresh poultry meat, melted together with perfect dosage of 2 g/l. So far the best marriage of food and wine.
11. 1998 Françoise Bedel "Comme Autrefois" ; (Morels)
More morels - I like, which proved to be a solid pairing with "Bedel". In fact, when I think of it, it might be a good lesson to give more focus on such pairing with the Champagnes of Françoise Bedel, as they often lean towards a rather funky biodynamic style of deeper layered fruit. Those notes showed perfectly here and had companionship of moist hay - and despite the Champagne lacking a bit in intensity (I think it's the vintage) - I was overall happy.
12. 2006, Bérèche & Fils Le Cran Rosé 2006 (magnum); (Farm Pigeon/Foie Gras/Blackcurrant).
I have heard stories about this magnum, which is only produces in 30 ridiculous bottles. Here it was. One of my absolute favourite rosé Champagnes and as it would be impossible to steal a bottle and escape the crime scene, I had to settle with a glass (maybe I had two - maybe even three, but don't tell anyone). It's sooooo outrageously good - WOW man, I am flying. Food - well for some odd reason I happen to like pigeon, which has the tendency to split people's minds. I really liked the dish and I didn't even notice the foie gras. I guess I was under the spell of Raphäel's rosé.

1977 Pouillon & Fils Ecueil
13. 2003 Olivier Horiot Rosé des Riceys En Valingrain; (Duck with Morello Cherries)
So let's not forget that they actually produce still wines in Champagne. Here is a beautiful red specimen, of that perfect fragile salty red and smoky fruit. The Champagne even had beautiful kirsch flavours, which went like a glove with food. Lovely.
14. 2004 Benoît Lahaye "Bouzy Rouge"; (Tabbouleh/Beef)
More red wine, but a different style than Horiot. We are still in Champagne, so still a delicate wine, but a more fruity style - which was rather pleasing. Food was a tartar and I didn't really understand the match?
15. 2000 Franck Pascal; (Apple/Caramel)
So we swift back to Champagne again and enter the dessert section. I can understand why it's logical to do it like this, but it's a disaster when it comes to pairing food and wine. The Champagne seemed fair, but ordinary with simple straw aromas. But then again - having sweetness of the apples sticking to your palate made it really hard to judge it properly.

(Ulf Ringus)
16. Goutorbe & Fils Demi-Sec; (Roasted Pineapple)
Despite being in the demi-sec section, I noticed a component of sulphur here, which made it hard for me to continue the journey. Maybe I am overly allergic to this note, but that was my reaction. The roasted pineapple mouthful was a bit simple, but really tasty.
17. 2000 Jeaunaux-Robin Cuvée An; (Cappuccino by Fossati)
Sadly the Champagne was corked. I had a chance to taste another bottle, but that was corked too. I am not a coffee drinker, but the Cappuccino tapas were rather nice.
18. Couche Bulles de Miel; (Shortbread/Pear)
Although I am not a fan of sweet Champagnes (this has 40 g/l of sugar), this is one of the better demi-sec, which I remember doing well with a dessert dish @ restaurant Noma last year. Noma's desserts aren't that sweet, which wasn't the case here and sadly it didn't end in the perfect marriage.

(2005 Francis Boulard (magnum))
What a way to start this event. A good night's sleep and we were ready for more Champagnes the next day.
Stay tuned for more