Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wintertime is Champagne time

I have recently discovered that my seasonal wine preferences don’t always comply with the unwritten wine rules.

I don’t know about you, but when studying to become a wine geek I adapted to some habits, which seemed pretty logic at the time. I had to do with seasonality and the wine we chose to drink as the ambient conditions changed. It bounced perfectly with the rhythms of the foods that were in season and the culinary traditions, which were associated.

As the weather turned colder here at my latitudes, the food increased its density and structure. Likewise wines were acquired to match these dishes and they were often bolder, darker, more alcoholic and with higher masculinity. We need wines that can warm our body and souls. Modern mankind are raised with seasonality behaviour - just think about how fashion collections changes from fall/winter vs spring/summer collection; fabric, weight and colours.

Christmas eve here in Denmark is often pinpointed to be the fulcrum of winter with duck, rich brown sauce and the tricky warm red cabbage, which could kill any wine match. When I think of this evening I often get an association of two fat pigs dancing tango in a sauna. Doesn’t sound right or groovy – does it? There has to be an alternative.

As the daylight increased and milder weather is on the rise it’s logical to turn the preferences towards crispy “white” offerings, which for my part have included more and more Champagne. Spring is a sensational period for Champagne with the entire flowering, crisp cool air, low humidity and the bright sunlight. I get Champagne thirsty just thinking of day in May with a glass of Champagne on the terrace.

However there is something I believe we have overlooked when it comes to winter and Champagne pairing – or maybe I should say I have made a personal discovery. The alternative I have been missing.

For my part Champagne works miraculously at wintertime. I think the primary reason for my appetite could be very well be that spring and wintertime feeds of the same concept of cool and clean air, which sets my association and needs towards cool tempered wines. Even the snowfall can contribute to my desires as the peaceful drops from the sky acts as a puritan association, where snow virtually advocates for innocence, crystallized clarity and a weightless elegance. Champagne fits the recipe.

So with this small intro I have some short and recent Champagne experiences for you:

2007 Demarne-Frison “Lalore” Brut Nature from Magnum.

Lovely crisp, pure and fresh Chardonnay with blessed yellow fruits and sizzling intense energy. Still on the young side, but I will never know how it will evolve because this was my one and only bottle.

2009 Dermane-Frison “Goustan” Brut Nature

I loved the ’07 of Goustan for it’s sensorial sweetness and lovely clay soil attack. The ’09 are shaped from the same frame, but it’s a fraction more intense, robust – but also tighter. The ’07 did however evolve quite quickly in the bottle, but I suspect the ’09 might take a year or two longer to reach the same state.  Lovely stuff.

NV Laherte BdB Brut Nature

I have had it so many times and I can never get tired of this minimalistic and honest expression.

NV Laherte “Les 7 (former Les Clos)”

Every time I open a new “Les 7” I tend to mark it as the best example I have ever tried. This is once again such an experience. I love how this Champagne are able to range from sophisticated spices, black tea notes, brutal soil attack and high pitched lime zest. Think this bottle was disgorged in early 2010.

2006 David Léclapart “L’Artiste”

Do you know the feeling of have a clear idea how a certain wine will taste like before you sniff the glass? I was 99% sure how the ’06 L’Artiste would be like before I put my nose into the glass as I have actually tasted it once before. I was wrong and I actually thought something was wrong with the bottle. Maybe I just have a bad memory, because there was indeed nothing wrong with either bottle or the Champagne itself. Rather accessible at the moment - insanely intense with supernatural energy and notes of pastry and apple zest. WOW!!!

“2009 Marie-Courtin “Concordance” Extra Brut

Third time I have this sans soufre Champagne and I am ecstatic about it. There is a tasting note here – which fits two of the experiences. But it’s the third @ restaurant Formel B, which are described here: It’s perhaps one of the freest Champagnes I have ever tasted and it’s so interesting. The notes are quit exotic, ranging from overripe peach, mango with deeper layers of walnuts and musk perfume. The taste has this elastic clay feeling and it’s so interesting. I can’t wait to taste it again – but I will wait 1 year.

2008 Marie-Courtin “Eloquence” Extra Brut

First time I taste this 100% Bdb from Marie-Courtin. First I should tell you that I have a thing with high acidity, which I tend to like and I am rarely scared by really high-pitched breeds. I find it exceptional interesting when the acidity cuts like a spine through the wine and associate either lemon or lime zest attack on the taste buds. For me it’s a tribute to the diversity and how such a Champagne can act as the perfect starter to a menu where the taste buds are kept fresh and alive – ready for more.  Les 7 from Laherte has it and this is also the case for Eloquence, which I absolutely adored. It started off with a combination of creamy sweet biodynamic notes - such as baby banana mixed with the vanilla notes from the oak and then leaning into pear, apple, lemon and lime. With air these oak perfumes retracts and is replaced with a grassier, mineral and stringent baseline, where this spinal acidity raises both intellect and energy. Fantastic Champagne. 

2006 Emmanuel Brochet “Vintage” Extra Brut

Lovely Champagne – with really robust core, delivering an intense and rich style. It's still on the young side, with greenish apple scents blending in, bringing clarity, backbone and a balanced counterweight to the bold expression. Give it 2-3 years and it will be perfect (I guess). 

1988 Krug

Where do Krug get this concentration from – do they have a secret formula? When having this served blind by my good friend Andreas in Stockholm, I wasn’t a second in doubt that I had Krug in the glass. I guessed ’88 or ’85. When you stick your nose into this thing it might come off as being a typical Champagne with some age to it. But after a few seconds the inner core hits you like a volcano and takes on a rollercoaster ride into power and elegance. What makes Krug stand out IMHO is it’s vinous side and the fact that you can raise it in temperature, serve it a bigger glass, make the bubbles die out and actually provoke even more complexity. That’s a sign of class and a kind of litmus test. Almost all of the pioneers Champagne names I love to drink can break this test – so can Krug, but many big house cuvée fails. 

NV Selosse “Substance”
(Disgorged April-2007)

For me Substance are like a Chameleon and a Champagne I always have hesitated to buy. Most of my experiences have left me with a “too much” and a somewhat confused impression. A common denominator has however always been an extremely expressive Champagne and this was also the case with this bottle, which I had in Stockholm. This experience is however – by far – the best Substance I have ever tasted. It was served right after 1988 Krug and sort of blended it and we didn’t “loose height”, just changed the scenery. This bottle has an outrageous scent of seductive evening perfume with deep vanilla, sweet woody amber-citrus notes with Selosse’s typical oxidized notes of overripe quince. There is an unheard balance to this Champagne, despite its density. Incredible vinous experience that you almost forgot you were drinking a Champagne. Can’t help to wonder if the trick with Substance is actually to give cellar it +5 years from disgorgement date?  

2004 Bérèche “Instant”

Was expecting a more evolved Champagne by now. But it’s actually pretty tight with bright acidity sparkle and lots of citrus fruits. Lovely clarity and more expressive above 14 degrees, but still it seems to be in a closed phase like many other ‘04s.

2006 Bérèche “Instant rosé No.1” Brut nature

Unbelievable Champagne and one of my all time favourite rosé Champagnes. Elegant, sleek, salty and so bloody tasty. I still have a few left and can’t wait to taste it again.

1999 Vilmart “Grand Cellier Rubis rosé”

Round, lush, pleasing and a Chamapagne I would describe as charming.  I however didn’t feel any intimacy “between us” and I found myself a somewhat distanced from it. The acidity is quit low and it lowers the friskiness. When combined with oak and too high dosage it becomes a blurry expression. I could easily drink it – and did with pleasure, together with some friends, but I had forgot about it soon after.  

2006 Georges Laval “Les Chênes”

Had high expectations, as it’s the third time I taste this magnificent Champagne. I think Laval have broken the sound barrier in ’06 and I hear rumours that his ‘08s are even better. I promised you short notes, so I will only say it’s unbelievable good Champagne. Still not as exotic as previous vintages, but I love this holding back, because underneath are all those layers constantly bringing complex layers to the package…..I’ll better stop here, because I will end up opening one of my very few bottles.

2006 Georges Laval “Les Hautes-Chévres”

Served in the same flight as “Les Chênes” together with my wine club. They actually preferred this one. I can’t choose, but can confirm that it was once again overly majestic and I can’t think of a BdN, which can deliver such a complex frame in ’06 vintage. Vincent – you rock, BRAVO!!!!

2008 Ulysse Collin “Les Roises”

A good Champagne and especially in the acclaimed ’08 vintage. I think Olivier Collin have taken a step in the right direction with splitting his BdB release into two separate cuvees. I would however – and I might have kinky preferences – would like to have even more brutality and soil attack here. It’s a bit “pretty” with smooth oak appeal and vanilla sweet fruit. However the product is sound and of great quality and even drinking well.