Now this was a pretty spectacular line up of Champagnes by any stretch of the imagination.
First evening tasting:
Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve
G. H. Mumm “Mumm de Cramant”
Brut Alain Mercier “Cuvée Emile” Blanc de Noirs Brut
Jacquesson “Cuvée 742” Extra Brut
Gosset Grand Millésime 2006 Brut
Louis Roederer Rosé 2012 Brut
We started by comparing a couple of the most respectable NVs on the market and it was very surprising that the Charles Heidsieck seemed so much the better than the Billecart; but then it has a huge proportion reserve wines in the blend. Very classy.
I then threw in a special NV, different price point, a single Grand Cru village and pure Chardonnay – Mumm’s Cramant. Now, I’ll be frank, in the past I’ve loathed this wine, but it seemed pretty good and a well done rendition of the village which has a kind of paradoxical character; being being both ripe and ‘nervy’. Humph. Either it’s improved or I’ve mellowed.
The Alain Mercier “Cuvée Emile” was pure Meunier and …… sorry no.
Jacquesson’s 742 – superb. Jacquesson don’t do NV, each year they recreate the house Champagne, making the best Cuvée they can. You never quite know what you are going to get, the blend varies quite a lot but there IS a style that springs from factors such as where the grapes are sourced, the use of foudres, lack of manipulation etc. Pretty uncompromising but great for aficionados.
However the star of the evening was Gosset’s Grand Millésime 2006. A soft rich flavour kind of honey on brioche and with tingling acidity going onto the finish. Few Champagnes could have followed this and Roederer Rosé 2012 tried. A bigger flavoured rosé, such as one from a grower in Bouzy or Aÿ might have got away with it. That’s not to say the Roederer Rosé 2012 was anything other than very good though.
At Pol Roger
Pol Roger Brut (Magnum)
Pol Roger Blanc de blancs Vintage 2012
Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2008
This was the first visit and it’s always a privilege to visit Pol. We had already tasted the Brut NV the previous evening at our restaurant, so interesting to try the magnum, which was more profound with both more maturity and greater freshness that the bottle. Sir Winston was absolutely magnificent of course. This wine is always more elegant that I expect it to be. Preconceptions, preconceptions….
Bollinger Grande Année Rosé 2007
Bollinger Grande Année 2008
Bollinger RD 2004
Bollinger Special Cuvée
A superb lunch at Bollinger with equally superb Champagnes. When tasted side by side, I often prefer the Grande Année to the RD. It’s a personal taste thing, the Grande Année is more taut, with more tension and potential…. Anyway, that wasn’t the case here; the RD was from the awesome 2004 vintage and was possibly the wine of the tour; certainly people went out to look for it in Reims. Telling that Bollinger are confident enough in the Special Cuvée to put it immediately after such a great wine.
Second evening tasting
Marguet Shaman 15
Georges Laval Brut Nature 15
Tarlant “Zéro” Brut Nature
De Sousa Reserve Grand Cru Extra Brut
Moutard “6 Cépages” 2008 Extra Brut
Marguet “Trepail 1er Cru” Blanc de Blancs 14
Henri Giraud “Dame Jane” Rosé Brut
So, here we have a collection of Champagnes by the Young Turks of the organic / bio-dynamic / natural / rare grape varieties / unusual methods persuasions.
Benoit Marguet I’ve known for many years – he has an outrageous sense of humour and I’m sure he’s got an unusual attitude to responsibility. About the things that really matter, such as honesty in wine and attitude to the environment he’s super-responsible. But yeah, he forgot my last appointment…. The wines were divisive, some loved them but for others they were just too edgy.
Georges Laval is a legend, founder of bio-dynamie in Champagne and his Cumières rouge, (tasted some years ago on one of the more bizarre wine nights of my life at an organic producers’ evening – yup astral plane discussions etc); sorry, I’ve digressed, anyway the Cumières rouge Coteaux Champenoise was far and away the best red I’ve ever had from Champagne. New generation; the Champagne an absolute stonker! Stole the show. Except that Talant’s Zero, following it, had a crystalline purity that was really lovely. The De Souza good too.
Then we had the Moutard; except we didn’t! Some plonker gave us Moutardier thinking that was close enough. What’s an “ier” between friends? So we had another a non-so good Meunier vintage, not MoutardIERS’s fascinating blend including the rare Arbanne and Petit Meslier grape varieties….
Henri Giraud “Dame Jane” Rosé – A Champagne from base wines fermented in amphora, or rather pithos. Yes, very good. A nice Rose from Aÿ, and what I like, bit of strawberry. No you couldn’t taste the amphora and to my mind that’s right.
It’s worth mentioning that the 14 and 15 are not misprints nor vintage dates. They are Cuvée dates, so non-vintages produced on those dates.
Philipponnat Royal Reserve Philipponnat
Philipponnat Royal Reserve Rosé
Philipponnat Blanc de Noirs Vintage 2008
I’m a big fan of Philipponnat, but I don’t think many in our group had heard of them and so there were a few converts! The Blanc de Noirs Vintage needs some explanation: It’s very much a wine of the Grand Vallée de la Marne wine, (where the house is based) and it showcases the lovely Pinot Noir of this area. As such it’s important wine in the portfolio delivering something very special from the house at a highish but not extremely expensive price point. Redfruits, cream, brioche intense, lively and scored at 90 to 92 points for those that like that kind of thing.
At Taittinger & La Marqueterie
Taittinger Brut Réserve
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2007
Taittinger Prelude Grand Cru
Taittinger Millesimé 2013
Taittinger Folies de la Marqueterie
Taittinger Préstige Rosé Brut NV
Comtes is one of the greatest of all blanc de blancs Champagnes and it’s more versatile and ‘user friendly’ that the other greats, such as say, Salon. I find that the Prelude has greater clarity, purity and depth than the Brut Réserve but the Millesimé is somehow more dynamic. The single vineyard Folies de la Marqueterie is great fun and a good meal wine. Really worth trying. The Rosé is much improved lately too. The NV, which has been on offer in the UK recently is pretty good, but it gains a lot from being well chilled and decanted… yes, decanted!
Vilmart Cuvée Grande Réserve
Vilmart Cuvée Grand Cellier
Vilmart Cuvée Grand Cellier d’Or 2010
Vilmart Cuvée Grand Cellier d’Or Coeur de Cuvée Vintage (2008?)
The Vilmart Champagnes just keep getting better and better. Wonderful to taste the Coeur de Cuvée, shame I didn’t notice the vintage! Too busy thinking “this is fabulous!”. Vilmart Champagnes are really age-worthy. I’m still sitting on quite a few bottles from the 1990’s and a bootle of their special cuvee for the Millenium. It could be just about ready by now…..
At André Jacquart
André Jacquart Vertus Experience Blanc de Blanc 1er Cru
André Jacquart Mesnil Experience Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru
André Jacquart Rosé Expérience Rosé de Saignée Premier Cru
The Mesnil was very good. Shame they were out of stock of the Mesnil Vintage which, now that Salon is strictly for Billionaires, is one of your best chances to experience something extraordinary from the village. (Blimey, to think I used to pick up Salon Magnums in Reims for about the price of a big house Non-Vintage). I’ve followed André Jacquart since about 1991 when they were just another unknown Grower-Producer, albeit in the well known village of Le Mesnil sur Oger. (They are of course nothing to do with the Jacquart co-operative).
Round and about!
Sanchez-Le Guédard Cumières 1er Cru Clos Saint Hélène Special Club 2012
Sanchez-Le Guédard Cumières 1er Cru Cuvée Nature
Sanchez-Le Guédard Cumières 1er Cru Rosé de Saignée
Sanchez-Le Guédard Cumières 1er Cru Grand Réserve
Sanchez-Le Guédard are a new discovery for me and newish entrants into the Special Club. Cumières is an interesting village with a great south facing slope with fairly deep soils. The style is powerful, almost brutal. Sanchez-Le Guédard are organic and work fairly naturally. Impressive, especially the Club and Rosé .
Pol Roger Brut (Bottle)
Lanson Vintage 2008
Lanson Green Label Bio
Over the past 30 or so years, Lanson have been consistently one of my least favourite houses, so I leapt at tasting these two. No really, I did. You see last summer at Wimbledon, there had been a monumental screw-up to do with the catering at the opening party of the new roof at Court no 1. Following a complaint, we were offered a bottle of Champagne. GREAT. (Turned out to be Lanson, shit…) We duly collected aforementioned bottle and were offered this Green Labelled jobby. Hmm, why not? …. and it was lovely, fresh and profound. It’s also a Cumières, from the former Le Clerc-Briant bio-dynamic vineyards.
So, not a bad haul, 44 Champagne in 4 days and it was a great tour!