It seems that each year the interest and therefore the demand for small production, grower Champagne gets more and more feverish. I was actually in Champagne this year in April when all the small growers were putting on trade events, (like 4 a day for 3 days) and the crowds were rather astonishing, not to mention the comments from winemakers telling us that they have never before been so inundated with importers looking to come visit and sample their wines for export. As a store that has specialized and championed wines from those hard working little farmers and shunned the big factory produced, bland, flaccid and often insidious tasting Champagnes from the Grand Marques we can assure you, the past five years have been the most thrilling for grower Champagne we’ve ever seen.
Years past when asked to sample some never before heard of sparkling wine from Champagne I would cringe, knowing that there was a reason we’d not heard of the wines and that reason was they were dreadful at worst and snooze inducing at best. Frothy, murky tasting wines that were rushed to export because some importer needed to have a bubbly in his, or her portfolio, not because of the merit of the actual wine. Our set here at The Wine Country remained pretty much the same for quite a few years, with a few new faces/bottles coming and going, but for the most part we stood with the artisans we had discovered early on, the reason being that there were so few other wines that could compete with the electrifying diversity and concentration of the wines that were already on the shelf. Now? Now I am constantly sitting across from an importer or sales rep shaking my head, wondering how to convince Randy to let me have another rack just to hold all the remarkable Champagnes we’ve been introduced to as of late.
Seems to be this perfect storm of situations converging upon the region of Champagne, everything from the end of long standing contracts to sell grapes to the large firms, a younger generation, that has traveled outside the region to make wine, sharing information and new ideas about crop management, the shunning of soil rotting pesticides, site specificity and tank verses barrel aging, add to that a bunch of wicked cool importers that have fallen in love with the newer, fresher face of Champagne and aren’t at all afraid to stand behind the quality of those wines, as wines and not just bubbly stuff reserved for popping once or twice a year. Like I said earlier, it is a truly thrilling and magical time to be in love with Champagne.
N.V. D. Henriet-Bazin Grand Cru Brut Rose ($43.99)
Comprised of 50% each Grand Cru Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and a blend of 2010 and 2011 vintages, this darkly colored, bone-dry Rose is a screaming value. A special cuvee made for importer Charles Neal, one with a very low dosage, this wine is perfect to pair with all sorts of foods. Elegantly lacy bubbles, dark fruit, some hints of yeastiness and a very clean, refreshing finish.
2006 D. Henriet-Bazin Grand Cru Brut ($49.99)
Pinot Noir makes up the majority of the blend here and it is very apparent on the nose that is blasted with supple and ripe red fruit. One of those Champagnes that you don’t ever want to stop sniffing as the wine keeps evolving and changing in the glass. Fairly toasty but not at all oaky this is a bright and gorgeous Champagne that would be brilliant with roasted chicken or fish, gooey cheeses and holds up gloriously to eggy dishes as well.
N.V. Demarne-Frison Goustan Brut Nature ($55.99)
A multi-parcel blend of several vineyards of Pinot Noir this gentle and refined Champagne has such a wonderful texture and mouth feel. Loaded with citrus, dried flowers, red cherries and just a hint of beeswax. Very subtle and dry with precision and beautifully tiny bubbles.
N.V. Demarne-Frison Lalore Blanc de Blancs ($68.99)
Made from 100% Organic Chardonnay this wine is all about texture, grace and refinement. Baked green apples, anise, under-ripe pears and night blooming jasmine all with some powerful saturation and a long, long finish.
N.V. Laherte Freres Ultradition Brut ($35.99)
We could not believe our ears when we heard the price on this charming organic Champagne. Made up of mostly Pinot Meunier with a bit of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir added this supple and easy drinking bubbly is a slam-dunk in the “Bang for your buck” category. Easy, bright, super-fresh and uber friendly.
N.V. Laherte Freres Blanc de Blancs ($41.99)
Such a remarkably focused and pure expression of great Champagne here and for so little money. A zero-dosage, or no sugar added Blanc de Blancs made from organic Chardonnay , this wine is full of tart citrus, chalky minerals and bits of toasted almond. Leaning on the racy side with all that citrus this wine was built to be an aperitif or to be served with fresh and simply prepared seafood dishes.
2005 Laherte Freres Extra Brut ($59.99)
We poured this sensual sparkler at a recent tasting and it was the very first wine to sell out! Made from 85% Chardonnay with Pinot Meunier making up the rest of the blend. A wine with loads of complexity but not so much that it distracts from the amazing floral, tangerine rind, fresh cut flower stems and buttered toast aromas. On the palate is where you feel the power, just a mouth full of richness but with a brilliant cut of acidity and bite. I love this beautiful sparkler on its own but there is enough stuffing there for scallops, fried chicken, prawns or even cured meats.
N.V. Georges Laval 1er Cru Brut Nature ($77.99)
If you ever want to impress a true Champagne geek give or share with them a bottle of Georges Laval. The wines from this tiny estate are some of the most sought after by true Champagne collectors and seeing as he makes less than 1,000.00 cases a year the demand won’t be easing up any time soon. Made from old organic vines and with this Brut Nature no dosage or sugar is added. This is one of the most wine-like Champagnes we’ve ever carried. The aromas, the weight in the mouth, the complexity, the power, the length, all bring to mind the greatest of Burgundy and this Champagne of that same level. Not a pop and enjoy Champagne, this one demands, requires and deserves your full attention. Brilliant. Simply brilliant stuff.
2009 Georges Laval 1er Cru Les Hautes Chevres ($249.99)
Made from 100% Premier Cru Pinot Noir and is so rare I was only able to get two six packs, for the year. Still quite young this wine has deeply saturated red fruit, spice, elegant herbal notes and a core of warm buttered brioche. One sip and the wines crawls up the side of your tongue and refuses to let go, spilling its power and regality across the palate and leaving a stain that I for one will never forget. A rare, rare treat but….who deserves one more than you? (Only 4 bottles left at deadline)