Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chartogne-Taillet's newest release - Les Barres

This morning I was daydreaming about our visit to Champagne and specifically, Chartogne-Taillet.... thought back to some of the wines we tasted, including the upcoming release of a 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne called Les Barres.

Maybe Alexandre will take a moment and post here, I believe we tasted components of the 2006 vintage (it very well could have been 2005). I also pilfered the label image from his blog, which I've linked to on my page, so hopefully that's OK. :)

In any event, the wine was a revelation for me, the only other 100% Meunier Champagne I had tasted was Egly Ouriet's Les Vignes de Vrignys. Chartogne's Les Barres comes from a single vineyard plot planted with non-grafted vines. If I recall correctly, Alexandre thought the sandy soil prevented phylloxera from taking root. The wine was delicious and distinct, a piquant acidity lifting up the earthy, hearty flavors of orchard fruit. Perhaps reminiscent of a Morey St. Denis in regard to the refreshing funk.

I'm eager to taste this again, so I'll have my eyes peeled.

Also, according to Fine Champagne Magazine, Alexandre plans to release a couple of other single vineyard wines soon, including another 100% Pinot Meunier and a 100% Pinot Noir.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Terry Theise Dinner at Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston

Grower Champagne advocate and importer Terry Thiese moved to Boston recently and a group descended on Island Creek Oyster Bar in the Hotel Commonwealth, in the shadow of Fenway Park, for a shellfish extravaganza. There was some beef, too, as folks brought some middle-age Bordeaux and Barolo, in addition to our embarrassment of bubbly riches.

Here is the Champagne lineup, which frankly, was all I was focused on:
  • NV Varnier Fanniere BdB
  • NV Gaston Chiquet BdB
  • NV Billiot Cuvee Laetitia (actually a solera)
  • 2001 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvee
  • 2002 Goutourbe Special Club
  • 2002 Pierre Peters Chetillons
  • 2002 Chartogne-Taillet Fiacre
  • 2003 Pierre Peters BdB
  • 2004 Gimonnet Fleurons BdB

I've actually been fortunate enough to try all of these wines before but tasting them alongside each other was a revelation for how distinct they were, and was another argument in favor of "terroir."

Sniffing the Varnier Fanniere was a great example, it clearly showed off it's pencil lead aromas associated with the vines in Avize.

The 02 Pierre Peters Chetillons was such a complete wine even in its youth, it and the 01 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvee stole the show. The latter wine is almost beyond description and is certainly a singular wine.

Amazingly these wines are always fairly priced when compared to their large-house brethren. At a recent single-blind tasting, the 02 Gourtourbe Special Club (approx. $70) dusted some heavyweights, such as 1996 Krug (approx. $250+) and 1996 Dom Perignon ($260+), with its rich flavors.

Some argue that there aren't enough aged examples to judge how they might taste years from now. There could be a point there.

But even so, if a wine tastes incredible in its youth - is that pleasure any less or diminished versus one that has a couple of decades of age and drinks well?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Champagne Hunter - 1995 Henriot Enchanteleurs

I figured the first post of any substance should be pointing out a killer deal - I stumbled upon the 1995 Henriot Enchanteleurs (their tete de cuvee, usually around 50% Chardonnay/50% Pinot Noir) at All Star Wine & Spirits in Latham, NY for $89.95. I ordered from this shop years ago so can't vouch for their inventory or integrity, but I do know that's a heck of a price.

Always one of my favorites, the Enchanteleurs tends toward scents of citrus pastries and has a remarkably distinct earth note almost reminiscent of sous bois in Red Burgundy. The 1996 definitely has those marks as well and retailers must be blowing out the 1995 to make room on the shelves for the new release.

EmpireWine had this earlier today for $79.99 but they're out, someone must have jumped on that rather quickly.

Welcome to Recent Disgorgements

Welcome to my new blog, which I intend to be a collection of tasting notes and general thoughts on Champagne (both the drink and region). Or all Champagne, all the time, if you will.

I hope folks will chime in early and often.

My first visit to Champagne was over the final week of 2009 - I hope to get back in early 2011. Two of the highlights included visits at Chartogne-Taillet (one of their vineyards is pictured to the right) and Vilmart, both growers/farmers who are doing special things at their respective domains.

There was a time I loathed the beverage, though I suspect my dread had its roots in sucking down room temperature “Champagne” at weddings and other various celebrations, such as New Year’s Eve. I use quotes, as it was effervescent but hardly drinkable, let alone Champagne. (PSA time: If you’re going to serve unsuspecting folks that during the holidays, at least have the decency to chill it.) So I lay blame at the feet of various hosts throughout my life. I can’t help but look back and think: “Did they hate me?” And really, “Champagne” was the only wine I was ever offered – though perhaps a lukewarm glass of Pinot Grigio or Kendall Jackson Chardonnay was thrust upon me at some point as well. I’ve since blocked out all negative wine memories. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts.

Which leads me to December of 1999. I was living in Chicago and dating my wife-to-be, who was toiling for “Big Five” accounting firm Arthur Andersen. She received a couple of bottles of Domaine Chandon, a sparkling wine made in California and which is owned by Champagne giant Moet et Chandon, from Jeffrey Skilling. Just kidding, her boss gifted her the wine and this was pre-Enron scandal. (And no, she didn’t work on the account.) With dinner one night, she popped the cork on a well-chilled bottle and poured a couple of glasses. Instinctively, I cringed when she handed me a flute. Have you ever eaten or drank something which made you ill, and then avoided that food/beverage like you would someone stricken with SARS or the Ebola Virus? OK, I wasn’t quite at that level with “Champagne.” I’d much have preferred a cold beer, of that I’m certain. But as we are wont to do when we’re new to a relationship and hoping to impress a date, I accepted the flute, clinked glasses and took a reluctant sip.

A pleasurable sip. No gag reflex or lunging for a taste of a cold beer to chase the taste from my palate. So I took another sip and enjoyed it as much as the first. I couldn’t believe how extraordinary this wine was, it must cost $100, no? Because up to that moment in time, I had been trained like a Pavlov dog that wine tastes bad and should only be doled out to punish those you dislike.

A $14.99 bottle of NV Domaine Chandon sparked my interest and thirst for Champagne.

What bottle first opened your eyes?