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Grower-produced Champagnes (long!)

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  • Melanie Wong Dec 29, 2000 03:54 AM
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Estate-bottled Champagnes, or as Terry Theise calls them, “farmer-fizz”, are the micro-brews and single malts of the wine world. Unlike the brand-driven Grand Marques which blend various lots sourced from multiple parcels throughout the Champagne region, these are the creation of roughly 2,000 vintners who grow, produce and bottle bubbly themselves from their own tiny patches of hallowed Champagne dirt. Grower Champagnes are artisanal products, hand-crafted in small quantities. Their distinct vinous personalities express the vineyard sites of their origin and the human quirkiness and preferencess of the individuals who pamper them.

An estate-bottled Champagne bears the initials “RM” for Récoltant-Manipulant in the matriculation number on the label. While not necessarily a guarantee, a grower Champagne with this mark is almost sure to be interesting, even soulful, and worth a try. At the top levels, Grand Cru quality can be purchased for less than half the price level of the big negociant houses and represent extraordinary wine values.

On to the wines . . .

Grower-Produced Champagnes
Imported by Terry Theise Estate Selections
August 24, 2000

The ticking of a short-term parking meter limited this tasting experience to quick reactions only. Even so, my take-away impression was that many fantastic wines were offered today. Yes, WINES, not mere insipid bubbles. These fine grower Champagnes seem to be bred to be more interesting and characterful, instead of sacrificing distinction to maintain a house-style. Not as heavily dosed with sweetner, the fine fruit of recent ripe vintages can show to maximum advantage in these fascinating wines.

VARNIER-FANNIERE, Avize:

Cuvée St. Denis, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, $43 – Filigreed nose with floral, mineral and lemon curd, dances lightly on the palate, brightly acidic with lots of verve, long greenish finish. VERY GOOD

AUBRY, Jouy-les-Reims:

Brut Premier Cru, $35 – Flinty mineral-driven nose, fatter entry, round and full-flavored in the mouth with tinge of red fruit upfront, very ripe and almost chunky, clamps down in modest finish. VERY GOOD

Brut Rosé, $37 – Salmon pink, flinty rose petal nose, steely impression, zesty acidity with wash of wild berry flavor, crisp ending. VERY GOOD

1995 “La Nombre d’Or, Campanae Veteres Vites”, $44 – Unique flavors from arcane varieties of Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Fromenteau. Intense and piercing nose of sultanas, pear and biscuit, aggressive young acidity lends tang and bodes well for 5 years of improvement in the cellar, concentrated and weighty with exotic fruit, caramel, Earl Grey tea, and mineral extract, very long and linear finish. EXCELLENT

1995 Cuvée Nicolas Francois Aubry, “Sable Rosé”, $43 – Very pale tint of shell pink, oddly briny nose of cerise and mineral, very dry and austere, bracing finish. GOOD

HENRI BILLIOT, Ambonnay:

These were the biggest wines of the tasting, bursting with ripe fruit and toasted brioche. Definitely killer.

Brut Réserve Grand Cru, $38 – A big bruiser with a soul-satisfying dose of Pinot Noir. Very rich and robust with toast, strong minerality and powerfully ripe fruit in the nose and palate, weighty and full-bodied with firm acidity, mouth-coating with impression of sweet ripe fruit, long corpulent finish. The Zinfandel of Champagnes. EXCELLENT [tasted three times with consistent notes]

1995 Brut Grand Cru, $53 – Even greater dimensions with the volume blasting and shaking the rafters. Intense meatier nose with yeasty complexity, lavish minerality and Pinot depth, punch of fresh acidity, more complex and sophisticated yet muscular and masculine at the same time, blockbuster finish. OUTSTANDING

CHARTOGNE-TAILLET, Merfy:

Cuvée Ste. Anne, $37 – Light airy nose, tightly wound in the mouth, rinse of minerals and citrus, tight long finish. Not enough revealed to evaluate. GOOD

Cuvée Fiacre Taillet Brut, $50 – One of my favorite discoveries to return to again and again over these last three years, so luscious and polished. Nose of yellow apple, chalky mineral, biscuit and white flowers, impressive depth and intensity with layers of flavor, creamy texture, very long and refined, haunting finish. Will benefit from another year or two in the cellar. OUTSTANDING

1995 Brut, $44 – Sweet focused nose with ripe fruit, bread dough and chalk, expansive on the palate with smoky richness and concentrated fruit, turns leaner in finish. VERY GOOD

GASTON CHIQUET, Dizy:

Carte Verte Brut Tradition, $38 – Disgorged 05/07/99. Fresh green apple nose, very zesty on the palate with squirt of lemon juice, Granny Smith apple and chalk, light finish with oxalis aftertaste. VERY GOOD

Blanc de Blancs d’Aÿ Brut, $40 – Disgorged 15/02/99. Lively nose with high-toned fruit and floral aromas, open and giving on the palate with firm backbone, very flavorful with vanilla wafers, Meyer lemon, pork rinds and apple pie, buttery aftertaste in long finish. EXCELLENT

1991 Carte d’Or Brut, $46 – Apple blossom, hay and lemon zest nose, less interesting in the mouth with flattened profile and too low acidity. GOOD

1995 Special Club, $55 – Asian pear and chalky nose, racy acid balance with bright fruit, great clarity and verve through long finish. VERY GOOD

Réserve de Millenaire, $56 – Deep and broad nose of bread dough, flint, honeycomb and dates, silken entry with creamy mouth feel, forward blast of generous fruit and toast but pulls up a tad short in leaner finish. EXCELLENT

FLEURY PERE ET FILS, Courteron:

The group of wines from this biodynamic grower were the most intensely fruity of the tasting with a juicy, dewy quality that delights but defied description.

Carte Rouge Brut Tradition, $45 – Jasmine, chalk, strawberry and pear skin nose, expansive yet very light and well formed on the palate, vividly fruity middle, lingering finish. VERY GOOD

Cuvée Fleur de l’Europe Brut, $50 – Honeyed nutty tones with floral and buttered toast, very light footprint, delicate finish. VERY GOOD

1993 Brut, $62 – Spiced earth and fruity nose, fruit-forward and deep on the palate with grapefruit, jasmine tea, mineral, mushroom, walnuts, lees and butterscotch notes, rotund honeyed finish. Most idiosyncratic. EXCELLENT [tasted twice with consistent notes]

Rosé Brut, $49 – Rosy hue with lively tiny bead, exotic nose of gunflint, star jasmine, strawberry and crushed raspberry, seductive whisper of juicy berries and steely minerals, poised and refined character, crisp finish with lasting rosewater aftertaste. 100% 1997 vintage. OUTSTANDING

RENE GEOFFROY, Cumieres:

Cuvée Réservée Brut Premier Cru, $36 - Nutty nose and palate with flint, smoke and lemon zest, woody oxidative style, biting finish. VERY GOOD

Cuvée Sélectionnée Brut Premier Cru, $42 – Finer and more elegant/restrained nose with a spicy complexity, more fruit-driven on the palate with apricot, pear, green apple and minerals, turns bold in full long-lasting finish. EXCELLENT

Rosé Brut, $40 – Coral pink, closed nose with steely note, gripping entry, austere and cleansing on the palate, firm structure, crisp ending. VERY GOOD

Cuvée Prestige Brut Premier Cru, $48 – Bread dough, citrus, mineral, jasmine and honeysuckle in deep meaty nose, explosive and full-blown on entry if somewhat shallow at mid-palate, sharply creased flinty finish. VERY GOOD [tasted twice with consistent notes]

JEAN LALLEMENT ET FILS, Verzenay:

Brut Grand Cru, $38 – Vanilla bean and toast mingle in richly fruited nose, leaner in the mouth, low fizz, steely finish. GOOD

Brut Réserve, Grand Cru, $50 – Damp woods in toasty nose, broad but not deep, stern personality, clean finish. GOOD

LARMANDIER-BERNIER, Vertus:

Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru, $37 – Plump nose with bread dough, lemon zest and minerals, lightly acidic, aftertaste of freshly mown grass in moderate finish. VERY GOOD

1995 Cramant Vieilles Vignes, Grand Cru, $45 – Broader nose with deep carmelly notes and intense minerality, stark acidity, low effervescence, metallic finish. GOOD

1995 Special Club Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru, $52 – Without a dose of sugar, one would expect this to be uncomfortably austere and dry, but the density of extract and lees carries the show. Biscuit and honeycomb nose, creamy mousse, aged quality of toast and walnuty richness, voluptuous mid-palate, fat finish. VERY GOOD

A. MARGAINE, Villers-Marmery:

Cuvée Traditionelle Brut Premier Cru - $34 – Pretty floral nose, feminine personality, waves of poached pear, fresh fig, mineral and lees in the mouth, very long lacy finish. VERY GOOD

JEAN MILAN, Oger:

After meeting Milan’s achingly beautiful Blanc de Blancs wines made entirely from white Chardonnay grapes, I have to take back everything horrible I’ve said about Chardonnay as a variety. By the way, Milan is now classified as a negociant, as he buys in a small amount of fruit from his neighbors.

Brut “Carte Blanche” Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, $37 – Citrusy high-toned nose with hyacinth and lead pencil, very precise and sleek on the palate forthcoming with pear skin, candied citron, lime zest and gunflint, long-lasting ripe finish. VERY GOOD

Brut Spéciale, Grand Cru, $36 – Bread dough dominates cool minerally nose, mouth-filling creaminess, expansive with incisive cut, mature leesiness mingled with spring flowers and chalky minerals, bone dry, rounded finish. VERY GOOD

1995 Brut Sélection “Terres de Noël” Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, $53 – Pale straw hue with delicate bead, white flowers, mineral, Meyer lemon, green apple and pear skin nose, ethereal texture with nervy acidity, classy and sophisticated etchings on the palate with subtle complexity of citrus, Asian pear, freesia, quinine and lemongrass, spritely balance, intense through long persistent finish. OUTSTANDING [tasted twice with consistent notes]

PIERRE PETERS, Le Mesnil:

Cuvée Réservée Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, $38 – Tightly wound nose, very vinous in the mouth, high-toned yet penetrating with impressive depth and complexity of yellow apple, chalky mineral, jasmine and lemon curd, firm and vibrant, snappy succulent finish. EXCELLENT [tasted twice with consistent notes]

VILMART & CIE., Rilly-la-Montagne:

While widely praised as the finest of Champagne-growers, a couple spins around the block failed to reveal why.

Cuvée Rubis (rosé), $43 – Faint blush, floral and faintly strawberry aromas, aged depth and fullness on the palate, disjointed with funky off-notes, woody finish. GOOD

1993 Cuvée Grande Cellier d’Or Premier Cru, $54 – Burnt match, green apple, chalky and spinach nose, biting on the palate, moldy and skunky flavors, very ripe fruit, firm crisp finish. Marred by excessive sulfur. [tasted twice with consistent notes]

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  1. I have a couple of bottles of Rene Geoffroi here at home, they are excellent. I happen to be into RM champagnes a lot.

    Nancy's Wines here in NYC carries a -lot- of RM champagnes including Rene Geoffroi. I would mention the name of the buyer there who does a cool wine class where you can taste all of these but Jim would go bezerk.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jason Perlow

      Lucky you to have Geoffroy waiting for you at home. Did you know that only 100 cases of the Cuvée Prestige are allocated to the US? Looking at my notes again, I suspect that I might have given these wines higher ranking if I'd not been in a taste and dump mode and had time to let them reveal themselves more. The Rosé is one of the few still made by skin contact, instead of just adding some red wine for color.

      When I posted the notes I almost added a caution statement - "Jason -- chill!" This wasn't intended to be a sting operation for another wine guy outburst. (g)

      Since Theise's importer is in NY, you're fortunate to get a good selection. We do out here too, I suspect because Terry likes to visit SF and we're such a good market for his Germans.

      There are also a few small local importers bringing in RM Champagnes. Watch for anything from Beaune Imports.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Shit, I should have bought more than 2 bottles then.

        Guess I better check in with Nancy's after the New Year.

        1. re: Jason Perlow

          Be sure to save a couple bottles for the long haul, the new release from 96 cuves is only going to get better over the next 10 years if you like the mellow/biscuitiness of old champers.

    2. Melanie:

      I was reading this great posting again and I notice you mention that RM's have less dosage than the NM's.

      I have a few RM's, including a Rene Geoffroy and a bottle of Egly Ouriet which are specifically marked as "Non Dose" indicating that they do not have a dosage at all. Is it even possible to find a non dose- NM champagne? I've never seen a Bollinger or a Pol Roger or anything else decent in an NM in a zero dosage.

      The guy who's wine class who I mentioned (who, as per Jim, I am no longer allowed to mention by name on this site) indicated that when you pair a champagne with caviar, that it is best to go with a non dose' champagne because this way the sweetness of the wine doesnt overpower the taste of the caviar. What are your thoughts on this?

      23 Replies
      1. re: Jason Perlow

        The official term for Non Dose is "Brut Extra" (there was only one in the tasting, LARMANDIER-BERNIER), also known as Brut Zéro, Brut Sauvage, Ultra Brut or Sans Sucre. The legal level of sweetness is 0 to 6 grams per litre, which is bone dry. Brut, which we think of as "dry", can be 0 to 15 grams per litre. [10.0 g/l = 1.0% residual sugar] You can see that the high end of the Brut range is well into the off-dry or even sweet category if acidity is low. Terry Thiese says that the big brands are near or at the upper limit for what they ship to the States. In my other note, I can certainly confirm this for the M&C White Star which is noticeably sweet.

        If it didn't go to dryness during the two fermentations, Champagne can still have some residual sugar remaining even if no dosage is added. Also, if the base wines are older with rounder acidity, less dosage is required. So, it is important to focus on the measured sugar level rather than the dosage applied.

        Extra Brut Champagnes were fashionable a few years ago. Haven't noticed any lately. Laurent-Perrier was among the first to popularize the style may be your best bet among Négociant-Manipulant Champagne. There's also a Piper-Heidsieck Brut Sauvage.

        The RMs in this tasting did seem drier to me, in the 10 g/l and under range. With more characterful fruit and, in many cases, extended time on the lees, less sugar is needed to add flavor interest.

        With any kind of seafood, I think drier is better, whether non-dosage or not. In the case of caviar, I'd suggest a blanc de blancs as the black grape-based wines can taste metallic in the combo. Recently I opened the 1995 P. Peters Cuvée Speciale Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru to accompany Potato blini with crème fraiche, chives and osetra caviar (almost posted the recipe for your latkes thread (g)) which was spot on. Also a Theise import, although not included in my tasting notes, this one is incredibly minerally and high-toned from Le Mesnil, intense yet incredibly light and airy. Just perfect with the caviar and a raging buy at $50. The 1990 Dom Perignon which followed with the smoked trout paté appetizer would have been too heavy and sweet for the caviar.

        I'll be opening a 1990 Egly-Ouriet on NYE. Hoping I can talk my friend into bringing along the 90 Billiot I know he has in the cellar for a comparison. Both are Pinot Noir heavy and from Ambonnay.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          "I'll be opening a 1990 Egly-Ouriet on NYE. Hoping I can talk my friend into bringing along the 90 Billiot I know he has in the cellar for a comparison. Both are Pinot Noir heavy and from Ambonnay."

          Funny.. I have that same exact bottle and a pol roger 1990 that I am gonna open... Plus a regular Bollinger. For some reason I dont like the vintage bollingers.

          Egly really makes "big" heavy champagnes... I like that though.

          1. re: Jason Perlow

            The very ripe and almost sweet Pinot grown in Ambonnay makes Egly heavy. The Billiot is even heavier, if you can believe it . . .

            I'm omni-vinous when it come to Champagnes - I like every style from austere to heavy/ripe as long as they have the grand carriage of the best Champagnes.

            Among the Grand Marques, I probably drink Billecart-Salmon the most. The Brut Reserve is my "house" bubbly - I buy a case at a time and it gets better over the 12-18 months it takes to polish it off. SF is it's biggest export market and we get a good supply of the whole line and very good pricing. Also like Gosset above the NV regular Brut level.

            I'll be attending a small tasting of vintage Grand Marques in January, will report back if there's anything interesting.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I realize this thread has gotten way into another sphere, but IMO no champagne, no wine really, comes close to ``going with'' caviar. The fish oils do the champagne in, every time, where the saltiness doesn't get it first--the basic equivalence seems to be sheer, massive expense.

              Vodka and caviar for me, please.

              1. re: Pepper

                Yeah, sadly, even with a good non dose', as in the case of Egly Ouriet, the pinot noir is freakin overpowering. I suppose you could go with a non dose blanc de blanc (does such an animal exist?) but what would be the point.

                I guess this is the case where the aristocracy and high culture put two very expensive things together, and didnt realize just how badly they match.

                For what its worth, I think I will probably have my malossol ossetra this new years with ice cold stoli.

                1. re: Pepper

                  Yep, I'd have to agree with you. My combo relied on the creme fraiche and blini fried in butter to pull the whole thing together and dilute the caviar effect.

                  As you say, extravagant luxury seems to be the main reason for pairing them. You've reminded me of the time I was bumped up to first class on SQ on a dinner flight from Taipei to S'pore. I was the last passenger served. The stewardess must have perked to how intently I was watching her portion out my sevruga caviar and asked me whether I really like caviar. Yes! I said, then she dumped the remaining half of a big cannister on my plate. This was more fresh caviar than I've seen in a lifetime! So much that I got tired of it and couldn't finish it. SQ serves Dom Perignon in first. It was horrible with the fish eggs and I soon moved on. I asked for sparkling water which I dosed liberally with squirts of fresh lemon juice for my chaser.

              2. re: Jason Perlow

                My bottle's chilling in the fridge. I notice that it's from both Grand Crus - Ambonnay and Bouzy. My bottle was disgorged December 1996. How about yours? I think I bought this two, maybe 3 years ago, paid $38 then.

                My friend checked his cellar and had no more Billiot - we must have drank the last one last NYE. But he did find the top cuvée of Paul Bara from 1988 for us to share. Bara is in Bouzy, all Grand Cru, and heavy with Pinot Noir. Bara, Billiot and E-O are the best RMs of that style.

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  j
                  Jason "Shit, did I really say Burgundy instead of Bordeaux?" Perlow

                  I have a few Egly's here.

                  I have a 1990 grand cru just like yours, and I also have a 1999 Ambonnay Rose', a 1999 Cuvee speciale, and also a 1999 Cuvee Brut Non Dose. I picked them all up 1 year ago today during the millenium blitz at a reputable New Jersey wine shop, Shoppers of Madison. It stuck out like a sore thumb because all the other major marques were sold out. I was dammned happy to find the Egly's and they were priced to go.

                  Tonight we're opening up the 1990 but I am curious about the Non Dose and the Rose.

                  1. re: Jason "Shit, did I really say Burgundy instead of Bordeaux?" Perlow

                    Disgorgement date, please?

                    I doubt very much that the other E-O's you mention are of the 1999 vintage. Champagne A.O.C. regs state that the wine cannot be sold until at least 12 months after the Jan. 1 of harvest. This means that wines of the 99 vintage can't be sold until after Jan. 1, 2001.

                    Please do let me know how your 90 shows tonight. Happy new year!

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      The disgogement on the 1990 was 1996.

                      Jason

                      1. re: Jason Perlow
                        m
                        Melanie Wong

                        So how was it?

                        My bottle of 90 E-O was disgorged Dec. 1996. Frankly, it was a letdown compared to the 88 Bara. Advanced nose with lots of apple cider and toastiness, fat and weighty in the mouth and fully flavored, too low in acidity, only a moderate finish with a buttery aftertaste. I'd say it was a "Very Good" wine.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                          j
                          Jason Perlow

                          It was nice, but it wasn't acidic enough and kind of tired, as you say. Maybe I just dont like vintage champagnes.

                          I was much more impressed with their non-dose non-vintage disgorged in '99. This was one of the cleanest, driest champagnes I have ever had, fantastic. It was an incredible match for the 8oz can of malossol ossetra and the 10lbs of jet-flown alaskan king crab legs! Not overpowering at all. I actually preffered it to the iced polish vodka as an accompaniment.

                          I'm really looking to trying their Ambonnay Rose' and their premier grand cru.

                          Rose's are primarily chardonnay colored with a splash of red wine, right? Or is it called something else when you have a 100 percent pinot champagne? Blanc de noir is pinot noir (as opposed to blanc de blanc) but its not Rose' correct? I havent had one of those yet.

                          1. re: Jason Perlow
                            m
                            Melanie Wong

                            As I mentioned in my response re: Geoffroy, rose' can be made by skin contact or by adding red wine to get the pink hue. It's more common to add red wine, as it is easier to control the depth of color. Some people say they can taste the difference between one method or the other, but I'm suspicious.

                            Rose' may be made from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir or a blend. Blanc de noir is not rose' because it's white (with perhaps the slightest blush/bronze cast) and not pink in color.

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    I looked at some of my other champagnes and I noted that my Eglys are the only ones with disgorgement dates.

                    Why is that? And if you have a disgorgement date printed on your bottle what separates that from being a vintage champagne? Just declaring a vintage? Mixed vintages but bottling them at a specific date? The only "vintage" egly I have is the 1990 as it is marked on the front label, but the others, the 1999's, are printed on date of disgorgement (Julliet (July?) 1999)

                    1. re: Jason Perlow

                      Among the Theise wines I posted on, only the Gaston Chiquet wines showed a dégorgement (disgorgement) date. I understand that more producers are moving toward showing the date. You still haven't told me the d. date on your bottle of 90 E-O - I'm interested in a comparison with my own.

                      Remember that every individual BOTTLE of champagne represents a different lot. There will be individual differences based on the second fermentation in the bottle and the date of disgorgement. the relevance of the date is to give a clue on the label to the character of the wine and how it should be handled. A champagne which has been disgorged recently (in the last 12 months or so) will taste very fresh and floral, even if it is from an older vintage. A champagne of the same producer, same vintage which has an earlier d.date and has been aged for the same period of time, will have developed the mellow biscuity flavors of aged champers if it has been off its lees for 3 years or so. Depending on which style you prefer, select a more recent or earlier d. date.

                      A couple years ago I had the opportunity to share in drinking the last bottle of Calif. bubbly of the 1983 vintage that a friend's wife had made on her own from underripe Pinot Noir scavenged from her father's vineyard. It was incredibly vibrant for a 15 year old sparkler, and fruity with lots of exotic floral scents. When I asked when it had been disgorged, he said, "about 10 minutes ago, didn't you see the mess I made in the kitchen?" this was a good lesson for me on the life-giving properties of the lees.

                      Why they don't tell you is one of the champenois little secrets that they'd rather not get out. The common practice is to disgorge 3 to 6 months before shipment, not until an order has been placed. This means that a bottle you buy at the beginning of the year can be very different than the "same" wine you buy at the end of the year, and not just from extra bottle age. The champenois would rather you believe that their wine is always the same. While this may be an acceptable practice for NVs, it is highly questionable for prestige cuvées or vintage which should all show the same from a given assemblage. Bollinger has been criticized for its practice of disgorging vintage Grand Année 12 weeks before shipment, making the shipments to various countries different from each other.

                      Also at the time of disgorgement, the liqueur d'expédition for the dosage is added to sweeten the wine. It usually takes about 6 months for the two to marry and the wine will not show at its best if consumed before that time. I usually keep NV champagne for a year after purchase before I drink them to let them come together. You'll be amazed at how good NV Veuve Cliquot can be if you let it age for 2 years (3 is even better) after purchase.

                      Vintage and disgorgement dates are very different things. Vintage is the year of harvest. A vintage Champagne must be 100% from the year stated and is usually made only in the best years.. A vintage designated will also differ in that it usually will represent a special selection of fruit that best shows off the superior quality of the year with the structure for prolonged aging.

                      Non-vintage, multiple-vintage or sans année champagnes are typically made from the current harvest as a base wine, sometimes exclusively so, with reserve wines from older years added for complexity and to express the house style. If you look at the labels carefully sometimes you'll see a code like "C96" which is an internal production lot number indicating that the base wine is 1996 vintage, even if it is not marketed as vintage Champagne.

                      1. re: Jason Perlow

                        While we're on the topic and because you're such a fan of oaky, oaky Bollinger (g), I thought I'd add a few comments on RD cuvées. RD stands for récemment dégorgé or recently disgorged, and has been trademarked by Bolly. These bottles have been held back by the cellars for several years after the vintage wine was first released and left resting on the yeast sediment (or lees) for an extra 5 to 10 years to add extra autolytic complexity. As I mentioned before, the lees will keep the wine very fresh. However, wines that are kept on the lees for extended periods of time are more sensitive to the oxidation of disgorgement and will deteriorate more rapidly afterwards.

                        Because Bolly has protected RD, other makers will sometimes use LD for late disgorged. Not too long ago one of my friends popped the cork on the 1966 Dom Pérignon LD when he popped the question to his now wife. They told me the wine was amazingly fresh and complex.

                  3. re: Melanie Wong

                    "The 1990 Dom Perignon which followed with the smoked trout paté appetizer would have been too heavy and sweet for the caviar."

                    Actually the Dom and Roderers and other major NM's did very poorly in against the RM's in general at Wil... um, that champagne taste-off that happens once a year in NYC.

                    Its one thing to drink a champagne by itself but matching it with light food can be a problem, especially if they are pinot heavy. Especially caviar, which is very frequently associated with drinking champagne. I guess thats why Vodka is better for it in general because it is totally neutral.

                    1. re: Jason Perlow

                      Bite your tongue (and I don't think that shifting from mentioning Wil . . . to Nancy is kosher).

                      If the tasting included the 92 Dom and the 93 Roederer Cristal instead of the superior 90s, I don't doubt that they didn't show well. the 90 Dom P. is incredible, a meal in itself, but it's so open-knit and flashy now, I doubt that it will last long.

                      Isn't it funny that we talk about Pinot-based Champagne as a poor match for light food, whereas we promote red Burgundy as the perfect food wine? I suspect that all the toasty/leesy stuff that goes with the heavier bodied Champagnes gets in the way.

                      Someday I'll plan a dinner to match with all Champagne wines. I'm sure that RMs will be a big part as they're so "winey" and not just fizz.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        "If the tasting included the 92 Dom and the 93 Roederer Cristal instead of the superior 90s, I don't doubt that they didn't show well. the 90 Dom P. is incredible, a meal in itself, but it's so open-knit and flashy now, I doubt that it will last long."

                        Well, I still have the tasting notes from last year.
                        Remember we blind tasted these. We had a 1990 Dom, and and 1990 Roderer Cristal going up against things like 1990 vintage bollingers, 1989 pol rogers which were more favored. Also had some 89 and 93 NMs. In non vintage we had a lot of RMs, rene geoffroi, guy larmondier, etc go up against all the NMs and they kicked their butts.

                        Here is some annotated tasting notes from my wife. This sparked a real nasty thread last year.

                        http://www.chowhound.com/boards/thebe...

                        "Isn't it funny that we talk about Pinot-based Champagne as a poor match for light food, whereas we promote red Burgundy as the perfect food wine? I suspect that all the toasty/leesy stuff that goes with the heavier bodied Champagnes gets in the way."

                        I dunno, I dig burgundy but the suckers are so astringent and tannic in general you really need to drink that with a fatty cheese or a big ass steak. Otherwise its like an anvil with most food. I'm a pinot, cabernet franc and sangiovese kinda guy. Beaujelais nouveau is a lot better and the full blown burgundies for veal and lighter meat (oxymoron?) dishes. Maybe cause I bought so freakin much of it recently.

                        "Someday I'll plan a dinner to match with all Champagne wines. I'm sure that RMs will be a big part as they're so "winey" and not just fizz."

                        Gotta love em.

                        1. re: Jason Perlow

                          Thanks for pointing me towards Rachel's post from last year. Unfortunately I wasn't around at the time --- while people shouldn't have been so nasty, I could have had a ton of fun with it. Very enlightening that you two oak-a-phobes are so fond of Bollinger as the greatest Champagne. The unique taste of 1990 Bolly Grand Année comes from OAK, OAK, and more OAK, plus malolactic fermentation! This is 100% barrel fermented, in small barriques not big neutral vats, and the base wines are aged in oak. Many other producers try to arrest the ML in order to emphasize fruit flavors. But Bollinger believes ML enhances the taste of WOOD. This is consistent with your preference for Geoffroy, which also barrel ferments its best musts. Nothing wrong with liking Bollinger or the taste of wood, now you can come out of the closet. (vbg)

                          I'm still stunned that the 90 Dom Perignon would not show well. It's a wine I want to hate for the hype and all, but if I'm being honest, it's really special with wide appeal to novice and connoisseur alike. The 90 Roederer Cristal is tight and linear, needing 10 years to come around, but all the breeding is there to behold.

                          " I dig burgundy but the suckers are so astringent and tannic in general you really
                          need to drink that with a fatty cheese or a big ass steak. Otherwise its like an anvil with
                          most food. I'm a pinot, cabernet franc and sangiovese kinda guy. Beaujelais nouveau is a lot
                          better and the full blown burgundies for veal and lighter meat (oxymoron?) dishes. Maybe
                          cause I bought so freakin much of it recently."

                          I can't make heads or tails of what you're trying to say here, maybe you were nodding off? Unless you're drinking $100+ bottles of Grand Cru Burgs, unlike us plebes who confine ourselves to village and premier cru for daily meals, red Burgundies aren't terribly tannic or astringent. As a pinot guy, I'd think red Burgs would be high on your list. And Beaujolais is better than what?

                          The RM's we get in this country have been through the filter of excellent importers who pick the cream of the crop. Don't deceive yourself that they're all as good as the ones you've discovered here. Plenty are rustic and taste like a failed chemistry experiment.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            "The unique taste of 1990 Bolly Grand Année comes from OAK, OAK, and more OAK, plus malolactic fermentation! This is 100% barrel fermented, in small barriques not big neutral vats, and the base wines are aged in oak. Many other producers try to arrest the ML in order to emphasize fruit flavors. But Bollinger believes ML enhances the taste of WOOD. This is consistent with your preference for Geoffroy, which also barrel ferments its best musts. Nothing wrong with liking Bollinger or the taste of wood, now you can come out of the closet. (vbg)"

                            Yeah, I knew that, but its less oaky than others. Theres fermenting in new oak barrels and then there is shoveling wood chips into the barrels.

                            Mind you I do like the taste of oak. I like all the troncais and limousin you can throw at me in cognac.

                            "I can't make heads or tails of what you're trying to say here, maybe you were nodding off?"

                            I was ready to pass out just coming home from a late movie. I was thinking that beaujolais (gamay) was better than bordeaux, not burgundy. Cab Sauv can be friggin nasty with any food thats not haute cuisine with heavy sauces or big friggin slabs of meat, especially the younger ones. Anything made out of Pinot is usually just fine, you are right. Its a very versatile varietal to be sure.

                            I do have a few grand cru Burgundies that my parents gave me as a birthday present though.

                            1. re: Jason Perlow

                              Hello, Jason

                              Won't you meet me on Site Talk, for an update on some suggestions Jim made to you last week? See, please, the thread called "message board domination" on that board.

                              harrison

                              1. re: Jason Perlow

                                Hmmm, divergence from Avenger orthodoxy, rather open-minded of you.

                                Re: Beaujolais Nouveau as better than Bordeaux --- what more could I add, the statement speaks for itself. (g)

                  4. Snowed in here in NYC I've had so much fun reading this bubbly discussion that I have to add my $0.02 just for the heck of it. In terms of "Grower Produced Champagnes I am enamored of the wines of
                    Anselme Selosse under his father's label Jacques Selosse. More so his vintage than his "tradition" which is an MV. But he also makes a tremendous blend called "Origine" which is quite rich and full and is blended using a solera system and does indeed have salty sherry like notes to it. A tremendous food wine.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Chris

                      Well, it's been in the 60s and dry this whole week in SF. Calif's already out of electricity, and soon we'll be in a drought mode too.

                      I'm so glad you popped in, Chris. Especially timely as I just fired off an e-mail to my friend who's hosting a big-time Champagne tasting in a couple weeks. I had suggested that he drop the Selosse Origine from the line-up since it was the only one that was not a vintage nor a Grand Marque. But maybe it would be a good ringer against the prestige cuvées.

                      Since I've not tasted it before your description is going to help me a lot when I'm asked to guess the different houses in the single blind tasting. I'll keep salty and sherry-like (nutty? manzanilla flor?) in mind. I understand that Selosse is controversial in fermenting in NEW oak casks. Do you find the wood flavor pronounced?

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Very much manzanilla. Yes! More of the high tones one finds in Sanlucar da Barameda rather than the nutty tones from Jerez.
                        As far as the oak is concerned it is not at all pronounced and he only uses 12% new a year, some in 225L barriques and some in 400L so it's not clear which bottling see's which casks. I am remembering my meeting with the Autralian Vintner from Howard Park (who's name I forget) who's fond of saying "You cannot over oak you can only under fruit." Leaving aside the polemics of that statement I would say that Selosse's wines has some amzing fruit and have read (in Ed Behr's newsletter) that he lets it hang on the vine FOREVER and that "his grapes have some of the highest sugar levels in champagne."

                        1. re: Chris

                          I had a fabulous manzanilla pasada last week, but I digress.

                          Thanks for the details on Selosse. I understand that he ages his MV much longer than most, up to 8 years. I wonder if there's something unique in the soil of Grand Cru Avize that gives such a salty, minerally taste. The only other Avize I can recall off the top of my head is Agrapart which is also very mineral-driven but not quite into saslty.

                          1. re: Chris

                            I meant to add that Mel Knox (barrel broker) has said there are no overoaked wines, only underfruited. what you'd expect from the representative for François Freres tonnelerie.

                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                            No, no, no, let Ross keep the Origine in the tasting! I had this a few years ago when a friend and I first were made aware of Selosse. We were very impressed. Sorry, no tasting notes, but I think it would fit in well with the other wines he listed.

                            1. re: Larry Stein

                              Happy new year, Larry!

                              Ross will do as he pleases, as you well know. What's important is that we get a good turn-out so that we can open everything on the docket. I'm pestering him to set a new date soon so that I can recruit. We can count on you?

                              Thanks, btw, for turning me on to Pierre Peters blanc de blanc.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Yup, I'll be there for sure!

                                Your welcome. I guess I must've mentioned this wine to you at one of Bill's Age of Riesling tastings, but I don't remember doing it!

                                Happy New Year!!

                                1. re: Larry Stein
                                  m
                                  Melanie Wong

                                  Yes, it was at one of Bill's tastings. A remarkable group of champagnes.

                                  1. re: Larry Stein
                                    m
                                    Melanie Wong

                                    Ross has assured me that the Selosse will remain in the line-up, if we have enough people to open them all. Location will be Tom's house in Palo Alto. If any chowhounds are interested in joining us for a tasting of spectacular Champagnes, pls. e-mail me for more details.

                                    I was in SF's Bubble Lounge last night (first time), figuring it would be pretty dead this week. I was a total cork dork, sitting directly under the small overhead light at the bar and pulled in a candle for more illumination to view my tasting flight. Anyway, the barman handed me _Champagne 2000_ by Ruhlin and I had the chance to look up the wines I was tasting and the info on Selosse.

                                    Selosse was educated in Beaune and has been very influenced by the Burgundian technique. Small crop yields and weekly batonnage (lees stirring) create more character in his base wines.