The launching of a new wine blog should naturally be accompanied by the popping sound of Champagne corks flying in all directions, so dear readers: watch out behind your screens, or at least protect your eyes! The first post will therefore be on Champagne, and more specifically on Lanson Extra Age Brut.
I noticed this bubbly in the Brussels airport wine shop in July, and since I’m rather fond of wines with some age and maturity, the name caught my eye. The price also wasn’t unreasonably high if it actually is a Champagne with both Age and something Extra – € 49,50. Or at least it didn’t seem so when you saw it on the shelf next to much more expensive prestige bubblies. 😉 Well, although Lanson was known to me, this specific wine wasn’t, so I checked it up first. It was apparently launched July 2009 at Wimbledon (it doesn’t say if it was a smash hit with the tennis crowd) in the form of a blend of 1999, 2002 and 2003 base wines. At least five years’ worth of ageing is what is promised under this label. So in this case, the base wine was blended and “tiraged” (had a mixture of yeast and sugar solution added for the second fermentation in bottle) in early 2004, was disgorged (had the yeast deposit removed and was corked) early 2009, and was ready for the market a couple of months later. Lanson is noted for being one of very few major Champagne houses which doesn’t put its wines through malolactic fermentation, which means that their Champagnes are generally high in acidity, which in turn means that they should be able to handle age well, and may even need more age than the average Champage to be enjoyable. In summary, the concept of this wine sounded particularly suitable to this house, and definitely worth a try!
On the nose, notes of red berries, typical brioche, toffee, pear, zest and mineral, which together give a harmonical and somewhat (but not overly) developed/mature impression. On the palate, noticeable acidity, again aromas of zest and brioche, slightly nutty, and a slight (citric) bitterness. 90-91 p, definitely enjoyable now and with big and elegant aromas. Will however easily handle several more years of cellaring, and would gain from a few more years. Would have received a few more points if had been a little more full on the palate.
After two days in the fridge under a “Champagne saver” in a bottle slightly less than half full, the aromas were fairly unchanged, but the mousse naturally reduced. Possibly more toast aromas at the expense of the fruit, which now more tended to red apples. The bitterness in the finish was also less noticeable, which was positive.
The bottle tasted here probably containted the “Winbledon inaugural blend” of 99/02/03. I write “probably”, because neither the label, nor the rather long text printed on the inside of the box, gives any indication of the identity of the blend, or when the bottle was disgorged. However, Lanson’s web page still mentions this blend in connection with Extra Age, so I assume that no new blend has yet been launched. But I have no clue if this bottle was disgorged early 2009 or at a later date. I must say that my opinion is that Lanson has made a big mistake by not indicating the disgorgement date on the bottles of Extra Age. I’ve never really understood most big Champagne houses’ aversion to indicating disgorgement dates. If this information is considered to be uninteresting or even confusing to most consumers, it could be indicated in very fine print on the back labels so only determined wine geeks would find it. (No one really notices the “registration number” + “N.M.” on the front label, but it’s there if you really look.) If you market a Champagne using its age as a selling point, you’re going to get customers who want to know how old it is. And they want to know how old it is when they drink it, not how old it at least was when it left Lanson’s cellar, at an unspecified point in the past. And becuase of its house style, Lanson attracts some “champagneophiles” who do like to cellar their bottles before opening them. I know there are those who buy regular Black Label and routinely give it a couple of years of cellar age before they drink it. If such customers buy and cellar several batches of Extra Age (after additional batches have hit the market in the future), they would have to mark them with “post it” notes to be able to tell batches apart! The whole thing doesn’t get more understandable when you read that at least the estimable Wine Doctor claims to have spotted plain old Black Label with disgorgement date indicated. Well, enough complaining about this for now. The contents of the bottle, which really is what counts the most, gets a thumbs-up from me for quality and for conforming to the expected style. In terms of price-quality ratio, it is fully acceptable, but not really a bargain.
The information actually found on the back label, by the way, is “LANSON EXTRA AGE prefers Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, selected only in the Premier and Grand Cru growths. Ageing at least 5 years in cellars, its blend of grand vintages combines complexity with freshness.” The inside of the box also informs us that the wine contains Pinot Noir from Verzenay and Bouzy, and Chardonnay from the Côte de Blancs villages Chouilly, Avize, Oger and Vertus. (Actually, only Vertus is a Premier Cru village, the other five are Grand Cru.) Apparently 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, judging from online info. As you can se above, the label design is in black, and it highlights the Maltese cross more than before. The bottle is sold in a black box of typical “Prestige Champagne” design. Altogether the product gives a sleek and stylish impression, at least if you’re into package design and black. And why shouldn’t you? Then again, I wouldn’t mind if I could get a discount and let Lanson keep the box. 🙂 Lanson Extra Age is priced slighly above vintage-dated Lanson (Gold Label) but clearly below Noble Cuvée, the prestige wine of their range.
Lanson’s fact sheet about this product can be found here.
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.