In early December, a tasting of Selosse Champagnes was arranged in the wine tasting club AuZone. It is always a sign of generosity when someone is willing to let go of some Selosse bottles from their cellar, other than Initial/Initiale (I’ve seen both spellings on bottles), the entry level wine from Selosse which make up almost two-thirds of the production. In this case, it actually ended up as a two-bottle tasting, which must have left some “pain” in Mr C’s cellar.
A thumbnail sketch of Selosse: the domaine is called Jacques Selosse, the person running it is called Anselme Selosse. He’s the cultiest of all small cult producers in Champagne, and has inspired many younger followers who wish to produce wines of a similar style and quality (and probably hope for a similar international demand and price level as well). The domain is located in Avize in Côte de Blancs, but with vineyards also in neighbouring villages, produces mainly blanc de blancs Champagnes from Chardonnay grapes, but the small production of Pinot Noir is also excellent. Focus is on vineyard work, terroir and the mysticism of biodynamics, but in my opinion the style of vinification and cellar work also provides much of the Selosse character. All wines receive oak barrel treatment, in some cases in a noticeably oxidative style in a solera system, and all wines except his millésime are produced from a blend of vintages. In general, they are very powerful and food-oriented wines, that can be considered more as white Burgundies that also happen to have bubbles and originate from Champagne, a style of wine which Selosse was the modern pioneer of. To the extent that this style is met with objections – and that’s not from me! – the issue tends to be that the oak barrel notes are too much in evidence. Rumour has it that the non-solera wines, such as Initial and Version Originale, have shown more freshness and precision than in the last few years, and thus less oxidative notes. I haven’t followed all releases of these wines or tasted them often enough to confirm or deny this rumour, but I was very impressed by the 2011 release of Version Originale the past spring, and of the 2012 release of Initial when tasted a week before this tasting.
I’ve written more about Selosse here, focussing on his vineyard-designated wines.
Most of the wines in this tasting had been cellared for a few years.
Blanc de blancs, disgorged 4 October 2007.
Rich yellow colour. Nose with mineral, almond, some perfume notes that contribute to an impression of marzipan, ripe yellow apples and other ripe fruit including peach, some citrus, some honey, flowery. Rather fruity and elegant. Powerful palate with ripe yelow fruit including apples and citrus, noticeably spicy, a hint of bitterness, rather high acidity. 92 p.
Note: this wine can be labelled either “Initial” (without e, anglais?) or “Initiale” (with e, français), depending on when and possibly where it was sold. The 2012 release in Sweden was called Initial, sans e.
Selosse Version Originale (V.O.)
Blanc de blancs, disgorged 3 October 2007.
Rich yellow colour, slightly darker than the previous. Nose with mineral, ripe yellow fruit, yellow apples and winter apples, some spice, slightly oxidised notes, some mushroom. Palate with mineral, ripe citrus, yellow apple, spice, rather high acidity. Aftertaste with grapefruit and spices. Slightly less complex than Initiale, but a better mineral note. 92 p.
I was slightly surprised to se V.O. come across as more oxidised than Initiale of the same age, since I’ve considered V.O. as more age-worthy when I’ve tasted them young. This could of course be something specific to this release or these bottles, or dare I mention Tom Stevenson’s claim, that Champagne often needs a little dosage to age well under cork? Initiale is Brut and V.O. is Extra Brut.
Blanc de blancs, from a solera, disgorged 24 October 2007.
Golden yellow colour. Nose with mineral, ripe yellow fruit with slightly sweeter and deeper fruit note than V.O., yellow apples, orange, some oxidation and a touch of sherry nots, spice, perfume. Palate with mineral, ripe yellow apples and winter apples, citrus, rather high acidity, noticeably spicy. Aftertaste with powerful grapefruit notes. The nose is definitely gorgeous, but the palate doesn’t quite live up to the level of the nose. 93 p.
I had expected that Substance would rise more above Initale and V.O. than it actually did in this case.
Blanc de noirs, grapes from Aÿ, disgorged 1 February 2008.
Golden yellow colour. Nose with ripe yellow fruit, notes of dried fruit, flaked almond, chopped hazelnuts and other notes of nuts, oranges, spice, flowers and discrete sherry notes. Elegant nose with more “lift” than the others. Palate with good concentration, ripe yellow fruit – yellow apples, oranges, peach – powerful spice notes, medium acidity. Noticeable oxidation notes but with great elegance. 95 p.
Note: Contraste is no longer produced, and has been replaced by the vineyard-designated wine Côte Faron.
Disgorged 20 April 2010.
Light copper-tinged colour. Nose with clear mineral notes, red apples, citrus, rather discrete notes of nuts, some red berries. Noticeably spicy on the palate, mineral, citrus, red apple, medium acidity. 92 p.
Selosse Exquise Sec
Disgorged 21 October 2010.
Medium yellow colour. Nose with mineral, slightly smokey notes, spice, citrus, rather ripe yellow fruit, discrete floweriness. A light sweetness (off-dry), citrus, ripe yellow fruit including apple and peach, good mineral notes, good acidity, some spice. 92 p.
This wine definitely came across as the youngest of the flight, and showed – with the exception of the higher dosage – the style usually shown by young Inital(e), at least based on the releases of the last few years. The oxidation notes showed by other four white wines were not in evidence here. Based on some comments during the tasting, it seems a belong to the small minority of Champagne enthusiasts who are not of the opinion that a few grams of additional dosage completely ruins a Champagne and renders it almost undrinkable. 🙂
A common feature of many of the wines was a powerful nose in combination with ripe and sweet fruit notes. I was slightly surprised that first four wines showed such similarity. When newly released I would say that they are more different in style and quality than what they showed here, although I haven’t followed them systematically from 2007-2008 until today. It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if the more recent releases of Inital(e) and V.O. have slightly less oxidation notes than they used to, and in such a case Selosse has gone more in the direction of elegance during recent years. It would be interesting to hear if habitual drinkers of Selosse share this impression.
Swedish version of the post here.