Mixed Champagnes

Every spring, a large wine tasting club I’m active in, arranges a Champagne tasting. This tasting is in an “open” format, where the participants taste the wines two at a time in their own pace. You go and pick them up at a serving station, where they mark off those wines on your tasting coupon. This time the tasting included twelve wines, of which two were sparkling wines of other origins. More specifically, the theme of the tasting was “Champagne – admirers, subregions and questions of style”. The admirers part explains the presence of two non-Champagnes in the tasting. Although I’ve contributed to uncorking a number of sparkling wines in this club (Munskänkarna), I was not involved in the selection or other arrangements this time.

Munskänkarna Champagne 20130513

Pair 1: Sussex versus Champagne

Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2010

Sussex, UK. 61% Chardonnay, 27% Pinot Noir and 12% Pinot Meunier.

The nose is fruity with apples, white currants, some citrus, some flowery notes, rater ripe fruit, slightly bready. Fruity attack on the palate, sweetness of fruit and almost a sec-like impression, rather good concentration of fruit, good acidity, green apple and citrus, some bitterness in the aftertaste. Fruity, quite OK but somewhat simple in style, the bitterness reduces the score. 82 p.

Honestly, the aromas shown by this wine did not give my any Champagne impression. To me, it’s more a decent sparkling wine that should be compared to a fruity Crémant that anything that competes with “the real stuff”. No matter what the Brits (or perhaps more specifically the English) believe. 🙂 I tried a number of Ridgeview wines last authum, including 2009 (which seems to have been weaker than the 2010 judging from my description and my 80 point score), and I had a similar impression of the style that time. I heard some other participants who seemed more impression than myself, so I’d definitely encourage anyone who hasn’t tried an English sparkling wine to do so.

Castellane Brut

40% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Meunier.

Smoky nose, rather biscuity, with apple and citrus, slightly flowery. More yeasty/”sur lie”-influenced and chalky nose than the English wine. Palate with a fruity attack, also slightly noticeable dosage, green and some yellow apple, good acidity, a hint of bitterness. Definitely has the Champagne aromas and shows that it is the real stuff, but slightly simple in style and with some coarseness that indicates that the grapes used are probably not of the very best class 84 p.

While larger Champagne houses with the best standard non-vintage Champagnes (such as Bollinger, Henriot, Jacquesson, Pol Roger, Roederer) definitely perform better than this, it should be pointed out that Castellane is often sold at a low price. At least in Sweden, it is currently the cheapest of any large house, and therefore a rather good buy. There are a few houses – including a couple of very larges ones – who have priced their standard NV significantly higher than Castellane without really performing better, or only marginally better, and not worth a price premium of 50-75% compared to Castellane.

The result of this round was therefore Sussex-Champagne 0-1, despite the fact that Champagne sent a reserve from the backup team.

Pair 2: Franciacorta versus Champagne

Ca’ del Bosco Cuvée Prestige

75% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Blanc (“Bianco”).

Fruity nose with ripe apples, other yellow fruits (perhaps white peach?), some mineral, very light smoky notes. Fruity palate, some sweetness of fruit in the attack, after that a dry and mineral mid-palate, rather high acidity, a light bitterness that combines well with the minerality, which lasts into the aftertaste. Good but not Champagne-styled, since it is too fruity and doesn’t have the typical aromas. 87 p.

Definitely good for an Italian bubbly, but on the other hand the good stuff tends to be found specifically in Franciacorta. Some of them are usually more Champagne-like than this.

Delamotte Brut

50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier.

Smoky nose, yellow apples, biscuits, hints of nuttiness. Pleasant Champagne aromas and rather developed nose for a standard Champagne, more like they usually are with some extra bottle age. On the palate apple, citrus, rather high acidity, some mineral, hints of bitterness. Rather firm, good balance, 87 p.

The palate was not as developed as the nose. A good standard Champagne, and drier than the Castellane. However, Delamotte’s strength lies in their blanc de blancs.

A tied round.

Pair 3: Côte des Blancs versus Montagne de Reims (competing in Chardonnay)

Pierre Péters Cuvée de Réserve

Chardonnay

Nose with green apple, some smoke, slightly herbal, with some citrus and white flowers. On the palate green apple with some unripe apples, high acidity, mineral, fresh and green-apply finish with some bitterness. Slightly more herbal and unripe than expected, but otherwise rather good. 86 p

I wonder which vintages that are found in the blend of this release. Although green apple aromas are quite natural for a blanc de blancs, I usually don’t find Pierre Péters this herbal and unripe, and it tends to perform better than this. I get an impression that there should be a colder, not quite ripe vintage in the blend. The excellent 2008 and the hot 2009 don’t seem to fit this description, and it should be too early for 2011, so reasonably 2010?

Henri Giraud Esprit de Giraud Blanc de Blancs

Chardonnay, of which 90% from steel vats and 10% (Chardonnay from Aÿ) from oak barrels according to the fact sheet.

The nose is smoky with green and yellow apples with ripe apple character, slight wool notes with hints of oak. Slightly more than medium bodied on the palate with notes of ripe green apple (perhaps a well-waxed Granny Smith?), some spice, high acidity. Could probably develop with cellaring, 87+ p.

More substance than the previous wine, but slightly one-dimensional on the palate, otherwise I would have scored it 1-2 points higher. The oak was not at all noticeable on the palate.

The victory goes to Montagne de Reims (or does it?), but the competitor from Côte des Blancs wasn’t really in shape. Some geographers would also put Aÿ, where Henri Giraud is located, in the Vallée de la Marne rather than in Montagne de Reims. Non-French Champagne maps sometimes include Aÿ in the Montagne, but the official ones I’ve seen have the Marne Valley continuing to the east of Epernay to include e.g. Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, and only up the slope, in Louvois, Tauxières and Bouzy, are we actually in Montagne de Reims. So I’m not sure that Montagne de Reims can really count this as a victory. 🙂

Pair 4: Côte des Bar versus Montagne de Reims (competing in Pinot Noir with low or no dosage)

Marie-Courtin Efflorescence Extra Brut 2008

Pinot Noir.

Nose with ripe green and yellow apples with hints of winter apples, discrete notes of perfume and honey, mineral, definitely elegant. Palate with good concentration, dry, green apple, citrus, noticeable mineral notes, high acidity. Young, could probably develop, 89+ p.

Elegant nose, but a surprising dominance of green apples for something produced from 100% Pinot Noir. It does have the substance to be balanced also at a low dosage.

Antonio Galloni has awarded this Champagne a whooping 95 points when he still was on the payroll of The Wine Advocate. That’s approximately the score TWA awards a really good prestige Champagne in a top vintage, or slightly above the average of all Selosse releases, that have scored from 89 to 98. Although this is a really good wine wine elegance and complexity, I don’t consider those two comparisons to be quite “spot on”, because those two categories of Champagnes tends to have more substance and development. But I will definitely return sooner or later to this Champagne for a retry!

André Clouet Silver Brut Nature

Pinot Noir, low dosage.

Smokey nose with some stone dust, apple including green apple, some mineral, some development. Medium bodied, dry palate, green apples, high acidity, some spice. Rather young on the palate, 87 p.

Good aperitif style, and perhaps a “good major Champagne house style” (although Clouet is not a major Champagne house). As I recall, the usual André Clouet (Grande Réserve) is usually a little more full-bodied than this, but I could have been tricked by having the Marie-Courtin in the glass next to it.

This round was won by Côte des Bar, but on the other hand it must almost considered to be bad sportsmanship to send a vintage Champagne from a top vintage to compete against a cheaper non-vintage colleague.

Pair 5: Vallée de la Marne versus Montagne de Reims (competing in any Pinot)

Françoise Bedel Brut Entre Ciel et Terre

80% Pinot Meunier and 20% Pinot Noir.

Nose with ripe apple including green apple, hints of honey, some flowery notes. Fruity on the palate, good concentration, yellow apple and other ripe yellow fruit, a hint of honey, good acidity, mineral. 88 p

Mailly Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs

Pinot Noir.

Slightly smoky nose, apple, slightly herbal notes, some perfume. The nose comes across as slightly atypical for a blanc de noirs, with almost a slightly unripe impression. Palate with apple and apple compote, rather good concentration, rather noticeable bitterness. 85 p

This one was less good than Mailly’s Champagnes usually, with its herbal nose and bitterness on the palate. Could there be a poor vintage in the blend? Again I’m asking myself if it is 2010 that could be responsible for this impression? In any case, this is not really an acceptable effort for a blanc de noirs from a producer that has a very good reputation for being a cooperative.

The Marne Valley won over Montagne de Reims, but I don’t think that the coach of the latter team is quite satisfied with the player he sent out. As mentioned, Mailly has a reputation as one of the two best cooperatives in Champagne (the other being De Saint Gall), but they’ll hardly be able to hold on to that reputation for long if they perform at this mediocre level with a wine that’s supposed to be half a step up from their basic level.

Pair 6: A question of style

Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve

40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.

Nose with ripe apple, some peach, slightly perfumed, some smoke. The palate is fruity but still dry with green and yellow apple, good minerality, some spice, rather high acidity. A foody style, almost vintage-level concentration. 88 p

Jacquesson Cuvée 736

53% Chardonnay, 29% Pinot Noir and 18% Pinot Meunier, base vintage 2008.

The nose is smoky with stony mineral notes, apple, some citrus. Dry, medium bodied with citrus, green and yellow apple, noticeable stony mineral notes, a slight hint of spice and smoke. Firm and rather elegant, has the potential to develop, 89+ p

Compared to the Jacquesson tasting some 2,5 months earlier (have a look at that post for more general info on Jacquesson and the 700 cuvées), I now score the 736 slightly higher. OK, one point higher is definitely within my marginal of error, but still a movement in an unsurprising direction, given how young it was then. 736 is definitely a Jacquesson release to cellar for the future.

The 2008-based Jacquesson 736 and Marie-Courtin 2008 turned out to be the two best wines at the tasting. It was quite interesting to make these pairwise comparisons, with a mix of Champagne houses and small producers.

Swedish version of the post here.

This entry was posted in Champagne, Chardonnay, Lombardy, Munskänkarna, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, United Kingdom. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s