A small BYO with four Champagnes took place in my kitchen two week ago. Although not coordinated in this way, we actually had three varietal Champagne of each of the three dominant Champagne grapes Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay, these three from small growers. In addition, there was a mature blended Champagne from a good house.
100% Chardonnay. Base vintage 2008 or possibly 2007. The back label doesn’t say, unlike Chartogne-Taillet’s other Champagnes.
Light to medium yellow, powerful mousse. Nose of peach, yellow apples with noticeable apple compote notes, some hints of oak, mineral, some vanilla and white flowers. The palate is dry (but not extremely dry) and fruity, with yellow apple, some peach and citrus, good acidity, mineral, and a fresh finish. Rather young, but approachable, 89 p.
Alexandre Chartogne took over the property from his parents in 2005. Starting from the vintage 2006, he introduced vineyard-designated Champagnes, and this Chardonnay is the third of these. He takes his inspiration from Selosse and uses oak, but I don’t think that the oak content or the oxidation notes are as pronounced as in Selosse’s wines. Chartogne-Taillet is located in the village of Merfy (which is neither grand cru or premier cru, and only sports a modest 84 on the cru scale) northwest of Reims, in an area not even included in some Champagne maps. Already before Alexandre, Chartogne-Taillet produced quite good Champagnes, and for example their regular vintage 2002 showed very well earlier this year, but they are now clearly part of the new generation of small producers.
Ulysse Collin Les Maillons 2009
100% Pinot Noir, disgorged 07/03/2013.
Deep colour for a white Champagne, almost a bit in the rosé direction, i.e. œil de perdrix (“partridge eye”). Nose with ripe pears, apple compote of red apples, spice, white currants, some wild strawberries and forest berries, some oak, and after a while notes of citrus and red Burgundy emerge. Quite dry on the palate with ripe pears, peach, apple, quite concentrated, a hint of herbs, a hint of perfume, noticeable spice, powerful minerality, high acidity. Fully approachable now – surprisingly enough – but could probably improve a little more with developed notes. 92(+) p.
I was served this wine blind, and I thought it showed an Aÿ style. Aÿ is a Pinot Noir-dominated grand cru village with a lot of south-facing slopes and is the source of some of the most powerful Pinot Noir-based Champagnes. This wine really has a lot of concentration and weight! Ulysse Collin is perhaps the brightest star of those that have only started to get attention in the last couple of years, and produces very powerful but still elegant Champagnes from Côte Sezanne, just south of Côte des Blancs. Also here a Selosse-inspired producer, but I think that he focuses more on power in the fruit and that the oak notes are very well integrated. The current range, with three vineyard Champagnes (two Chardonnay and one Pinot Noir), has been in effect from the 2008 vintage. I tasted all three 2008s late last year, and with hindsight I was probably a bit frugal with my scoring that evening, since I then have the 2008 one point less than I now give the 2009. (At that tasting I scored them like this: BdB Les Pierrières 2008, 91+ p; BdB Les Roises 2008, 92+ p; BdN Les Maillons 2008, 91+ p. More generous people might at least add 1-2 points.)
Chartogne-Taillet Les Barres 2006
100% Pinot Meunier, old ungrafted vines.
Bright yellow colour, good mousse. Nose of yellow apple, some apple compote, noticeable smoke notes, some citrus, a hint of peach, mineral, some rather well integrated oak, and with increasing temperatur notes of honey and herbs. Palate with yellow fruit, yellow apples, rather good concentration, mineral, rather good acidity, spice. 90 p.
Not entirely easy to identify this as Pinot Meunier, I’d say. It mostly showed blanc de blancs-like notes, although some of the Meunier signs (sweet nose in combination with some herbal notes, and not too high acidity) showed up at a little higher temperature if you knew what too look for. I remember this wine as having more red grape notes when I last tasted it in early 2012. This was Chartogne-Taillet’s first vineyard Champagne, produced from Pinot Meunier from old ungrafted vines. When I visited in 2010, I remember hearing that they were planted in 1945, and the back label says “60 years old”. On his new website, on the other hand, the age of the vines in Les Barres (there’s both Meunier and Pinot Noir) is given as 1952 and later. The reason that they have ungrafted vines that have not been devoured by the wine louse is that there is a lot of sand in many of the vineyards in Merfy, and the wine louse doesn’t like sand.
Jacquesson Cuvée no 729
34% Chardonnay, 34% Pinot Noir, and 32% Pinot Meunier. Base vintage 2001: 58% 2001, 38% 2000, and 4% 1999.
Medium yellow colour with some gold. Classical developed Champagne nose with bread, brioche, some toasted hazelnuts, coffee, mushroom, yellow fruit, yellow apples and some citrus. The palate is dry (but not extremely dry) with some sweet fruit in the attack, and yellow apple, some spice and mineral, rather good acidity (but not extremely high). Fully developed, pleasant, tastes of ripe fruit. 90 p, because I like mature notes.
This was the second release in Jacquesson’s 700 series, after the debut with the 2000 vintage-based no 728. 2001 is the weakest Champagne vintage of the nine years (2000-2008/no 728-736) that have so far been released as a 700 series cuvée. This is only noticeable as some extra maturity in the wine. Admittedly, they have used a high proportion reserve wine, 42%. Amazingly good for any “standard Champagne”, and absolutely fabuolous given the base vintage. (My initial guess was that this was a rather old vintage Champagne from a somewhat weaker vintage such as 1992 or 1993.) This again proves why the small Champagne house Jacquesson – which operates in a fashion more similar to an unusually large grower – deserves to be counted among the very best in Champagne.
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.