The French-Swedish online wine dealer Caviste, with a habit of selling mixed cases from one producer at a time, has again made a release of Champagne from Pehu Simonnet. This is the third time this producer is featured in a Caviste release, after previous releases in May 2013 and in May 2014.
Pehu Simonet is a smaller producer located in Verzenay (the link goes to my village profile), which is a village dominated by Pinot Noir, classified grand cru, and located in the Grande Montagne de Reims area. Some of the vineyards of Pehu Simonet are located in the neighbouring villages of Verzy, Sillery, and Mailly, but also in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, a Chardonnay-dominated grand cru village in the Côte des Blancs. One of the Champagnes tasted was produced exclusively from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger grapes.
Some things have changed since last year. Pehu Simonet has changed the look of their labels, and the non-vintage Champagnes now have the additional name ”Face Nord” on the label, which means northern face, as in northern slope. The explanation for this name is that their home village Verzenay is located on the northern side of the Montagne de Reims hill, unlike many other Pinot-heavy grand cru such as Aÿ, Bouzy, and Ambonnay, that all are located in south-facing slopes. The range is also under change, with the introduction of a number of vintage Champagnes from selected vineyards or villages under the designation Fins Lieux, ”fine places”. The first of these new Champagnes, a blanc de blancs from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, was included in this tasting. At the same time, some other (non-vintage) Champagnes disappear from the range, those that were produced from the grapes that are now used for the Fins Lieux Champagnes. One such victim is the Blanc de Noirs that I tasted in 2013 and 2014, the grapes of which will be used for two Fins Lieux bottlings not yet released.
Face Nord Brut Grand Cru NV
70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, base vintage 2011 (70%) + 30% reserve wine. Disgorged January 2015.
Fruity and rather powerfil nose with red apples, discrete flowery notes, and some mineral. The palate is fruity with red apple, grapefruit, good acidity, some mineral, and a green-apply aftertaste. The palate is dry but not bone dry, and the finish is drier than the attack. Drinkable now, but could gain from some cellaring, 87-88 p.
Rather similar to earlier releases of the corresponding Champagne under the previous label.
Face Nord Rosé Brut NV
80% Pinot Noir of which 8% red wine, 20% Chardonnay, 15% of the wine oaked, base vintage 2011.
Plase pink colour. Fruity nose with wild strawberries, red currants, red apples, and some spice notes. The palate is fruity with wild strawberries, some cherries, red apples, some spice notes, good acidity, and an apply aftertaste. Both nose and palate shows a bit more spice and power than the white Face Nord, and this rosé therefore comes across as a bit more foody. Rather approachable, but can take more cellaring. 88-89 p.
2010 Fins Lieux No 5 Le Mesnil-sur-Oger Blanc de Blancs Millesime
100% Chardonnay from five plots in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Vinified in steel vats (no oak).
Nose with ripe citrus, some other yellow fruit, hints of spices, honey and nuts, some White flowers and mineral. An elegant nose that comes across as discretely oaked, although no oak was used. Palate with citrus, good concentration, prominent and stony minerality, and a high acidity. The aftertaste is long and citrus-dominated, in particular grapefruit, with minerality. Young, somewhat approachable already, 90(+) p.
This Champagne is firmer and less obviously fruity than the other ones, and therefore the one most suited for cellaring. Stylistically, it comes across as faithful to its village of origin.
This is the first Champagne produced in the Fins Lieux series, and it has replaced the earlier Blanc de Blancs from Pehu Simonets (which I haven’t tasted since it wasn’t sold by Caviste). That the first release is called No 5 may seem illogical, but apparently the lower numbers have been assigned to the vineyards closer to the home village. The holding in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger are the Pehu Simonnet vineyards furthest away from Verzenay.
As a reference, we also got to taste a Champagne from the 2013 release, corresponding to the white Face Nord Brut Grand Cru.
Selection Brut Grand Cru NV
75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, base vintage 2010, disgorged 2013.
Nose with yellow and red apples, bready notes, some nuts and developed notes, i.e. “classical Champagne notes”, and rather much development for two years of cellaring. The palate is fruity with red apples, some spice notes, good acidity, and a fruity aftertaste with some green apples. 88 p
This bottle, and one from the same batch tasted last year, indicates that these Champagnes – at least those in a more fruity style – develop rather quickly when cellared. So those that prefer a bit more of classical Champagne notes don’t really need to lay down these bottles for very long.
My overall impression of Pehu Simonet remain from the previous two releases: they are well made in a fruity and approchable style, with good concentration. The “higher part” of the range can do with some cellaring, though.