Holiday champers

Thought I’d rehash a few of the champagnes (mostly grower) I tried over the holidays. Thanks to this board and especially Brad Baker for many of the recommendations. I was especially impressed with Hebrart, which provided spectacular quality for the price (<$30). I’m looking forward to trying his BdB, and I’ve already reloaded on the Selection and Rose. The Pehu Rose was also quite nice, though not up to the level of either the Vilmart Rubis or Collin BdN (can’t understand how this can be called a “Blanc” de Noirs when it is darker than many roses, but whatever you want to call it, this juice was stunning), but it’s also half the price. Overall not a real clunker in the group except maybe the Pehu Transparence, but my guess is this might flesh out some with time.

  • N.V. Vilmart Champagne Rosé Rubis - France, Champagne (1/3/2011)
    Really lovely stuff, this. After being disappointed by the Grand Reserve, this restored my faith in high esteem that this house is held by wine geekdom. More like a wine with bubbles, this is rich, full-bodied, and extremely complex, moving from strawberry, to cherry, to mineral, and floral notes, with some toast mixed in as well. (93 pts.)
  • 2002 Pierre Gimonnet Champagne Extra-Brut Oenophile 1er cru - France, Champagne (1/1/2011)
    No detailed notes, but this was a lovely BdB. Elegant, with a fine mousse, and a very smooth drink. Surprisingly well-balanced and not seeming at all austere despite its low dosage. (92 pts.)
  • N.V. Marc Hébrart Champagne Rosé Brut Reserve 1er Cru - France, Champagne (1/1/2011)
    I’m really starting to like this house. The Brut “Selection” was outstanding, and this is no slouch either. Very “wine-like”, dry, with notes of rose petal and strawberry. A big mousse (finer bubbles would score this even higher) with a long finish and rich mouthfeel. Lovely wine, especially at PC’s sub-$30 tariff. (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Ulysse Collin Champagne Extra Brut Blanc de Noirs - France, Champagne (12/31/2010)
    I really liked this wine, probably my favorite sparkler of the weekend. Very wine-like, this immediately grabs your attention from the first sip with its laser-like precision and jolting minerally/nutty/berry palate. An attractive copper/pink color completes the package for this truly original sparkler. Wish I could afford to drink this every day. (No vintage indicated on label, but this was “L06” with a 9/9/09 disgorgement date) (94 pts.)
  • 2002 José Michel & Fils Champagne Brut Spéciale Club - France, Champagne (12/31/2010)
    Very elegant, smooth mousse and rich mouthfeel. Not incredibly complex, but a very pleasant sipper. (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Cedric Bouchard / Roses de Jeanne Champagne Inflorescence Blanc de Noirs Val Vilaine - France, Champagne (12/31/2010)
    Followed a 2006 Ulysse Collin BdN, so not exactly fair context for this to show its best, given the big personality of the Collin. Still, I found this to be very tight and one-dimensional, if not clean and precise. Much less impressed with this vintage than its two predecessors. (88 pts.)
  • N.V. Pehu Simonet Champagne Cuvée Transparence Brut de Brut - France, Champagne, Verzenay, Champagne (12/31/2010)
    Lean, tart, badly needing some dosage. Very linear, one-dimensional, with tooth-searing acidity. Maybe this needs time, or maybe my recollection of it is biased by the fact that this was champer #6 of the night, and I was freezing my a$$ off around a bonfire, but this was disappointing given how much I liked their rose. (85 pts.)
  • N.V. Bollinger Champagne Special Cuvée Brut - France, Champagne (12/30/2010)
    Big, rich, toasty. All the things I expect from this house. Really, this was very close in quality to Krug MV, though lacking a bit of the refinement of the latter. Just wish this was still closer to $30 than $50, like it used to be a few years back. Sigh. (92 pts.)
  • N.V. Pehu Simonet Champagne Brut Rosé Grand Cru - France, Champagne, Verzenay, Champagne (12/30/2010)
    A very nice rose, my first experience with this house. Much better than the “transparence” which we had the following evening, and which was a wine badly in need of some dosage. This, on the other hand, was extremely well-balanced, with strawberry notes accented by some mineral and citrus, mild toast. Fine mousse. One of the best rose champagnes I’ve had for the money ($30 from PC). (91 pts.)
  • N.V. Marc Hébrart Champagne Sélection Brut Premier Cru - France, Champagne (12/25/2010)
    Drank on Christmas with friends, so no detailed notes, but this was a crowd pleaser. A pleasant toastiness, very smooth, medium- to full-bodied, with a lasting finish. Impressive for my first experience with this house. (91 pts.)
  • N.V. Vilmart Champagne Grande Réserve Brut - France, Champagne (12/24/2010)
    My first Vilmart, so expectations were high, but this was underwhelming. I dig the toast and fullness from the oak aging, but this was unbalanced, the finish a bit harsh. I would have guessed this had a low dosage, but apparently it’s around 7 g/L. Maybe needs some time to come together and show its best. I’ve got the Rubis and '01 Coeur also in the queue, and imagine these will be a big step up in quality. (86 pts.)
  • N.V. L. Aubry Fils Champagne Brut 1er Cru - France, Champagne (12/23/2010)
    No detailed notes, but this seemed a bit out of balance, with toast/biscuit notes (good) but a harsh mouthfeel (not so good). Mousse was somewhat coarse and finish long but metallic. Pleasant enough, but I’ve had a lot better for the money. (87 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

Thanks for posting. Gonna put another Ulysse Collin BdN on deck. I too loved the only bottle Ive had.

Scott - sounds like a great selection! I’m with you on the Vilmart Grande Reserve, I’ve only seen it available gray market here in the US but even at the cellar door it pales in comparison to the rest of their lineup. Make a point of finding the NV Grand Cellier, I think you’ll swoon. It’s not cheap at $50 but well worth the step up.

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the recommendation. I loved the Rubis and may try the '01 Coeur tonight (wife just got a promotion). I’ve heard from multiple sources (including your blog I think) that the rest of the lineup is both a stylistic shift and a big step up from the Grand Reserve. I keep hoping Premier Cru will blow out the NV Grand Cellier like they did the Grand Reserve. They even discounted the '99 Creation last Christmas. Right now they’ve got the Grand Cellier “pre-arrival” for a good price, but I’m waiting until it either arrives or goes down in price before I bite. I’m curious what your preference would be in the Vilmart line, both when money is or is not an object. I’m tempted to get some Creation as I was under the impression they will not be making this anymore.

FWIW, almost all of these wines (save the Bouchard which I got from Crush and the Bollinger, Collin, Aubry & Vilmart Rubis which came from Astor) were grey market from PC, but that doesn’t bother me, at least not when it comes to PC as the source.

There must have been a group of bad Ulysse Collin BdN bottles because the one that I had was pretty awful. Almost acetone like on the nose and palate.