Michael Lewis talked me into the grand tasting and the Pinot Meunier seminar at the last moment. I collected my thoughts below. Apologies in advance for the stream-of-consciousness thinking, typographical errors, and misinformed opinions.
The grand tasting was well worth the price of admission for fans of Champagne, with 21 houses pouring 4 wines each, including many rare bottles that are almost never seen at retail. There was also some awesome food provided by the likes of Despana (jamon iberico bellota) and DeBragga (miyazaki beef). The Meunier seminar was a bit disappointing as Eric Asimov spent a lot of time on the basics of Meunier. Overall a great experience, and I will definitely be back next year.
Here are some of my impressions from the tasting:
2009 is a superb vintage in the hands of skilled growers.
Larmandier-Bernier is producing some absolutely incredible single village champagnes.
Savart is making some incredible wines. Hope they don’t disappear as people figure out just how good they are.
Doquet’s champagnes are precise, balanced, delicious, and under the radar.
Stuff that wasn’t a surprise
Selosse is a rockstar and his wines are incredible across the board.
Prevost is every bit worthy of the hype. The wines held up extremely well in the tasting.
Chartogne’s wines are excellent and there is so much potential as his winemaking career is just beginning.
- Of the two Meunier wines, Les Barres is from own-rooted vines in sandy soils while Les Alliees is on grafted rootstock in clay
- While it was interesting to drink Les Barres (09) I preferred the Les Alliees (08)-- not sure how much is 09 vs. 08 as opposed to the difference in soli/vines
2002 and 2008 are killer vintages for Champagne.
The 2002 Salon is really great. It’s also really expensive. Definitely tastes suave/“big house” at first but that is quickly overwhelmed by the incredible intensity.
Pierre Peters had some impressive stuff, especially the Oubliee for fans of “solera” style champagnes.
Bereche’s wines were quite good although they didn’t hit the same high notes for me as some of the wines mentioned above.
Laval was a really interesting guy to meet-- very opinionated about winemaking. The wines are quite good.
- I had a preference for the blend and blanc de noirs as opposed to the blanc de blancs-- just a bit more accessible
1998 Dom P2 was enjoyable but certainly not worth the retail tariff.
Jacquesson’s wines were good but not special, with the cuvee 733 degorgement tardif the best of the bunch
Agrapart’s wines fell a little short. Just not enough cut/intensity vs. the other stars at the tasting.
- He served a number of older wines that probably don’t reflect the current style
- Still, the 2002 extra brut seemed to be a bit lacking. Tasting it right after Selosse definitely didn’t help…
Krug… it’s just so Krug-y. Enjoyable in its own way but not a Champagne in the same sense as the other producers here. The Jadot of Champagne.
Philipponnat was not that impressive overall. Indistinct and a bit thin on the palate.
2006s-- hopefully they are just shut down right now.
2007s-- unexciting vintage.
Big houses releasing 2003 vintage champagne. I guess given the global demand for their brands they can sell through this poor vintage.
2004s-- harsh acidity even from those with riper styles.
A number of saignee method roses showed very poorly at the tasting. Reductive/green flavors. Maybe a tough contrast to the rest of the wines?
Delamotte? Hard to believe these are the same folks that make Salon.
Overall, all three producers (Prevost, Chartogne, and Bereche) downplayed the importance of varietal.
Prevost asks why make white from red?
- You can taste the entire flavor of a grape from the skin, yet the berry without the skin is mostly sugar and acid.
- Prevost makes his rose via assemblage to introduce the flavors of Meunier-based red wine.
Chartogne sees the importance of pairing grape to soil. Grapes are just a vehicle, the soil is what creates the wine.
Prevost noted that Meunier vines are often planted at lower altitudes where their is greater frost risk.
Although the lineup was great, I would have loved to see a few others, such as:
Vouette e Sorbee