Rocks and bubbles

Recent sparklers for hardcore rockheads.

Domaine Belluard 2005 Ayse “Mont Blanc” Brut Zero
The Abominable Snowman… the Loch Ness Monster… no, this is an even rarer creature, a wine that may have actually been _under_hyped by Garagiste. It is one of the most pleasurable and distinctive sparkling wines I’ve had in a long while. Usually the praise you give to a value-priced sparkler is to say it can compete with plenty of Champagnes out there, the implication being that its main virtue is as a poor man’s Champagne rather than its own thing. But this bottle is the rare example that’s as good as plenty of excellent Champagnes but a completely different thing in kind; there is no Champagne resemblance at all in the taste, other than the fact that it’s sparkling. The fruit is much brighter, almost rieslingesque, and the minerality is practically synaesthetic. I’ve never had a sparkling wine before with such a vivid rockiness, like crunching a mouthful of gravel and volcanic rock, and it becomes even more intense as the wine warms up. So did Garagiste undersell it? Wellllll… Jon does quote his recurring “Parisian sommelier friends” calling Belluard one of the top ten producers in France, which is something of an overstatement (!), but it’s no exaggeration to say this is one of the top ten sparkling wines I’ve had in quite some time.

Jean Milan N.V. Oger Champagne Grand Cru “1864” Grande Reserve Blanc de Blancs
Like drinking barbed wire, the minerality is so severe and the palate presence so austerely dry. This practically jackhammers into the palate and turns your mouth into a heap of shredded metal shrapnel. I have never had a young Champagne (well, young-ish – half '98 and half '99 according to the Theise catalog) as characterful as this, but to say it’s not an “easy drinker” is a whopper of an understatement. The thing it reminds me of most is the 1996 Salon when it came out, but this is even more challenging. There is such a sense of weight to it you almost expect the glass to feel heavy in your hand, and the minerality is overwhelming, almost too much of a good thing – so forceful and intense that the aftertaste actually stays with me through the first few sips of the pinot noir we drink next. It really demands some bottle age for the fruit to develop some sumptuousness to balance out that shrapnel and add a little sunshine. Right now it’s a spectacle, something to marvel at even as it makes you recoil just a little bit.