2018 Bonnet-Ponson Coteaux Champenois Blanc Les Vignes Dieu - France, Champagne, Coteaux Champenois (25.5.2021)
A single-vineyard Chardonnay from Les Vignes Dieu parcel, planted in 1962 in Coulommes-la-Montagne, a 1er Cru-level village in Montagne de Reims. Fermented spontaneously, aged on full lees in oak casks for 10 months. Bottled on July 25th, 2019. 12,5% alcohol.
Pale and slightly hazy lemon-yellow color. Fresh, sappy and slightly ripe nose with aromas of Granny Smith apple peel, some herbal tones, a little bit of crunchy greencurrant, light sweeter nuances of cantaloupe and greengage and a hint of leesy yeast. The wine feels crisp, firm and racy on the palate with a medium body, yet the mouthfeel is surprisingly rich and slightly viscous. Crunchy and slightly wild flavors of fresh gooseberries and whitecurrants, some wild waxy character, a little bit of saline minerality, light tart notes of Granny Smith apple and a hint of leathery funk. The almost bracing acidity keeps the wine wonderfully crisp and electric. The finish is fresh, tart and crunchy with precise flavors of green apples and lemony citrus fruits, some apple peel bitterness, a little bit of waxy funk, light mineral notes of tangy salinity and a slightly lifted hint of acetic VA. However, as the wine opens up, it starts to exhibit subtly unclean notes of mousiness, so it is very obvious the wine doesn’t benefit from aeration - better to drink it soon after opening the bottle instead of decanting it.
A nice, fresh and crisp Coteaux Champenois, although slightly linear in style. Shows good intensity, thanks to the racy acidity. The light mousiness in the aftertaste takes a small toll on the score, but since the wine is very enjoyable upon opening, there’s no need to avoid this wine. Just beware of letting a bottle stay open for too long. I can imagine this wine will continue to improve for at least a handful of years. Pretty good stuff. (86 pts.)
2016 Les Freres Mignon Coteaux Champenois Blanc - France, Champagne, Coteaux Champenois (25.5.2021)
100% organically farmed Chardonnay from 42-yo vines planted in a Grand Cru-classified vineyard in Avize. Fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts. Aged with the lees in oak barrels, going through MLF during this time. Bottled unfiltered and unfined under 2 bar pressure on 1st of September, 2017. 11,5% alcohol. Bottle #465 of total 573 bottles.
Very slightly hazy, pale yellow-green color. The nose feels very similar to the bottle I had 1½ years ago, but perhaps with a little bit of more pronounced oak influence. Aromas of ripe Granny Smith apple, some leesy notes, a little bit of sappy herbal character, light notes of creamy oak, a hint of spicy red apple and a touch of rubbery reduction. The wine is lively, crisp and medium-bodied on the palate with the slightest hint of CO2 tingle that disappears fast. Bright, crunchy flavors of ripe green apples, some creamy notes of oak, a little bit of greengage, light leesy notes of yeast, a hint of tangy salinity and a touch of chalky minerality. Even when all the CO2 has disappeared, the wine still feels racy with its bracing acidity - however, the fruit shows enough ripeness so that the wine doesn’t come across as too lean or austere. The finish is long, clean and rather acid-driven with bright flavors of tart lemony citrus fruits, sweeter Golden Delicious apple notes, some creamy oak, a little bit of leesy yeast, light steely mineral tones and a hint of tangy salinity.
This bottle was very similar to the wine I had in early 2020 - bright, crunchy and racy with piercing acidity - but it seems the wine is developing in the right direction, as it now shows a bit more depth and complexity. Especially the creamy notes of oak have appeared from the background noise, lending a nice little nuance to the taste without making the wine feel oaky in any way. Good stuff, getting better. Still too similar to the previous bottle to warrant a different score, but if the wine keeps evolving like this, it’ll be in the low 90’s quite soon. Priced somewhat according to its quality at 30€. (89 pts.)
2010 Charles Dufour & Françoise Martinot Vin Blanc Bicheret - France, Champagne, Coteaux Champenois (25.5.2021)
A still blanc de noirs from Pinot Noir, made by Françoise Martinot with the help of her son, Charles Dufour. Lot number V.10/548 - I assume this means vintage (or vin?) 2010 and 548 bottles? 10,5% alcohol.
Pale straw yellow color. Very open, characterful and rather wild nose that reminds me more of old-school Gueuze Lambic than Coteaux Champenois. Funky aromas of crunchy green apples, bretty leather, some savory woody notes, a little bit of Band-Aid, light creamy notes, spicy hints of vanilla and smoky phenolic spice and a sweeter touch of ripe yellow fruits. Very intense, racy and acid-driven on the palate with a medium body and crunchy flavors of tart lemons and green apples, some funky and leathery notes of brett, a little bit of steely minerality, light waxy tones, a mineral hint of tangy salinity and a touch of peanut butter. The bracing acidity lends tremendous intensity and sense of structure to the wine, making it feel almost electric. The finish is long, lemony and somewhat wild with complex flavors of tart green apples, some tangy salinity, a little bit of apple peel bitterness, light creamy notes of oak, a bretty hint of leather and a touch of sweet, exotic spice.
This was just excellent stuff. It might not sound particularly attractive, if I describe the wine like a blend of Champagne and Gueuze Lambic from which the bubbles have disappeared, but this is exactly like that - and not in a bad way! Even though the wine comes from the mediocre 2010 vintage, this still wine works just damn well and although the fruit feels like it has just reached the lowest level of reasonable ripeness, the wine still feels ripe enough and not unripe, weedy or lacking in any way. Proponents of squaky-clean wines might shun away from the obvious brett influence of the wine, but to me it just managed to immingle wonderfully with the bright, crunchy fruit flavors and contribute to the complexity instead of obfuscating any fruit expression. The wine is surprisingly youthful for a Coteaux Champenois at 11 years of age, so I can imagine it will continue to improve for years more. If I love well-made, funky and rustic Lambics, I have no reason not to love wines that taste the same! Highly recommended to the fans of funky whites. (93 pts.)
2017 Jacques Lassaigne Coteaux Champenois Blanc Haut Revers du Chutat - France, Champagne, Coteaux Champenois (25.5.2021)
A Coteaux Champenois Blanc from the Haut Revers du Chutat vineyard planted in 1968. Made only in vintages when the grapes in this vineyard produce too much sugar to produce balanced Champagnes. The wine sees only a little bit of sulfites during the crush, otherwise vinified completely without sulfite additions or chaptalisation. Fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts. Aged for 24 months in old oak fûts and demi-muids. Lot 072019, 12% alcohol.
Intense yet rather pale yellow color. Cool, somewhat restrained and nuanced nose with aromas of apples and apple blossom, some leesy tones, light notes of cream and vanilla custard, light notes of quince, a hint of grated lemon zest and a touch of steely minerality. The wine feels ripe yet very high-strung on the palate with its bright acidity and a slightest hint of tingly CO2. Medium body. Bright, bone-dry flavors of tangy salinity and leesy yeast, some tart lemony notes, a little bit of steely minerality, light creamy tones, a hint of apple peel bitterness and a touch of crunchy quince. The bracing, almost eye-watering acidity lends tremendous intensity and sense of electricity to the wine. The finish is long, crunchy and mouth-cleansing with intense flavors of lemony citrus fruits, steely minerality, some tangy salinity, a little bit of apple peel bitterness, light creamy notes of leesy richness and a hint of chalky minerality.
A very crisp, electric and acid-driven Coteaux Champenois that feels almost painfully young at the moment. Beautifully pure, focused and intensely-fruited, but also so very tightly-wound. Feels like this calls for many years down in a cellar before it starts to unwind. Really built to age and is brimming with promise. A terrific Coteaux Champenois for the hardcore acid freaks. Let the wine age. Highly recommended - although I must admit that at 64,95€ the wine isn’t particularly affordable. (92 pts.)
2015 Jacques Lassaigne Coteaux Champenois Blanc Haut Revers du Chutat - France, Champagne, Coteaux Champenois (25.5.2021)
Labeled “Acte I, Scène III: Haut Revers du Chutat, Lieu-dit Montgueux”. A Coteaux Champenois Blanc from the Haut Revers du Chutat vineyard planted in 1968. Made only in vintages when the grapes in this vineyard produce too much sugar to produce balanced Champagnes. The wine sees only a little bit of sulfites during the crush, otherwise vinified completely without sulfite additions or chaptalisation. Fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts. Aged for 22 months in six old oak fûts and one 500-liter demi-muid. 12,2% alcohol.
Luminous, pale lemon-yellow color with subtly greenish highlights. Cool, fragrant and very slightly reductive nose with aromas of fresh apples and zesty lemony citrus fruit, some creamy oak tones, a little bit of rubbery reduction, light woody notes of savory wood and - after the wine has opened for a while - a hint of custard pastry. The wine is intense, somewhat lean and very acid-driven on the palate with a medium body and focused flavors of ripe Granny Smith apple and juicy lemony citrus fruits, some sappy herbal tones, a little bit of crunchy greencurrants, light notes of steely minerality, a hint of tangy salinity and a touch of woody oak spice. The bracing acidity lends great sense of structure, intensity and precision to the wine. The acid-driven finish feels long and crunchy with mouth-watering flavors of salt and lemons, some fresh green apples, a little bit of leesy yeast, light stony mineral tones, a hint of sappy herbal character and a creamy touch of custard-like richness.
A very lovely, clean and impressively focused effort. Feels even better than the already quite impressive bottle I had 1½ years ago - the lactic qualities the wine exhibited then have finally faded away and some subtle woody notes suggestive of barrel aging have emerged in replacement. Overall the wine feels like it is evolving in the right direction. Feels still painfully young and really calls for further aging to resolve its high-strung nature - no point in opening any bottles within the next few years. Lovely and very promising. Highly recommended. (92 pts.)
2018 Stroebel Coteaux Champenois Le Vin Tranquille Les Cumines - France, Champagne, Coteaux Champenois (25.5.2021)
“Le Vin Tranquille” - i.e. a still wine made from direct-press Pinot Meunier sourced from lieu-dit Les Cumines that is located in 1er Cru-classified village in Montagne de Reims. Spontaneously fermented, aged for 13 months in an oak cask, bottled unfiltered on November 3rd, 2016. 12% alcohol. Bottle #127/287.
Pale lemon yellow color with a subtly peachy hue. Somewhat green-toned and slightly leafy nose with perhaps a little bit of geosmin, lending a somewhat raw beetroot note to the nose, followed by understated nuances of key lime, some creaminess and a hint of stuffy reduction. The wine feels crisp, lean and slightly green on the palate with a light-to-medium body and flavors of leafy greenness, some geosmin notes reminding me of tilled soil, a little bit of tangy salinity, light steely mineral tones, a crunchy hint of fresh red apple and a sweeter touch of juicy, ripe white fruit. Pronounced, bracing acidity. The finish is tart, lemony and rather short with intense but quite brief flavors of tangy green apple and sharp lemony tones, some salty notes, a little bit of chalky minerality and a green hint of geosmin, reminding me of raw root vegetables and tilled soil.
An enjoyably crisp and racy, but otherwise somewhat unbalanced and green Coteaux Champenois. It’s hard to assess whether the wine is supposed to be like this or if this was just a faulty bottle. For the most part the wine is quite enjoyably crisp and refreshing, but the green geosmin notes (or notes reminiscent of geosmin) are quite distracting. Doesn’t leave a lasting impression, even though the wine shows good potential. Perhaps this could get better with age? At least the wine feels like it is painfully young at the moment. (83 pts.)
2014 Chevreux-Bournazel Coteaux Champenois Blanc La Parcelle - France, Champagne, Coteaux Champenois (25.5.2021)
From a nano-winery that has started operations in 2012 with a tiny 0,4-hecater parcel in the far reaches of the Marne Valley. 100% Pinot Meunier harvested on September 18th 2014, fermented spontaneously, aged for 34 months in oak casks, bottled unfiltered on July 26th, 2016. Bottle #293/500. 11,5% alcohol.
Lemon yellow color. Savory, somewhat woody and slightly funky nose with a vibrant, fruity undercurrent of cloudberries and mirabelle plums, some spicy red apple, light creamy tones, a little bit of developed dried fruits, autumnal hints of damp leaves and a touch of smoke. Despite the obvious - but not overdone - oak influence, the nose feels very seductive and full of character. The wine feels firm, acid-driven and quite electric on the palate with a medium-to-moderately full body and intense flavors of pronounced salinity, steely minerality, tart lemony citrus fruits, some creamy oak tines, a little bit of wild waxy funk, light pithy notes of grapefruit and a hint of crunchy white currants. The bracing acidity lends tremendous sense of focus and structure to the wine. The finish feels very long, noticeably salty and very mouth-watering with crisp, lean flavors of lemon juice and apple peel bitterness, some steely minerality, a little bit of creamy oak, light waxy tones, a sharp hint of key lime and a touch of sweet oak spice.
An excellent, enormously intense and impressively complex Coteaux Champenois with the hallmark acidity and pronounced salinity of the appellation, wonderful depth of flavor and noticeable length. Although you can taste the prolonged period the wine has stayed in oak, the use of oak feels very judicious here - it doesn’t overwhelm anything, only complements the fruit and adds to the complexity. Feels remarkably youthful for its age - I can expect this wine to age wonderfully for a long time. Not particularly affordable at 70€, but is one of those few Coteaux Champenois wines that can deliver for that price. An outstanding wine, highly recommended. (94 pts.)
2018 Aurélien Lurquin Coteaux Champenois Les Forcières - France, Champagne, Coteaux Champenois (25.5.2021)
Organically farmed Pinot Noir, macerated with the skins for a few hours to impart some color to the wine. Aged for 24 months in oak casks, bottled on 12th November 2020. Total production 301 bottles. 13% alcohol.
Pale, fully translucent and luminous pinkish rose color with an orange hue. Very expressive, complex and seductive nose with vibrant aromas of sweet peach and wild strawberry, orchard flowers, some waxy tones, a little bit of apple sauce, light lifted notes of ethery VA, oaky hints of cooked cream and vanilla and a touch of raspberry candy. Lots of everything here, really. The wine is ripe, lively and very complex on the palate with a light-to-medium body and somewhat oak-driven yet not heavily oaked flavors of wild strawberries, ripe peaches and juicy golden apples, some creamy oak tones, a little bit of wild waxy funk, light vanilla tones, a hint of steely minerality and a toasty touch of caramel oak. The acidity feels moderately high, although somewhat lower than seems typical for Coteaux Champenois wines. The finish is long, complex and juicy with dry flavors of ripe strawberries and cherries, some peach, light oaky notes of vanilla custard and toasty oak spice, light raspberry candy tones, a hint of leesy creaminess and a touch of yeasty autolysis.
Holy smokes this wine was good. I really didn’t have high expectations on a rosé Coteaux Champenois, but this turned out to be perhaps the best wine in our Coteaux Champenois tasting. Even though the wine seemed slightly lower in acidity than the other wines we tasted, it is not lacking in acidity one bit and its remarkable complexity and depth of flavor makes up for the lack of the sharpest acidic zip. The wine flirts with the somewhat oxidative and slightly oak-influenced style of rosé wines mastered by R. López de Heredia’s exceptional Viña Tondonia Rosado, yet still retaining its own singular character and sense of place. I’m sold! This is a stunning wine. Highly recommended. (95 pts.)
2018 Jacques Lassaigne Coteaux Champenois Chères Vignes - France, Champagne, Coteaux Champenois (25.5.2021)
Although Emmanuel Lassaigne is known for his Chardonnay, this wine is 100% Pinot Noir. According to some sources the wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged for 24 months in oak barrels, but the label says “lot 072019”, which sounds quite a bit like the wine was bottled in July 2019. Go figure. 12% alcohol.
Luminous cherry red color that turns colorless towards the rim. Very unpleasant, nutty nose with pronounced mousy aromas of cheerios, sesame seeds and rancid nuts, followed by light cherry tones and a hint of earth. The wine is dry and light-to-medium-bodied on the palate with the slightest hint of CO2 prickle on the gums. A disgusting streak of nutty mousiness hits the tongue immediately, lighter nuances of tart lingonberries and cranberries, some brambly raspberries and light stony mineral notes following in suit. High in acidity with very light and gently grippy tannins. The finish is ridiculously mousy, making the wine end on a very persistent and, honestly, revolting aftertaste of mousy cheerios, sesame seeds, rancid nuts and stale bread.
A repugnant wine. Can’t remember the last time I’ve had a wine as badly mousy as this. Normally mousiness creeps into sight only in the aftertaste, but this wine was so heavily mousy that before tasting the wine I could smell that it was going to be mousy even a foot away from the glass. Undrinkable. I couldn’t finish a small 5 cl tasting sample. The quality of this red wine is lightyears away from Lassaigne’s excellent white Coteaux Champenoises. A rip-off at 62,95€. Avoid. (52 pts.)
NV Jacques Selosse Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs - France, Champagne, Champagne Grand Cru (25.5.2021)
To my understanding, this is the wine that was later renamed to “Initiale”. A blend of 3 consecutive vintages that were fermented and aged in oak barrels. Aged sur lattes for a minimum of 2 years, but it’s hard to say accurately for how long, since the label offers no base vintage or bottling date. Disgorged on April 6th, 1999. 12% alcohol.
Medium-to-moderately deep golden yellow color. Evolved, moderately nutty and slightly oxidative nose with seductive, layered aromas of smoke, roasted walnuts, some bruised apple, light Tosca cake aromas of caramel and slivered almonds, a little bit of Sultana raisins, hints of autumnal leaves and a rich touch of Tawny Port. The wine is dry, evolved and very harmonious on the palate with a moderately full body and rather oxidative flavors of bruised apple, caramel, chopped nuts, a little bit of oats-and-honey bar, light smoky tones, dried-fruit hints of Sultanas and dried apricots and a touch of tangy salinity. Wonderfully high acidity and very fine, soft and creamy mousse. The overall feel is very dry, but there’s a hint of dosage sweetness at the tip of the tongue, boosting the caramel and dried-fruit flavors. The finish is evolved, very long and remarkably long with somewhat oxidative flavors of nuttiness and apple core, dried orange rind, some Sultana notes, a little bit of tangy salinity, light mushroomy notes, tertiary hints of browned butter and Tawny-ish caramel and a touch of coffee.
Stunning stuff. Although this just a “normal” Blanc de Blancs and not an oxidative Champagne - like Selosse’s Substance - the age has done its job and the wine is slowly starting to turn somewhat oxidative. However, even though the wine is starting to feel very mature and even somewhat tertiary, it doesn’t come across as old in any way - thanks to its remarkable intensity, vibrant fruit and exceptional depth of flavor. Most likely the wine is now at its peak: I doubt it will evolve from here - nor has it improved much for some years - but in all likelihood it will keep wonderfully for years more. A stunning Blanc de Blancs caught in a perfect stop. If you enjoy evolved, slightly oxidative notes in Champagne, it’s pretty hard to get any better than this. (96 pts.)
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