TNs: Bubbles

Continued a recent vacation tradition of bringing a Champagne-a-day to drink at our resort. I love doing this. Something about drinking Champagne under palm trees by a distant shore seems to restore just a bit of that old colonial tradition of bringing a piece of high civilization to wherever our travels take us.

Pierre Peters 1996 Le Mesnil-sur-Oger Cuvee Speciale
A fantastic showing of a potentially legendary Peters. I had chosen to open this because I thought it might be an interesting preview of where the 1996 Salon might be in a few years, but the wine made me feel like an idiot for assuming that this would be on a faster aging curve than the Salon just because, well, Salon is Salon. In fact it is just as youthful and vibrant as the '96 Salon right now, with something about it from a textural perspective that actually makes it even more drinkable and alluring than the Salon at this moment. While just as intense, it is more slender in proportions – that old-vine laser beam. Both finessed and luminous and certainly the best I’ve ever had from Peters.

Larmandier-Bernier 1er Cru Terre de Vertus
Last time I had this I liked it OK but was kind of disappointed that I didn’t love it. This one’s a newer release with a spiffier new label but my first impression is pretty much exactly the same. It’s refreshing stuff in a pure, bracing, lemony style but it still leaves me wanting something more. A little minerality, a little more length maybe, I dunno what. But Chambers had a nice price on it, I bought a few, and I opened another one this weekend to give it another chance. I’m glad I did because whatever intrigue was lacking in the last one has definitely come to the surface in the next bottle. It is still defined by its bright, bracing blanc de blancs fruit but now is showing an extra layer in addition to that of an intensely mineral metal-shavings character, which definitely accentuates the Extra Brut profile of the wine. Secret code words stamped on the bottle are LTDV6 1009.

Larmandier-Bernier 2005 Vieilles Vignes de Cramant Grand Cru
Admittedly I don’t find Cramant to be the most interesting of Champagne villages (and perhaps find myself unfairly tarring them all with guilt-by-association with the disgusting Mumm de Cramant). But this is pretty distinctive right out of the gate and my initial impression was that even though the Terre de Vertus is in some sense the flagship of the house, this definitely showed the grand cru depth that took it to another dimension. It simply had more layers as well as more richness than the Vertus with a bed of gravelly minerality that turns chalky and bone-dry on the finish and thick, ripe fruit. Actually too thick, and perhaps this is where my (ewww) Mumm de Cramant association comes into play, in that the strong varietal chardonnay flavors eventually squeezed out the other nuances and compromised its transparency. This is definitely not one of those Champagnes you could describe as “Chablis with bubbles” – frankly its sheer fatness exceeds even the typical Cote d’Or expression of chardonnay.

Vouette et Sorbee Blanc d’Argile
Didn’t realize there’s a code on the label for the vintage and I forgot to make a note of it. Regardless, it’s the one Crush is selling now. My first taste of Vouette et Sorbee and I was surprised to find a very classic, fresh blanc de blancs profile - I was expecting something more deliberately weird and oddball, given the polarizing reactions to this wine and even some fans’ description of the style as love-it-or-hate-it. But I suppose people who absolutely need to have some noticeable sweetness in their Champagnes might find this too aggressively dry. Personally I don’t miss the dosage because there is enough viscosity to the fruit. Reminds me very much of Selosse Extra in that respect as well as in its intensely mineral personality, with the tensile lemony fruit augmented by a tsunami of gunmetal shavings as intense as I’ve ever seen in a bubbly. In that respect it’s a bit reminiscent of the Milan “1864” but much less austere and more drinkable owing to the fresher, sunnier fruit personality.

Vouette et Sorbee Fidele
Not as distinctive as the Blanc d’Argile, but it turns out to have been the only blanc de noirs Champagne we brought so the contrast was refreshing just the same. This is a no-doubter pinot Champagne, dark in complexion in the glass and in taste, so much so that it almost seems to resemble a Champagne with some meaningful bottle age. I didn’t get any of the minerality from this that was so prominent in the Blanc d’Argile so despite its substantial presence it didn’t seem to have as much personality.

The youth of this wine was my impression when I last opened a bottle in October 2009. The bottle I had was cinched tight right up until the finish, when it just exploded - I wish I had the patience to wait 5 more years before opening my next bottle.

Did you find the midpalate tight or ungiving at all? I may decant next time.

Not at all. The only reason to refrain from drinking one now is if you’re specifically looking for tertiary flavor development.

Keith - I emailed Larmandier a while back about the code b/c apparently this wine is always a vintage wine, they just don’t label it that way.

Sophie Larmandier explained it as follows:

LTDV X YZ - where X is the vintage, Y the month of disgorgement and Z the year of disgorgement. (LTDV is just Larmandier Terres de Vertus)

So it looks like your bottle was 2006 vintage, disgorged October 2009.

Thanks for the info. That’s pretty much what I’d guessed, but wasn’t sure.


Great idea to take some bubbly away on vacation. Need to do this as well.

I love the 96 PP cuvee speciale and I’m glad it’s continuing to show well. I don’t have a longtime history with Peters wines so it’s good to see how they are doing. I have a few bottles which I may dip into at holiday time. I had mags of the 95 Peters Cuvee Speciale, which I had purchased from Carolina Wine Company. They were wonderful for celebrations but alas, they’re gone now.

Like you, I’ve wanted to like the Larmandier Bernier cuvees more than I have. Not sure I’m ready to dive back in and buy some more.

A - I much prefer their dosed wines, such as the Tradition Brut and the BdB much more so than the TDV.

Nice notes Keith. I haven’t been a huge Larmandier-Bernier fan over the years (liking the cuvees from 8-10 years ago better than the current stuff), but think the current Terre de Vertus (pure 2006) is one of the best efforts in a while. I probably wouldn’t choose to drink lots of it, but every now and then, this is a nice change of pace. The vintaged Vielles Vignes is a whole different beast and I often find it going off on weird tangents and can sometimes (like 2003) verge on undrinkable.

Vouette et Sorbee makes some very nice wines. The only one that is really out there IMO is the Saignee de Sorbee - that is really the love it/hate it wine in my book. The whites are nice expressions, but I’m not sure any in the range are worth the prices that some have tried to get for them (prices seem a bit all over the place on this wine depending on where in the US you purchase from).

If you like creamy caramel, buttery citrus, white peaches, vanilla, and honey laced dough then the 96 Peters Cuvee Speciale needs a couple more decades. If you like great, zesty, pure, citrus minerality then it is tasty now. I like both, but don’t have enough bottles to drink it much anymore.