TNs: November 2020 - Who likes grower Champagne?

Since late last year, I have been trying to get more focused on my explorations, devolving a full month on a certain theme or region. Not only in my purchases but also at bars or restaurants I try to push myself to try those items off the list that fit what I am trying to learn at that moment, and I feel like I have learned much faster than I did before. Fortune favors the bold, as they say, and so far each month something happened that has deepened my connection with a particular style or region. From meeting an inspiring sommelier at a local Spanish restaurant last month while I was doing a Spanish month who let me try plenty of wines for free, to the Larmandier-Bernier Zoom event I attended in December, to the lucky streak of Sicilian wines I keep finding on wine lists everywhere this month. In November 2020, however, my focus was grower Champagne and a local store came out with a Champagne offer I could not resist. I have only now finally gotten around fleshing out my last tasting notes and uploading them into Cellartracker. With the high interest in this forum on the topic, and many still in the early learning curve as I am, I thought someone else might find these notes helpful.

[*]NV Jacquesson & Fils Champagne Cuvée No. 742 - France, Champagne (21/11/2020)
My bottle of Jacquesson’s 742 was very closed and shutdown at first, with some sponti on the nose, and a harsh, shrill mouthfeel that made it hard to have on its own. Left it in the fridge for 4 hours before going back to it and glad I did. The stinkiness had disappeared revealing an incredible tense, pure, and crystally Champagne. Crushed rocks, citrus peel, oyster shells, Asian pear, and an almost briny, saline, fresh umami core. It reminded me of freshly shucked oysters and sea breeze. Very mineral, quite intellectual, and laser-focused, this is a terrific wine. At the moment, the 2014 vintage is coming through with its great Chardonnay, with Pinot Noir non very present. It would be interesting to see if some years of development will change that, giving more nutty generosity, as now it is more about the mineral drive than the fruit component. Nevertheless would gladly buy it again!

[*]NV André Clouet Champagne Grande Réserve Brut - France, Champagne (19/11/2020)
A very interesting study in rich, broody, blanc de noirs, the Andre Clout Grand Reserve is for the lovers of big-shouldered Champagne. The power of Bouzy’s Pinot Noir really comes through, giving nuts, baked-apples, and raspberries on the nose. If I had to use a metaphor, both aromatically and on the palate, the wine is autumnal, subdued, and expansive - a far cry from tighter, mineral-driven Champagne with higher percentages of white grapes. Overall quite good and interesting, albeit missing some balance, it could use some more freshness and elegance. Chartogne Taillet’s Cuvee St Anne tasted alongside it really brightened the room!

[*]NV Chartogne-Taillet Champagne Cuvée Sainte Anne - France, Champagne (19/11/2020)
Stunning grower Champagne and my QPR champion alongside Laherte Freres’ Ultradition NV. The Cuvee St Anne is terrific - refined, understated, and pure. A very balanced expression of Champagne, this is hard not to like, a home run on all fronts: it is bright, refreshing, with a mineral-edge of hard rocks and a fresh citrusy drive. It has enough autolysis and creaminess to balance it out and be a pleasure to drink, judicious use of dosage, between 5-6 g/L, and the hand of a great winemaker - the structure is crystalline and everything fits together perfectly. Cannot wait to taste more from Taillet.

[*]NV Bérêche et Fils Champagne Brut Réserve - France, Champagne (24/10/2020)
One of the signatures of Bereche & Fils is the solera-like system they use for their reserve wines. In the case of the Brut Reserve NV, 30% comes from reserve wines in a solera dating back to 1985. For all the fans of richer Champagnes, there is an exuberance of dried nuts at first as you near your nose to the glass - walnuts, hazelnuts, bread crust - with fresh flowers and fruits coming next - blossom, lemon rind, white peach, fresh strawberry. Beautiful structure, refreshing finish, at the same time expansive and vertical, broad, and laser-sharp; this is great winemaking and an exercise in polar opposites.

[*]NV Laherte Frères Champagne Extra Brut Ultradition - France, Champagne (24/10/2020)
The Laherte Freres Ultradition NV is a great example of grower champagne and terroir. The high percentage of Pinot Meunier (60%) makes it a somewhat unique non-vintage. This, coupled with the generous addition of reserve wines (40%), create a rich, creamy, and doughy Champagne - a rare feat at this price. On the nose: brioche, dough, lemon, stone fruits, apricots, oak, red apples. On the palate, the wine is rich, with a beautiful mousse, great energy, and mid-palate presence, with some orange rind and baked apples coming through as well. A steal at this price.

[*]NV Laherte Frères Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature - France, Champagne (13/11/2020)
Aurelien Laherte is one of the most inspired vignerons in Champagne at the moment. I’m not sure how much longer his wines are going to stay at current prices - I would bite while you can. Anyway, this Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature is gorgeous, great aromatics that encompass the full spectrum: fresh butter, brioche, hazelnuts, lemon, peach, flinty minerality. In the mouth, it masks its non-dose beautifully, never drawing attention to its absence of sweetness, with the reserve wines, the oak aging, and the natural sweetness of the fruit all contribute to a perfectly structured and balanced Champagne. My disgorgement was 11/19 and I thought it would taste much more tightly knit - I’m quite new to non-dose game but this seems open for business already while being able to further improve with time.

[*]NV Vilmart & Cie Champagne Premier Cru Cuvée Rubis - France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru (4/10/2020)
I’ve now tasted across the baseline of Vilmart’s lineup and I have been impressed by everything so far. The Cuvee Rubis NV is complex and vinous even at this level, seducing with multiple aromas at once. At lower temperatures, the fruit takes centerstage - strawberry, cranberry, lemon - but as the wine warms up, the autolysis becomes more prominent, revealing notes of honey, biscuit, vanilla, toffee, and gingerbread, accentuated by spices like nutmeg and cloves. This is great winemaking. Expansive and creamy in the palate, while retaining elegance and never going overboard, Laurent Champs’ touch is everpresent and oh so delicious.

[*]NV Vilmart & Cie Champagne Premier Cru Grand Cellier Brut - France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru (23/08/2020)
A fantastic Champagne for the price and one I recommend without hesitation. Vilmart Grand Cellier interplays flower aromatics, lactose notes, and fruits, both citrus and pome. Think fresh butter, buttermilk, cream, white flowers, lemon, pear, all in a cohesive, delicious core, supported by an acidic and mineral backbone that will let it age forever.

[*]NV Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Latitude - France, Champagne (23/01/2021)
Tasted as part of an online masterclass with Pierre Larmandier. Base 2017, deg. October 2019; 100% Chardonnay with 40% reserve wines from a perpetual reserve; 4 g/L dosage. Round, generous, and fairly rich for an extra brut, this shows the fuller and more approachable side of Chardonnay from the Cote des Blancs, with a core of pome fruits, mainly Williams pear, to carry the midpalate.

[*]NV Larmandier-Bernier Longitude - France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru (23/01/2021)
Tasted as part of an online masterclass with Pierre Larmandier. I believe I tasted the 2016 base, deg. June 2019, dosage around 3-4 g/L. Like the Latitude NV, this is also 100% Chardonnay from the Cote des Blancs, sourced from vineyards that form a ‘vertical’ line (Cramant, Avize, Oger, and Vertus). The real common denominator is the topsoil, however, which is very thin in all the vineyards, allowing the roots to plunge directly into the chalky soil and express overwhelming minerality. The nose is very elegant and focused: some hints of brioche, lees, white sourdough; white flower notes, but also crushed rocks, minerals, and chalk. On the palate, the wine is vertical and long, has great freshness and tension, laser-focused acidity, and ends on a lip-smacking sensation of fresh lemon and oyster shells.

[*]2013 Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Premier Cru Terre de Vertus - France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru (23/01/2021)
Tasted as part of an online masterclass with Pierre Larmandier. A single-vineyard, vintage Blanc de Blancs from 2013 harvest, deg. 2019, 0 g/L dosage. All the way from the Latitude NV to the Terre de Vertus 1er the Pierre traces the differing topsoils as the main distinguishing marker. In this case, there is virtually no topsoil, and the soil is again chalk. It starts very powerful upfront before the chalky minerality takes over. Aromatically intense, powerful, with beautiful leesy complexity from extended aging. Incredible presence and creaminess, it is round, yet mineral, and highly structured. It goes on and on and riches receptors that are rarely activated, going deep into one’s tongue. This is akin to eating a creamy sauce without any fat added to it, or liking oyster shells and eating them at the same time. Great stuff.

[*]NV Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Premier Cru Rosé de Saignée Extra Brut - France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru (23/01/2021)
Tasted as part of an online masterclass with Pierre Larmandier. Base 2017, deg. Jan 2020, 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Gris from Vertus, 3 g/L dosage. Very deep amber color, and beautiful playful nose of bread, red berry fruits, peach, roses, and nuts. Quite vinous and savory, this is an elegant and restrained Rose Champagne that would go well with most foods. Very fine bead and barely crosses the line from still wine to Sparkler.

[*]2013 Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Premier Cru Rosé de Maturation - France, Champagne, Champagne Premier Cru (23/01/2021)
Tasted as part of an online masterclass with Pierre Larmandier. Base 2013, deg. June 2018, 3 g/L dosage. An experiment on the aging capability of the Rose de Saignee NV, this is the same base, with longer elevage in the barrel and four years in the bottle during secondary fermentation. Lighter, clearly, older color, verging towards the copper, almost golden. Like tasting the Terre de Vertus 1er after the Longitude, this is a clear step-up - deeper, more serious, more complex. Hard to describe. The nose is sensual, perfumed, evolved. There is more creaminess, more depth, evolving notes, nuttiness, wildness, elegance, all at once. Everything is dialed up and better integrated. Kudos.

It goes without saying that I had a good time tasting [wink.gif]


Wonderful notes, thank you. I’ve been exploring grower champagnes too. This list highlights many of my favorites

Thanks, Brian! Many of these were selected by reading this forum, which explains the high percentage of ‘forum’ darlings. When it comes to sourcing wines, nothing has a higher hit rate than WineBerserkers darlings - I just ignore all the publications and trust this board.

Great notes, Jan. Thank you for reminding me of why I got myself a Laherte six pack for my birthday…