Another three weeks have passed. I have finished a consulting gig I’ve been occupied with over the past two months and have started a colon cleansing diet, which was long over due as it turned out. As a result, I can’t eat animal protein, sugar or ready made foods containing preservatives of any kind for at least a month. Even my daily helping of double ristretti is outlawed, fer chrissakes!
While I’m already having visions of freshly buttered croissants, runny French cheeses and aged beef, it does free up a lot of my time normally spent on groceries and food preparation. So, here come the long over due notes, which I plan to produce at a steady pace over the summer months.
We were warmly received by Champagne ambassador François Peters, whose brother now runs the domaine. The family exploits 11,5 HA divided over 60 different parcels.
This cuvee is made on a 2007 base and sports a dosage of 2 grams. It’s lightly intense lemon-yellow at the core and has plenty medium sized beads. The medium-intense nose offers up elegant notes of white flowers and acacia, complemented by autolytic impressions of vanilla and bread dough. All in all, this Champagne is très Chardonnay which grape is of course of course its sole constituent.
Medium-minus bodied on the attack, this wine is again all about elegance with it’s well-buffered pronounced acidity on the mid-palate, where medium-plus intense citrus notes are served with some Ritz crackers and the whole is infused with saline minerals. The latter even kick it up a notch on the 25 second finish, which allows me to reward 88 points for this showing and if this Champagne adds complexity it may even add a point or two over the next 5 five years.
Cuvée de Réserve Blanc de Blancs Brut
Between 6 and 7 grams of dosage here, from an assemblage of 4 different villages on a 2006 base. Fairly identical in appearance to the previous Champagne, this base cuvee sports a medium intense nose which leaves an impression of creaminess to its notes of caramel-laced hazelnuts.
About medium-bodied on the attack, the mousse is quite creamy which adds to the richer and riper medium intense flavours of coffee and mocha. The autolytic component resembles toast here, with an almost torrefacted edge. Luckily, its pronounced acidic spine keeps the wine fresh, but isn’t until the 25-30 (!) second finish that some lemony fruit makes an appearance. I liked this and suspect it will knit itself together within a year or two, but scoring this Champagne for this showing would result in something in the low to mid-eigthies, which doesn’t do it justice. So, while I suspect low nineties potential, this one is HC for now.
Cuvée Speciale “Les Chetillons” 2002
Between 5 and 6 grams of dosage, after 7 years of aging “sûr latte”. Medium intense straw at the core, with a watery rim and abundant yet fine beads. It is but medium-minus intense on the nose, where impressions of coffee and mocha betray its Mesnil terroir (Les Chetillons is an actual vineyard within the borders of Le Mesnil).
The mousse is still slightly heavy at this early point in its evolution, but also lends an impression of expansiveness on the palate. Pronounced, yet refined acidity drives this wine at the moment and while the midpalate is still tightly coiled, the 25 second licorice-infused finish whispers of things to come in due time.
Having enjoyed this wine at a few previous occasions, it appeared far less evolved –indeed fresh as a daisy– in comparison. Other than being an indication of how much wine is affected by transport, above note is to be taken at face value. I am inclined to place this wine in the 91-93 point bracket, but leave it for a few years more if you have any in the cellar.
Cuvée Speciale “Les Chetillons” 1999
Medium intense golden coloured core and a fine mousse which is visually quite present. The nose is medium-plus intense and quite evolved, with notes of smoke, licorice, mocha and candied apricot. As François Peters commented, it could be mistaken for Pinot Noir when tasted à l’aveugle.
With its medium-plus acidity largely integrated on the mid-palate this Champagne is also medium-minus bodied , but it leaves a slightly mealy impression on the finish; which latter still does 30 reasonably balanced seconds.
Considering the rot-infested vintage this is not a bad wine at all, but it is definitely a-typical. 89 points it is then, but cellaring this Champagne for much longer seems ill-advised.
Cuvée Speciale “Les Chetillons”1996
Again medium intense golden in colour at the core, the mousse is much scarcer here and medium-sized. The nose is medium-plus intense, but much more precise about its notes of coffee/mocha and licorice, while the first signs of mushroom action are coming to the fore.
Medium-minus bodied, this wine is the first to somewhat fulfill the potential of this cuvee. Pronounced-yet-refined acidity provides a frame for medium-plus intense flavours of greengage, while carrying the cretaceous acidity which makes the roof of my mouth tingle. Added complexity comes from whiffs of coffee and there’s an earthy bass-note to underline its place on the aging curve. The 25-30 second finish is persistently balanced and elegant enough to score 92 points in my book and if complexity increases and everything knits together just a tad more, 94 seems not unlikely. If I had enough bottles in the cellar, I’d try again in two years.
This is not the rosé, but a commemorative wine made for François’ grandchild. It is an assemblage of Chardonnay from 4 different villages, mostly from the 1996 vintage and disgorged in 2001 with a dosage of 5 grams.
A medium intense gold-coloured core is not diluted by sparse small beads. The nose is medium intense and offers up the by now familiar coffee/terroir notes and a whiff of smoked meat. At about medium, this wine has a little more body than the wines previously tasted, which translates to a little more richness in the mouth. The citrusfruits have a sweet confected edge to them, which makes this Champagne easy to appreciate at this point in its evolution. The acidity is no more than medium-plus and largely integrated into the equally intense mid-palate flavours, which helps to make things come together nicely on the 20-25 second finish. I found this one-off cuvee quite charming and will award 91 points with one extra in the next five years.
Vintage Grand Cru “Blanc de Blancs” 2003
Made from Cramant grapes, which needed an extraordinary amount of work in the vineyards and cellar to produce a wine which satisfied the house standards. There’s a reasonably present, tiny bead visible. The nose is but lightly intense and emits somewhat torrefacted whiffs of caramel.
Not surprisingly, this wine is medium-bodied and has even more mid-palate fat and breadth in the mouth. The medium intense fruit flavours move us up yet another notch on the scale of ripeness and remind me of yellow pit fruits, all melded together by some dark chocolate. The just about medium-plus acidity has to be sought out to be determined and while this could speak of integration, it does not carry the finish far beyond the 15 second mark. While a pleasant drink, I can’t award more than 88 points and would have to recommend drinking this if you haven’t already.
This is a fairly new and recently disgorged new assemblage from 2007 Mesnil Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Aube region, with 5 grams of dosage.
It has a bright and lightly intense pink core and lots of tiny beads. Medium-minus intense impressions of rhubarb and acacia are slightly marred by SO2 at this early point in its evolution.
This rosé is medium-minus bodied and I like the way in which the medium-plus acidity lends some bite to the medium-plus intense flavours of blood orange, redcurrant and mocha. After a few minutes in the glass, an autolytic toast note manages to shine through the fruits and a refined thread of minerals is woven through the 15-20 second finish, which still displays a slight phenolic edge at this early stage. Telling for the potential of this wine is that ten seconds after losing cohesion, the finish makes a sneaky comeback so my 89 points may prove to be conservative in 3-5 years from now.