Champagne: 30 tasted
I was struggling for inspiration tonight and so, instead of just writing something half-heartedly, decided to attack the pile of papers here on my ‘work desk’. Whilst the tidying, rearranging and such didn’t actually accomplish much, I did uncover my notebook from the 2011 iteration of the Champagne Bureau annual tasting, a set of notes that had me just that little bit more inspired (bubbles do that).
These tasting notes were thus written last August, at a Champagne tasting that typically showcases a veritable smorgasbord of fine Champagne from both growers and houses.
Just scanning through them I appear to have been particularly hard on the wines. That could be good or bad, though the score range looks about right). Of course judging NV Champagne can be like pissing in the wind, but I think most of the wines looked in reasonable form (except for maybe the Paul Bara range).
I’ve put my postscript notes in italics, but the rest are largely as written on the day (which I prefer).
I’m also interested to hear what you think the most consistent ‘big house’ NV Champagne is (mine is Bollinger. As long as you get the non-parallel imported stuff).
Ayala Blanc de Blancs 2004
Has been going from strength to strength of late thanks to Bollinger influence. This is relatively well priced too. Sexy packaging to match (or at least I think so).
Creamy, Super creamy. Quick complex and full with clever delineation. Great style. 18.3/93+
Bollinger La Grande Année 2002
So tight, so pure, so fresh. It looked a little reticent on the day but subsequent tastings have shown just how fine it is. Classy as hell. Buy! Buy!
Direct, pure and quite lean nose. Caramel yeasty richness on the edges with a flor like oak richness. Quite a deal of oak but so powerful. Very very serious. 18.5/94++
Bollinger Rosé NV
I’m still not totally swayed by Bollinger’s pink bubbles but this looked rather good on the day. Very serious.
Citrus and flowers. Pink fruit and very aromatic but oh so serious and backward on the palate. Too dry? Great structure. 17.7/92
Billecart-Salmon Cuvée “Nicolas François Billecart” 1998
This looked a bit bulky and out of condition methinks (in context). Should be better (it’s still good).
Cheesy, complex and full style nose. Looks both broadish and with angular acidity. Complex but also forward and less than super fresh. 17.5/91
René Geoffroy Millésime 2000
I’ve enjoyed other vintages of this more (from memory) but no doubting the weight and length. Rather advanced and typically 2000 awkward but class in there.
Earthen, complex but a rather advanced wine. A bit disjointed but good intensity. Quite forward.
René Geoffroy Cuvée Rosé de Saigné NV
Intriguing. Odd wine too. Wouldn’t mind another look.
Pink! Strawberry juice. Very vinous and more like a rosé still wine. Super dry finish with a citrus hint. 17.5/91
Delamotte Brut NV
Have had better, richer bottles of this. Looked shortish (in context).
Lovely, classic nose. Clean but slightly tart end. Too much dosage even? 17.3/90
Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 1999
Lovely wine really – clean but rich. Rather enjoyed this.
Developing but pure and clean.. Creamy and rather toasty nose, obvious age. Lingering finish. Long. 18/93
Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV
Not that for behind the vintage really.
Cheesy Chardonnay richness. All butter and nuts. Pure but generous with creamy weight and power. Slightly dull finish but reasonable length. 17.4/91
Gatinois Tradition NV
Where did this come from eh? Nice wine! 90% Grand cru fruit apparently.
Very dominant Pinot character on the nose. Lifted, vibrant and clean. Tight, vinous and driven palate. Lots of table wine like power. Very long. 17.7/92
Gatinois Millésime 2002
Rather exciting really considering that you can pick this up for $92 a bottle around the traps.
Very dense and powerful. Excellent persistence if a slight hole in the back. Very smart. 18.2/93+
Pascal Doquet Le Mesnil sur Oger Grand Cru NV
Another fantastic (and bargain priced) grower Champagne. Well worth seeking out. A blanc de Blanc I believe (though don’t quote me – the book doesn’t say).
Very pure! Dry and perfumed. Super tight, almost salty minerality. Next level complexity. 17.7/92
Pascal Doquet Les Mesnil sur Oger Grand Cru 2002
$125 for this? So good. So grown up and serious! 8yrs on lees!
Lifted nose is both creamy and pure. A real lightness to the nose. Full, linear and very powerful. Biscuity palate is clean and complex. Really very good. 18.3/93+
Paul Bara Brut Reserve NV
I’ve had better bottles of this.
Rather Pinot dominant. A little sweet and sour with green apple acidity. Fleshy simple style. 16.3/87
Paul Bara Brut Reserve Rosé NV
Didn’t enjoy this enough.
Tinny, light and sweet. Sweet and slightly simple. 15.5/85
Paul Bara Grand Rosé De Bouzy NV
Again that sweetness! Blurgh. nice nose though.
Quite fresh, pink fruit and sherbet nose. Tart and slightly overly sweet palate. 16.8/89
Jacquesson Avize Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2000
Complex, mushroomy development. Really rich mid palate and firm finish. Really decadent palate this – so rich. Top shelf indeed. 18.5/94
Larmandier-Bernier Cramant VV Grand Cru 2005
Astonishingly good. Almost like a whole other realm of Champagne quality here.
Very clean. White flower aromatics and even a little white peach. Lean but still retains a certain fruit signature. Length and purity are spot on. Wonderful white fruit. Superb. 18.9/96
Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus 1er Cru Non-Dosé NV
It’s ultimately a bargain this considering that it goes for just $130 a bottle.
Again that purity. So fine and dry. Crystalline acidity but with a certain softness and delicacy. High acid shows due to no dosage. But oh-so-pure! Wow. 18.7/95
Lombard & Cie Brut NV
Brassy and a bit broad. Cheesy, biscuity citrus edges. Full palate is just a bit too flabby. 16.5/88
Lombard & Cie Grand Cru 2004
Creamy, full and overtly cheesy development. Again rather broad and simple. Pleasant enough. 16.8/89
Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV
Apparently this has more dosage now than it used to. Why? Certainly looked odd on this occasion.
Baby sick development is quite odd. Rich and mealy palate is a fraction obvious. 16.8/89
Louis Roederer Brut 2005
My notes include this line ‘where is the excitement’
Very lean and obviously too young. Great structure but all angles and no complexity. Again with the baby sick oddness. 17.3/90+
Louis Roederer Rosé 2006
Baby sick meets strawberries. Very firm and talc palate looks vital but also very firm. A little stunted through the finish. 17.4/91
Mumm Cuvée R.Lalou 1999
Just discovered that I reviewed this late last year too (with similar results).
Vibrant nose. Quite full style. Complex palate though with a large hole near the back palate and a little disjointed through the finish. Good, not quite great. 17.9/92
Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque Vintage 2004
I have this written down as 2004 but my writing is, erm, bad (a sign of genius surely? I’ll keep telling myself that).
Fresh, floral and lively. All up in the air, this needs to flesh out. Good form underneath but not much generosity or joy yet. 17.5/91
Philipponnat Cuvée 1522 2002
Very dense nose. Not super pure palate palate which muddies the characters, though good penetration. Old school style perhaps but solid. 17.5/91
Pol Roger Brut NV
Again I’ve had better bottles than this. Mercurial NV once again…
Quite rich and Pinot dominant. Much more power and length than many but the acidity is sharp and the finish raw. 17/90
Pol Roger Brut 2000
(I’m not rating this as I think this was a bad bottle. No one on the stand at the time though…)
Pol Roger Brut Rosé 2000
I quite liked this. Real vinous character.
Quite a ferrous nose on this, suggesting some serious red Coteaux de Champenois in there, the ferrous, blood and bone notes of those unsual still Pinots showing through on the nose in particular. Very dry and rather mature palate. Has perhaps a little too much tannins but that also makes for character. 17.6/91
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Most consistent NV for me is Billecart. Decent price too considering you can get it at one of the chains for under $70 usually now. Their rose is also a performer.
No good to see the Nicolas Francois was (relatively) disappointing. Tyson Stekzer rates the 2000 though.