London’s unofficial wine trade social club, 67 Pall Mall, today played host to the third edition of New Wave Champagne – a day of tasting dedicated to domaine (grower) Champagnes and family-owned “grower minded” Champagne houses.
It was a great opportunity to taste Champagnes from producers who are making the running when it comes to wines that express where they are from, not just the skill of the cellarmaster.
It’s interesting that Champagne is often considered as something apart from wine – a category on its own. This is partly because Champagne, like no other wine region, has myth-making and brand-building in its DNA. But the message I took from today’s event, as well as from recent visits to the region, is that Champagne can (should?) be a wine and judged in the same way that we assess wines from elsewhere.
Key to this process is greater openness and transparency on the part of the producers – and today’s event was a model in that respect, with plentiful details on grape origin, winemaking, reserve wines, disgorgement dates and the like. If Champagne wants its best wines to be treated as the fine wines that they undoubtedly are, they must be open with consumers.
Would a grower in Burgundy expect to sell their wines if they refused to specify the vintage; or if they neglected to specify the vineyard(s) origin of the grapes?
There were many outstanding Champagnes on show today – here’s a small selection that I particularly enjoyed.
Champagne Pierre Gimmonet
Pierre Gimmonet is responsible for some of the most precise yet pleasurable examples of northern Côte des Blancs Champagnes. The 2008 Oenophile Blanc de Blancs non Dosé was a lesson to me on how Champagnes with no dosage can still be perfectly balanced and a delicious blend of ripe fruit and minerality. Their 2010 Fleuron Blanc de Blancs didn’t give much away on the nose, but the palate…such complexity and depth, but still with a lightness of touch that is so beguiling.
Vilmart’s Champagnes share a common approach – always vinified in oak and with no malolactic. Their Grand Cellier d’Or 2013 Premier Cru is 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir from a single vineyard (or lieu-dit) in the village of Rilly-la-Montagne. There’s no overt woodiness here, but a delicious texture allied to a delicate tanginess.
Champagne Nicolas Maillart
Having visited Nicolas’ domaine last month, I was prepared for the high quality of the Champagnes here – but one in particular blew me away: Platine Late Disgorged 2003-2006 served in magnum. It’s a blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, mostly (75% of it) from the 2006 vintage, combined with wines from 2003/4/5. It has spent 7 years on the lees. My tasting note begins: “Not to be spat!” Need I say more?