Ed McCarthy, author of Champagne for Dummies, is an old friend. For many years, I have had the pleasure of drinking a variety of wonderful Champagnes with him. Ed has become the Champagne expert for the Wine Media Guild and this year Ed reached new heights in his selection of Prestige Cuvees for the Wine Media Guild Champagne Lunch at Il Gattopardo Restaurant in NYC.
There were 20 Champagnes and after tasting them, Ed said he liked them all. I had to agree with him. He added that most of them were too young to drink though some went back to the 2000 vintage. Here are my notes on the first 10 and will do 10 more in another blog.
Champagne Pol Roger “Valentin Leflaive NV Blanc de Blancs (Extra Brut; 4.5 dosage. Made from 100% Chardonnay from the Cote des Blancs. Grapes from each plot of vines are vinified separately, and then the wine is delicately blended with reserve wines before being bottled and placed in the cellars in Avize to mature. The base wine is from 2010 vintage and is aged for 10 months in stainless steel (70%) and oak barrels (30%). This is an elegant wine with hints of apple, pears, brioche and citrus. Ed said this is the first release of the wine in the USA. It is a bargain at $57
Champagne G.H. Mumm RS NV Blanc de Blancs There are almost 218 hectares of vineyards rated 98%, which are mainly on the eight most renowned Grand Crus: Aÿ, Biuzy, Ambonnay, Verzy, Cramant, and Mailly-Champagne. 25% of the production comes from here, 75% is from independent growers. The grapes are picked between the end of September and mid October about 100 days after the vines have flowered. As required by champagne appellation rules, picking is by hand. After pressing, the must is stored in vats for two weeks between 18°C and 20°C before alcoholic fermentation. Malolactic fermentation always takes place but is not required by the appellation rules. In the cellars, the liqueur de triage triggers a second alcoholic fermentation and the bubbles gradually form. As the bubbles form, the pressure inside the bottle increases, reaching as much as 6 bars. Ed said that in this wine there was less pressure so the bubbles were not as forceful. It is fresh, crisp, dry, and light-bodied with nice fruit aromas and flavors and a touch of white peach. $55 This one was ready to drink.
Champagne Collet “Collection Privée” 2006 made from 75% Chardonnay from Premiers and Grands Crus villages, 20% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier. Over 60% of the wine is aged in oak barrels from Champagne for 8 years in century old limestone cellars in Ay. Made from 50% Chardonnay from the grands crus of Cramant and Avize, 45% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and 5% Pinot Meuniers from Dizy. The dosage is 9 g/l and the wine is aged for over 6 years in the cellars. This is an elegant Champagne with hints of walnuts, brioche and citrus fruit. $65
Champagne Perrier- Joulët Belle Epoque 2012 Made from 50% Chardonnay from the grands crus of Cramant and Avize, 45% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims and 5% Pinot Meuniers from Dizy. The dosage is 9 g/l and the wine is aged for over 6 years in the cellars. The wine has citrus aromas with hints of orange and lemon peel. On the palate there were white fruit flavors and a touch of almonds. $175
Champagne Alfred Gratien Cuvée Paradis 2009 Produced from 65% Chardonnay, 18% Pinot Noir and 17% Pinot Meunier. This is a small house and their wines are very difficult to find in this country. The wine is fermented in 228 liter oak barrels for 6 months and spends 6 years in bottle. This is a non-vintage prestige cuvée and Ed found it to be elegant and more sophisticated and classier than some of the very good, but heavier Vintage Bruts. It has aromas and flavors of white fruit, honey and nuts. Ed described it as elegant and having intensely concentrated and complex flavors with hints of white fruit, toast and gingerbread, and a long aftertaste.$125 Ed said it was ready to drink.
Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV made from Grand Cru Chardonnay from Cramant, Le Mesnil-su-Oger, Avize and Oger all in the Côtes des Blancs grown in pure chalk soil. Vinification is in stainless steel. Maturation is on the lees longer than the 15 months required by law before it is disgorged. It has hints of toast, pear and honey, citrus with nice minerality. $65 Ed said this was the second label of Salon and ready to drink.
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck “Rare” 2006 made from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay from twelve 100% rated Grand Cru Villages. This needs at least 15 years from the vintage date to develop fully. It was interesting because I found aromas and flavors of spice and ginger with citrus fruit and good acidity. $165. Ed said this was a special Champagne.
Champagne Boizel Joyau de France 2000 Made from 65% Pinot Noir 35% Chardonnay from Grands and Pemiers Cru Grapes. The wine is aged 8 months in small 3-to 8-year old barrels after primary fermentation. Aged for 15 years on its lees, this mature Champagne is toasty, with hints of yellow peach, pastry, almonds and hazelnuts. $130 Even though the wine was almost 20 yeas old Ed said it was too young.
Champagne Henriot Cuvée Hemera 2005 made only in exceptional years from a blend of Grands Crus Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in equal parts. The Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, from Chouilly, Avize and Mesnil-su-Oger. The Pinot Noir from the north of the Montagne de Reims, from Mailly Champagne, Verzy and Verzenay. The wine is aged on the lees for a minimum of 12 years. The Dosage is 5g/l. This is a full flavored wine with hints of apricot and citrus fruit. There are toasted notes and a touch of honey. Ed said it was drinking well now. $185
Champagne Palmer & Co Grands Terroirs 2003 (magnum) Made from 54% tPino Noir: Grands Crus 63% from Mailly and Verzenay, Premies Crus 37% from Ludes, Rilly and Chigny. 46% Chardonnay Premiers Crus 100% Trépail, Villers and Marmery. Aged on the lees for 12 years. Dosage 7.5. Disgorgement Nov 2017. This is an elegant and balanced Champagne with hints of citrus, pear, apricot, a note of hazelnut and a touch of brioche. $180 for the magnum.
With the Champagne we had:
Halibut in a “Guazzetto” broth with fresh winter vegetables and scented with wild “Finocchiella”
All Champagne prices are approximate. Next time Prestige Cuvees for the New Year