“Champagne Ed” Mc Carthy, author of Champagne for Dummies, presented 18 Blanc de Blancs Champagnes for the Wine Media Guild’s tasting and lunch at The Leopard at des Artistes in NYC.
Ed said that Champagne Blanc de Blancs (white from white) could only be made from Chardonnay grapes.
Many Champagne houses believe in the traditional philosophy that blending is better and therefore do not make a Blanc de Blancs. About 5% of all Champagne made today is Blanc de Blancs. Even though most Blanc de Blancs are lighter in style than the traditional blended ones, they can age and are best from 8 to 10 years from the vintage date.
Fuller bodied Blanc de Blancs from the Grand Cru villages, such as Krug Clos du Mesnil, Salon and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, can age for 15 to 20 years or longer.
Champagne has a 300-year history but there was no Blanc de Blancs before 1920. It was Eugene-Aime Salon, founder of the house of Salon, that made his first vintage in 1921. Though popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Blanc de Blancs almost disappeared after Salon’s death in 1943. Taittinger in 1952 came out with the now famous Comtes de Champagne, a Blanc de Blancs, and the vintage appeared in 1957. Blancs de Blancs was here to stay.
The dosage for these lighter in style Blanc de Blancs is usually 5g/liter. It is the lightness and dryness that makes them perfect as an aperitif or with a first course like fish and seafood. Most Blanc de Blancs are more expensive than traditional Champagne because of the high price of the Chardonnay grapes.
Ed said that the great years for vintage Champagne are 1996, 2002 and 2008, which are on the market now.
Champagne Barons de Rothchilds NV in magnum. The grapes come from the Còtes des Blancs. 40% of reserve wine is used. There is a low dosage and long aging after disgorgement, 6 to 9 months. Cellar aging is for at least 3 years. The wine has citrus aromas and flavors with white fruit notes and hints of apple and almonds. $207
Champagne Collet NV most of the grapes come from the Cote des Blancs region and is made from 6 crus. It is aged for a minimum of five years in hundred-year-old chalk cellars, which is longer than the regulations require. The dosage is 7.5 grams per liter. It has floral notes, with citrus aromas and hints of grapefruit and wild flowers. $55
Champagne Mumm de Cramant NV 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 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 was one of the first Blanc de Blancs Champagnes introduced in1930. It is fresh, crisp, dry, light bodied with nice fruit aromas and flavors and a touch of white peach. $64
Champagne Henriot NV This is one of Ed’s favorite houses and one he feels does not get the attention it deserves. It is a blend of grapes from the Cote de Blancs and the villages of Mesnil- sur – Oger, Avize, Chouilly and others. The assembly consists of 30% reserve wine, the percentage can change depending on the vintage. This is wine with hints of orange blossom, honey, apricot and a touch of brioche. $55 Ed says that this Champagne House deserves to be better known.
Champagne Ruinart NV Chardonnay is the very soul of the winery with grapes coming mainly from the Cote des Blancs, and Montagne de Reims terroirs. In the cool of the underground chalk tunnels, the wine slowly matures in the bottle. In 1768 Ruinart acquired former Gallo-Roman chalk quarries (the Crayères), hollowed out under the city of Reims to a depth of 38 meters. The site extends over three levels with eight kilometers of galleries. There is a constant temperature of 11°C with no vibrations and a perfect humidity level. This is Champagne with nice citrus aromas and flavors with hints of apple and apricot. $72
Champagne Gosset Grand Blanc NV Ed said this was the oldest continually operating Champagne house but it is not as well known as it should be. The grapes come from 15 different Premier and Grand Cru vineyards of the Cotes des Blancs and Montagne de Reims. The wine is on the lees for a minimum of four years before disgorgement. The wine has floral aromas, with hints of white fruit, apricots, and a touch of lemon on the palate. $77
Extra Brut NV. Philippe Gonet, 3210, NV Cuvee. The numbers stand for 3 years on the lees, 2 vineyard sources (50% Le Mesnil and 50% Montgueux. Montgueux is chalky and is considered a non-classified GC of the south. The fruit is fuller but also has minerality from the chalk. Le Mesnil gives tension, freshness and salinity on the mouth. 1 is for 1 cepage and 0 is for zero dosage. It is marked extra brut but there is no sugar added. 50% of the cuvee is reserve wine from a solara started 10 years ago. The wine has floral notes, a touch of toast and hints of apricot, peach and lime. It has a fresh and lingering finish. $75.
Champagne Andre Jacquart Mesnil Brut Nature NV Malolactic fermentation does not take place, a minimum of 5 years on the lees before disgorgement and zero dosage. 70% of the wine is aged in old Burgundy barrels. Ed said that the grapes come from the best villages in Champagne. This is elegant champagne with hints of pear and peach with a long and fruity finish. Ed was very impressed with this champagne and it is a bargain at $70. Ed said this was the NV Champagnes with the most body, which is typical of their style.