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With the holidays upon us and gatherings of friends and family at hand, we are happy to remind you of the joys of Champagne at the table. New releases from our favorite growers are streaming in and we're positively giddy, as we taste the newest vintages and cuvées. One of the most exciting producers is Bérêche et Fils, where the energetic brothers Raphaël and Vincent turn out a range of inspiring Champagnes, which seem to improve with every vintage. Since taking over the estate in 2004, they have worked organically, and have begun application of biodynamic treatments to a portion of the vines. In the cellar they have focused on fermenting in oak with native yeasts, aging under cork, and bottling with lower dosage. The wines from their vineyards in the Montagne de Reims and Vallée de la Marne are intensely flavored, mineral, and supple, balancing ripe fruit character with terroir distinction. The use of oak, as well as aging under cork rather than capsule for the secondary fermentation of the wines, lends a faintly burnished character, adding an additional layer of complexity to the nose and palate.
We are pleased to offer their latest releases: Les Beaux Regards Blanc des Blancs, Campania Remensis Rosé, Le Cran, Rive Gauche Blanc des Noirs, and Reflets d'Antan (based on a single vintage combined with wines from a perpetual cuvée). John McIlwain
Les Beaux Regards is a blend of two parcels of Chardonnay in Ludes on the northern slope of the Montagne de Reims planted in 1964 and 1970. The loamy clay soils produce a Champagne more vinous in character, rather than exclusively taut and chalky. The 2014 displays lemon and apple blossom and stone fruit aromas, with delicate notes of spice and citrus peel following. The palate is distinctly nervy and racy, with overtly stony notes, cool notes of orange oil and lemon balm and a long tangy, expressive finish. There's a penetrating minerality here matched by equally vivacious fruit. Delicious! (Dosage 3g/l., disg. 01/18) John McIlwain
The Rive Gauche bottling from Bérêche is 100% Pinot Meunier from vines planted in 1969 in the north facing parcel Le Misy in Port-á-Binson near Mareuil-le Port in the Marne. The north-facing slopes and old vines keep Meunier's tendency to over-exuberance in check, preserving the mineral expression of the variety. The 2014 exhibits floral, citrus peel, stone fruit scents on the nose with aromas of acacia blossom, peach skin, and marzipan dominating. The palate is ripe, but racy, with flavors of white peach, orange oil, ginger, and salted plum on a mouth-watering, driving, insistent finish. For fans of the Rive Gauche bottling, this is more linear than the generous 2013 edition, but a compelling expression of this terroir. (3 grams dosage/ disgorged 10/17) John McIlwain
Bérêche's Campania Remensis is a consistently fascinating rosé Champagne in a category fraught with uninspiring wines. The 2014 base is 65% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, and 5% still red wine from Ormes on the western side of the Montagne de Reims. The robe has a faint copper color. The nose is redolent of wild cherry, blood orange zest, crème brûlée, raspberry, and ginger. The palate balances bright acidity with layers of ripe fruit flavors and savory undertones. The balance here is poised with great energy and layers of expressive fruit. This is a beautiful and elegant rosé! John McIlwain
For holiday celebrations, Champagne is a must. Not just for the festive association of bubbles, but also because it is truly one of the most versatile wines to grace one's table. The inherent acidity of the wine cuts through the richness of the foods, while the bubbles and moderate alcohol invigorate the palate rather than tire it. One of my favorite Champagnes for the table is Bérêche's Reflets d'Antan. Based on a perpetual cuvée dating from the 1980's, the wine combines the vivid, nervy fruit of a recent vintage with the burnished, textural and aromatic complexity of the aged wines which make up the 'solera.' The secondary fermentation under cork rather than crown cap adds an additional layer of finesse with a delicate bead and soft mousse. Better served in a white wine glass to allow the aromas to develop. John McIlwain
100% Pinot Npir from .40 Hectares in the premier cru village of Rilly-la-Montagne. Fermented in oak, aged under cork for 36s before disgorgement. Dosage 3g/l.