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Terroirs is a blend of Chardonnay from multiple parcels like the 7 Crus cuvée, but from older vines planted in mid-slope chalk and clay soils and aged longer on the lees, with some barrel-aged reserve wine lending another layer of complexity.
Tasted in January 2017. Complex aromas of lychee, candied pear, citrus, beautiful palate of yellow fruits, minerals, citrus, caramel with fabulous length.
80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, harvested early at 9% alcohol from NE facing parcels. Elegant white fruit aromas. The palate is very expressive with white fuits, minerals and herbal notes, rich but balanced. (Tasted with 5 grams dosage, our disgorgement is Brut Nature.)
This 2009 is 100% Ambonnay Grand Cru fruit and this really comes across, in the form of stately minerality and structure. It shines a vibrant golden yellow in the glass and sports a finely-beaded mousse. Aromas of spearmint, peppermint, lillies, hazelnuts, and spiced apple custard float up from the glass. The palate is both round, weighty, and alive with minerality with notes of yellow plums and Cortland apples that continue through to an elegant finish.
The 2010 Polisy Blanc de Blanc shows a delicate mousse, typical of wild yeast fermentations, with subtle white fruit aromas. The palate is chalky and long with beautiful lemon, pear and herbal notes - lovely now and should cellar beautifully.
This is a new version of the Polisy Brut Reserve, coming from the 2013 vintage and produced with zero added SO2. As with all the Beaufort wines, there is terrific length and concentration due to their many years of organic farming and low yields. The lack of SO2 in the wine also contributes to its purity, and the Kimmeridgian soil gives a wonderful, crystalline minerality. The Beaufort family planted vines in Polisy in the 1960s and the results we've tasted since our relationship with Beaufort began have been stunning. Great value — and a great food wine as well, serve with fish, white meats and full-flavored cheeses...
Towards the end of the tasting my notes became minimal, but this wine rated an enthusiastic "Superb!" Forget your prejudice against demi-sec Champagnes, this wine is fantastically complex and delicious. The French wine publication “Le Rouge et le Blanc,” in their review of André Beaufort, offers an explanation of how dosage seems to help the wines develop: “the aromas, timid in their youth, finish by exploding with age and the sugar becomes like a support to the aromas.” Only a few bottles available – we urge you to try it! (Notes from Jan 2017: "Super, rich, no flaws, Nearly sweet, wonderful, rich, complex nose. Totally fresh, or at least not old or even aging...")
The 1998 Ambonnay Brut has long been a staff favorite and this disgorgement does not disappoint. Brillliant, golden yellow in color and showing a finely-beaded mousse, this offers one of the two most expressive aromatic profiles of this current Beaufort lineup. Aromas of Mirabelle plums, toasted hazelnuts, and crème brüléee transition to notes of Jonagold apples, cinnamon, and wild flowers. The palate is generous and expansive and carries tones of brazil nuts, greengages, and irises that crescendo to a fine, zippy finish. This is complex and delicious Champagne! David Salinas ((NOTE: This refers to a 2014 disgorgement, the wine shipping now was disgorged in 11/16 or Jan 2017.) (Notes from Jan 2017: "Super good, strong, precise, pure. Great focused nose, good stong body, good minerality, long weaving forest trail...")
A sensational mature Champagne from André Beaufort - the estate converted to organic agriculture in the early 70's and makes brilliant, full-bodied Champagnes that are among the most "vinous" being made today. Medium golden yellow in color and sporting a discrete mousse. The nose is quite floral with tones of cherry blossoms, apple blossoms, and irises before touches of quince and fresh baguette. The palate is concentrated with a spherical and laser-like focus that offers notes of lemon sorbet, tart lemon custard, and apple pie, underlined by a fine minerality that persists through to a rounded, savory finish. Really a very pretty and lovely wine. This medium bodied Champagne is made of approximately 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay and was disgorged in *October of 2016 after 14 years of sur-lie aging, illustrating the Beauforts' commitment to releasing mature wines. *May be a more recent disgorgement
"Really superb, subtle, long. Quiet nose. Winy. Seems like old school white Burgundy. Very serious, perfect but perhaps less transparent than the 2010 Brut Rosé." Notes from Beaufort dinner, Jan 2017
For its striking blood orange/copper color and for its vinous character, Beaufort's 2010 Rosé is one of the most compelling Champagnes on our shelves. 100% Pinot Noir from Beaufort's Polisy vineyards, there are geographic and stylistic similarities to great Rosé des Riceys. Aromas of cherry compote, cinnamon, spearmint, and butterscotch give way to gingerbread and herbal notes. The palate is broad and balanced with a juicy core of cherries, tangerines, and red plums before a lengthy mocha and mulberry finish. One of Beaufort's best rosés to date! (*Disgorged 10/2016) Tasting notes Jan 2017 "Absolutely super, in the end the wine of the night. Transparent, super light but dense and complex, long and unfolding in waves..."
This full-bodied and robust Rosé Champagne is expressive of Pinot Noir character as well as natural and chemical-free winemaking, a rare combination, especially in Champagne. The nose offers ripe sour cherry, cherry pit, quinine, almost Burgundian earthiness, and an ever so slight note of bitter herbs reminiscent of amaro. Cherry fruit carries through the mid-palate to the finish, which is downright tannic, in the best possible way. There is some dosage here, giving the wine a compelling balance of acid and sweetness. It's a fairly serious Rosé Champagne, one that could accompany a meal, but it doesn't present itself as austere in any way. Unique within our selection of Rosé Champagnes and well-worth trying. (Lot 11A. Disgorged 10/2016.)
Bérêche's Campania Remensis is a consistently fascinating rosé Champagne, in a category fraught with uninspiring wines. The 2012 base is 65% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, and 5% still red wine from Ormes on the western side of the Montagne de Reims. This year the robe is more of a salmon pink rather than copper color of previous vintages. The nose is redolent of wild strawberry, blood orange zest, vanilla bean, raspberry, and ginger. The palate balances whip-crack acidity with layers of ripe fruit flavors and savory undertones. The balance here is impeccable and the finish textured and nuanced. This is a beautiful and deft rosé! 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 2012 displays floral and orchard fruit aromas, with delicate notes of spice and Meyer lemon following. The palate is distinctly mineral and racy, with overtly stony notes, cool notes of mint and lemon balm and a long tangy, expressive finish. Great energy and volume here. (Dosage 3g/l.) 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 (not just Thanksgiving or Christmas) 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. This will pair beautifully with most of the foods on your holiday table (skip the marshmallows, please). Better served in a white wine glass to allow the aromas to develop. John McIlwain
Bio Champagne grower Bourgeois-Diaz is located in Crouttes sur Marne on the western edge of the Marne River Valley, where much of the terroir is perfectly suited for the Pinot Meunier grape. Their vines are near those of noted biodynamic grower and Meunier-specialist, Francoise Bedel. Their non-vintage extra-brut cuvee '3C' is named after the three cepages that make up the blend. The current disgorgement, based on the 2013 vintage, is red fruited on the nose and bright, briny, then broad on palate. There is a soft mousse and a rich, not zaftig texture with good cut and freshness. There is a nice sense of harmony on nose and palate. The finish is stony, persistent, with good detail, rising at the end. A fine aperitif and better still with sushi or sashimi (toro spoken here). This offers a great deal of complexity at an attractive price. (Disgorged 2/16/2016, 3g/l dosage.) John McIlwain
Emmanuel Brochet, produces Champagnes of particularly mineral character from the clay and limestone soils of a single lieu-dit called Le Mont Benoit located in the northern part of the Montagne de Reims. The vines are date from 1962 and 1984 and have been farmed organically since 2005 and certified since 2008. The current disgorgement of Le Mont Benoit Extra Brut is based on the the 2013 vintage with reserve wine from the 2012 vintage. The cepage is 39% Pinot Noir 37% Pinot Meunier, and 24% Chardonnay fermented in barrel with native yeasts and bottled with a dosage of 4 grams/L. Newly arrived, the wine is a bit aromatically reticent, though with air reveals pear skin and stony notes. The palate is quite chiseled and vinous, high-lighting a denser rather than chalky minerality or overt fruit. And while powerful, this is quite elegant, if coiled and shows quite long and dry, though not quite austere. Within this structure are lovely notes of blood orange peel, salt, and apricot with hints of autolyse. This is quite young, but has great energy within and will reward mid to longer term aging. John McIlwain
Made from 100% Chardonnay from organically farmed vineyards in Vertus, Le Mesnil, Orger, Avize, and Cramant, the 2009 base Cuvée Vendémiaire is a must for fans of chiseled, chalky Champagnes from the Côte des Blancs. With long lees aging (60 months, partially in oak), low sulfur, and bottling under lower pressure, this shows a more vinous side of Blanc de Blancs, while offering tremendous value. -John McIlwain
Les Houtrantes Complantés is Geoffroy's most viticulturally ambitious and complex Champagne. Sourced from a field blend of old vines of all the allowed Champagne cultivars, there is not enough juice to make a cuvée each year, so JB stores reserve wine from previous vintages in magnums. This first release is a blend of 25% 2008, 35% 2009, and 40% 2010. Quite simply this is one of our most fascinatingly elegant and aromatically beguiling Champagnes. It shows a pale golden yellow in the glass, adorned with a minutely beaded mousse. The nose unpacks an aroma box of linden flowers, sage, hyacinths, fresh mint, followed by Doyenne pears, Reine Claude plums, and a hint of smoky tones. The palate is refreshing stream of minerality, impeccably balanced and ripe for a Brut Nature, that glides and shifts to a saline and savory finish. One can't help but thinking of Rieslings from the great vineyards of Saar Valley. Simply stunning Champagne! (Disgorged 6/2015). - David Salinas
In the sometimes treacherous passage from grapes to wine, Geoffroy's flagship cuvée has been gifted every advantage. 50-year-old vines, on average, from JB's finest plots are used in the 2004's final blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. At pressing, only the "tête de cuvée" juices, the best juice from the first press, are used. The prise de mousse occurs under cork, not capsule, and the 2004 has aged for almost ten years on it lees to delicious results. It shines a medium golden yellow in the glass, adorned by a discrete mousse. Initial smoky tones, on the nose, give way to aromas of Cortland apples, honeysuckle, Mirabelle plums, and tamarinds. The palate is rich, round, and weighty with notes of green apples, greengages, and vanilla before a tart and smoky finish. (Disgorged 5/2014). - David Salinas
From the En Valingrain lieu dit, this blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc makes a compelling case for the gôut de terroir of Riceys. The soils are a combination of marls and Kimmeridgian limestone, akin to the soils in nearby Chablis. A pale green gold robe, lemon oil, tangerine rind, rain water and sea spray on the nose. The mid-weight palate has a tangy, nearly briny, sense of minerality, with citrus flavors taking a back seat to the stony detail on the long, persistent, pungent finish. I love the energy and drive on this wine and would love to pair it with raw tuna and citrus or grilled swordfish with capers. John McIlwain
Though there are fewer than 20 growers of Rosé des Riceys, we tend to think of the wines as a coming from a single terroir. By vinifying separately two different lieux dits, Olivier Horiot shows the possibilities of expression within the appellation. En Barmont is a warm site, whose southerly exposure and marls interspersed with Kimmeridgian limestone produce a ripe Pinot Noir with a broader character than nearby En Valigrain. The 2012 En Barmont has a darker garnet/copper robe, effusive and floral on the nose with wild cherry, cherry blossom, and Red Delicious apple aromas. On the palate, vivid, racy acidity, bright red fruits with hints of crushed herbs, and a fine dusty minerality on a broad expansive finish. This is quite pretty with a generous ripeness and exuberance. John McIlwain
If the Rosé des Riceys from En Barmont is generous, verging on sensuous in nature, En Valingrain offers more linear, bordering on cerebral, pleasures (both are fantastic, I hasten to add). A pale light garnet robe, with hints of copper on the edges; the 2012 En Valingrain displays high-toned red fruit aromas, wild strawberry, cranberry, and rose hips, with a hint of brambles in the background. With air, the nose becomes more perfumed with pretty notes of wild roses, tangerine peel, and sandalwood. The palate is a bit reserved, in comparison to En Barmont, but has a fine mineral core and nervosity with wild strawberry and red cherry flavors giving way to a pungent earthiness. The finish is long and linear with an admirable persistence. Decant now or cellar for a few years to allow the elements to integrate. This is a lovely wine in the making and a fine expression of Rosé des Riceys! John McIlwain
Though famed for their reds and the eponymous rosé, Riceys produces far more Champagne than still wines from its vineyards bordering Burgundy. And though the Kimmeridgian soils mean Pinot Noir in the Aube, they also make a convincing case for the underappreciated Pinot Blanc grape. Sourced from all eight of his terroirs, Olivier Horiot's Métisse, a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Blanc, is based on the 2013 vintage with the balance made up of reserve wine from a perpetual cuvée stored in foudre. The nose is delicate and spritely upon opening with generous notes of white peach, lemon curd, and cool herb tones, opening to reveal aromas of brioche and ginger. On the palate, there is a sense of volume with generous stone fruit flavors underlain with a broad, stony character which lends drive to the long, lingering finish. This would be lovely with pan-roasted scallops, though there's certainly enough texture to accompany risotto with wild mushrooms, or roasted chicken. (Disgorged 3/15/2016, Dosage 2g/L) John McIlwain
Based on a solera, or perpetual cuvée, started in 1982, the Mémoire Extra Brut is comprised of 45% Pinot Noir, 45% Pinot Meunier, and 10% Chardonnay, aged in foudre and bottled with 3 g/ dosage. The grapes come from all of the various Huré vineyard parcels and the cuvée is considered to be a broad "snapshot" of the domain's terroir and vinification aesthetic. Pale golden yellow in color and with an ultra-fine bead, Mémoire offers soft aromas of Mirabelle plum, dried orange peel, lemon verbena, brown butter, with notes of honey. The palate is creamy, broad, round, and burnished with complex flavors of wild cherry, damson, heather honey, candied ginger, with a pleasing hint of nuttiness on the finish. There are a multiple layers to this Champagne as befits its solera origins and it is better served by enjoying from a wine glass, rather than flute to allow the bouquet to develop fully. - John McIlwain
Entirely Pinot Meunier, this is a notably unique rosé. It's incredibly vinous and is wine — serious wine — before it's rosé or Champagne. But as a saignée Champagne it has delicacy and poise, and yet is serious and structured. It's most curiously savory — our flavor associates included soft cheese, herbs, ferns, sausage, and spices. It is wonderfully dry with chalky minerality on the finish. Not a party Champagne, but one for serious consideration and engagement. Worth contemplation by any serious wine or Champagne lover. MSB
60% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay that doesn't go through malolactic fermentation, along with 10% Pinot Noir. There is a delicate red fruit quality — pale plums — but otherwise the high-toned Chardonnay comes through with a delightful lemon tone. Earthy salinity and minerals lead to a dry, mouth-watering finish. A large percentage of Meunier gives this Champagne a broad, rich, earthy character that matches very well with Beau Soleil oysters and Caviar. MSB
If ever there were an argument that portions of Cumières merit Grand Cru status, Laval's Les Chênes makes a convincing case. Made up of 100% organically farmed Chardonnay from the eponymous lieu-dit on the eastern side of the village down by the river where the soils are chalky rather than the clays of other portions of the village, this is particularly powerful blanc de blancs. While the nose offers tropical fruit and citrus aromas, the midweight, sinewy, and broad palate is pungently mineral displaying notes of salt, green tea, and quinine on a driving, powerful, persistent finish. This is certainly delicious now, but tastings of previous vintages of Les Chênes, lead one to believe there is plenty ahead for the patient. John McIlwain
Another impressive bottling from Raphaël Bérêche's Crus Sélectionnés, the 2004 Montagne Grand Cru, from Verzenay on the north slope of the Montagne de Reims displays the characteristic richness of the Pinot Noir-dominated wines of the village. With a golden robe and fine mousse, the Champagne is beginning to hit a fine point of maturity. The nose balances aromas of red fruits, beurre noisette, shortbread, and stone. The palate is supple with fine flavors of dried cherry, apricots, brioche, and dried mint, leading to a detailed, persistent, mineral finish. This shows grand cru volume and length while maintaining plenty of complexity and finesse. (disgorged 01/2016, 5g/l dosage) John McIlwain
Sourced from the grand cru village of Cramant in the Cote des Blancs, La Cote Grand Cru 2007 is beginning to display the aged character of Champagne from the famed village, a balance of mineral precision with the burnished fruit character of long aging sur latte. On the nose lemon oil, honeycomb, and brioche aromas overlay hints of seashell, and stone. The palate shows hints of halzelnut, brown butter, Seville orange, salt, and crushed herbs on a creamy, rich, rounded, finish with fine bead and good persistence. (4g/L dosage, disgorged 01/16.) John McIlwain
Someday soon the Ambonnay Grand Cru lieu-dit of Les Crayères will be spoken of in the same reverential tones as Hermitage’s Les Bessards or Alsace’s Clos Sainte Hune. Similarly, Benoît Marguet will be heralded for having preserved and defended the health of his soils and his vineyard workers. These valuations form a positive feedback loop, where greater care and attention to finely delimited vineyards will help these great terroirs shine. Marguet’s Les Crayères is a blend of 62% Chardonnay and 38% Pinot Noir from an airy, mid-slope vineyard. Light golden in color and starred by a finely beaded mousse, the aromas begin with acacia, ripe raspberries, and honeysuckle before transitioning to Red Delicious and violets. The zero-dosage palate is broad and gripping with notes of dark chocolate, Meyer lemon, and fresh peppermint with a vanilla macaroon and ripe cantaloupe finish. An expressive and uncompromising Champagne of terroir! Disgorged 3/2014. David Salinas
Benoit Marguet is a true believer in the power of biodynamics to change not only wine but the vineyard and life for the better. He is passionate about the relationship between the vigneron, the vines, and his wines. His vineyards are plowed by horse, fermentations are with native yeasts, his wines see little to no sulfur, and his viticulture shows clearly in the finished wines. While the 2011 vintage was difficult for most producers, Marguet's wines were lovely. Les Bermonts is a blanc de blancs from vines planted in 1952 in the grand cru Ambonnay, unusual as the village is more notable for Pinot Noir. Les Bermonts is chalky and mineral, showing the power of Ambonnay, while also showing an incisive minerality, which drives the wines. This shows citrus blossom and chalky on the nose, while the broad palate is saline, textured, and savory. This will benefit from time in the cellar and is a compelling expression of the terroir of the Montagne de Reims. John McIlwain
At least for me, Marguet’s Champagnes have been about power and opulence, which isn’t surprising given winemaker Benoît Marguet has 10 hectares of vines, mainly in the grand crus of Ambonnay and Bouzy. With preserved lemon and powdered ginger notes, the “Shaman” (formerly named “Elements”) finishes with striking flavors of lemon pith and fresh dill. An unwittingly complementary pairing with tzatziki or taramosalata. Disgorged 2/16. Jonas Mendoza
A rich and effervescent rosé (70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir) with all the fruit sourced from the Grand Cru of Ambonnay. There are delicate notes of wild red cherry and fresh strawberry tops, which sharply unfurls with richly concentrated flavors of ripe Tri-Star strawberries and candied cherry. Bold and powerful enough to have with a rare steak! Jonas Mendoza
There are no two ways about it. This is a natural Champagne made from biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir and then vinified with native yeasts for both the alcoholic fermentation and the prise de mousse. Finally, the Concordance is free of any added sulfur. The Aube's warmer climate and Dominique's great farming have resulted in a Blanc de Noirs that will settle any doubts about the quality of the 2011 base vintage. Pale golden yellow in the glass and sporting a finely beaded mousse, the aromas of the Concordance are strikingly pure and vibrant with notes of ripe Cortland apples, red currants, fresh raspberries and a hint of brioche. The palate is pure with a fine minerality that carries aromas of cranberries and red plums through to a lengthy and savory finish. Beautiful Champagne! (Dosage : Zero, Disgorged : 1/2015). - David Salinas
Sourced from less than a hectare parcel of old-vine Pinot Noir, the Come des Tallants is the jewel of Roland's range. Beginning with a crystalline clear and brilliant golden yellow in the glass and very finely beaded mousse, the nose shows aromas of Greengage, lillies, spearmint, toffee, guava, and some musky tones. The palate is finely chiseled with a nervy minerality, buoyed by a weighty concentration and a full aromatic range of wild flowers, which continues through to a finely pointed finish. A fantastic effort and Champagne from Roland Piollot! (Dosage : Zero, Disgorged : 7/2015). This beautiful Champagne is a superb value and a great way to start, or enjoy during your holiday feast!
An organically-farmed Blanc de Noirs from the eponymous lieu-dit in the premier cru village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. The wine is a notable expression of this terroir, as Fabrice Pouillon reveals by vinifying with only the natural sugars from perfectly ripe Pinot Noir, in addition to only utilizing the indigenous yeasts present in the must. He accomplishes this by chilling unsulfured grape must in tank to a temperature low enough to prevent spoilage or fermentation. This must is then used for the secondary fermentation, as well as the dosage after disgorgement, rather than cane sugars or MCR. The resulting wine is layered and supple with a fine bead, displaying red fruits, blood orange peel, and spices, expressing the vinous character of Pinot Noir grown in the clays of the Grande Vallee de la Marne. John McIlwain
From an organically farmed, single-vineyard parcel at the top of the slope on the western side of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. 50% Pinot Noir fermented in tank, 50% Chardonnay fermented in used barrels. Disgorged in Spring 2016, zero dosage. Though from a premier cru village rather than its grand cru neighbor, Aÿ, the 2008 Les Blanchiens is no less an articulate expression of the calcareous clay soils that make up its terroir. The nose offers toasty brioche, dried orange peel, and bergamot aromas. The palate shows ripe dense fruit on the attack, with an incisive minerality dominating a rich and complex mid-palate. This is manifested by pungent soil notes, which give way to distinctly savory, sapid, and powerful finish. Though bottled without dosage, this is by no means austere. John McIlwain
Located in the hills above Essoyes, Ruppert-Leroy's vines are a study of polyculture, in contrast to most of the vineyards of Champagne. All are adjacent to forest, with dozens of herbs, wildflowers, grasses growing between the rows. In the Spring, there is a riot of color between the vines. Martin-Fontaine is 100% Chardonnay, fermented with native yeasts, bottled without dosage as of the 2013 vintage sees no addition of sulfur. We are lucky to be able to revisit the 2011, which is in a beautiful place at the moment, with a nose redolent of shortbread, lemon curd, and wet stone. The palate is stony, saline, and quite savory with umami notes vying for attention with pure flavors of ripe white orchard fruits. Quite pretty and detailed, this shows the potential of the terroir in this part of the Aube. John McIlwain
While today we tend to think of most wines in terms of fruit or mineral descriptors, some transcend those notes with profoundly savory character. Ruppert-Leroy's 100% Pinot Noir Champagne Les Cognaux hits this sweet spot with loads of minerality, pure fruit, and a rich sapid character which makes it a natural for the table. Here's a wine that will stand up to all manner of savory dishes, while leaving the palate refreshed. A visit to the vines with Bénédicte Ruppert of Ruppert-Leroy is an illuminating experience. There’s a world of difference between the Aube and the Vallée de la Marne. Not only are the soils different, (Kimmeridgean limestone vs. chalk), but the undulating landscape itself is wilder and less manicured. Often the vineyards abut forest rather than village, which in the case of biodynamic growers is especially desirable to insure a biodiversity according to Bénédicte. Between the vines is a riot of vegetation and flowers, as Ruppert-Leroy has 30 different plants and flowers sown in the vineyard. One such vineyard is the Les Cognaux whose grey marl soils are planted to Pinot Noir and when we visited in the Spring was aglow with yellow flowers. (These flowers are made into a tissane by Bénédicte to treat the vines for mildew.)The wildness of the countryside is reflected in the wines which are energetic, exuberant, and vibrantly mineral. The 2013 Les Cognaux shows red fruit, peach skin, orange peel, and see spray aromas with notes of daishi and fond. The palate balances lush, ripe flavors of apricot, peach, and Rainier cherry with crunchy acidity, compelling umami character and a pungent sense of minerality. The finish is vibrant and luminous. As of 2013 Ruppert-Leroy vinifies and bottles without SO2. John McIlwain
Hubert Soreau is is a vigneron whose wine exemplifies the dedication of small growers to producing distinctive Champagnes of terroir. Farming .49 ha near Epernay without chemicals, he produces tiny amounts of wine which ages in wood, sees long less aging under cork, and extended time in the cellar before release. The current Release of Le Clos l'Abee (base 2008 with this bottling) is vinous, waxy, layered, and burnished with plenty of savory and umami notes complementing the incisive minerality from the terroir. The aromatics balance yellow fruit and citrus peel with brioche and soil notes. This is a treat for fans of leesy, chalky Champagnes. There is a fine bead and a long, broad, elegant finish. (Dosage 5g/l; Disgorged Fall 2015) John McIlwain
There's a great deal to admire in the Champagnes and ethic of Aurelien Suenen. His wines combine beautiful fruit with a frank minerality in a graceful way. This results from conscientious farming (Suenen has been in transition to organic certification since 2009), deft work in the cellar (native yeast fermentation, natural malolactic fermentation, moderate use of sulfur, and dosage determined by blind tasting trial). Aurelien's inaugural village releases display his desire to release Champagnes that articulate a sense of place. He notes that in Cramant there is different terroir expression in the wines from the high vineyards and the lower lying vineyards, with the vines planted in the latter proving to be more distinctly mineral. C + C, a blend of wines from Chouilly and Cramant is richer and more briny than the Oiry bottling. The nose offers an intoxicating blend of lemon blossom, sea spray, and apricot aromas, while the palate is incisively chalky, pungently stony, and taut. This is not to say this is austere, rather brisk and punchy with great persistence on the long, sapid finish. John McIlwain
The 2013 vintage is the inaugural release of Aurelien Suenen's Grand Cru Oiry Blanc de Blancs. Wines from the village of Oiry are typically sold under the Cramant designation (we haven't been able to find another Champagne with this single village designation, as yet), so this is a fine opportunity to taste Oiry's distinctive, chalky terroir. Aurelien's parcels contain some very old Chardonnay vines which make for some pungently mineral, stony wines. The vins clairs are fermented partially in barrel, spend nine months on the lees, and are bottled with 1 g/l dosage. The 2013 is brisk, briny, and fresh on the nose with aromas of citrus peel, quinine, and chalk dominating. The palate is chiseled, taut and very dry with racy acidity and an energetic driving finish. Suenen continues to grow with each vintage and this new line up of village designated Champagnes are particularly exciting. The 2013 is especially suited to seafood dishes such as fluke crudo, where the bright acidity sets off the sweetness of the fish, or as a bright foil to pan-roasted monkfish, or skate with brown butter and lemon. John McIlwain
Aurélien Suenen originally trained in the US to become a professional basketball player, but returned to France to take over the estate in 2009 when his father passed away. "MBDA" is one of his first cuvées; besides a longing tribute to four generations of Suenen (Marcel, Bernard, Daniel, Aurélien) that have farmed in Champagne since 1898, it represents a precocious and stunning effort. MBDA is a blend of nearly equal parts Pinot Noir (from Montigny-sur-Velse) and Chardonnay (from grand cru sites Cramant, Chouilly, and Oiry). Enticing at first with golden apple, candied ginger, and brioche aromatics, this Champagne fills out the palate with bruised red apple skin, yellow plum, and toast flavors, and then finishes with shaded undertones of dried honey and roasted parsnip. Texturally, the soft mousse floats like a featherweight on the center of the tongue, but then broadly fills out across the palate. Jonas Mendoza
A blend of 1/3 Chardonnay, 1/3 Pinot Noir, and 1/3 Pinot Meunier, the base wine comes from the classic 2008 vintage. For a Brut Nature (Dosage: 0 g/l), this Tarlant combines bracing acidity with remarkable fruit-forwardness. Lemon pith, preserved lemon, red apple flesh and red apple skin flavors sweep across the palate with broad brush strokes and a pleasing effervescence. With big flavors and deep cut, this Champagne definitely needs food to accompany it: caviar or smoked salmon anyone? (Disgorged: 09/14) - Jonas Mendoza