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That Late Summer Sparkle
That Late Summer Sparkle
Late August 2017
One of life’s great luxuries is pulling a well-chilled bottle of Champagne out of a bucket of ice, wiping away the condensation, and teasing the cork out. The wine crackles as you pour; bubbles burst on your tongue. Your senses are awake, the anticipation’s there.
It’s a shame that sparkling wines and Champagne tend to get relegated to celebrations. Why not change it up? The end of summer is nigh – make every moment count. I’ll make any excuse to pop a cork: “Fizz Friday”, lazy Sunday brunch, a dockside afternoon.
If you embrace bubbly with abandon, if a chilled bottle is always on hand, we’ll get along just fine. If I could drink one wine the rest of my life? Champagne. The evidence stacks up: oysters? Champagne. Popcorn? Champagne! Cheese plate? Champagne. Ribeye? Rosé Champagne, of course!
Rogers & Company is your go-to for a selection of Traditional Method (Méthode Champenoise) sparkling wines, including some vintage wines from 2007 and 2009. A small selection is listed below. This isn’t mass-market bubbly, so some are in short supply. To secure a case, get in touch. I’m always happy to “chat wine”.
Ridgeview crashed the Champagne scene in 2010 when they were awarded “World’s Best Sparkling Wine” at the Decanter World Wine Awards. This was the first and only time the award has gone to a producer outside of Champagne.
“Green apple and green plum on the nose turn into white peach and lemon on the palate. The mousse is frothy and lively and there is a wonderful depth to these tart fruit flavors that takes you to juicy, green pastures and white blossom. Glints of green apple flash at every corner and adorn the admirably dry finish. This echoes long and leaves the palate wonderfully clean.”
Blue Mountain’s traditional method sparkling wine is the real deal. The blend in this non-vintage Okanagan Valley sparkler is 58% Pinot Noir, 38% Chardonnay, and 4% Pinot Gris. During the first fermentation (in stainless steel tanks), the varieties are fermented separately. The still wines are blended and bottled for the second fermentation (the fizz factor) under crown cap. When that second fermentation is complete, the wines age for 24 months before disgorgement (removing sediment and spent yeast). Once corked, the wine ages for an additional six to nine months. The finish is crisp and citrusy.
“Encountered several times through Gold Medal Plates, where it ended up being named of Best of Show at the Winnipeg event in 2015, going on to the finals at the Canadian Culinary Championship in Kelowna, Feb 2016. It is wonderfully, vibrant, compact brut with subtle but generous aromas of berry fruit, lemon hazelnut and vague toastiness. Mid-weight, dry and nicely even on the palate with a firm mousse and excellent length. A touch flinty as well. Very good to excellent length.”
91 points, David Lawrason, Wine Align, February 2016
A Blanc de Blancs from the chalky soils of the Mâconnais region of southern Burgundy, this wine is tremendous value. Fruit from the Mâconnais is riper and richer than fruit from Champagne. What does that mean? You might note that Luquet’s Cremant leans towards the richness of a Brut Champagne, yet it has the aromatics and acidity of a Blanc de Blancs Champagne: white flowers, citrus, chalk.
“It’s 100 percent Chardonnay. Bone-dry, it smells wonderfully of fresh-baked bread and displays a creamy texture that carries flavours suggestive of lemon curd on toasted baguette.”
91 points, Beppi Crosariol, The Globe & Mail, September 2015
In 2010, Rajat Parr (sommelier, restaurateur, and top-tier mover and shaker in the California wine industry) put out a book called “Secrets of the Sommeliers”. It’s a great book, by the way. In it, he singles out this particular wine for its one-of-a-kind pedigree:
“Nicolas Chiquet is among the greatest of all the grower-producers […] Chiquet makes [a] wine that is highly notable, a wine that every sommelier and serious wine drinker should know about: Blanc de Blanc d’Aÿ Grand Cru. What is significant about this Chardonnay is that it comes from a Grand Cru-rated village that is known for its Pinot Noir. This is a reversal that makes little sense: Why make Chardonnay from a place that is universally praised for Pinot? The wine tells you why. It is from a very old vineyard, and the wine proves the point about terroir in Champagne: It is not at all an expression of Chardonnay, but an expression of this place. If you are a terroir doubter, game over. Terroir clearly exists, and this wine proves it. Heavier and richer than other Blanc de Blancs, it drinks like a Pinot Noir – robust and juicy, speaking of berries, quince and honey – even though it is not.”
Delamotte is one of the oldest wineries in Champagne. Established in 1760 in Le-Mesnil-sur-Oger, Delamotte is a sister property to the legendary Champagne Salon. They share viticultural, enological, and managerial teams. They also share terroir.
To produce this delicious non-vintage Brut, they add Pinot Noir from Grand Cru vineyards on south-facing slopes on the Montagne de Reims and Pinot Meunier from the Valle de la Marne to Grand Cru Chardonnay.
“(50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier, with 7 g/l dosage): Bright straw. Vibrant aromas of lemon pith, pear skin and honeysuckle, with a chalky topnote. Dry, sharply focused lemon and lime flavors become deeper with air and pick up brioche and ginger nuances. Firm, chewy and dry, finishing with very good clarity and stoney persistence.”
91 points, Josh Raynolds, vinous.com, January 2015
The goal at Delamotte is to express the remarkable Grand Cru terroirs of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Avize, and Cramant. The vehicle? Chardonnay. Delamotte’s chalky Grand Cru vineyards grow a particularly austere expression of the grape. To introduce richness and texture, Delamotte holds their wines for four to five years on the lees before disgorging (the final clarification, topping up, and corking process). The legal minimum in Champagne for non-vintage wines is 15 months, and this extended bottle ageing produces complexity not commonly found in a non-vintage Blanc de Blancs.
Champagne Salon, Delamotte’s esteemed “mother” winery, does not produce a wine every vintage. One of the great “secrets” in the wine game is that in years when Salon does not produce a wine, the fruit is allocated to Delamotte for use in the non-vintage Blanc de Blancs Brut.
“Light yellow. Mineral-tinged peach, melon and pear aromas display excellent clarity, picking up a subtle floral quality with aeration. Supple and seamless on the palate, offering vivid honeydew and pit fruit flavours accented by a vibrant lemon zest quality. Finishes very long, silky and precise, with an echo of juicy melon and strong mineral lift.”
92 points, Josh Raynolds, vinous.com, January 2015
Here is an opportunity to buy an amazing wine, already ten years old, from a particularly good vintage for Chardonnay. The 2007 vintage bottling is fresh, layered, aromatically open, and ready to drink over the next decade or so.
“Praline and riper white peach and citrus aromas here plus a little spice, grilled hazelnuts and grapefruit. The palate’s fleshy and expressive, showing really smooth lemons, pink-grapefruit and citrus flavours all featuring in what’s an open-knit, generous textural palate. Drink now.”
93 points, JamesSuckling.com, October 2016
“Delamotte’s 2007 Blanc de Blancs is deep, fleshy and seductive, with lovely textural depth and nuance throughout. The 2007 is a relatively soft, open-knit Delamotte that will drink well upon release. I especially admire the wine’s sense of balance and overall proportion, two of the many qualities that give the 2007 its considerable appeal. 2016 – 2027.”
“There is no better Champagne with which to discover the wines of Vilmart, one of Champagne’s reference-point houses.”
Antonio Galloni on Vilmart’s “Grand Cellier”, vinous.com, December 2016
Champagne Vilmart & Cie. is arguably the greatest of the small Champagne houses that own and maintain their own vineyards (the grower-producers). If you look for a little luxury when you open a bottle of bubbly, this is the winery for you. Vilmart’s first fermentation, the still wines, takes place in oak barrels rather than in neutral stainless steel or concrete. The resulting style is exotic and flamboyant. The Grand Cellier expresses green and gold tropical fruit aromas; a creamy mouthfeel behind the sparkles; nutty, toasty bread and brioche notes; and crisp vibrancy in the finish.
“An explosion of flavour, with ripe nectarine, lemon curd, clover honey, jasmine and grilled nut notes set on a firm, fine china-like frame. Lithe and elegant, this is like raw silk on the palate. The vibrant, mouthwatering finish echoes exotic spice, chalk and floral details. Disgorged May 2014. Best from 2017 through 2025.”
“Mini-Krug and the greatest grower Champagne I know.”
Tom Stevenson, Decanter, May 2007
Quite simply one of the greatest values in world-class wine, Vilmart’s Coeur de Cuvée rivals Krugs, Bollingers, and Dom Perignons for quality … at a fraction of the price. To this day, drinking the 2001, a notoriously tough year, is one of my greatest wine-related memories.
The blend of the 2009 is 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir from 55-year-old vines in Premier Cru vineyards. The base wines are aged ten months in 228 litre oak barriques, and does not go through malolactic fermentation, retaining a bit of edge. The 2009 is a seriously sexy vintage ready to enjoy now or cellar for a couple decades.
“Vilmart has quickly established cult status […] since young Laurent Champs took over from his father in 1991, the company has become one of the true gems with the perfect wine, Coeur de Cuvée, as its most brilliant star. This wine was the best-made in Champagne during the “off” years of ’91, ’92, ’93 and ’97. Hunt like a demon for the scarce 5000 bottles that were made of this gem!”
Richard Juhlin, Winner of the Louis Roederer Award for International Champagne Writer of the Year, “4000 Champagnes”, 2005