By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer
Today is a special Champagne Friday, because the Tour de France started in Epernay today. All of the Champenois have been out in the start village or lining the roads as the race goes through the Cotes de Blancs and the Grand Valley of the Marne. I thought that there would be no better way to celebrate than with one of our very best Cotes de Blancs producers, Launois!
For eight generations, the Launois family has been making some of the best estate-grown Champagne available from their sizeable estate. They have vines in the grand cru’s Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Avize and Cramant, and all of the wines that we purchase from them come from these top villages.
Bernard Launois does things differently. He has invested in three top of the line, computer controlled Coquard diagonal pressed, but still uses enamel lined iron (think Le Creuset cookware!) vats for fermentation and ageing because he does not like the way stainless steel fermented wines taste. While many in the Cotes de Blancs pride themselves on pure steel in their wines, Bernard values richness to balance his Champagne's naturally intense minerality. He harvests about 10 days after everyone else in his are done, and instead of paying gypsies to pick, he has Dutch and Belgian business men pay him to work the fields.
The best introduction to his style is the Launois "Cuvée Reserve" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($34.99) which is made from the flatter vineyards on the estate. The current batch is based on the great 2008 harvest and the aromatics are like polished white Burgundy with a touch of pine nut and minerals. The flavors are broad and rich. This is serious wine, with small bubbles and a refreshing finish.
I might be making a mistake to mention the Launois "Quartz" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($34.99) since its cult following wipes out the tiny amount that we get almost immediately. It is made entirely from the Les Chetillons parcel that Pierre Peters sells as single vineyard, and only brought up to 4.5 atmospheres of pressure instead of the traditional 6. This pure Champagne is one of the few to show off the flowery side of Chardonnay, and is a show stopper. If we are out, get on the email waiting list for next time…it always sells out, but we always get more later!
If you like to cellar Champagne, grab a few of the 2002 Launois "Special Club" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne( $59.99) before they are gone. This wine comes from the families two best plots, Les Corroies in Mesnil and La Justice in Cramant, both of which are over 60 years old. It is Bernard’s top wine- and certainly one of ours.
Coming in by the end of the month is the Launois "Veuve Clemence" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($39.99), made from the top and bottom parts of the steeper vineyard sites, and gets 4 years on the lees, an extra year over the Reserve. It comes off as more vinous, elegant and developed than the reserve.
On the same container, the 2005 Launois Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($49.99) is made from mid slope parcels, and is the richest, creamiest, toastiest of the bunch. This decadent wine will go great with lobster, and given the freshness of the ’64 I tasted on my last visit, the wine should last a very long time. Stay tuned!
Happy Champagne Friday,
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