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Bruno Michel "Blanche" Brut Champagne $34.99One of our best non-vintage Champagnes, this organically grown blend of half each Chardonnay and Meunier comes entirely from Bruno Michel's estate. It has been aged for six years on the lees and shows wonderful natural toasty quality as well as incredible vibrance! This was the big hit of our most recent staff Champagne tasting and we think you will love it too.

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Entries in Ariston Aspasie (13)

Friday
May102013

Champagne Friday: Tasting the Varietals

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Champagne Friday: Tasting the Varietals

One of the best and easiest ways to get more enjoyment out of Champagne is by getting an understanding of the grape varieties used in the region. A simple tasting of three wines (or four if you want to be a complete imbiber!) over dinner is all that is needed to get a pretty firm handle on these grape varieties. I promise this won't just be educational- it will also be fun!

The most planted grape in all of Champagne is Meunier, a variety that used to be thought of as a relative of Pinot Noir but is now recognized as completely indigenous to Champagne. The second most planted variety in the region is Pinot Noir and like the third- Chardonnay- is an import from Burgundy just a few hundred kilometers away. These three grapes make up more than 99.9% of the vineyard in Champagne, but they are not the only varieties in the region. Before phyloxera struck the region in the late 1800’s, Gamay, Pinot Blanc and local grapes Arbanne and Petite Meslier were widely planted. Now, these grapes are making a comeback among some of the best and most adventurous growers. Arbanne and Meslier are especially prized for being late ripening and high acid- two great properties in a warming environment.

To start off the tasting, I would recommend a blanc de blancs to cover Chardonnay. These bracing wines are perfect for the aperitif, and if you plan on doing the tasting over a dinner make a fine wine for the welcome of guests. You can easily transition from the aperitif into oysters, scallops or crab salad with this wine, since its lively acid and chalky character flatter shellfish like nothing else. I would recommend using the Launois "Cuvée Reserve" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($34.99) for this as it is round enough to be friendly on its own, but packs enough cut to pair with the richest of crustaceans.

In this bottle you will find classic Champagne Chardonnay aromas and flavors like white flowers and strong minerality. You can learn more about Launois here.

I would follow up with Meunier, which is often dismissed as simple and fruity by the big houses, but is capable of gorgeous purity and deep savor when handled by a contentious grower and made by a talented wine maker. If you are pairing the wines with food, nothing brings out the best in Meunier like pate or mushrooms. Cinnamon and I have treated ourselves many times to old vintages from the master Rene Collard paired with foie gras, but the wines shine just as brightly with a mushroom tart. I would recommend the Michel Dervin Brut Champagne ($32.99) for the representative of this varietal- the blend is 80% Meunier and 20% Pinot Noir, but the Meunier takes command.

By tasting this you will get plenty of the apple and pear fruit that this variety is known for, as well as a hint of the chantrele and truffle components that makes Krug prize this grape so much.

After the Meunier move on to Pinot Noir and taste the Elisabeth Goutorbe "Cuvée Eclatante" Brut Champagne ($34.99). While this wine is only 70% Pinot, the power of this variety, in this case primarily from the top village of Ay, is firmly in control of this Champagne. Pinot dominated Champagne loves a piece of salmon, and if it is warm enough my favorite preparation in on a cedar plank on the grill. Pinot Noir is hard to ripen in Champagne, and the last variety to be harvested, and even though the wines have no color, they still have the cherry aroma and flavor that one expects in the reds.

This is the most structured variety in Champagne, and you will feel the difference in concentration and power in the Goutorbe.

If you want to go for a bonus round, we have a very special bottle for you that is composed of 40% Meslier, 40% Arbanne and 20% Pinot Blanc. If you taste it, you will be among very few in the world to ever have had these ancient varieties. The Ariston Aspasie "Cepages d'Antan" Brut Champagne ($99) is worth every penny, and is high toned, incisive, exotic and long finishing. This would be excellent to open alongside the Goutorbe with the main course! You can learn more about this wine from the winemaker here.

Feel free to reach out to me at garywestby@klwines.com if you would like to talk about Champagne tastings! A toast to you!

 

Best,

Gary

Friday
Apr052013

Champagne Friday: Reporting from Champagne! The First Day at Aspasie

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

The first day in Champagne at Champagne Aspasie

I am very lucky on this trip to have my father Jim with me. He and I left for France on Easter Sunday and arrived on Monday, which--no surprise--is a holiday in France! Our friends the Aristons of Champagne Aspasie invited us to visit them and stay for dinner, so as soon as we got off the plane we drove straight there.

Paul-Vincent Ariston had arranged a tasting of the base wines from the 2012 harvest for us, and we had a chance to learn the crazy story of this unique season in Champagne. This vintage had every challenge that a vigneron could face: freezing temperatures in the winter (as low as -20 centigrade) killed vines, spring frosts followed destroying many of the fresh buds, cold and rain during the flowering stunted grape growth, and horrible weather in July produced so much mud that it was often impossible to get into the vineyard to treat the vines against mildew. All of this lead to drastically lower yields, but miraculously the weather turned around in August and the grapes came out perfectly ripe, with plenty of acidity, but very scarce. Aspasie harvested more than 1/3 less in 2012 than average.

The base wines from Aspasie, as well as the other producers we have visited have been some of the best I have had. They are concentrated and quite full bodied, but have immense freshness and transparency. After tasting with Paul, we went to the winery were he moved more than 20 full palettes of Champagne to get our prize- a bottle of his 1983, which he disgorged manually, on the spot for us to enjoy. You can watch him doing it in today's video.

Try the Ariston "Aspasie Brut Prestige" Champagne ($39.99, $84.99 1.5L) with the fresh asparagus of the season!

Paul’s father Remy made this bottle, as Paul was only 11 years old! It was a sunny year with lots of grapes, and Remy Ariston worked day and night to load the press. It was still super fresh at 30 years old, and full of honeyed bread aroma and flavor. The wine had no sugar added to it as it was disgorged on the spot, and didn’t need any. We had it with Marie-France Ariston’s incredible white Asparagus with homemade mayonnaise… I was over the moon for it all.

We just received a new shipment from Aspasie, and with Asparagus season in full swing, I suggest you try this pairing your self with the Aspasie Brut Prestige ($39.99, $84.99 1.5L). This old vine blend is rich without being at all sweet, and I am sure you will love it!

A toast to you!

-Gary

Friday
Mar152013

More Champagne Friday: Updates on Direct Import Champagnes 

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Happy Champagne Friday (again)!

Earlier this morning I posted a piece about the Dom Perignon seminar lead by Stephane Henry, Senior International Brand Education Manager from the maison, that I attended yesterday. He shed a little bit of light on this very secretive Champagne brand.  The star of the show was the 2002 Rose, which I wrote up last month- it showed spectacularly, and I will be getting a little bit more in later this month. We also tasted the 2002 Moet & Chandon "Dom Pérignon" Brut Champagne, which we still have available in magnum, the 2003 Moet & Chandon "Dom Pérignon" Brut Champagne and the excellent 1996 Moët & Chandon "Dom Pérignon Oenothéque" Brut Champagne.

I'm also excited to share some important updates about our Direct Import Champagnes due in soon.   Elisabeth Goutorbe "Cuvee Eclatante" Brut ChampagneWhile our Launois and Aspasie are late in arriving, they should be back in by the first of April. The Bonville wines will be right behind them. I've shared the video I made last summer during the Tour de France about the Launois family and their wines so you can get excited about their arrival as I am!

We also just received a container with the Goutorbe Champagnes, and this great producer from Ay is one of the jewels of our direct import program. I visited them for the first time in 2007, the same week as Terry Theise. He chose the Henri Goutorbe wines for his portfolio (which are excellent as well) and I chose the Elisabeth Goutorbe wines from the daughter’s vines. They are all made in the same facility in Ay where the Goutorbe family has worked since 1918.

2005 Elisabeth Goutorbe Brut ChampagneSince we work direct, we are able to offer these estate bottled Champagne’s at fantastic prices. The Elisabeth Goutorbe "Cuvée Eclatante" Brut Champagne ($34.99) is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 5% Meunier, a composition that matches the estate's vineyard make up almost exactly. The wine is composed of 85% 2007 and 15% a blend of 2006, 2005 and 2004. It is dosed very lightly at only 9 grams per liter. The Pinot comes through on the nose with very pretty candied cherry interlaced with fresh baked bread. On the palate it has a lot of body, firm, dry black cherry fruit, and tons of savory, masculine Pinot Noir flavors. It has a good finish with a line of chalky minerality that is uncommon in Pinot Noir-based Champagnes. The 2005 Elisabeth Goutorbe Brut Champagne ($39.99) is a more concentrated, longer finishing wine with excellent ageing potential. If you haven’t tried these- don't miss them!

Just this week, we received our first shipment of Thienot Champagnes, which were selected for this year's Academy Awards. I don't know how the Academy did in regards to selecting the best of Hollywood in 2013, but they sure did a very nice job picking out this Champagne. The Thienot Brut Champagne ($39.99) is composed of 45% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 20% Meunier and has surprising red fruit driven concentration and power at this reasonable price point. The Thienot Brut Rosé Champagne ($64.99) has the same composition, but 7% is Red Pinot Noir from very old vines in Ay. It is a very focused, driven rose with great black cherry fruit from the Ay rouge.

Also new in stock are the very reasonably priced Champagnes from Canard-Duchene. The Canard-Duchene "Authentic" Brut Champagne ($29.99) impressed me and the rest of our staff with its easy drinking, toasty style. It is composed of 43% Pinot Noir, 25% Meunier and 20% Chardonnay and comes off very well balanced at 10g/L of dosage. The Canard-Duchene Brut Authentic Rose Champagne ($34.99) is our best priced rose from a big house and very tasty. This Champagne is composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 25% Meunier. It has a great strawberries and cream nose, yet is completely dry on the palate. This is a delightful wine at a bargain price!

A toast to you!

-Gary