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.
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!