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One of the most serious English Sparkling producers. This historic estate has been in the Goring family since 1743. The tiny 16-acre vineyard is close-planted on a steep south-facing chalk escarpment described as 'similar to the Côte des Blancs' in Champagne. The fruit is picked very selectively with quality being the absolute focus. The grapes are pressed gently using a traditional Coquard press. After three years on the lees this wine, composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay & 22% Pinot Meunier, is hand disgorged and balanced with a minimal dosage of just 4g/L. It has a fine counterbalance between toasty richness and power from the wines élevage in Burgundian French Oak barrels, with racy acidity, tension and a focused chalky minerality.

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Entries in Blanc de Blancs (11)

Friday
Apr262013

Champagne Friday: Thienot - A Different Kind of Negociant

Garance and Alain Thienot in their winery in Taissy.

 

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Thienot- A Different Kind of Negociant

Visiting Champagne Thienot in Taissy just outside of Reims is a completely different experience from visiting other negociants and a refreshing change. I was shown around by Garance Thienot and later met Alain Thienot for the tasting along with chef de cave Laurent Fedou this month and I was very impressed. The facility is brand new, built in 1992- above ground with humidity control and air conditioning. It is the only negociant I have ever visited in Champagne that I did not have to worry about destroying my rental car when I pulled in…Most have ancient gates that don't look like they would accommodate a car! This new facility, with all the convenience of an open warehouse space is just a small detail compared to the impact the genesis of the business has had on the wines.

Most of the big name (and the unknown for that matter!) negociants in Champagne are very old operations. In contrast, Alain Thienot started his company in 1985, after working for decades as a grape broker for other houses. This is the perfect background for starting a Champagne house, as Mr. Thienot knew all of the vineyards and growers intimately. When he started, the prices for grapes were completely fixed by the cru rating of the vineyard sites each year - as he said, the price for the poor, the OK, the good and the great was all the same - and he was in the best position to know who was doing a great job in the vineyard. The prices are no longer fixed in Champagne, but this basic structure of pricing, by cru, is still very much the way business is done. So Mr. Thienot started small, buying the best of what was available, and shopping for vineyards of his own.

By the beginning 90s Alain Thienot had managed to collect up a number of gem vineyards, including a large parcel of Grand Cru Ay that belonged to Krug but was sold off when they were acquired by Remy. Now they have a little over 67 acres of their own estate and contract a further 32 acres from other growers. This large amount of prime estate fruit, and small amount of truly excellent contracts explains their very high quality in the bottle. Thienot also owns Canard-Duchenne, and this allows further flexibility in sourcing high quality grapes since it enhances their buying power.

The style at Thienot is very clean and fresh, and they use small stainless steel tanks for the fermentations to keep the various parcels separate. Alain Thienot is a huge believer in traditional assembelage and said that he is not wedded to using certain parcels in certain wines, but rather uses what nature gives him each vintage to create the style that he is after in each individual wine. The exception to this is the single vineyard “La Vigne aux Gamins”. This is a house making Champagne on the level of greats like Roederer and Bollinger, and very worth your attention. I hope that you will try some of these Champagnes! I brought in everything they have available and think the world of the wines- here is what we have got:

Thienot Brut Champagne ($39.99) This is a great way to check out the style of Thienot at a very fair price. It was the surprise of the Oscars- the small upstart house that kicked out Moet! It is composed of 45% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 20% Meunier. The light gold color and big brioche, cream and baked apple nose gives way to a wine that is packed with power and complexity on the palate. This full bodied Champagne has a luscious finish that is very impressive.

Thienot Brut Rosé Champagne ($64.99) This brassy pink Champagne is composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 20% Meunier. The color comes from 7% red wine from old vines in the grand cru of Ay-one of the plots purchased from Krug in the 1980’s. The Champagne has a very creamy nose and absolutely outstanding Ay black cherry fruit. This rose is one of the best we have in the blended style with both clean, abundant fruit and chalky drive. If you love rose, don’t miss this one!

All of the vintage dated Champagne from Thienot are entirely estate grown, and exceptionally good:

2006 Thienot "Cuvee Garance" Blanc de Rouges Brut Champagne ($99) This bottling is named after Garance Thienot, who handles the communications and marketing for the family firm. They have chosen to call this Champagne “blanc de rouges” instead of “blanc de noirs” because of the effort that they put into keeping the wine feminine. This is 100% Pinot Noir and a large proportion of the fruit comes from the grand cru Ay that the family purchased from Krug as well as from Garance’s own personal vines in the village of Tauxieres, on the border with Bouzy. This is one of the most intriguing, delicate examples of pure Pinot Champagne that I have tasted, and the quality of the fruit reminded me very much of Volnay even if the wine was straw golden in color. This very elegant, lifted wine won’t make you doubt it’s all Pinot Noir composition and the long chalky finish will leave you wanting more. This was one of the discoveries of my 2013 trip!

2005 Thienot "Cuvee Stanislas" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($99) The "Cuvee Stanislas" Blanc de Blancs is made entirely from Chardonnay from the Cotes de Blancs, all of them grand cru except for a little bit of premier cru from Vertus. This high toned, smoky Champagne has great focus and precision and superior, long, mineral finish.

1999 Thienot "Cuvee Alain Thienot" Brut Champagne ($99) This classy vintage Champagne is composed of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. The Alain Thienot has so much aroma that I thought it would be giant Champagne from smelling the walnut bread and dark cherry fruit that was jumping from the glass. On the palate this is a very balanced wine with great clarity of flavor and a light bead. The long ageing of this Champagne has done so much for it- to think that the most famous names in Champagne are selling wine that is four or even 6 years younger shows the Thienot’s commitment to quality in the bottle. It is extremely focused and long on the finish and a must try for anyone who loves luxury cuvees!

2002 Thienot "La Vigne aux Gamins" Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($149) This rarity comes from a miniscule one and a quarter acre plot of the Thienot estate in the Grand Cru of Avize called the Vigne aux Gamins near the border with Oger. The vines were planted in the 1950s and are massal selected rather than clones. This wine blew me away with its fantastic combination of white flowers and candied fruit. If you are looking for a toasty Champagne, this is not it- the Gamins is completely fresh and chalky style for Champagne fans that like it live and direct. It is also a great cellar candidate and will be even more fabulous as a twenty or thirty year old bottle. This great vintage is going for a low price for what it is…future vintages are bound to be more expensive! Use the link above to add this to your wait list so you can be notified when inventory is available.

I hope you'll try some of these great bottles from Thienot!

A toast to you,

Gary

Friday
Apr052013

More Champagne Friday: Pierre Moncuit Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

I have been recommending the Pierre Moncuit Champagnes here at K&L for nearly 15 years, and just received a shipment of their latest wines. The Moncuit’s farm 37.5 acres of grand cru vineyard in Mesnil, Champagne’s most sought after and expensive cru for Chardonnay. Nicole Moncuit has been making the wine here since 1977 and prizes old vines for their ability to transmit the maximum of this great terroir into the wines. The average age of the vines at the property is 30 years old, much older than the average in Champagne. She also has some very old vines that she makes her namesake wine from, the tiny production cuvee Nicole Moncuit.

Pierre Moncuit "Cuvée Pierre Moncuit-Delos Grand Cru" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($39.99): When I tasted this electric batch of Pierre Moncuit I would have bet that it was based on 2008. I have a call in to Charles Neal, the wines importer but didn’t want to wait to send this email out until he called back- I am afraid the Nicole Moncuit could disappear before then! This wine has a big nose that is Meursault like in its scale but without the oak. I found it full of ripe fruit and fragrant wild flowers. On the palate it is dry and cutting on the back end but full and ripe up front. This all Mesnil, all estate Champagne really shows its class on the finish, which is very, very long for its low price. So good!

2005 Moncuit-Delos Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne ($54.99): This Champagne has an immensely creamy nose with hints of brioche and ripe pear. On the palate it shows the best of the 2005 harvest in Champagne with plenty of exotic, candied fruit and fancy pastry dough. This is rich and full bodied blanc de blancs and has a very good finish, which is focused but not austere in any way. I can’t wait to try this with some scallops!

2004 Pierre Moncuit "Cuvée Nicole Moncuit Vieilles Vignes" Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($74.99; wait-list only): Champagne doesn’t get better than this- I could not believe how much class this 2004 had, even though I have been lucky enough to have many, many past vintages of this cuvee. This great bottle of Mesnil Grand Cru is made from two over 90 year old plots, some of the oldest vines in all of Champagne. The nose is restrained, detailed and multifaceted: I found perfect baguette, savory spice and fresh-from-the-tree pineapple in the bouquet. On the palate it had both the lush richness of ancient vines and the fabulous mineral focus of some of the best chalk vineyard in all of Champagne. This wine sings with both ripe fruit and mineral freshness…

On another note, we managed to get another little allocation of 2002 Dom Perignon Rose at $299. These bottles were available for pre-sale, but sold out very quickly. If you click to 'add to wait list' on this or any other out-of-stock Champagne on our website, you will be notified by email the moment more becomes available, in the event that we are able to get more. You can read about the 2002 Dom Perignon Rose on the blog here and about Dom Perignon in general here.

A toast to you!

Gary

Friday
Mar222013

Champagne Friday: Interview with John Tilson, Founder of the Underground Wineletter

John Tilson, founder of the Underground Wineletter, toasts with a glass of Ariston vintage Champagne. By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

John Tilson has long been one of the most astute wine writers in the USA and a huge fan of Champagne. I love his writing for his emphasis on research and history rather than on dreamed up adjectives and inflated scores. He has tirelessly investigated wine fraud and is the world's leading authority on this subject. John is also the only journalist I know of who returns to his own work, seeing how the predictions of the past have worked out in the present. His very experienced palate is one of the most reliable of all journalists and his passion for wine in general, and Champagne in particular, is authentic.

He is also a great customer of K&L (and many other retailers as well!) who collects the wines that he reviews. I have had a chance to travel to Champagne with him and always value his opinion. Along the way we have become great friends. I hope that you enjoy this conversation with him and check out his publication, the Underground Wineletter.

Interview with John Tilson

Q: When did you found the Underground Wine Journal?

The Underground's motto is "Drink What You Like & Like What You Drink." We're pleased John likes Launois Champagne! As he articulates in our interview, "the fact is that I don't think any kind of number is good to use to evaluate wines. This is not like a test in school. It is a matter of personal taste...people in France, Italy, Spain and other areas of the world, where wine has been part of their culture for hundreds of years, do not use numbers. They drink the wine from their region and other wines which are matched with the foods that are part of their daily meals. This is why the Underground motto is “Drink What You Like & Like What You Drink”. People should try different wines with the food that they eat and find the wines that suit their taste. Advice from knowledgeable wine merchants such as K&L and from wine reviews that are written in understandable terms and reflect the balance that I think is absolutely essential in wine, food, and most other things, is what I think a consumer should use to venture into new, unfamiliar wines."A: It was conceived early in 1979 with the first issue published in August of that year. During the 1970s, I was employed as a securities analyst at Sutro & Company in Los Angeles.  Sutro was a San Francisco-based brokerage firm that was founded just after the Gold Rush in the 1850s.  It had a long and distinguished past.  In Los Angeles, a gentleman by the name of Felix Juda was the firm’s star producer.  He developed a wide list of clients among insurance companies, banks, investment management companies, etc.  These “Institutional” clients were just beginning to take over the stock and bond markets from the “Mom and Pop” individual investors.  Felix recognized this very early, and for some 30 years had built up a very substantial business dealing as a broker for these institutional clients all across the country.  One secret to his success (in addition to his unwavering work ethic) was a “long distance” phone call.  Up in the wee hours of the morning, Felix and his group of sales people were making long distance calls to the Midwest and East Coast.  A long distance call was a rare and expensive thing and Felix received a very warm reception for spending the time and money to call. Felix and his sales people also traveled extensively all over the world and composed “travel letters” which were distributed to several thousand individuals and institutional clients all over the U.S. and even overseas in Europe and the Far East.  One day Felix came to me and inquired about my visits to the Napa/Sonoma Wine Country.  We chatted and he asked if I would compose a “wine letter” to go to clients.  I agreed and began writing these wine letters around 1975.

About the same time I became acquainted with a man named Dave Chapman, who was a financial advisor in Orange County.  He was importing French wines and nearly every Saturday a group of us would gather at his office to taste mostly Bordeaux and Burgundy from the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. And, we would usually start with a great bottle of Champagne!  We all were all totally smitten by great wines and Dave was fanatical.  He had started a small letter which he called “The Underground Wineletter”.  It contained brief tasting notes, stories, restaurant reviews, recipes, jokes, and other stuff.  And, like Felix, one day he came calling.  He had tired of doing the wineletter and asked if I would take it over.  Initially I was reluctant to take on a new project. Finally, in early 1979, I agreed and began to think about what to do with it. I immediately talked with my group of friends, including Ed Lazarus, the late Greg Doerschlag and Geoffrey Troy and a few other people.  All agreed that I should do a “serious” publication devoted only to the finest wines and that they and a few other people would participate in tastings, travel, and some writing.  So off we went!

By mid-year 1979, I had lined up some mailing lists.  The primary list was supplied by Ken Kwit, the CEO of Sonoma Vineyards.  Sonoma Vineyards had the Windsor label brand which focused on wines with personalized labels sold via mail.  So with this list merged into several other lists, we had our nucleus of potential subscribers.  I developed the format, wrote the articles, printed the labels, found a printer and out came the first issue “First Vintage, First Crush” in August-September 1979.  With our 2-year-old son, Jeff, crawling around on our living room floor, Laurie and I, along with help from some neighborhood kids (who were happy to work for a few bucks), stuffed and sealed envelopes, affixed labels and stamps on 10,000 issues and carted them down to our little post office in Seal Beach.  They were overwhelmed!  This was more mail that they had ever imagined.

At that time, the English magazine Decanter was available, but not widely distributed in the U.S. The English wine writers Harry Waugh and Michael Broadbent were the authorities on Bordeaux.  Information on Burgundy was less available. The Los Angeles

Times published information that covered mostly California wines and some foreign wines.  Nathan Chroman wrote a weekly column and Robert Lawrence Balzer did articles and reports on food and wine in the Sunday magazine.  There were independent publications including Robert Finigan’s Private Guide to WinesConnoisseurs Guide to California WinesThe California Grapevine and a newspaper from San Diego by Bob Morrisey, called The Wine Spectator. My friends and I found all of these publications lacking the depth and scope of what we wanted.  So our publication was launched.  Interestingly, in another part of the world, there was another publication that had begun in Maryland, founded by Robert Parker, called The Wine Advocate, but we had no knowledge of this until our wine publication came out. Our first edition focused on why we felt there was need for The Underground Wineletter. People agreed.  After the 10,000 issues made their way out of the little Seal Beach post office, checks (at a rate of $20/year) started coming in and soon we had 1,000 subscribers.  We were off! THE COMPLETE STORY OF THE UNDERGROUND WINELETTERT CAN BE FOUND BY CLICKING HERE  http://www.undergroundwineletter.com/2009/12/were-back/ 

How did you get interested in Champagne?

It was very early in my wine drinking career. What was being passed off as “Champagne” was terrible and all of my older wine drinking friends drank Champagne. I learned very quickly and have gathered steam ever since!

When did you first start writing about Champagne in the Underground?

Interesting question! I would say the Underground was certainly the leader of reporting on Champagne from the very beginning and held that position for a very long time.

The first article on Champagne was in Volume I, Number 3 in December of 1979. This issue also featured our first article on Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. That should tell you where we put Champagne in terms of the great wines of the world even in the very early days! Out subtitle to the Champagne article was “It has no peer and nothing else deserves the name”. We reported on 60 different Champagnes including Salon, Krug, Taittinger, and many others. The favorite of the 60 wines tasted was the 1971 Taittinger Comte de Champagne Blanc de Blancs. This has always been a very great Champagne and it ages for a very long time. The 1971 can still be great today. And, reflecting the poor conditions that were in place for shipping and storage at that time, nearly 1/3 of all the Champagnes tasted were plagued by oxidation.

The next Champagne article was one year later in Volume II, Number 3 in December 1980. This article featured notes on 79 different Champagnes including our first reviews of Brut Rosé Champagnes. Rosé Champagnes were just starting to transcend the stigma of being “pink” at the time that this article was written. Many people associated “pink” with cheap or inferior. But, my friends and I had developed an early passion for Rosé Champagne and drank it often. Others were more skeptical, so I said in the subtitle: “Be the first on your block to have a Rosé Champagne tasting.” Compared with today, there were a lot less Rosé Champagnes being made then, so our review covered only 11 wines. The 1975 Roederer rated at the very top and over the years it has consistently been one of my favorite Rosé Champagne with great elegance and finesse.

The third Champagne article was in Volume III, Number 3 in December 1981. This article covered notes on 42 different Champagnes. The subtitle to the article was “Seek out the Champagne from the small producers”. This article represented an early commentary on the trend of small Champagne producers in the U.S. market. Many were just beginning to appear here and the Underground was clearly in front of the trend. Our favorites were 1976 Billecart-Salmon “Cuvée N.F. Billecart”, 1973 J. Lassalle, and 1973 J. Lassalle “Blanc de Blancs”.

Thereafter, we continued with annual Champagne reviews and later established a goal of tasting every Champagne available in the U.S. While we never quite reached our goal, we did eventually get up to a couple hundred different Champagnes. All of our tastings were done blind and with food. We would typically do 20 or so at a time and after tasting all the Champagnes we would go back at later times and do re-tastings of many of them. Today to attempt to taste all the Champagnes imported in the U.S. would be impossible as I suspect the number of different Champagnes now is well into the thousands every year. This fact alone is testimony to the fact that more and more people have joined the Champagne band wagon which, I would say, is a great ride!

The retrospective issues and retrospective reviews featuring Champagne are on the website. And, later issues will be posted on a regular basis.

Your retrospective reviews are a unique contribution to wine journalism. Can you tell us about them?

When I launched the Underground online in late 2009, I decided that, over time, I would reprint all the issues of the original Underground. So starting with Volume I, Number 1, we are now up to Volume III, Number 4. These all can be found on the website www.undergroundwineletter.com . And, with every issue I write a Retrospective Review which features highlights and updates of each issue. These are fascinating from the standpoint of revealing not only how the world of wine was in that point of time, but in also showing how the Underground looked at the future and how the wine recommendations have fared over the years.

Very few wine writers from the US visit the Champagne region. How often have you been there?

Not as many times as I would like. I was always time constrained when I published the old Underground because I had a full time job and tasted wine and wrote the Underground in my “spare time”. So by the time I traveled all over California, Bordeaux, and Burgundy tasting wines from barrel, tasted hundreds and thousands of wines from bottle, wrote the Underground and worked at my full time job in the investment business, there was literally no time left. But, I have visited Champagne about 6 times over the years and every visit was memorable. Friends of mine are in Champagne now and staying and eating at Les Crayères. They just sent notes on a fantastic truffle dinner served with different Krug Champagnes. I am planning another trip to Champagne and Les Crayères and Krug for my wife’s birthday next year. And, hopefully, we will be able to get to Champagne once or twice a year going forward. It is truly one of the greatest places in the world to visit.

I appreciate that you don't reduce wine to a number on a 100 point scale. Why do you challenge the bulk of wine journalism on this?

The 100 point numbers that exist today were unknown when my friends and I started drinking wine. We used a 20 point scale. But, after writing the Underground for a few years I incorporated another system using stars. During this time the 100 point system took over. I thought using a 100 point scoring system made no sense and never liked it. My friends and I never used it and do not use it today. The reason is that it is totally subjective. The results of one tasting are not at all possible to repeat on a consistent basis, and there is no transparency as to how a wine was tasted. The 100 point system has turned into a marketing tool to sell wine and much of it is pure hype. I do not buy wines by numbers and I do not advise anyone to do so. In fact, a lot of the big numbers and 100 point wines I find undrinkable because I do not like super extracted overly sweet and alcoholic wines. Many of the big numbers wines fall into this category. So if you do not like this syle of wine, why would you buy it just because someone gives the wine a big number? And, think about how many of these numbers are created. Some are based on tasting wines out of barrel before they are bottled as finished wines. But, equally flawed is that many wines are evaluated in tastings of massive numbers of wines where the taster or tasters look for the biggest and most powerful wines. Been there, done that, many, many moons ago! It does not work because these are not the kind of wines I like to drink with the foods that I eat. And, I don't taste wines at home without food. When I taste wines at a winery or a trade tasting, I taste and spit. This is very different than tasting and drinking wines with food which is the way that most people “taste” wine. I just wrote an article that elaborates on this http://www.undergroundwineletter.com/2013/01/tasting-wine-vs-drinking-wine-is-there-a-difference/

The fact is that I don't think any kind of number is good to use to evaluate wines. This is not like a test in school. It is a matter of personal taste. If numbers are the answer, why is it that wine is the only thing sold using numbers? And, to take it a step further, why are the only people using numbers from the “new world” where wine has not been a part of the culture for very long? The answer is that many new wine consumers are insecure and feel like a number gives credibility to quality. I do not think this is at all true. A number is just a reflection of one person’s taste. And, people in France, Italy, Spain and other areas of the world, where wine has been part of their culture for hundreds of years, do not use numbers. They drink the wine from their region and other wines which are matched with the foods that are part of their daily meals. This is why the Underground motto is “Drink What You Like & Like What You Drink”. People should try different wines with the food that they eat and find the wines that suit their taste. Advice from knowledgeable wine merchants such as K&L and  from wine reviews that are written in understandable terms and reflect the balance that I think is absolutely essential in wine, food, and most other things, is what I think a consumer should use to venture into new, unfamiliar wines. A number is definitely not the answer. Stay away from numbers. If numbers were the answer, why not numbers for broccoli, oranges, apples, fruit juice, or anything else that you eat or drink?

How often do you drink Champagne at home? What styles do you gravitate towards?

Nearly every night we have Champagne. My wife, Laurie, often just drinks Champagne which matches well with virtually everything we eat. In fact, I have often said that Champagne is probably the most versatile wine to match with the widest variety of foods.

This fact was not appreciated back when the Underground began, but it steadily gained in popularity as an accompaniment to food. I believe that the Underground was a significant contributor to making people aware of the food friendly nature of Champagne and not as just a celebratory beverage.  And, if you look at dry rosé today you will see the same trend. The reason is largely attributable to balance. I have been drinking rosés for years and have introduced many people to them. The now on line Underground has also made rosé a primary focus.

Insofar as the type of Champagne is concerned, whenever Laurie is asked what Champagne is her favorite, this is her answer: “Whatever John is serving”! We love all types of Brut Champagnes including Vintage and Non Vintage, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, and, of course, Rosé. We also like many of the Extra Brut Champagnes and, on occasion, some of the sweeter Champagnes as well. What we are drinking at any point on time depends on our mood, what we are eating, and the weather! And, always, we like our Champagne very cold!

Tell us about a great bottle that you have had lately.

This is a tough one. But, it’s only tough because you said “a great bottle”. I drink wine every day and continue to taste a huge number of wines that I write up for the Underground. So I am very fortunate to have a wide range of great experiences with wine on almost a daily basis. I would say that great Champagnes such as the Krug Champagnes which we recently enjoyed together would fit the bill to answer your question, but there was more than one great bottle. Those notes on the wine and food are on the website at http://www.undergroundwineletter.com/2013/01/a-great-wine-food-dinner-featuring-krug-champagne/     I also discovered Completer on a recent trip to Switzerland and you can read about that at http://www.undergroundwineletter.com/2013/02/the-completer-story/ . Here again it was the wine I discovered and there were several great bottles.

But, perhaps to more accurately answer your question, soon I will post an article on a wine that I also had in Switzerland that fits my criteria for a perfect wine. To me, after tasting what has to be hundreds of thousands of wines over the last 40 or so years, I have found only a few dozen that I would consider perfect. But, wine does no have to be perfect to be very enjoyable. As a matter of fact, that goes for everything I can think of. Perfection is a commendable goal, but it is also necessary to take things in perspective and realize that it is rarely achieved. In that context, I most recently had 2 beautiful Red Burgundies 2 nights ago – A 1996 Gevrey-Chambertin Cazetiers from Dom Laurent (deep, full of fruit and very flavorful) and a 1997 Bonnes-Mares from Drouhin-Larose (elegant, complex, soft and fully mature). As noted they were different, but both were gorgeous and delicious to drink now. I bought them on release. They also are from years and producers that do not rank at the top of critics lists. In fact, because of this, some wine drinker’s would dig out a number before even trying these wines. Others might not try them because the number was too low. But, really, why should anyone care? The number might be 10 years old or even from a tasting done from barrel. Or it could very well be from an unknown person who has a different taste in wine or a different agenda.  But, no matter where or when the number comes from, the number is not important at all. The only thing that is important is that all of us drinking these 2 wines that night really liked them. Nothing else matters.

You have such a broad appreciation for wine- how do you think Champagne fits in with the other great wines of the world?

That's easy! It is unquestionably one of the greatest wines in the world. For sure it is the greatest sparkling wine by far and its great versatility and compatibility with food seals the deal as one of the greatest wines in the world period!

What do you think Champagne producers could teach the other great wine producers of the world?

This also is easy. To me, the most enjoyable things are balanced. That certainly applies to food and wine. I don’t like foods that are out of balance, too spicy, salty, acidic, sweet, etc. I also don’t like foods that are manufactured and full of additives And, I feel that way about wine. Brut Champagne has great balance almost without exception. It has remained true to its origin for a very long period of time and is very consistent. In fact, it may be the most consistent wine in the world. Having said that, I would say that the lesson is that if you make something great and do it consistently, why try to make it something else through manipulation and intervention? Champagne has not done that. But many other areas, particularly in the new world, have fallen victim to the trap of over extraction and intervention.  

What do you think the Champenois could learn from the other great producers?

I am not a wine maker and make no pretences of knowing anything about making wine. I am only interested in drinking and tasting wines and enjoying them with food and in the company of good friends. And, I eat my own cooking and “Drink What I Like & Like What I Drink”! That includes a lot of Champagne. So if there is anything the Champenois can learn I would say that I do not know what that might be. They consistently make some of the best wines in the world and have done so for a very long time without following trends such as excessive new wood, over extraction, etc. I’d say to stay the course is the best path. Often times the best thing is to do nothing! Or said another way, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”!

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A toast to you,

-Gary