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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
Aug242012

Champagne Friday: Pairing Champagne and Fish

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Champagne Dinner at the Fish Market

Nothing is more fun for a Champagne fan than to create a whole menu to pair with our favorite bubbles. I have enjoyed dinners like this with many of you, sometimes even at your homes! Last week I dreamed up a salmon-themed menu at home to go with older Champagne for the K&L Champagne team of Scotty, Mari & Kyle. This week, I put together a paired dinner with my friend Henry Hiatt at the Palo Alto Fish Market and it was a great success. I hope that next week I can encourage all of you Champagne fans to do the same on a big or small scale, and share a picture or two with me.

There are a few guiding principles to pairing Champagne, but that being said, it is one of the best wines on the planet for its ease of pairing, and there are very few pitfalls when combining Champagne with food. This is in stark contrast to the two most popular categories of still wine at K&L: rich Cabernet (which only really goes with steak) and rich, oaky Chardonnay (which I am still looking for a pairing for- my old colleague used to joke that cigarettes were the pairing).

Bruno Michel Premier Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs ($39.99) Champagne was at the bottom of the ocean 300 million years ago, and the chalk soil that makes the wine so great is littered with shellfish fossils. This connection to the ocean makes Champagne a natural with seafood, and shellfish in particular. Shellfish has a tendency to make whatever wine that is paired with it taste sweeter than it is, so often Champagnes that might seem austere on their own really shine when paired with them. I love drinking extra bruts and very dry blanc de blancs with oysters, scallops & crab in particular. On Wednesday we did two pairings like this that you can see in the video segment: the Bruno Michel Premier Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($39.99) with Kumamoto oyster’s from Humboldt and the Franck Bonville "Belles Voyes" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($67.99) with a crab and avocado salad. The Bruno Michel comes from a very cold site in Pierry, and although not an extra brut, it is still one of the driest blanc de blancs that we have. It went fantastically well with the oysters, cutting the richness and highlighting their saline, savory quality. The Belles Voyes richer side was brought out by the crab, and showed how much weight palate weight that wine hides over its long impression on the mouth.

2002 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Vintage Champagne ($59.99) Spicier foods show better with more open knit Champagne. I love to pair Pinot Noir based Champagne with dishes that pop with spice and tang. At the Fish Market we had saffron prawns in a tomato based sauce with the 2002 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Vintage Champagne ($59.99). This richer wine has time on its side at 10 years old, and really opened to show the black cherry chalk that only the village of Bouzy has to offer. A few of the staff commented on how much brighter this bottle shined than the one in the staff tasting… Nothing beats a great dish as a foil. We were then treated to a bottle of 1995 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses Brut Champagne from Keith, our Burgundy buyers cellar, which also had the Pinot punch for the savory sauce. What a treat!

For the main course, Dijon crusted tilapia, we went with an older Champagne from the cellar. Although tilapia itself is quite delicate, the panko and mustard crust offered up quite a bit of flavor. The 1996 Leclerc Briant "Cuvée Divine" Brut Champagne is a blend of half and half Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Pascal Leclerc’s entirely bio-dynamic vineyards that are now owned by Roederer. This wine showed a touch of the truffle and butter flavors that really seemed to baste and add richness to the dish. It was the favorite pairing of the night for a few of my colleagues.

2006 Michel Loriot "Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes" Brut Champagne ($49.99) One category of Champagne that we did not pair on this occasion is the Meunier based wines of the Western Valley of the Marne. I love the ripe pear fruit and often mushroom-like flavors of these wines with pates of all sorts, especially then now illegal in California Foie Gras. These Champagnes also go very well with savory tarts, caramelized onion and of course mushroom. The 2006 Michel Loriot "Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes" Brut Champagne ($49.99) is unbelievable with Parmigiano-Reggiano and trying that pairing with the Loriot family is only the second time that I have ever had a non-French cheese in France.

Another category that is often overlooked is sweeter styles of Champagne. These have fallen out of favor with most Champagne producers and because of that are very difficult to buy. Demi-Sec is often a clearing house for the worst of what producers make, so buy with care. The best of them, which are blended specially ahead of time to make good sweeter Champagne like the Michel Loriot "Marie-Leopold" Sec Champagne ($34.99) go very well with all manner of lighter desserts, especially strawberry shortcake!

I hope that I can inspire a few Champagne fans to play with some pairings. Like I said, please send me a picture or recipe if you find something that works!

A toast to you!

-Gary

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Check out more educational wine and spirits videos from Gary and the experts at K&L on YouTube!

Friday
Jul062012

Champagne Friday: Celebrate the Tour de France with Launois

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Hello All,

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,

-Gary Westby

Check out more educational wine & spirits videos from Gary and the experts at K&L on YouTube!

 

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