By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer
Ever since K&L received the first shipment of Champagne Franck Bonville in 2003, I have been recommending their vintage wines as the most vertical-worthy bottles that we carry. Not only do the wines develop evenly and beautifully over time, they are capable of incredible longevity and are priced fairly enough to purchase in a quantity that allows for enjoyment at many different points in their evolution. One June 25th of this year, Cinnamon and I were invited to Avize to do an incredible vertical tasting of Bonville, in the cellar where the wines were born. The wines did not disappoint, and although I have been treated to many great old bottles by Olivier in the past, the incredible context that tasting side by side allowed and the strength of even the obscure vintages surpassed all of my lofty expectations.
When I wrote to thank Olivier, I dug up my first order with Bonville and sent it to him again. That order arrived at K&L on January 23rd 2003, and the included 15 cases of the 1996 vintage, retail price $24.99 and 8 ½ cases of the last of the 1992 vintage at $29.99. The euro bank note had just passed its one year birthday and my contract for the currency for that order was 1:1 with the dollar. Since then we have carried every vintage release from Bonville, and some of readers have bottles in your cellar: 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. The Bonville family does their best to make vintage wines every year, sometimes very little (like in 1992), sometimes quite a lot (like in 1996).
When Cinnamon and I went down to the cellar at Bonville to taste, we were surrounded by an international cast of characters- Bonville’s importers from as far away as Australia, Brazil and Japan and as close as Belgium, Germany and the UK. We tasted 21 vintages from the 2012 vin clair all the way back to 1959. Olivier had picked out a representative sample, from vintage-of-the-century candidate 1964 to the obscure 1977; wines made by his father, grandfather and himself.
My first note is at the top of the page and the rest follow:
This tasting could not be better timed with the release of the 2008 Franck Bonville "Millesime" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($39.99), which we did not have in the vertical, but rather at lunch afterwards. This is the greatest current release Bonville that I have ever had, and eclipses even the 1996 and 2002 in their youth. This wine has much in common with their very great 1996; electric acidity married to concentrated richness and a sense of place that few wines ever achieve. It is shocking how good the wine tastes now, but its potential will not be reached for many years to come. This will gain complexity and effortlessly improve for a couple of decades, and I am sure I will be enjoying it on its 40th birthday if I can stay fit and healthy. I think this could be another 1964 in the making.
The 2007 Franck Bonville "Millesime" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne 1.5L ($84.99) is also available, although the 750’s are all sold out. This direct, fresh vintage is in the perfect hands with Olivier Bonville who has coaxed out some wonderful counterbalancing richness. In this format, the wine should last as long as any of us will and evolve positively for more than a decade. The 2008ss will be out in magnum next year.
I hope that you put down some of Bonville’s great vintage wine. Your patience will be rewarded.
A toast to you!