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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 Franck Bonville (10)

Friday
Jul122013

Champagne Friday: Bonville Vertical Tasting

  

Bonville vertical notes, page 1.

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.

Tasting in the Bonville cellar.

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:

Bonville vertical notes, page 2.

Bonville vertical notes, page 3.

Bonville vertical notes page 4. 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 The 2007 Franck Bonville "Millesime" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne magnums are still available! 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!

-Gary

Friday
Mar082013

Champagne Friday: Rosé Champagne

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Rosé Champagne

Many of my top Champagne experiences, perhaps most of my top Champagne experiences have been with rosé. Unfortunately, most of the worst Champagne that I have tasted has also been rosé. This small subcategory of Champagne is extrodinarily diverse, not just in quality but also in style. Exploring this diversity has given me a lot of pleasure.

The reason that quality is so variable with rosé Champagne is simple: the Champagne area is to cold to reliably produce fine red wine. It is easy to forget that Champagne is one of the coldest places that can make fine wine at all, located on the same lines of latitude as Fargo, North Dakota and Winnipeg, Canada. This cold climate necessitates very special planning in order to get the ripeness that is essential for rosé Champagne to have the right color and flavor.

Since all the Champagne grape varieties have white juice (as is the case with almost all wine varieties- even Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) color in the wine comes from the juice being in contact with the skins. This maceration process adds tannin and flavor as well as color. On some sites in some vintages in the Champagne region, veraison (the point when red grapes turn from green to red) is incomplete. Obviously, one cannot get good color from grapes like these! Warmer, sunnier parcels are essential to rose Champagne production.

There are two main ways of making rose Champagne, either by using all red grapes and macerating all of the juice with all of the skins, or by blending a fully red wine into white wine to arrive at the right color and flavor. In France, all still rose must legally be made the first way- by full maceration. In Champagne, the second way is much more common.

It is easier to set aside a small portion of south facing, mid slope, warm micro-climate Pinot Noir or Meunier and farm it specifically to make red wine; pruning shorter and even green harvesting to get the ripeness needed. Many producers even use different clones, sometimes from Burgundy for these red wine plots. Since it is uncommon for producer to make more than 25% rose and they only need 5-15% red wine to arrive to blend into 85-95% white wine, it is practical to work this way.

Billecart-Salmon Brut RoseThe Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne ($74.99) is the most famous example of a blended rose. My very favorite for illustrating the style of red and white together is the Franck Bonville Brut Rosé Champagne ($39.99), which is a blend of 92% Chardonnay and 8% Pinot Noir. For years, the Bonville Rose was terrible, but after Olivier Bonville took over the company, he switched red wine sources (Bonville only grows Chardonnay) to Franck Bonville Brut RosePaul Dethune in Ambonnay. His rose is now one of our very best regardless of price and has excellent finesse from the top notch Chard and fantastic red fruit savor from the excellent Pinot. We also have a tiny amount of Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Rosé Champagne ($49.99) which is 70% Chardonnay, 24% Pinot Noir vinified white and 6% red Pinot Noir which is very interesting. The red wine comes from a tiny clos behind the winery that is so small they cannot get a tractor into it. Everything is done by hand in this garden plot, and the results are one of the most hauntingly elegant Champagne’s in our stock. We only have 22 left at the time of writing!

Laurent-Perrier 'Cuvee Rose' Brut RoseFull maceration rose Champagne is much rarer, and the Laurent-Perrier "Cuvée Rosé " Brut Rosé Champagne ($64.99) is the only example that we have from a big house. Getting all of the grapes ripe enough for a large production Champagne like this is challenging enough, but getting them all in with healthy skin is a feat. Since white Champagne is pressed very gently, a little bit of less than perfect grape skins is not a problem for production. Since Pinot Noir has thin skins that are prone to problems, and the Champagne region is quite humid, this fast, delicate pressing to make white wine is a savior for quality. Once you are making rose from maceration, the skins have to be perfect, and in order to Bruno Michel 'Les Roses' Brut Roseaccomplish this Laurent Perrier spends huge amounts of money on mid-slope, exclusively grand cru Pinot Noir for this wine. It is deep and savory, with more red wine flavor than any other big house Champagne except for Krug. My favorite maceration rose Champagne that we stock is the Bruno Michel "Les Roses" Brut Rosé Champagne ($49.99) which is also single vineyard. The “Les Roses” plot is in the village of Moussy, just south of Epernay and was planted in 1964, exclusively to the indigenous Meunier. After the maceration, Bruno barrel ferments this wine and it is the most vinous, savory, red Burgundy tasting Champagnes that I have ever had.

2007 Marguet Brut RoseThere are always exceptions to defined styles, and my favorite rose that we have in stock right now is just that. The 2007 Marguet Pere et Fils Brut Rosé Champagne ($49.99) is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% extremely light red (or very dark rose). This combination of styles gives it a little of the best of both worlds- the savory depth of a full maceration wine is just underneath its extraordinarily elegant Chardonnay exterior!

Ageing rose Champagne magnifies the best features in the best wines, as well as the worst features in the poor performers. I have had many spectacular bottles of old Rose Champagne, the 1978 Louis Roederer "Cristal" Brut Rose Champagne and the 1978 Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé Champagne a couple of the greatest, showing that sometimes a late harvest that doesn’t get wide declaration in white Champagne can make spectacular rose. The best I 1989 Veuve Clicquot 'Cave Privee' Brut Roseever had was the 1955 Rene Collard, which I had to literally dig for at his home in Reuil, with Benoit Tarlant lifting me out of the hole with the prize! This Champagne was almost red, and had huge Richebourg like power and richness. I can almost taste it now the finish was so long! The 1989 Veuve Clicquot "Cave Privée" Brut Rosé Champagne ($239) is a great example of older rose that you can try now. This is dry, savory and very complex and makes a fantastic partner to plank salmon.

I hope you will have a rose toast soon.

– Gary

 

Friday
Feb012013

Champagne Friday: The Western Valley of the Marne

 

Michel Loriot checking his vineyards by mountain bike.

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Itinerary #2- The Western Valley of the Marne

Visitors to Champagne often miss the Western Valley of the Marne, which is a pity, since I find it to be the most beautiful parts of the whole region. Here you will find steeper slopes and higher peaks than the Mountain of Reims and a more mixed agricultural landscape than the Cote des Blancs. This is the home of Pinot Meunier, the indigenous Champagne variety. It is also home to a lot of the region’s most innovative producers, vignerons working with small barrels, ancient varieties and organics.

We’ll start the day off at the Hotel Ibis in Epernay again, whose information I will repeat below. Grabbing lunch before departing to eat on the road is a great idea, as a three hour lunch will turn a good day of visits into a two stop affair. For information on great spots to pick stuff up in Epernay, check out last week’s Champagne Friday.

Hôtel Ibis, Epernay

This is a great hotel for folks who have come to Champagne as travelers interested in tasting and learning about the wines rather than hanging out in your hotel room. The rooms are clean, simple and comfortable. The friendly, professional, and accommodating staff are there around the clock; many of them I count as personal friends! The wifi always works, so it is easy to get back in touch with home, and the location could not be more central for visiting the vineyards. Epernay is a small city, and everything is in walking distance. Given how good the food and wine is, walking to and from dinner is a must!

Hotel Ibis :: 19 rue Chocatelle :: 51200 Epernay :: 03 26 51 14 51

 Taste: Leclerc Briant "Les Crayères" Single Vineyard Brut Champagne

Champagne Leclerc Briant, Epernay

Start your day on foot by walking up the hill from the Ibis to Leclerc Briant, whose historic holdings were mostly in the western valley of the Marne. The vineyards have now all been sold, and the winery is now owned by a family from the US, but the stocks are all from the original estate, and will be for at least another couple of years. Here you will be able to taste single vineyard, bio-dynamic Champagne from the village of Cumieres, which is just a few kilometers west of Epernay. On your way to your next appointment you will drive right by their Les Crayeres site.

Leclerc Briant :: 67, rue Chaude Ruelle -BP 108 :: 51204 Epernay :: 03 26 54 45 33/Fax: 03 26 54 49 59 info@leclercbriant.com

 

Taste: Tarlant "Cuvée Louis" Brut Champagne Champagne Tarlant, Oeuilly

American Champagne lovers have been sad for over a year now, because Tarlant is not available here in the USA anymore. I keep on working on my friends Benoit and Melanie Tarlant and I am sure one day these great wines will be back on the shelves at K&L. For now, we’ll have to be content to visit them in Oeuilly, and carry back as much of their great Champagne as we can fit in our luggage. The Tarlants make some of the very best grower Champagne in this part of Champagne, or anywhere for that matter. They have done a lot of work with small oak barrels and use them with Krug-like mastery. They are also the biggest proponents of low and no dosage Champagne, period. Tarlant wines have incredible depth, terroir expression and yet maintain crisp drinkability. To get there you will need to climb to the top of the village, once you have turned into what seems like a dead end alley, you have made it to the right place. Arrive early to your appointment here so you can take in the view of the Marne valley from their driveway- it is one of the best views in Champagne. If you don’t get a chance to taste their excellent Cuvee Louis while you are there, buy a bottle. You won’t be disappointed. You can check out a video that I made last year tasting with Benoit here: http://blog.klwines.com/httpblogklwinescomuncork/live-blogging-from-champagne.html

Tarlant :: 21 Rue de la Coopérative :: 51480 Epernay :: 03 26 58 30 60/Fax: 03 26 58 37 31 champagne@tarlant.com

 

Taste: 2006 Michel Loriot "Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes" Brut Champagne, in stock now at K&L ($49.99)Champagne Michel Loritot, Festigny

Continuing west, our next stop is Champagne Loriot in Festigny. Michel Loriot is not just the champion of Meunier, he is also the president of the Independent Vignerons of Champagne (see him in the picture at the top of the page, checking his vineyards by mountain bike!) His wines are respected throughout the region for being all that the 'big houses' say Meunier cannot be: serious, structured and age- worthy. The village of Festigny is tucked away in its own little valley just south of the Marne, and is full of horses, cows and of course, vines. All of the wines here are feremented in enamel-lined tanks that look like giant Le Creuset cookware. The wines never go through malolactic fermentation and have plenty of crispness as well as power. His flagship, the Michel Loriot "Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes" Brut Champagne comes from a vineyard that was planted in the middle of World War 2, and should not be missed by any fan of Champagne. For a sneak peak of their tasting room, click here.

Michel Loriot :: 13, rue de Bel Air –51700 Festigny :: 03 26 58 34 01/fax 03 26 58 03 98
contact@michelloriot.com

Yours Truly, tasting Tarlant.

Bistro Les 7, Epernay

Drink: Franck Bonville "Prestige" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne After a busy day tasting, you will be ready to eat! One of the hottest spots in Epernay is Bistro Les 7. Make your reservations well in advance, and get ready to run into vignerons, export managers from big houses, and all sorts of Champagne personalities. This place gets full every night! Start off with a glass of the Ratafia, a Champagne specialty from the mistel family which is half unfermented grape juice from the appellation and half marc made from Champagne. While the Champagne by the glass here is always served in magnum, there is no reason not to go for a bottle from their list, which is only a little bit more expensive than K&L’s retail prices. I recommend the Bonville Prestige, which I drank the last time I was there. The prix fixe menu is very reasonable; I love the duck confit (when it is on the menu), as well as the rabbit pate! They also have a formal restaurant, Les Bercaux, which is great as well. I’ll save that for another post!

Bistro Les 7 13 Rue des Berceaux, 51200 Épernay :: 03 26 55 28 84

 

A toast to you!

-Gary