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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 vintage Champagne (13)

Friday
Mar152013

Champagne Friday: The Three Faces of Dom Perignon

 

By: Gary Westby | K&L Staff Member

The Three Faces of Dom Perignon

Moet's Dom Perignon is the most well known Champagne brand in the world, but is one about which we Champagne lovers know the least. Moet has always been highly secretive about this wine, keeping production numbers and composition percentages to themselves and instead sharing stories and descriptions of the style. Yesterday, I was invited to “Three Faces of Dom Perignon," a seminar at the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park, to learn more from Stephane Henry, Senior International Brand Education Manager from the maison.

Stephane Henry, Dom Perignon Senior International Education Manager.

Starting with the 2000 vintage, Dom Perignon no longer has Moet & Chandon on its label, and they are distancing themselves from their parent company to become an independent brand. Dom Perignon does come from the 1150 hectares of vines controlled by Moet, and while they have unique access to all of the grand crus, the core of DP comes from eight of these, plus the premier cru Hautvillers. From the mountain of Reims they use Bouzy, Verzenay and Mailly principally, from the  Cotes de Blancs mainly Chouilly, Cramant, Avize and Le Mesnil and from the grand valley of the Marne Ay and of course, Hautvillers.

The Dom Perignon blanc is always aged for at least seven years on the lees, the rose at least nine and Oenotheque at least twelve. The are always vintage, and always a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. While Stephane did not get into specifics, most sources report that the proportion is roughly equal, with a little more of one or the other depending on the harvest. They want a fresh, non-oxidative style of Champagne, and do not delay picking. In the cellar, they currently use exclusively stainless steel for vinification, inoculate the juice as soon as possible for an early first fermentation, and rack the wine as little as possible. They do all this to avoid oxidizing the wine, and to preserve as much primary fruit as possible.

This reductive style of winemaking is credited with giving the wine its longevity, but it is worth noting that there were no stainless tanks in Champagne before the 1960s. Older bottles of Dom (the first vintage was 1921) were undoubtedly vinified in barrel or enamel tanks...and taste spectacular.

I was welcomed at the Rosewood with a glass of the 2002 Dom Perignon Blanc ($429; available in magnum only) which has settled down a lot in the year since I last tasted it. I thought it was great that they showed the wine in large bowled glasses - a subject I touched on last month. It glittered with a green tinged white gold color in the Sand Hill sun on the veranda and had a nose of pastry dough and clean cane sugar. On the palate it was rich, full-bodied and had plenty of white fruit up front. The dosage had integrated very nicely, and it showed quite a bit drier than I remembered it.

The Flight: 2003 Dom Perignon, 2002 Dom Perignon Brut Rose, 1996 Oenotheque.

2003 Dom PerignonWe then sat down for the seminar and learned about the history of the Abbey of Hautvillers and the monk Dom Perignon. After that, the wines were poured starting with the 2003 Dom Perignon ($149). This vintage, in which two-thirds of the Chardonnay crop for the appellation were lost overnight to an April frost, was also the earliest vintage since 1822. The extremely hot summer caused numerous deaths in France, and I think of it as the end of Champagne's honeymoon with climate change. Almost no one declared a vintage in 2003 because hot years generally need a lot of Chardonnay to freshen the 2002 Dom Perignon Rosewines up, and in 2003 there was precious little to be found. I found the wine to be very exotic, with a caramel and black pepper nose. It has a very big, broad texture and was loaded with flavor but at this point a little compressed. Many of the somelliers in the room liked it better than the 2002, but I wasn’t so sure.

Next we tasted the 2002 Dom Perignon Rose ($299) out of a giant Riedel Pinot Noir Glass. This was a great way to taste this majestically great bottle of wine, which I featured in the blog three weeks ago exclusively. Today the red wines, which are a combination of Pinot Noir from Ay, Bouzy and Hautvillers jumped out of the glass with an almost Hermitage like white pepper. This super intense wine has the chalky cut of a Mesnil blanc de blancs, but never comes out of balance or looses its elegance. I was very impressed.

Julia Fitzroy of Dom Perignon.

1996 Dom Perignon OenothequeThe final wine was the 1996 Dom Periginon Oenotheque ($349) from one of the greatest vintages of the 20th century. This famed harvest is known as the 10/10 in the region, for combining very high ripeness (10% potential alcohol) with very high acidity (10 grams per liter of acidity). Average stats like this are very rare, since usually acidity drops as ripeness increases. This is the same wine as the 1996 Dom Perignon blanc, but with more time on the lees. The Oenotheque was fabulous, barely a hair darker than the 2003 next to it only loosing the green hue of a very young wine. The boquet was extremely fresh, with lots of white-fleshed fruit touched by a bit of spicy bread character. On the palate the wine had a strong Pinot character with some meaty flavor, but the finish was an all Chardonnay affair, with length and minerality that go forever. The dosage is adjusted down on these more recently disgorged bottles, and that combined with the extra time on the lees make them very worth seeking out - especially in a vintage as great as 1996!

I still have many questions about Dom Perignon. The production numbers are a secret, but given the worldwide distribution of the blanc they must be large. On the other hand, the Rose and Oenotheque are true rarities of which I can never get enough to satisfy demand. The rose should be back in soon, and the 1996 is getting to the end of its run.

A toast to you!

–Gary

Friday
Dec142012

Champagne Friday: Dinner with Krug's CEO

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Last Friday I was invited to a very special dinner with Margareth Henriquez, the President and CEO of Champagne Krug. We dined at Quattro in the Four Seasons Hotel, which has a great program called “Friday Nights Uncorked” inviting customers to bring their own wine, without a corkage fee. For this special occasion, Chef Marco Fossati had worked with the Krug team ahead of time to prepare a menu paired with current releases from the maison. Ian Cauble, Krug’s Master Sommelier brand ambassador and Julien Pepin Lehalleur, Krug’s business development manager were also on hand to tell the story of the wines. This was a night I won’t forget.

Krug has always been a quality obsessed house. Joseph Krug left Champagne Jacquesson in 1843 to start his own maison with the idea of making the best Champagne possible. For the last 169 years this producer has not missed a beat, and this consistency at the highest level of wine making puts them on the level of Chateau d’Yquem and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti as one of the finest wine producers in the world. All of the wines are fermented in traditional 205 liter feuillattes, the traditional Champagne oak barrel. These barrels are seasoned for years with press wine so they do not impart too much oak flavor to the wine, but rather offer texture and immunization against future oxidation.

Krug "Grande Cuvée" Brut Champagne ($139.00) We had the aperitif on the tented veranda at Quattro, the Krug "Grande Cuvée" Brut Champagne ($139, $79.99 half, $399 magnum). Margareth explained the new codes on the backs of the bottles, that allow the Champagne lover to learn the disgorgement date, year of the base harvest of the wine as well as the number of vintages blended in and the oldest of them. She was far too modest about this new feature, as it reverses the secretiveness for which Krug has long been known. Now, thanks to her influence, Krug is one of the most transparent houses. The bottle that we had was from batch 311032, based on 2004, and composed of 121 different wines from 12 different vintages going all the way back to 1990. It was disgorged in the fall of 2011. All of this can be learned by going to www.krug.com and entering the code. Our bottle was Krug at its toasty, extroverted best, with plenty of buttery brioche and mid-palate weight. It also had typical 2004 zing and acidity, and showed attractive aspects of both youth and maturity.

Appetizers were then passed and the 2000 Krug "Clos du Mesnil" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($799) poured around. The iconic all-Chardonnay Clos du Mesnil comes from a four and a half acre walled vineyard in the super-chalky grand cru village of Mesnil. It was known as the Clos Tarin, owned by the Tarin sisters. It had always been famous for its quality, but now as a single vineyard wine by one of Champagne’s most quality obsessed houses, it has become one of the most desirable bottles in the whole appellation. The lobster crudo brought out the white fruit of the chardonnay, while the duck and Taleggio poppers showed off the razor cut of this no-malolactic Mesnil masterpiece. The best pairing of all was with the pancetta wrapped bay scallops, giving me a glimpse of the richness this wine has in store for the patient. I can count the number of times I have had Clos du Mesnil on one hand, and feel lucky to be able to say that! This pure Chardonnay expression, from a house whose other wines are dominated by black fruit always shows plenty of Krug style, while also revealing the chalky minerality of one of the greatest sites on the planet.

1998 Krug Brut Champagne ($219) Our group sat down for dinner, chef Fossati sent out a special Puzzone cheese fondue, and the 1998 Krug Brut Champagne ($219) was served by ace server Emily Yamamoto and the rest of the Quattro team. In 1998, the first time in a generation, the winemaking team at Krug used more Chardonnay than anything else in the blend. The wine still showed the power and weight of the 1998 vintage and was very vinous and powerful, but the extra chardonnay gave it the classic back-end lift of great Champagne. This pairing was a big success, and opened my mind to the possibility of cheese and Champagne, something I have liked only once before, with Brie de Meaux and black truffles Les Crayeres in Reims.  What we have in stock now (32 bottles between the four locations at the time of writing) - is gone when it’s gone!

2000 Krug Brut Champagne ($219) The 2000 Krug Brut Champagne ($219) was fantastic with a very traditional Champagne pairing: pigeon! One of the best local dishes of the Champagne region is pigeon en croute. The rare Paine Farm squab was perfect with this refined powerhouse of a wine. Although the 2000 vintage returned to a Pinot Noir dominated blend, the relative youth of the wine and the fresh character of the vintage brought the Chardonnay to the front. This was the favorite vintage of the group, with electric acidity and chalky length. There is power in this bottle, but it does not have to show it off. The 2000 will evolve for a generation in the cellar, and I can’t wait to revisit it in 2030. A rich game bird needs a lively wine, and why not 2000 Krug!

We then went back to the previous release of the Krug "Grande Cuvée" Brut and tasted the batch based on 2003 with Ng risotto, featuring silver, gold and most precious of all, white truffles from Alba. This was my favorite course and my favorite pairing of the night. The peerless aromatics of the noble tartufo bianco and deep umami of the slow cooked, rich risotto were a fitting partner to this great multi-vintage that had a truffle character all its own. It was a more integrated and settled wine than the current release thanks to the extra year. I am a huge fan of the 2004 harvest in Champagne, and no friend of 2003, so this wine showing as well as it did was a big surprise to me. Take my advice- lay down some Krug "Grande Cuvée" in the cellar- even if it is just a bottle or two for a year or more and you will be thrilled with the results. Margareth explained that the team used a lot of 1996 reserves in this blend to balance out the fat of the 2003 base wine, and included wines as far back as 1988. I’m looking forward to tasting the 2004 based wine in a year-with some truffles!

Krug Brut Rosé Champagne ($279) Chef Fossati was daring and paired the Krug Brut Rosé Champagne ($279) with lamb loin from Elysian Fields. This Champagne needed food (and rich food!) in order to show well and was very different from the first Krug rose that I tasted more than a decade ago. My first visit to the maison in winter of 2001 was also my first experience with Krug rose, and it’s impression has haunted me ever since. The wine I drank in 2001 was so vanishingly subtle, so easy to drink, that its greatness did not occur to me until days later. I still think about that bottle. Margareth explained that this batch (311030) used Ay Rouge for its color and rose flavor, but that often times they use Bouzy Rouge instead. This batch was disgorged in fall of 2011 and was aged for a little over five years on the lees, so it must have been based on 2005. It had fresh baked bread and Nuits-St.-George like savor on the nose, and powerhouse black cherry fruit backed with firm acidity on the palate. I much preferred it with the lamb than on its own. This was large-scale wine that Margareth said she loved to cellar.

We ended things on a very high note with the 1989 Krug "Collection" Brut Champagne ($499) paired with another cheese course, this one cleverly disguised as a dessert. Chef Fossati created a Brulee by torching honey on top of some very creamy, savory Explorateur cheese served next to some unsweetened orange blossom gelato with white truffles shaved on top of it. I remembered this wine from when it first was released- ahead of the 1988, and it is evolving slowly in this freshly disgorged format. This warm harvest, already 23 years old is showing the vinous bass notes that makes well aged Krug famous. It still has plenty of chalk and zip, and showed even more truffle than the older “Grand Cuvee” did. The pairing was delightful, bringing out the ripe, sweet fruit of the 1989 harvest.

Krug is rightly famous for their great wines, and a decadent meal paired with them in the company of their team is an honor I won’t forget. If you feel like splurging on one of the benchmark wines of the world, I could not recommend any house more highly.

These are as good as it gets!

A toast to you!

-Gary

Friday
Oct262012

Champagne Friday: It's International Champagne Day!

Benoit Marguet inspecting one of his magnums.

By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer

Today is International Champagne Day, so it is a very special Champagne Friday. Later today, I will be in the San Francisco store pouring a tasting of all magnum, all estate-grown Champagnes from 5pm until 6:30 PM. Please join me to celebrate International Champagne Day in SF  if you can! Even if you can’t come, you can still do your part and drink some Champagne today.

Why magnums? I believe the best premium that one can pay in regards to Champagne is the upgrade to a magnum (1.5L) format. Whenever there are enough people to drink two bottles of Champagne- at my house that means three people- I consider a magnum. Since Champagne undergoes its second fermentation in the bottle, a magnum is at a tremendous advantage: not only does it enjoy double the wine to oxygen ratio in the larger bottle, but the curve of the glass allows for more contact with the yeast before disgorgement. This means you get more of the aged character that you do want (contact with the lees) and less of the ageing you don’t want (contact with oxygen).

I hope you can join me this evening in San Fransisco. The cost to taste is only $10! Here's what I will be pouring:

If you have enjoyed the wines of Lallement, Bollinger and Krug in the past, I think you will very much enjoy Michel Arnould.

Bruno Michel "Blanche Brut" Champagne $32.99/ $$79.99 magnum

Marguet Pere et Fils "Cuvée Reserve" Brut Champagne $34.99 / $74.99 magnum

2002 Michel Loriot Vintage Brut Champagne 1.5L $99 (magnum only)

Ariston Aspasie "Brut Prestige" Champagne $39.99/ $84.99

Michel Arnould Verzenay "Brut Reserve" Champagne $32.99/ $64.99 magnum

Michel Arnould Verzenay Brut Rosé Champagne $34.99/ $74.99 magnum

 

A toast to you, hopefully with you!

–Gary