Posts Filed Under elegant wines

The Ugly Truth, The Pretty Bubbles (Mailly Champagne Recent Releases)

The ugly truth is that I – quite lazily – did not really want to write about Champagne cooperative Mailly (which takes its moniker, and the fruit from its Grand Cru vineyards, from the town of the same name). In fact, I felt so lazy about it, that I employed the writer’s laziest device (the dash) in the very first sentence (shame on me!).

Mailly tasting room

Founded in 1929, this mainly Pinot Noir brand of Champers is owned by twenty-five families (three of which account for more than eighty percent of the outfit overall), produces 500,000 bottles a year, and is farming from the same spots it has since the 1960s. It’s a co-op; the least sexy of Champagne’s production options from a consumer perspective.

Mailly viewNo fancy house (though the fact that the seven floors of the co-op stretch down over twenty meters underground is pretty cool). There’s a neat little tasting room, white chalk roads, and cellars dug by hand (over a period of thirty-six years; by the company founders, mind you, and not by the Gauls).

But while Mailly might not be much in the way of looks when considered next to its more, uhm… media-friendly Champers peers, its wines give plenty of those superficially sexier houses in the region a total run for their money…

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“Living Patrimony” (Bollinger Champagne Recent Releases)

Vinted on October 22, 2015 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, sexy wines, wine review
Bollinger house

“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful…”

In theory, it ought to be easy to hate on the Champagne house Bollinger.

Bollinger racksThey’re big (producing about 3 million bottles annually); they’re kitschy-famous (getting the royal warrant from the UK market in 1884, and then becoming the official Champers of agent 007); they’re fairly corporate (a staggering – and, one imagines, barely manageable – 175 shareholders); they have that other matriarch, the one with the famous and too-oft-cited quote about basically drinking Champagne all of the time (and let’s not forget that Lilly Bollinger originally resisted the release of a rosé, viewing it as “red-light district” wine, which casts serious doubts as to her sanity in my view…); and they have 5 kilometers of cellars under the town of Ay, housing 700,000 magnums full of aging wines (ok, that last bit is actually really cool).

But with Bollinger, we have a clear case of the gimcrack facade belying a core of true vinous substance (rather than the other way around). So… sorry, but the haters are gonna need to shelve that shiz for a few hundred words.

On a rainy day in September, my visit included a chat with Adjoint de Cave Denis Bunner, a young guy who had a my-job-is-really-awesome smile chiseled onto his face in a near-permanent state. He seemed to revel quietly in the history of Bollinger, dating back to when Ay was the epicenter of Champagne production. He described Bollinger as a “living patrimony” to Champagne, thanks primarily to Madame Jacques Bollinger’s tenacity: “She would say, ‘if it’s good for the wine, I don’t care about the cost; we do it!'”…

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That *Other* Perrier (Joseph Perrier Champagne Recent Releases)

Vinted on October 15, 2015 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, on the road, wine review

Joseph Perrier caves

Jean-Claude Fourmon – president of the fourth-generation family-owned Joseph Perrier in Châlons-en-Champagne – doesn’t seem at all deterred by the fact that, in the U.S., his brand is probably best known as “that other Perrier” that not-as-many people have tasted.

Jean-Claude Fourmon

Jean-Claude Fourmon

He’s quick with amusing witticisms, bordering on platitudes if not for his fantastic delivery; things like, “a day without Champagne is very sad” (truer words were never spoken, I suppose), “we all know that Prosecco is a poison” (definitely not true, but funny), “grapes, blend, and dosage make all the difference, the rest is fantasy” (refreshingly honest), and “‘Can I have another glass?’ That is how I measure success!” (not a bad watermark, methinks).

Now, if he were less affable, he might be a bit more worried about the fact that, since they export seventy-five percent of their production, having a lower profile in one of the world’s largest wine markets isn’t ideal. But Fourmon seems to think that history will prevail.

After all, Joseph Perrier has the Champagne traditions that wine geeks love: along with multi-generational family ownership, there’s multi-generational grape-growing supply agreements, multi-generational cellarmasters, equipment that’s reminiscent of a working museum, and a history that puts the brand in lock-step with the better-known Champers houses (in the early twentieth century, they shared the region’s first paper label with those other brands – only the brand names was changed on each at the time)…

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Blanc de Blancs, In The Nude (Jacques Lassaigne Recent Releases)

Vinted on September 16, 2015 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, on the road, wine review
Emmanuel Lassaigne

Emmanuel Lassaigne, measuring booze levels during press

If you’re in the bubbly business in the Aube (the southern region in France’s Champagne-Ardenne), then you have to make peace with the fact that, compared with the popular Épernay and Ay to the north, you’re basically the red-headed stepchild of Champagne.

Unless you’re Emmanuel Lassaigne, who crafts the bubbly at Champagne Jacques Lassaigne.

In that case, you unabashedly make wine from vineyards in Montgueux, which, being technically a chalky outcrop of the Côte des Bars in the Aube, might be considered the red-headed stepchild of the red-headed stepchild. Emmanuel Lassaigne’s purpose in life seems to be to birth a modern Montgueux Champagne naked and screaming into the world wine market.

Calling Lassaigne’s Champagnes “high acid” would be like calling the blood from Alien “mildly corrosive.” But they might be the purest expression of place available from the Aube: all Chardonnay, all from one area, mostly all zero dosage, all disgorged by hand, all eschewing quality “ranges,” all treated with as little sulfur as possible, and all adored by the way-too-cool-in-its-own-mind cadre of hip sommeliers on both coasts of the USA.

MOG jacques lassaigne

“Material other than grapes” during press at Jacques Lassaigne

“Here,” Lassaigne told me, “we try to do ‘wine’ before we do ‘Champagne.’ We don’t take any security. It’s a choice of life. Challenging is very interesting, and doing the same thing is always boring. We’re always at the edge…”

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