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Champagne & Sparkling Wine Information

The Champagne business is dominated by very large companies which often own a stable of brands.

For example, The Louis Vuitton-Moet-Hennessy company owns Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart, Mercier and Krug Champagne brands.  
Pernod-Ricard owns the Mumm and Perrier-Jouet brands.   
   
A large firm few people have heard of is called Vranken or Vranken-Pommery and they own the Pommery label along with Heidsieck Monopole and Charles Lafitte.

What was called Marne et Champagne changed to be called Lanson International and today it's Lanson-BCC and they own the brands Lanson, Boizel, Besserat de Bellefon, De Venoge, Philipponnat, Chanonine Freres and Alexandre Bonnet.  The firm also makes bubbly for private label brands, as well.
 


Some smaller firms have purchased neighbors, either for diversification, additional distribution or to acquire prime vineyard sites.  Bollinger owns the firm of Ayala, for example.  
The family owning the Laurent Perrier brand of Champagne also owns Delamotte and the luxury brand called Salon.

Many of the large brands have little interest in making top quality wines.  They're run by "business" people or investment types who spend their days crunching numbers and evaluating "turnover."  Marketing "experts" also seem to have significant sway, with winemakers, enologists and viticulture crews being of secondary importance in the hierarchy of things.

These companies often make very good luxury bottlings and seem content with less-than-excellent quality at the profitable entry level while excusing their poor winemaking performance with a high quality, smaller production wine on the high end.  Of course, Moet's Dom Perignon cuvee is made in humungous quantities (and they won't divulge the number of bottles made annually because they're embarrassed to do so).  And, yes, Dom Perignon is often a really good Champagne.

Over the past decade, or so, we've seen greater interest in smaller brands of Champagnes.  There's a segment of the market called "Grower's Champagnes" and these are the work of "mom & pop" vineyard owners who also vinify the wine and turn it into bubbly.  

One of the weaknesses of these brands is that they typically have vineyard holdings in a handful of sites (or fewer) and so their wines often display but one "note" of terroir.  Large companies tout they can draw upon numerous sites to create a more complex base wine with which to turn into bubbly.  
On the other hand, some growers have really fine terroir and viticultural practices which allows them to showcase the "somewhere-ness" of their bubblies.

The grower Champagnes usually cost less than the big brands at the cellar door, but an inefficiency in distribution (such as numerous middlemen) makes these wines a bit pricey when they hit the shelf in the U.S.  For example, a good grower's Champagne might cost 12 to 18 Euros at the cellar door for private customers (and this includes their value added, VAT, tax).  Yet these wines retail in our market for $50-$70!!!  Ouch!!!

Our shop doesn't carry the mainstream brands of Mumm, Moet or Perrier-Jouet brands, apart from the deluxe bottlings.  The quality at the entry level of these brands can equate to the quality of a fast food hamburger.  And if you have taste for good Champagne, you'll find yourself asking the question shouted by the late actress Clara Peller:  "Where's the beef?"

A few importers with whom we deal, buy directly from the grower and this allows us to have some top quality, artisan brands at sensible price levels.  
The large brands have devoted a lot of money to their marketing campaigns and this explains the high price level of some well-publicized Champagnes.  For many consumers, these names are a safer choice in purchasing.  Guests who may not recognize (or even appreciate) an artisan brand find comfort in a name they know and know to cost a premium price.


SOME CHAMPAGNES WE LIKE

 

LAURENT PERRIER
This large company has a long history going back to the early 1800s.  A fellow named Alphonse Pierlot had two vineyard sites, apparently and, having no heirs, willed the enterprise to his cellar assistant, Eugene Laurent.  Gene's wife's name was Mathilde Perrier, hence the brand "Laurent Perrier."

Gene died in 1887 and Mathilde then sold her wine as "Veuve (Widow in French) Laurent Perrier" and she did a good job in growing the brand, but a little entanglement called "World War I" but a dent in business.  The firm was passed on to Mathilde's daughter Eugenie and she, with World War II on the horizon, sells it to Marie-Louise de Nonancourt (whose family ran the Lanson Champagne house.

Marie-Louise had major money troubles and was near bankruptcy during the war.  She even hid 100,000 bottles of Champagne hoping to make it through the war.  Her two sons were in the French military and one died in a concentration camp.  The other son, Bernard de Nonancourt, was part of a tank squadron which overtook Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" in the Bavarian Alps and it was there he found a stash of bottles of Salon Champagne which he'd watched being confiscated by the Germans earlier in the war!

After the war, Bernard's Mom insisted he learn every phase of Champagne production and he worked in his Uncle's firm of Lanson as well as at the Delamotte facility.  He took over, I gather, Laurent Perrier in 1949 and in 1950 introduced a major innovation: stainless steel tanks!  

In the late 1950s, before prestige cuvees were particularly common, Bernard had the idea that he could make the best deluxe Champagne not from a single vintage but by blending top vintages, thus creating a wine of greater complexity.  It was first released in 1959 as a "multi-vintage" bottling called Grande Siecle and it remains a top quality, connoisseur's Champagne.  Sure, it's not nearly as well known as Dom Perignon or Roederer's Cristal, but what it may lack in marketing acumen or fame, it certainly makes up for in the glass.
 


The company continued to grow under Bernie's leadership and despite being fairly large, they've maintained a pretty high level of quality in their entry-level bottlings.  It's been said the brand is #3 in terms of sales behind Moet and Clicquot and yet LP's Brut is typically much superior to either of its larger competitors.

De Nonancourt passed away in 2010, but his legacy will live on for many years...

He was a major pioneer in producing and promoting Rose Champagne.  While many companies simply add a drop of red wine to their white base wine, de Nonancourt had the somewhat risky notion of actually making a pink wine by using the black-skinned Pinot Noir and giving the juice a bit of skin contact to get the color "just so."  But the risk is in extracting tannin, a bitter astringent which would be even more disagreeable when turned into sparkling wine.

Laurent Perrier's Brut Rose, which they offer in a special proprietary bottle, is a delight.  It's berryish and dry with plenty of Rose character and yet easily nodding to the notion of classic Champagne.  

We're fans, as noted above, of their LP Brut, a bubbly which leans heavily on the Chardonnay grape as its base.  The wine is nicely dry, light and crisp with a mildly toasty element.  Good quality and well-priced, too.

They make some other bubblies, including a Vintage Brut which is usually of good quality.  And there's the Cuvee Alexandra Rose, a vintage-dated Rose which is made but sporadically according to the vintage.
 
Currently in stock:  LAURENT PERRIER BRUT LP  Sale $39.99 (750ml)
LAURENT PERRIER BRUT Magnum SALE $79.99
LAURENT PERRIER BRUT ROSE  SALE $79.99
LAURENT PERRIER BRUT ROSE MAGNUM  SALE $169.99
LAURENT PERRIER GRAND SIECLE  SALE $129.99 (750ml)

http://laurentperrierchampagneblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/screen-shot-2012-12-13-at-11-24-22-am.png


There are only two reasons to by Laurent Perrier:
You have acquired a taste for exquisite Champagne.
You want your friends to know it.

 
 

 

 

 

 

PIERRE MONCUIT

There are some remarkable Champagnes which come from the town of Le Mesnil.  Krug makes one called Clos du Mesnil and it'll set you back nearly $800.  Salon's recent vintage lives in the neighborhood of $300 a bottle, making a bottle of Pierre Moncuit's delightful bubbly a bargain at $39.99!

 

 

 

The domaine was founded in the late 1880s by Pierre Moncuit and his wife Odile.  Today you'll find the brother and sister team of Yves and Nicole running the place.  He takes care of the sales side of the business and she's the winemaker.  Nicole's daughter Valerie is now active in the business, too.


Valerie & Nicole in the Moncuit vineyards...





They have something like 19 hectares of vineyards and these are quite mature, much like the winemaker and her brother.  In Champagne, you see, vineyards are routinely uprooted and replanted, as growers want vigor and tonnage.  The notion of "old vines" being anything special is a bit foreign in Champagne.
Yet the Moncuit team has vineyards which are typical 40+ years of age and some parcels, from which they source their special deluxe cuvee, are close to a hundred years of age.


The cellar at Moncuit...

 


Magnums!

 


Their father made those bottles...and they still have some of these ancient treasures in the cellar...

 

Nicole is a bit quiet and reserved.  She reminds me a bit of winemakers such as the late Joe Heitz of Napa or Bruno Giacosa of Piemonte:  perfection-oriented and confident that her wine is of excellent quality and if you don't like it, that's YOUR problem, not hers.

The wines of Moncuit are a bit particular and we find the house style to be much to our taste.  The wines feature finesse and yet they are complex and profound.  They are not "big," nor are the Moncuit Champagnes aimed at those who are just getting on the Champagne "bicycle" and who need "training wheels."

While many Champagne houses seek to make a wine that's consistent from year to year, Moncuit varies from one year to the next.  Many producers keep a stock of reserve wines, blending their base wine to achieve a consistent or standardized product.  Nicole does not.
She makes a base wine for each product and it is solely the wine of one year's harvest.  Whether you're buying a vintage-dated Champagne or their non-vintage bottlings, each comes entirely from one year.

The base wines are no aged in wood and though the wines usually undergo a malolactic fermentation, they remain laser-point "fine" and really crisp.  Part of this is because they use a low dosage to the wines and they are quite dry.

We especially enjoy the Cuvee Pierre Moncuit-Delos, as it's a Grand Cru wine from vineyards in Le Mesnil.  The wine is tangy and rather dry on the palate (they don't use much of a sweetening dosage...less than most, in fact) and shows some of the stony/chalky notes of its vineyard site.  We find it mildly yeasty and very 'fine.'

The 2002 Vintage Brut is similarly styled, but it seems to really shine with additional time in the bottle and aging "on the cork."  Too bad few consumers think to set aside bottles of Champagne.

The top of the line is the Cuvee Nicole, a wine from vineyards planted when Nicole's parents were young adults.  The wine has a nicely toasty/yeasty note with a touch of an earthy tone and some white flower fragrances.  It's also quite fine on the palate and a special treat if you're at all an aficionado of good bubbly.

Currently in stock: PIERRE MONCUIT "Cuvee Pierre Moncuit-Delos" $39.99
PIERRE MONCUIT 2002 Vintage Brut $69.99
PIERRE MONCUIT 2004 Cuvee Nicole SALE $84.99

 

 

 

ALFRED GRATIEN

The name Alfred Gratien is relatively unknown to most wine drinkers, but it's a highly respected name to Champagne aficionados.

We recall tasting Gratien Champagnes ages ago and they were remarkably good...close to those of Krug and Bollinger at that point in time.  Then something happened, they lost their way and disappeared from the market.  

They have been around for several years and we would buy a bottle, here and there, to see how they were doing.  Good, but not grand.  Well, lately (at this writing in 2011), they back to making some exceptionally good Champagnes.

The winery is a bit of a throwback to a simpler time.  The juice of their grapes is fermented in oak, a practice larger abandoned these days in favor of the more cost-effective stainless steel. 
 
 
We've heard Gratien does its secondary fermentation in bottle, stoppering the bottles with cork closures rather than crown caps;  at least, we understand they do this for their top Champagnes.
 


The cellar master's father, grandfather and great grandfather all held the same position before him.  Nicolas Jaeger is the fellow who runs the cellar at Gratien and kudos to him for making such splendid Champagnes these days!

They clearly have a handle on assembling the base wines.  Fruit from a variety of regions is incorporated to create a complex still wine.  From there it's bottled with sugar and yeast and off it goes into the cellar.

The non-vintage wines are quite nice, but it's the vintage and deluxe bottlings which have our attention.

The top bottling is called Cuvee Paradis and it's a non-vintaged wine.  It's incredibly complex and very fine.  I purchased a bottle to try with some wine industry pals and it was a wine which stopped the conversation as people had a sniff and a taste.  It was so good, I purchased a bottle of the Cuvee Paradis Rose and we were delighted by it, as well.
 
If you are looking for a remarkably fine Champagne and don't mind not putting some of the more famous, well-marketed trophy bottles on your table, consider splurging for a bottle of the Cuvee Paradis.  If they're paying attention to what's in their glass and not to what's on the label, this wine is sure to be a winner.
 

Currently in stock:  ALFRED GRATIEN "CUVEE PARADIS"  $129.99

 

 



ERIC RODEZ

Our late colleague, Bob Gorman, was able to visit the cellars of the learned scholar, Mayor of the town of Ambonnay and Champagne maker, Eric Rodez.

This little estate produces a wine that's quite different from the Pierre Moncuit Champagne written about earlier on this web page.  

They're located in the Montagne de Reims and Ambonnay is quite famous for Pinot Noir.

Rodez has an interesting history, which goes a long way in explaining his particular style of Champagne.  He spent time in the Rhone Valley, Beaujolais and Burgundy when he was getting his feet wet.   He also spent a year working at Krug, so he has a good perspective on that style of deluxe Champagne.

In fact, when  we visited, he mentioned having been affiliated for some time with Moet.  "My business sense came from this experience, but my Champagne making philosophies were shaped by my time with Krug."

The family has been in Ambonnay for many generations, but it's relatively recently that they've been vinifying their own fruit and making their own bubbly.  Pinot Noir dominates the plantings, though they do have more than 40% of the estate devoted to Chardonnay.  No Pinot Meunier, as that is not considered to be of "grand cru" quality.

 

 

 

 

 
 

There are numerous small parcels of vineyards and Rodez vinifies each one individually.  A significant percentage of base wines are vinified in wood.  Rodez prefers to assemble a complex blend comprised of numerous lots of wines.  
 


We currently have his Cuvee des Crayeres, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The blend features approximately 40%, or so, of older reserve wine.  We like its toasty, creamy notes and it reminds us a bit of Krug Champagnes from the "old days."

Currently in stock:  ERIC RODEZ "Cuvee des Crayeres"  $42.99







AGRAPART et FILS

The name "Agrapart" might seem to some people as that of some agricultural conglomerate, but, in fact, it's the name of a prominent wine family in the town of Avize.  

The Agrapart family has been involved with Champagne production since the late 1800s.  Things were a bit rocky with the Depression and World War II, but in the 1950s the name resurfaced when Pierre Agrapart began vinifying his own wine and making Champagnes of note.    Pierre was a stickler for quality as he realized it was the key to success.  Today his sons Pascal and Fabrice tend the nearly 10 hectares of vineyards along with the cellar.
 

The vineyards are situated in very chalky soils and are planted with Chardonnay,  They have something like 62 parcels of vineyards and some are quite old.  In fact, the average age of Agrapart's vines is around 40 years!

 

We've been fans since the late 1990s.  Each parcel or batch is vinified separately and kept in neutral oak, having been fermented with indigenous yeasts.

They purchased a marvelous horse some years ago and named it Venus.  The horse pulls the plow, as they farm some vineyard sites in a very old fashioned manner.  Many of the neighbors thought the Agrapart's were out of their minds having returned to such an antiquated farming system, but the results of this cultivation are yielding top quality results.


And now they make a very special Champagne called Venus.  Only a few hundred cases are made in top years.


Pascal in the cellar.


Pascal and his Pop, Pierre.

 

 

 

 

There are two bottlings of which we especially appreciate.


One is called "Les Sept Crus" as it comes from seven sites in the Cotes des Blancs and it's, of course, entirely Chardonnay.  The wine comes from two harvests and they typically employ a full malolactic fermentation for the base wine.  Even with this, you'll still find the wine to be extremely dry, but not it a shrill manner.  It's crisp and clean all the way through...a sheer delight.

Another bottling, called "Terroirs" comes from four Grand Cru sites.  Same basic recipe as the 7 Crus...two harvests...wood-aged wine (but not for the oak character)...aged four years "en tirage" and its low dosage allows the terroir and minerality to shine brightly.  Very dry and crisp.  

They make a couple of other bottlings, which we can special order for you.

 

Currently in stock:  "LES SEPT CRUS"  $38.99
$21.99 for half bottles
$99.99 for magnums


TERROIRS  Currently out of stock





 

BOLLINGER

The Bollinger name is synonymous with Champagne.

It's also got a wonderful history with the debonair secret agent, James Bond.

The firm has been family operated since its founding in 1829.  One of the great characters and ambassadors for Champagne was Lily Bollinger.  Her husband was a fighter pilot in World War I and he'd taken over the firm when his father died in 1918.  He passed away in 1941 and Lily ran the company during a very difficult period, as one might imagine.

 

 

 


There's a marvelous quotation attributed to this remarkable woman:


Lily came up with the idea of what is now called "RD" Champagne:  Recently Disgorged.  This was a Champagne given extended aging on the spent yeast before being disgorged and having the yeast removed.  

A few years ago, in 2008, the family entrusted the firm to a non-family member:  Jerome Philipon.  So far, so good.  They still have a marvelous commitment to producing top notch Champagne.


At a time when some Champagne firms were turning out massive quantities of rather ordinary fizz, the head of Bollinger, Christian Bizot, issued a "charter of ethics" for the brand.

Seeing that some of its competitors were simply buying bottles of pre-made Champagne and slapping their label on them, Bizot's charter guaranteed that all bottles of Bollinger Champagne were, in fact, made by Bollinger.  What a concept!

He proclaimed to give precedence to grapes from Grand Cru and Premier cru sites and that his Champagnes would be based on Pinot Noir.  He also had other ideals, such as fermentation in oak, extended aging on the lees (not merely meeting the minimum aging requirements as did many of his well-marketed competitors) and using a lower than allowed dosage.  Of course, you see, he was appealing to Champagne purists, not those who saw only the name "Champagne" and not the brand which had produced this vaunted sparkling wine.

The company today seems to continue making really good, very reliable bubbly.  We might enjoy other brands of Champagne on a more regular basis, often because those wines cost a bit less and provide good quality, too, but Bollinger has been a trustworthy name for decades.

The Champagne often has been a part of the various James Bond spy films, a marvelous bit of publicity for Bollinger.

 

The company owns 163 hectares of vineyards these days. More than 80% are in Grand Cru and Premier cru level sites.  They've spent a significant amount of money in 2009 to renovate and modernize their winemaking facilities and aging cellars.

Their entry level wine is called "Special Reserve" and this is typically something like 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier.  The wine is always fairly toasty on the nose and quite dry on the palate.  If you wish to easily see the difference between good quality bubbly and plonk, open a bottle of this alongside something such as Moet et Chandon's entry level bottling.  You should see a world of difference and if you have taste for good Champagne, you'll certainly prefer the Bollinger.  But, as we often say when it comes to wine, "Your mileage may vary."

There's a nice, dry, elegant Rose Champagne...this tends to be overlooked by many, but it's quite a good bottle of Champagne which happens to have a slight pink/copper color.


Then there's the Grand Année Champagne.
Of course, this is not produced every vintage...just top years and it's given extended aging on the lees.  They usually go for something like 5 years maturation on the spent yeast.
Pinot Noir accounts, typically, for about 2/3s of the base wine, with Chardonnay making up the rest.  No Pinot Meunier in this wine.
We find it to be, generally, a cut above the vintage-dated bottlings from brands such as Roederer or Clicquot, for example.


 

 

The "R.D." Champagne is, essentially, the Grande Année Champagne with extended time in the bottle before disgorging.  These remarkable sparkling wines might be cellared for 8 (on the low end) to 20 years.  

 

 

 

 

Currently in stock:  BOLLINGER "SPECIAL RESERVE" BRUT  SALE $59.99 (750ml)
BOLLINGER "SPECIAL RESERVE" BRUT 1/2 bottles (List $34)  SALE $28.99
BOLLINGER "SPECIAL RESERVE" BRUT magnums  (List $180) SALE $149.99
BOLLINGER "SPECIAL RESERVE" BRUT 3 liter (List $315)  SALE $279.99

BOLLINGER 1999 GRANDE ANNÉE (List $145)  SALE $129.99

BOLLINGER Non Vintage ROSE (List $135)  SALE $89.99

BOLLINGER 1997 R.D.  (List $300)  SALE $259.99

 

 

RENE GEOFFROY

The Geoffroy family is a small, family winery situated in the Marne Valley.  They have vineyards in the village of Cumieres, a place where Pinot Noir seems to do especially well.

The winery is now located in the town of Ay and it's a new gravity-flow designed winery to allow for a more gentle handling of their base wines.  The first harvest in the new digs was that of 2008.

We understand they have something like 14 hectares of vineyards, mostly in Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, but with a small amount of Chardonnay, too.  There's even one patch where they're cultivating not only these three "normal" varieties, but the "forgotten" varieties of Petit Meslier and Arbanne (you might also find some Pinot Blanc here and there in old Champagne vineyards).

The Geoffroy family makes a full range of Champagnes (and even a red table wine), but it's their spectacular Rose Champagne of which we are so fond.  The wine is typically made entirely from Pinot Noir.  Sometimes there's a bit of Pinot Meunier in the base wine, but unlike so many rose-colored Champagnes, it's not a Chardonnay-based wine with a small addition of red wine to get the color "just so."   Geoffroy is a fanatic about making the wine as a delightfully pink-colored wine and they seem to get it right every year.  
The reason so many vintners prefer to make the wine from Chardonnay and blend in a bit of red wine is they wish to avoid the base wine from having tannin.  The astringency from tannin combined with the carbon dioxide would make the wine have the shrillness of fingernails being dragged along a chalkboard.

But Geoffroy seems to have perfected the recipe and we've enjoyed this wine, year after year.
The juice spends two days or two and a half days in contact with the grape skins.  This produces a wine of immense Pinot fruit and the color is beautiful, as well.

Geoffroy, on a visit to San Francisco some years ago, mentioned that he "makes rose first and then turns it into Champagne."  The notion is that Geoffroy strives to make a wine that's bright, fresh and oh-so-fruity, rather than aim for a classically yeasty, biscuity Champagne which happens to have some pink color.   As a result, the aging of the wine "en tirage" is relatively short as they want to showcase the grape.

A malolactic fermentation is blocked, too, as they want to retain as much 'snap' and zesty acidity in the wine as possible.  This is a "Brut" Champagne and the wine finishes dry on the palate.  It's become rather popular and when the local importer receives the latest release, it seems to vanish rather quickly.

 


They have a couple of traditional Champagne presses in their new cellar...


The Cellar Man at Geoffroy shows off a bottle that's "in progress."
Holding it up to the light, you can see the "spent yeast" sediment...the bottle, once on the riddling rack, starts to clarify as the yeast settles against the crown cap.
The bottle necks, once the wine is clear, are frozen and opened, the pressure in the bottle forcing out the yeast 'plug'.


Tasting the new bottling of Rose Champagne...

 

Currently in stock:  RENE GEOFFROY BRUT ROSE (list $74)  SALE $64.99 (750ml bottles)
RENE GEOFFROY BRUT ROSE $34.99 (375ml bottles)

 

 

CAMILLE SAVES

The history of this wonderful producer begins in the late 1800s when Eugène Savès married Anaïs Jolicoeur.  He was an agricultural engineer and her family had been making wine.  Their son Louis inherited the family business and his son Camille took over before handing the reins to his son Hervé.
 
I had tasted one of their Champagnes at a trade tasting and the wine stood out from its peers.  There was "something" there which struck me as unusually complex and enchanting.    I bought a bottle and took it to a restaurant where it was shared with some wine business friends.  Oh, did it taste good after a long day of hectic holiday season business!  But a day later, at another dinner with wine friends, I saw precisely how fine the Camille Savès "Carte Blanche" Champagne was (is) when we opened some bottles of one of the "big" houses.  As we slowly made our way through two different bottlings of "factory" Champagne (Charles Heidsieck, an old favorite, has a new bottling and the bunch of us were all disappointed to see they're going in what we felt is "the wrong direction"), I thought back to just 24 hours earlier we'd had such a fabulous bottle:  beautifully biscuity on the nose, snappy and dry on the palate, with crisp acidity and a beautifully 'steely' character.  
Champagne drinking is often about 'perspective.'  Most people can't discern the difference in bubblies and nearly everything tastes good or it tastes bad.  The carbon dioxide combined with some acidity (and maybe some sugar) clouds the palate and so sparkling wines are amongst the most difficult to 'taste.'

We hear things such as "I don't usually like Champagne, but this WAS GOOD!" when they've found something with a high dosage and sugar level that makes the wine taste okay to a neophyte palate.  Or we hear "I didn't like it because it was really vinegary," meaning they interpreted the marked level of acidity as being too 'sour' and the dosage was too low to cover up that acidic 'bite.'  
 
Well, the Camille Savès is delicious Champagne for those who appreciate Champagne.  For those whose taste runs to Clicquot's "orange" label or Moet, this may be a real revelation or you may be disappointed.  Like they say on those TV ads for automobiles, "Your mileage may vary."
 
The cellars at Camille Savès are clean, orderly and well-maintained.
 

Hervé shows off the blend for the base wine of his Carte Blanche Champagne:
75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay...coming from vineyards in BY, ABY, TSM and TX (abbreviations for the localities where their vineyards are situated.
 
A Champagne industry insider told me the 2012 base wines should be extraordinary and that it is potentially a "hall of fame" vintage.  "If you can taste some wines from tank, be sure to do so!"
I was delighted Hervé wanted to show off his various cuvees and they were, indeed, impressive in character and structure.


Being in the town of Bouzy, a 'cru' famous for its Pinot Noir, it was particularly interesting to taste a red wine which Hervé will blend with a white base wine to produce a Rosé.
"I usually have to blend 10% Pinot to get the right balance," he explained.  "But in 2012, the wine is so intense, I'll blend in but 8%."

There's an impressive cellar full of bottle of Champagne aging 'en tirage.'


Showing off a bottle that has undergone its secondary fermentation and is now aging and developing on the 'dead' yeast cells.


Now the trick is to remove the yeast cells from the bottle...and that's where they 'jiggle' the bottles on a riddling rack or in a gyropalette to move the yeast into a compact sediment resting against the crown cap.

 


Gyropalettes for 'riddling' the Champagne.

But Camille Savès does still employ riddling racks...

...as Hervé swiftly demonstrates.

We have the Carte Blanche in stock presently.  Yum!

But the Vintage Brut here is excellent (all from Bouzy, so it's a Grand Cru Champagne)...and the top-of-the-line bottling, the Cuvée Anaïs Jolicoeur is wonderful, as well.  

Currently in stock:  CAMILLE SAVÈS "Carte Blanche"  SALE $59.99

 
 




 

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