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CHAMPAGNE 3

 

 

EMMANUEL BROCHET

If you get in your car in Reims and drive maybe 15 minutes south towards the Autoroute de l'Est, you might find the well-off-the-beaten path village of Villers-Aux-Nœuds  (take the Route de Damery, if that helps).

Once upon a time, this town was carpeted with grape vines, but today they're down to maybe 30 hectares (in the late 1800s there were more than 200 hectares under vine).  And the town is classified as a Premier Cru site, though some may taste the Champagne of Emmanuel Brochet and wonder why it's not a Grand Cru.

This is a rather new enterprise, though the vineyards have been in the Brochet family for more than a few generations.  The vineyards had been rented to others and only in 1997 did Emmanuel Brochet start his sparkling wine adventure.

At this writing he farms two-and-a-half hectares of vineyards, with Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and a bit of Pinot Noir.  With Brochet cultivating his own vineyards, organic farming is currently being employed simply because he believes "it's the right thing to do."  

We tasted a rather impressive wine called "Le Mont Benoit."  Brochet seeks balance in the wine and he's still refining his "recipe," sensitive to the quality of the fruit each year provides.  

The bottling we have is predominantly from 2008 with a small percentage from 2007.  A bit of the base wine sees oak and a portion may undergo a malolactic fermentation.  

We like the character of this wine...mildly yeasty and toasty with a fresh, bright apple note.  It's a wine I suspect will develop beautifully with more time in bottle, but it sure is tasty right now!

Currently in stock: EMMANUEL BROCHET "Le Mont Benoit" Extra Brut $71.99

 

 

 

H. BILLIOT

We'd long been fans of this little winery in beautiful "downtown" Ambonnay.  The Billiot family owns a mere 5 hectares of vineyards in the Grand Cru town of Ambonnay.  They cultivate, primarily, Pinot Noir, though 25% of their holdings are devoted to Chardonnay.


Their base wines do not undergo a malolactic fermentation, so the wines tend to be fairly bracing on the palate and dry.  


Once the secondary fermentation has finished in the bottle, the yeasts die and form a sediment.
Aging the wine on this sediment gives the wines a measure of complexity.  Some producers leave the wine in contact with this sediment for the minimum 12 months while others have a 3 or 4 year aging cycle. 


The cellars are fairly cold, so they simply take bottles from the bin, stored upside down having been 'riddled' on the gyropalette and place them, one by one, in the one-bottle-at-a-time disgorging machine.

(Most producers freeze the necks of the bottles before disgorging them...)

 


Billiot's disgorging machine handles one bottle at a time to take off the crown cap and expel the yeast plug before topping off the bottle with its 'dosage.'


Those are the just-removed crown caps from the freshly-opened bottles.

Then the bottles are corked and the wire hood tied on to them...

And then they affix a label to the bottle, dress it up with a capsule and neck band and have a final inspection before putting them in boxes.

 

We typically have the Billiot "Brut Reserve" in the shop...a silver label...they typically blend wine from three vintages for their base wine.  Normally it's 75% Pinot Noir and the rest is Chardonnay.  It's matured on the yeast for at least 2 years, maybe more, depending upon the wine.  (Many of the large houses routinely proclaim they have a three year aging cycle for their Champagnes...but if you taste the wines, you'd be hard-pressed to imagine such fruity sparkling wines are actually spending three years "en tirage.")
It's dry and nicely crisp with a fairly full-bodied character...and we've found the wine seems to improve with a bit of aeration!   
(I've seen some Champagne producers actually open a bottle and pour it into a decanter to splash it around, saying this improves the wine.  We've enjoyed some bottles of Billiot's Brut Reserve, noting that it, too, seems to get better with a bit of time in the glass.  Curious.

 

Currently in stock:  H. BILLIOT Brut Reserve CHAMPAGNE  $54.99

 


I wondered if some marksman from Ambonnay was taking pot-shots at Bouzy...

 

 

 

 

 

PIERRE PETERS

Pierre Peters is a small house located in the town of Le Mesnil, a bastion of Chardonnay (as you may know).

The Peters family has been in Le Mesnil since the mid-1850s and since perhaps 1919 they've offered bottles of wine for sale with their name on the label.

These days it's run by Rodolphe Peters, the 6th generation.

Champagnes from this estate are refined and wines of finesse, though there's a nice depth to them.   Their vineyards are in Le Mesnil, Oger, Avize and Cramant, all "Chardonnay" sites.  A couple of informational tidbits:  Peters conducts its primary fermentation without regulating the temperature...it's all serendipitous!  And, he prefers to put the base wines through a secondary, malolactic fermentation.

The entry level wine is a multi-vintage blend of those Grand Cru sites and Peters indicates he likes to blend some older "reserve" wine into the youthful base cuvee. He's got a sort of "solera" system for blending the base wine of the basic "non vintage dated" Champagne, so it's an interesting technique in making Champagne.
 The wine ends up, then, being medium-light bodied with a nice youthful 'snap' to it, but there's an element of complexity and length on the palate.  

The star of the show is a bubbly called Les Chetillons.  It's not made every year and it's a vintage dated Champagne coming from 3 parcels in Le Mesnil.  These sites were replanted in the late 1960s and Peters ferments the juice in stainless steel, leaving the wine on the spent yeast.  It spends something like 5 or 6 years in bottle, aging "en tirage."  
We have a few bottles of the 2006 and 2007 in stock.  Both are Champagnes of "character."  They're wines to savor and think about, not just for raising a glass and quenching a thirst...
The 2006 is nicely toasty and creamy with chalky notes.  Quite dry, too.  The 2007 has a faintly spicy note and a touch of that minerality we find in the 2006...Both these vintages may be cellared for additional development and complexity.

Currently in stock:  PIERRE PETERS "Non-Vintage" GRAND CRU BRUT CHAMPAGNE  $59.99
PIERRE PETERS 2006 "LES CHETILLONS" CHAMPAGNE  $124.99
PIERRE PETERS 2007 "LES CHETILLONS" CHAMPAGNE  $134.99

 

 

 

 

 

LOUIS ROEDERER
This famous firm traces its history back to a monumental year for the USA, 1776.  The company didn't commence under the Roederer name...that change took place in 1833 when Louis inherited the establishment from his uncle, Nicolas Schreider.  Louis, it seems, had an ego rivaling that of numerous Napa Valley vintners of the 1990s and early 2000s...

Louis and his brother Eugene, along with a sales and marketing guru named Hugues Kraft, worked diligently to promote the Roederer wines and sales grew from a "mere" 100,000 bottles to 700,000.

By the year 1872, "King" Louis the Second was a major mover and shaker in Champagne (and beyond).  Sales tallied to 2.5 million bottles and more than 25% of that was being sold in Russia and something close to 16% was coming to the USA.

Louis II, though, passed away in 1880 at the tendeer age of 34.  His sister Leonie and her hubby Jacques Olry took over the firm and their kids took over in succeeding years.  One of the heirs, Leon Olry-Roederer had numerous hurdles to overcome:  World War I put a damper on sales, as did Prohibition in the US of A.  Oh...then there was the stock market crash in the US, along with the Depression.  Leon died, leaving the business in the hands of his widow, Camille.  She ran the place for another 40 years, putting the company back on its feet.

 
Camille's grandson Jean-Claude Rouzaud, who'd studied enology, assumed the helm in 1979.  Being a capable winemaker, JC's interest was in making quality wine instead of simply being a producer and mass-marketer.  It was his leadership which has put the Louis Roederer name amongst the leaders in terms of good quality and producing serious quantities of wine.  Rouzaud's son Frederic has run the firm since 2006 and they still seem to have high aspirations, thank you.  And the empire has expanded over the past couple of decades...they own Ramos Pinto in Portugal, Delas in France's Rhone Valley, along with Chateau de Pez and Pichon Lalande in Bordeaux.

Of course, the firm made a substantial investment in California back in the 1970s.  They asked their California importer, who worked with some good vintners (a fellow named Robert Mondavi, for example) to investigate if there was someplace in the Golden State to produce good sparkling wine.   And they embarked on a research mission, finally settling on Mendocino's cool climate Anderson Valley as just the spot.

The company is famed for its Cristal Champagne, a wine first made in the late 1800s at the request of Russian Czar Alexander II.  Roederer produced a special wine from selected vineyards and offered it in a unique crystal bottle.  It is still produced today, of course, being amongst the elite status symbols of wealth and sophisticated taste.  The wine has long been "in demand" and allocated, but the recent economic turmoil of the 21st century has made it somewhat easier to acquire.

It's apparently "currency" in the drug trade, so we get requests for Cristal several times a week.  Usually there are e-mails asking if we carry this and they always want 24 or 36 bottles.  These must be shipped to a far away location and the would-be criminal wants to "pay" for the wine using stolen or compromised credit card numbers.  

At one point, the California distributor was brow-beaten by a state Assembly or Senate member, who claimed they would hold hearings to see if the Champagne was being unfairly allocated geographically and demographically.  Well, let's see...Cristal was selling for well more than $200 a bottle, so it's not likely the wine was going to be easy to find in the corner grocery store.  In the interim, the economic downturn makes Cristal easier to acquire...if you have a couple Ben Franklins burning a hole in your wallet.

Cristal is usually released when it's six to ten years of age.  A small percentage of the base wine is wood aged and has had the lees stirred to give it more body and complexity.  They block the malolactic fermentation and Cristal is usually a bit citrusy, light and crisp.  We find they do well with "time on the cork" and become more complex if allowed to evolve in bottle.  
It's not been a wine which fares well in blind-tasting, usually being aced out by Bollinger and Krug wines, which tend to be fuller and bigger.


Roederer's entry level bottling is labeled "Brut Premier."  This is a very good example of non-vintage Brut Champagne.  We find it a shade or two less intense and less toasty than Charles Heidsieck's, but still quite good.  It's quite superior to Clicquot's "yellow" label wine which has become so popular.
The Brut Premier is usually approximately 40% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay with 20% Pinot Meunier.  They claim it's aged en tirage for three years and given the mildly toasty notes of the wine, it's probably close true.  The dosage tends to round out the wine on the palate and it is rather dry without being austere.  

Roederer also makes a good vintage dated Brut Champagne.  We carry the Clicquot because so many of the customers in our area are label conscious.  But for a "step up" in quality from a normal non-vintage Brut, we've found Roederer's to be a reliably good, honestly-made Champagne.  The wine is usually 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.  It's matured for 4 years on the spent yeast and the dosage is low, so you'll find nicely toasty, biscuity aromas and the wine is fuller and deeper than the normal, non-vintage Brut Champagne.  Unfortunately this took a substantial price increase recently and we'd have to sell this for more than $50 a bottle...so we stopped carrying it for the time being.

Roederer also makes a slightly sweet Champagne called "Carte Blanche."   In fact, in France you can apparently buy it in three degrees of sweetness.  Here in the US market we see but one version (how many do we need, anyway?).  This is slightly sweet, but far drier than, say, an Asti Spumante or the fruity bubblies we have from Bugey or Die in the French Alps.  At the moment, we do not have this in stock.  Easy to special order, though we'll soon make it a regular feature here.

We neglected to mention Roederer's Rose Champagnes.  There's typically a Brut Vintage Rose available...and the Cristal Rose, which costs a small fortune.  Both are made using the saignee method, rather than simply blending a drop of red wine into a vat of "white."  These are very fine and usually over-looked.  The Vintage Brut Rose is simply overshadowed by other producers and the Cristal Rose is so far out of the price range of most people...well....

Currently in Stock:  ROEDERER NV Brut Sold Out
ROEDERER NV Brut half bottles Sold Out
ROEDERER 2004 VINTAGE BRUT  Sold Out
ROEDERER 2006 CRISTAL  SALE $219.99  (to go)   $240 (shipped/delivered)
Cristal Rose and Magnums are periodically in stock...


**************************************************

 
 



VEUVE CLICQUOT
Here's one of those brands of Champagne that's a major success story from a marketing standpoint, but there's plenty to debate in terms of the quality of their wines.

The firm has an interesting history, centering on the widow ("Veuve" in French) beginning in the late 1700s.  The son of the founder was married to Nicole Barbe Ponsardin but he died when was just 30 years of age.

Francois Clicquot's father, the founder, was too old to run the firm so it appeared the business would simply have to be sold.  But the Veuve Clicquot said "Guess again" and she took control of running the company.  This was well before Susan B. Anthony or Betty Friedan and there are no accounts of Nicole Barbe burning her bra.

The company was then known as Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin to those who could manage such a mouthful.  Imagine trying to export your wine around Europe when you had to contend with that little fellow Napoleon trying to conquer the world, too!  Ms. Clicquot Ponsardin waited for a lull in Napoleon's comings and goings and in 1811 she shipped a bunch of wine to Russia, a once viable market until all the battling had begun.  Lucky for her the wine made it to Moscow, apparently, and she was even paid for her products which helped grow the company.  

The Veuve, though, is also credited with developing a major Champagne production innovation:  she and her cellar rat developed a protocol to help remove all the nasty sediment that was floating around in bottles of Champagne.  The legend is she drilled holes in a table and they set bottles in these, upside down to allow the sediment to collect on the cork.  Then the task was to expel the sediment and allow the remaining wine to be "clear" and free of floaties.
They eventually continued to improvise and came up with the A-framed sort of "racks" which are today known as riddling racks.  Of course, these days, the process of "riddling" has been further refined and producers often use gyro-palettes to shake, rattle and roll the bottles.

Nicole and her husband, though, had one child, a daughter named Clementine.  Her husband was a carefree character and there are stories suggesting he helped spend the company into a poor financial state.  An employee, though, had some deep pockets and he infused the firm with much-needed money and, as a result, Monsieur Eduoard Werle ran the firm from the 1840s through 1884.  At that time Eddie's kid Alfred ran the company.  Clicquot was still family-run through the mid-1980s when a fellow named Henriot, of Henriot Champagne in fact, became a shareholder in the firm.  Joseph Henriot became the chairman of the firm and they eventually cashed out, selling it to the humungous Louis Vuitton-Moet-Hennessy company.
 

An old print ad for Clicquot Champagne by the Joseph Garneau company...
Imagine they were selling 1923 and 1926 vintages!


So today Moet et Chandon, along with its luxury bottlings of Dom Perignon, are related to Clicquot.  So it the large brand called Mercier.  And Chandon, of course, has production facilities for bubbly around the world, one of them being in our backyard in the Napa Valley.  A few years ago they took over the prestigious house called Krug (not Charles Krug in Napa!) and so LVMH has a nice stable of trophies.  Ruinart, too.

Though Champagne firms claim they age their non-vintage Brut Champagnes for three years on the spent yeast, a skilled taster would be hard-pressed to confirm this when evaluating fruity, cidery Champagnes.  And most Champagne firms will claim they do not tailor their wines to particular markets, adjusting the sweetening dosage to suit the requirements of the marketing department.  

Nobody, but nobody, speaks of the sale of bottles of Champagnes, sold sur lattes.  This is where a firm simply buys bottles of Champagne, already in progress, and finishes the task of aging, disgorging and labeling.  We purchased, some years ago now, some Clicquot from an importer who purchased the wine in Europe and we opened a bottle, side-by-side with the wine sold through normal channels here in the U.S.  The corks "inflated" to an identical state, suggesting both had been disgorged at a similar point in time, but you'd have to have a lead palate to not be able to discern the differences.

The bottle from the Euro-sold batch was creamy, toasty, appropriately yeasty and dry.  The "American market" bottling was more reminiscent of apple cider as it lacked the yeasty/toasty complexities and the wine was fruity and not as dry.  

So with LVMH owning so many houses and being able to buy wine that's pre-made, consumers might begin to question who makes the wine bearing the famous "yellow" label.  ((In fact, an industry insider mentioned Clicquot buying some very good non-vintage Champagne from a quality-oriented producer who was in dire financial straits...this helps explain why the bottlings are so variable.))


We taste Clicquot's Champagne several times during the year, typically, and we find the character seems to vary.  Yet, if you pose this question to producers, they always claim it's in their best interest to produce a consistent product and that, yes, the Champagne they sell in Paris is identical to what you'll find in Tokyo, New York and London.

 
 
 

They call it "Yellow Label," though most people would judge the color to be orange.

But the French describe the yolk of an egg as the "jaune" or "yellow."

And so Clicquot's label is described as being a "yellow" label.

 

 


 

So, what does the current bottling of Clicquot taste like?  The most recent taste we had was a mildly fruity, very faintly yeasty sparkling wine.  It was acidic and showed some green apple notes on the palate.  We suspect many consumers don't pay much attention to the aromas and flavors...they're more enthralled with the label and the "image" of Clicquot.

We've heard that they buy a lot of bottles of Champagne "sur lattes".  This means the quality of the wine is dependant upon who made it, from what fruit (grown where), etc.  This may account of the somewhat variable character we've found in bottles of Clicquot's entry-level Champagne.  

The 2004 Vintage Brut is known as "Gold Label" and this wine is a medium-full bodied bubbly.  We find it to be rounder and softer than many other good Champagnes, so we suspect they've honing in on the taste of the typical Clicquot customer?  It's certainly more complex than their Yellow label.  

The non-vintage dated Rose is a mildly fruity bubbly...not really yeasty and complex, but still not intensely "Pinot"-like.  


The top of the line wine from Clicquot is called La Grande Dame and it is a lovely bottle of Champagne.

The first vintage was released in 1977 and was from the 1969 harvest.  The wine has always come in a distinctive bottle, which is somewhat of a guarantee that it's actually made by Clicquot.

La Grande Dame tends to be Pinot Noir-based and fairly full on the palate.  It's quite dry and rather elegant...you wouldn't know this was "related" to Clicquot's Yellow Label any more than you'd associate an Oenotheque bottling of Dom Perignon to a Moet Chandon Imperial.

 

 

 

These prices are for walk-in customers...bottles for "delivery" are slightly higher.

Currently in stock:  VEUVE CLICQUOT Yellow Label 750ml  SALE $49.99
VEUVE CLICQUOT Yellow Label  375ml  SALE $28.99
VEUVE CLICQUOT Yellow Label Magnum SALE  $109.99
VEUVE CLICQUOT Yellow Label  3-Liter SALE $289.99
VEUVE CLICQUOT 2004 Gold Label Brut SALE $79.99
VEUVE CLICQUOT Non-Vintage ROSE Brut SALE $61.99

VEUVE CLICQUOT 1990 La Grande Dame Sale $499.99


********************************************

 

RUINART
The Ruinart name traces its Champagne history back to the early 1700s and the place was still run by family members until 1963 when the firm was sold to Moet Chandon.

Founded by Nicolas Ruinart in 1729, a fellow whose uncle Dom Thierry Ruinart was a close friend of Dom Perignon.  

The wine first made its debut in the United States when President Andrew Jackson reportedly enjoyed bottles of Ruinart.  Whether or not Old Hickory paid for the bubbly himself or if he was simply given a case by one of the Ruinart family is not clear.  But, with news of the wine being served at The White House, it was soon fashionable and found in dining establishments along the east coast.

The Ruinart family managed the company through thick and thin, but by 1950 they were even thinner and needed some financial aid.  Bordeaux's Baron Philippe de Rothschild came to their rescue, but the Ruinart bank account was apparently in Ruin by 1963 and the company was sold to Moet.

 

 

 

An old magazine ad for Ruinart, probably circa 1935...


The wine had been periodically distributed in the United States, but it's only in the past few years that we've seen it available on a more reliable basis.

Ruinart Champagnes come in a special proprietary bottle.  As a result, consumers have some measure of assurance the wine is actually made by Ruinart.

The house style favors the Chardonnay grape.  

Their Non-Vintage Blanc de Blanc is a crisp, zesty Champagne with mildly yeasty tones and a lightly appley character.  It's rather dry and snappy.

They make a perfectly nice Rose Champagne as well.

Dom Ruinart is their top-of-the-line Champagne.  The 1996 is extraordinarily good.  Very fine and elegant with bracing acidity and mildly toasty fragrances and flavors.  It's not as full-bodied as some deluxe bottlings, but it is certainly exceptional Champagne.

Currently in stock:  RUINART BLANC DE BLANC CHAMPAGNE SALE  $69.99
1996 DOM RUINART CHAMPAGNE  Sale $189.99


 
 

 




TAITTINGER

 
The Taittinger name is that of a well-regarded Champagne firm.  Despite the house being an old one, the name Taittinger only became associated close to the 200th anniversary of the firm.

It was in 1932 when Pierre Taittinger bought the company.  They family had other interests, apparently, owning some fancy and not-so-fancy hotels, a perfume maker and a little outfit called Baccarat which makes crystal.

They sold the whole shebang in 2005, though, to an American outfit called the Starwood Capital Group.  They own a bunch of businesses, but sold the Taittinger Champagne company a couple of years back to the Taittinger family with the backing of a major French bank.  

The basic Non-Vintage Brut is a perfectly nice Champagne.  It's a bit on the lighter side, being less compelling, in our view, than Charles Heidsieck, Bollinger or Roederer.  

The top of the line bottling, though, has routinely been a reliable and high quality Champagne.  It's called Comtes de Champagne.
The wine honors Thibaud IV, who's credited with planting the first Chardonnay vines in France, supposedly in the 13th Century.  Taittinger happens to have a number of vineyards in Grand Cru sites which are planted to Chardonnay, hence the wine is a Blanc de Blancs bubbly.
A tiny percentage of the base wine is fermented in oak and then added back to the main part of the cuvee.  Once fermented in bottle, they tend to leave it in the cellar "en tirage" for 8 or 9 years and so the wine offers a beautifully toasty, yeasty character on the nose.  It's quite dry, nice and crisp and a good example of Champagne with finesse but also depth and a measure of complexity.  
 
Taittinger has commissioned famous artists to design packaging for their artist series of bottles.  
Some are rather attractive....others, not so much.

Currently in stock:  2004 TAITTINGER "COMTES DE CHAMPAGNE"  (List $200)  SALE $169.99


 
 
CHARLES HEIDSIECK
"Chuck" used to come to the U.S. regularly to sell the Champagne that had his name.  The firm was founded in 1851 and things started off nicely for Heidsieck and his brother-in-law partner Ernest Henriot.  He wound up in jail in New Orleans when Unionists found a letter from French manufacturers with offers to supply clothing to the Confederate army.   That took some fizz out of his Champagne!  The firm managed to survive and Charles got out of jail after a four month-stint.  

It was run by the Heidsiecks until 1976 when an Henriot took over.  In 1985 the company was sold to the Remy-Martin organization which owned Krug and Piper-Heidsieck at the time.  Remy found itself in a financial bind and sold off Krug and they recently unloaded both Piper Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck to a family-run company in France called EPI (Société Européenne de Participations Industrielles) for nearly $600 million!

EPI has numerous irons in the luxury goods "fire."  They make shoes, for one thing.  The company also produces men's shirts, as well.  

One day, without warning, the reliable bottling of Charles Heidsieck's Brut Reserve was unavailable (summer of 2012).  The distributor told us they were "re-formatting" the brand.  A few months later they had a new bottling in a fancy new bottle and a fancy new label.  Higher price, too.  Of course!

We had heard something about them increasing the level of "reserve" wines in the cuvee.  

We purchased a bottle of both the Brut and Brut Rose and got around to tasting them in November of 2012.  The Brut seemed low in acidity and 'flat' in terms of the base wine.  The Rose was closer to the mark for a non-vintage dated Brut Champagne, but it was not as good, in our view, as other Brut Rose Champagnes in its class and price range.  

As a result, we've stopped carrying this brand.

We hope they will have a serious look and reassess the Champagne.

On the other hand, we've seen glowing reviews from various critics regarding the new bottling, so perhaps we are simply out to lunch.

 
 

Currently in stock: Sold Out...Special Orders only.

 




OTHER FRENCH SPARKLERS


ALLIMANT LAUGNER
Hubert Laugner is a fan of good French Champagnes.  But he's not wealthy enough to drink those every day of the week, so he embarked on a sparkling wine project of his own.

We're fans of his "Rose" bubbly, a wine from Pinot Noir vineyards in northern Alsace.  

This wine is made 400 kilometers away from Reims in Champagne and it's about $40 away from similar quality Brut Roses from the same region.

Laugner bottle ferments the wine in the manner of Champagne and the dosage is minimal, creating a fine quality bubbly which carries a sensible price tag.  The aromas offer hints of red fruits and there same notes come through on the palate.  The wine is beautifully bubbly and hard to beat for quality and value.  

We've noticed Hubert's Cremant has been getting more attention from wine critics in Europe, so the secret is out.  Happily, he's held the line on the price.
 
Currently in stock:  ALLIMANT LAUGNER CREMANT D'ALSACE ROSE  $19.99 (don't forget---the standard case discount brings this to $17.99 and it's even less on a cash/check/debit card & carry sale)
 

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VITTEAUT ALBERTI
Gerard Vitteaut, who was once the mayor of the town of Rully, is best known not for his ability to run a public meeting, but for his wine and bubble-making prowess.

The winery was founded in 1951, if I recall correctly.  Lucien Vitteaut and his wife Maria Alberti started the place and focused on producing bottle-fermented sparkling wines.  Rully, after all, was well-known for its sparkling wines and had a long history of production.

It's said the earliest bubblies were produced back in 1826, or so.  The Petiot family is credited with making the first bubbly in Rully and it was dubbed "Fleur de Champagne."  They actually hired a kid from Champagne to come and help them make sparkling wine.

The appellation "Cremant de Bourgogne" is a fairly recent development and Gerard Vitteaut was instrumental in petitioning for and obtaining the AOC (appellation) for this wine.

Today there are several producers of Cremant de Bourgogne in Rully.  Producers around Burgundy ship tanks of still wine to Vitteaut, asking him to make bubbly for them.  Vitteaut-Alberti also makes its own sparklers and we visited recently to have a taste and see if anything is of interest.

In fact, the entry level wines are quite well made and nice.  But there's a top-of-the-line bottling Vitteaut named after his lovely daughter, Agnes.  That's Agnès in the photo.  She studied winemaking and joined the company in 2004.

Having been in the region of Champagne just a couple of days before visiting Burgundy, we had a pretty good benchmark when tasting their wines.  

The Cuvee Agnès is made entirely of Chardonnay from vineyards in both the Cote Chalonnaise and the Cote de Beaune.

The wine spends about 18 months in bottle on the spent yeast.  This accounts for the rather nicely toasty fragrances and the somewhat bready/biscuity character of the wine.  
Cuvee Agnès is also dry and there's a nice texture to the wine on the palate...

We find this to give some nice Champagnes a run for the money and it's, in our view, superior to many of the mass-produced, factory brands of Champagne.

Of course, none of your friends have heard of this winery or brand, so they won't be impressed when you present the bottle.
However, for people who can differentiate between 'serious' sparkling wine and fizzy plonk, this bubbly is well worth trying.

 

 

 

 

Our friend who imports this bubbly, recently brought by their Brut Rose and this is a delightfully striking wine.
I detected a fair bit of Pinot Noir character, which seemed curious, since many bubbly producers take the easy way out, adding a small percentage of red wine to their basic white blend to make a rose.
But Monsieur Charles Neal explained the wine is made entirely of Pinot Noir from various Cote de Beaune appellations.  
It's a lovely, berryish, dry sparkler that's ideal in warm weather as a cocktail wine, picnic wine or for service at a large gathering where bottles of Laurent Perrier's wonderful Brut Rose (roughly $80) won't be appreciated.
Your guests will appreciate this and so will your wallet!

 

 



Currently in stock:  VITTEAUT-ALBERTI "Cuvee Agnès"  $22.99
VITTEAUT-ALBERTI Brut Rose "Cremant de Bourgogne"  $19.99

 


Maria Alberti and Lucien Vitteaut


Grand-daughter Agnès

Here's an old label for their sparkling wine...

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