Our friend Zeva Bellel at Paris by Appointment Only has let us in on a great list of lesser known champagnes for 2010. Compiled by blogger and wine consultant Sharon Bowman, these bottles will help you kick off 2010 in style.
Illustration by Fabrice Fortin for Paris By Appointment Only™
Text by Sharon Bowman
One of the greatest pleasures in daily life is something that allows us to slip outside of daily life. Champagne transports us in a way that still wines do not. The distinctive sound of a cork popping, heard across a city courtyard or a bustling wine bar, immediately turns heads and piques desire and appetite. It conjures up images of pleasure and sparkling indulgence. But why let others have all the fun? It’s the holiday season, and now is the time to start (or continue) a happy little habit that will make any event a little more festive.
Honor bubbles by forgoing the easy route. Because taste and quirk are part of delight of champagne, there is no reason to rely on the glaring, well-known names on mass-market shelves. Here is a hand-picked selection of champagnes from today’s best new guard of growers. Alchemists of the grape, they turn pure chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier into sparkling gold.
Photos Courtesy of Thomas Iversen, Brooklynguy, and Gourmet Traveler
1. NV Jacques Selosse Rosé – Rethink your thinking about rosé champagne. Far from light and frivolous, this vinous beauty from renowned vigneron Anselme Selosse is both deeply marked by the terroir it comes from—the chalky, chardonnay-laden lands south of Epernay—and deepened by the small amount of Ambonnay pinot noir added to it for color and flavor. Mellow and full, this wine is swoon-inducing. Which, come to think of it, is appropriate to its color, after all.
2. NV Tarlant “Cuvée Louis” – One thing always to remember with champagne (and which talented producers prove again and again) is that champagne is wine, not some “other” form of beverage. With this in mind, why not make a bubbly that is unabashedly vinous in style? A blend of two older vintages with two younger ones makes up this rich yet spirited blend, which is further rounded by the judicious use of some old oak barrels.
3. NV Jacques Lassaigne “Vignes de Montgueux” – Champagne, however, is also about quick, sparkling refreshment. Here, you could not find a more apt embodiment of that ideal. A spirited bubble with a quick, mineral liveliness on the palate and the unparalleled finesse of the chardonnay grape (the sole one used in this cuvée) make for a dazzle of white fruit and flowers that will open your guests’ palates immediately. Plan on having more than one bottle on hand.
4. 2002 Diebolt-Vallois “Fleur de Passion” – Aging is an interesting question when it comes to champagne, which is often (correctly) seen as something sold ready to consume and not in need of further cellaring. But some bottles can go the distance and reward the patient wine lover. The 2002 Diebolt-Vallois “Fleur de Passion” is one of them. While already offering irresistible command and raciness, this will open with time, developing deeper and headier tastes. Hold. Drink. Enjoy.
5. 2004 Prévost “La Closerie” – The exciting thing about this young producer, who has only been making champagne for a decade, is that each year, he produces just one bottling. The climatic and other differences from one vintage to the next are a strong reminder that wine is a living, changing element. After tasting through the past five years of this single-vineyard, all–pinot-meunier offering, my heart was caught by the 2004, a lovely year which is currently drinking beautifully, with notes of quince and marzipan and a not-too-sweet lushness.
6. NV Vouette & Sorbée Blanc d’Argile – “Off the beaten track” is a good way to describe both of Bertrand Gautherot’s location, near Troyes—far south within Champagne region (whose hubs are Reims and Epernay)—and his soil, which includes clay. The mix of clay with the traditional chalk of the Champagne terroir gives a kind of earthy roundness and lushness to this wine, while organic farming and biodynamics make for lively and quirky fare.
7. 2006 Chartogne-Taillet Pinot Meunier – How lucky was Alexandre Chartogne to inherit a parcel of old-vines pinot meunier planted on their own rootstock? And doubly lucky for those who have a chance to try this rich offering by a talented young grower working in tiny quantities.
8. NV Drappier Brut Nature Sans Soufre – The trend in grower champagnes these days is more toward bucking the trend. Gone are the age-old shibboleths of mixed vintages (with the resurgence of single-vintage fare), blends of parcels and grapes. In a similar vein, Drappier has, for this bottling, done away with sulfur—a key element for the stabilization (and some would say, sterilization) of champagne and still wines. Though much more sensitive to storage conditions and unlikely to age well, the Brut Nature Sans Soufre is vibrant with life on the palate. Try tasting it side-by-side with its sulfured twin (the same bottling, only with sulfur) to see exactly what complexity unfurls when not tamped down by that additive.
9. 1999 Veuve Fourny Faubourg-Notre-Dame – Terroir is strongly evidenced by single-parcel wines, and this is one of my favorite. From Vertus, the southernmost village on the aforementioned Côte des Blancs stretching south from Epernay, this champagne is utterly of its place. A tiny parcel just next to the Fourny family estate, and vinified with care. Lovely, and particularly rooted in its land.
10. 2002 Huet Pétillant – Our tour of uncommon finds would not be complete without straying even farther from the straight and narrow. Here, we have in our hands (and in our glasses, if we’re lucky) a sparkling wine not from Champagne, but rather from Vouvray in the Loire Valley. 100% chenin blanc, with reserve wines from the best of Huets timeless cellars, this is gorgeously spicy, bready, complex, and age-worthy. Hands down the best bubbly not from the hallowed grounds of Champagne.
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