The Forgotten Dom.
Dom Perignon everyone knows. Dom Ruinart – not so much. Which is a shame as Ruinart is the oldest Champagne house (established in 1729 by Nicolas Ruinart in Reims). While Ruinart makes an excellent Non-Vintage Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($44.64) it is the vintage-dated tete de cuvee Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs that stuns. A recent tasting of the 2004 showed a wine too good to ignore.
DOM RUINART Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, 2004 ($129.99)
A 12% alcohol, 100% Grand Cru, 100% Chardonnay (Blanc de Blancs) blend from the Côte des Blancs (69%) and the Montagne de Reims (31%). Gold-straw in color and fully sparkling; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant phenolics. Fine, and quite elegant, but somehow juicy with citrus and tree fruit. Lovely feel and great flavors with fully integrated chalk-mineral and toasty yeast notes. Complete. Refreshing and delicious even as it satisfies. BearScore: 97.
I’m only a beer teetotaller, not a Champagne teetotaller. I don’t like beer. – George Bernard Shaw
At last Tuesday’s 2011 Bordeaux dinner we started with Delamotte Blanc de Blancs. Why? Why not? The elegant 100% Chardonnay Champagne was a delicate but satisfying prelude to the symphony of flavor that followed. I think everyone quite enjoyed it and I know I wish I had had a bit more, even with all the fine Bordeaux that followed.
DELAMOTTE Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, NV ($58.89)
Tech: A 12% alcohol, 100% Chardonnay Cote de Blancs (from the area around les Mesnil) Champagne made from base wines fermented in stainless steel tanks including the 10% of reserve wines that are utilized. It develops on the lees for 5 years prior to disgorgement, while the legal minimum is 15 months. Finished truly brut with a minimal dosage. Sensory: Straw in color and fully sparkling. Dry, medium-light-bodied with crisp acidity and scant phenolics. Fine, focused, supple. Citrus and mineral with yeast and real power. Lovely; elegant but engaging Champagne. Catches you with its elegance and vividity. Great tension. Vibrant in the mouth but ultimately satisfying. Perfect aperitif. BS: 94+.
Champagne is one of the elegant extras in life. – Charles Dickens
BONNAIRE is and long has been a favorite estate-bottler of fine Champagne from the Cotes de Blancs, With their production facility in Cramant and most of their vineyards in Cramant Grand Cru, they also have vineyards in Bergeres-les-Vertus (Premier Cru). I think of Bonnaire as a great source for fresh lively elegant Blanc de Blancs Champagnes. But then there is this Variance. Bonnaire Variance is a blanc de blancs but (unlike any of Bonnaire’s other cuvees) it is barrel-fermented and aged and goes through malo-lactic fermentation in barrels before the champenization process. Barrel fermentation and full malo-lactic are very unusual in Champagne and this is an unusual wine in that it has the elegance of chardonnay with the additional richness and depth that comes with the oak barrels as well as some roundness from the malo-lactic fermentation with all of that being enhanced by 68 months spent en tirage (on the lees) before disgorgement and another six months in the cellar before release.
BONNAIRE Brut “Variance” Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, NV ($41.79)
A 100% Chardonnay Champagne with 70% of the grapes coming from Cramant (Grand Cru) and 30% from Bergères-Les-Vertus (Premier Cru), fermented and aged in oak barrels with full malo-lactic fermentation prior to methode champenoise. 68 months on the lees before disgorgement. Finished with a dosage to bring it to a dry brut level of 6 grams of sugar per liter. Sensory: Seems almost a combination of fine bubbly and fine White Burgundy. The fruit is more in the lemony citrus range (typical of Blanc de blancs) but the mineral and oak are there as well. The mineral is Champagne’s chalk (The Cote de Blanc is the heart of Champagne’s chalk) rather than the Cote d’Or’s limestone. The oak is not new but the character of the barrels is there as a complement. The whole is a delicious, fresh but satisfying Champagne with a unique appeal. Delicious. BS: 94+.
Note: Due to its depth and richness, this is a blanc de blancs that transends aperitif status and can be used with food at the dinner table. Recommended serving temperature is 50-53°F.
CHAMPAGNE QUOTE: In success you deserve it and in defeat you need it. – Sir Winston Churchill
It is the Friday after New Year’s and the last thing most people are thinking about is Champagne. After all, you got your fill on New Year’s Eve, right? We had bubbles on New Year’s Eve and on New Year’s morning with breakfast celebrating the fact that we did not have hangovers from New Year’s Eve to which you may well say “Well then, you’re doin’ it wrong.” The best wine of New Year’s Eve was a magnum of 1988 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs which had been disgorged back in 1999 for the Millennium celebration and (obviously) had be kept properly. It was spectacular; developed and rich and quite Champagne-like. New Year’s morning breakfast brought a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut NV that tasted as good as any bottle of Clicquot Yellow Label I have ever had. Now the holiday is fading and … but wait, it’s Champagne Friday. So for that, we have LANCELOT ROYER Cuvee des Chevaliers Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, Champagne, NV. The producer – Lancelot Royer – is an estate bottler (récoltant manipulant) in the Grand Cru village of Cramant in the Cote de Blancs which is the best part of Champagne for Chardonnay and so this wine is a Blanc de Blancs (white wine from white grapes) which means it 100% Chardonnay. Lancelot Royer is a great believer in long-kept, fractionally-blended reserve wines aged in ancient German ovals – and it shows in the richness of his cuvees.
LANCELOT ROYER “Cuvee des Chevaliers” Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, Champagne, NV ($47.99)
100% Chardonnay all from chalky Grand Cru estate vineyards in Cramant in the Cote de Blancs. 25+% reserve wines, 48 months en triage in a damp chalk cellar. Straw in color, bright and clear and fully sparkling; dry, medium-bodied with crisp acidity. Nicely developed, ripe mixed citrus with a hint of tree fruit accented with chalky “children’s vitamins” chalky mineral terroir; long clean, finish. This is a toasty, yeasty, focused, rich Champagne offering citrus and spice and yeast. Classic Chardonnay bubbles with fine bottle development. Satisfying. Long and alive in the mouth. Delicious. BS: 95+. (I previously ran a not on this same wine but a different release on December 30, 2011.)
“I have had too little, and I have had too much, but I will never have enough Champagne.“– Jared M. Brown
PLEASE check the EVENTS PAGE for my upcoming WINE 101 class beginning January 6th at the Wine School and the annual 2011 CRU CLASSÉ BORDEAUX TASTING on January 21st at the Crystal Ballroom at the Rice.