Estate-Bottled Champagne (Well, Mostly)

Please join Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton at 7pm on Monday, November 20th at The Wine School at l’Alliance Française for Estate-Bottled Champagne. In Estate-Bottled Champagne, we will taste and discuss the range of interesting and sometimes idiosyncratic estate-bottled sparkling wines from Champagne. We will look at how they are made, their styles, and where and from what grapes they are made with a focus on each wine’s specificity. The tasting will start with a non-estate grand marque brut NV to serve as a baseline and will include one other negoçiant Champagne (the excellent Barons de Rothschild Blanc de Blancs). Everything else is estate bottled. All wines tasted will be served in Riedel Degustazione stemware. A selection of cheeses and bread will be offered.

The lineup includes:
Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV
JP Marniquet Brut Tradition NV
Bonnaire Brut Tradition NV
Jacques Picard Berru Brut NV
Chateau de Bligny Grand Reserve Brut NV
Camille Saves Carte Blanche Brut 1er Cru NV
Marcel Moineaux Chouilly Brut Blanc De Blanc Grand Cru NV
Bonnaire Variance Brut NV
Marcel Moineaux Chouilly Millesime Blanc De Blancs Brut Grand Cru 2008
Lancelot Royer Cuvee Chevaliers Champagne NV
Barons Rothschild Blanc de Blancs NV
Andre Clouet “Cuvee 1911” Brut NV
Godme Brut 1er Cru Les Romaines 2006
JP Marniquet Champagne 1995

Estate-Bottled Champagne will cost $80 per person (cash or check) or $84.21 (regular). To purchase your ticket, please contact Susan Coburn at 713-854-7855 or

L’Alliance Française is French Cultural Center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd., it is on the Southeast corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

If you buy a ticket and will not be able to attend, please cancel at least 24 hours before the class or you may be charged. Later cancellations will not be charged if we can fill the seat. This is often case as we regularly have waiting lists for these classes.

With 40 years in the wine business and 30-plus years experience teaching about wine, Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton is one of the top wine authorities as well as the most experienced wine educator in Texas.

More Classes Coming Soon:
11.27.17          Monday          Heitz Cellars tasting including 5 vintages of Martha’s Vineyard
12.04.17          Monday          Tete de Cuvee Tasting benefitting Sonoma fires relief
12.11.17          Monday          Sparkling Rosé (Mostly Champagne)
12.18.17          Monday          Wine School Christmas Party and Toy Gather
01.08.18          Monday          TBD
01.16.18          Tuesday          Big 2015 Bordeaux Tasting at Crystal Ballroom (Houston)
01.17.18          Wednesday     Big 2015 Bordeaux Tasting at Trinity Groves (Dallas)

The State of Champagne 2016

Sometimes I get a little bit crazy about some aspect of wine. Right now that aspect is Champagne. ‘Tis the season so I’ve but together a 40 page overview of the State of Champagne today with a particular focus on Grower Champagnes.

Please click below for a .pdf  which you can read on screen or print to read later.



CHAMPAGNE FRIDAY – JEAN LAURENT Blanc de Noirs Brut, Champagne, NV

I do try to do Champagne Friday on Friday but sometimes stuff gets in the way. This last Friday brought an inadequate bottle of bubbly (of which I will speak no evil) so I decided to use my note on a wine I tasted (well, drank) Thursday evening with Rupert Symington and some friends (aka “The Gang of Pour”) after our Vintage Port tasting. Yes, we were drinking Champagne AFTER a Port tasting. Shocking … but also quite refreshing. Come to think of it, by the time I finished sipping it – it may have been Friday. The wine was Jean Laurent Blanc de Noirs imported by Hand Picked Selections. Here is a bit about Jean Laurent (distilled from the excellent HPS website  – – where you will find more on my friend Dan Kravitz and his excellent Hand Picked Selections), my note on the latest release of this perennial favorite, and a Dorothy Parker quote.

For more than 1,000 years Jean Laurent’s family has been growing grapes near Celles-sur-Ource in the Aube, an outlying Champagne district south of Marne that shares the same chalky soils as the heart of Champagne and Chablis. Jean farms 39 acres, split between Pinot Noir (30 acres) and Chardonnay (9 acres), with no Pinot Meunier. The Aube is Pinot Noir country and Jean Laurents bread and butter is this Blanc de Noir, typically blended from three vintages, and aged a minimum of 3 years on the yeast. As an RM (Recoltant Manipulant or Champagne estate bottler), Laurent makes Champagnes exclusively from his own vineyards. While an RM Champagne is not guaranteed to be high quality, it is your best chance for site specificity and actual terroir in Champagne. Jean Laurent offers all of that and high quality and all at a reasonable price.

JEAN LAURENT Blanc de Noirs Brut, Champagne, NV
Tech Note: 12% alcohol. 100% Pinot Noir blended from three vintages with an additional three years on the yeasts (en tirage) after the bottle fermentation. Sensory: Medium pale gold in color and fully sparkling. This is a more developed cuvee than the last I had but it is still fresh, juicy, flavorful, ripe, and fruit-and-yeast oriented with notes of yeast and chalky mineral. The fruit leans to red fruit (more strawberry than other) with some lemon drop citrus. It is long, focused, rich, and lively in the mouth with good weight and a nice mousse.     Bear Note: Solid and delicious with a fine rich feel. Finishes clean and dry. Fine food fizz. (I can’t resist alliteration.) BS: 92+. ($45.00)

FINALLY, I leave you with a Champagne quote from my favorite quip-mistress, Dorthy Parker:
Three be the things I shall never attain: envy, content and sufficient Champagne.

CHAMPAGNE FRIDAY – J.P. MARNIQUET Brut Tradition, Champagne, NV

IT HAS BEEN a busy week. I had 25 Bordeaux winery reps (owners, directors, winemakers, etc.) in town for a 2009 cru classé tasting (more on which later) and all the attendant busy-ness that goes with that as well as a lot of other STUFF. So this is the very first chance I have had to post since last Champagne Friday. I was due, even over-due, for some Champagne but, as last week, had no late Friday appointment so I have had to soldier on alone. Now, you know I love Champagne but you may not know of my particular fondness for that toasty-biscuity note that come from Pinot Meunier. I don’t want it all the time but when I want it, nothing else will do. It is the Champagne equivalent of comfort food. So many people think of Pinot Meunier as an inferior grape but I think of it as a sort of guilty pleasure. And of course it is essential for lower-priced Champagnes intended to be drunk young. But I digress. This Friday’s Champagne is J.P. MARNIQUET Brut Tradition. Located in the Vallee de la Marne, J.P. Marniquet is a grower and estate bottler of Champagne I have been working with over the last four years. Spec’s carries three of the cuvées but the basic (and least expensive) cuvée – Brut Tradition – is a personal favorite for that particular Pinot Meunier-biscuit note. It was just what I needed.

J.P. MARNIQUET Brut Tradition, Champagne, NV
Tech Note: 12% Alcohol. A blend of a shocking 50% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Noir from an RM (recoltant manipulant) producer.      Sensory Note:  Straw in color,  fully sparkling. Dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity.  Toasty-yeasty-biscuity with lively lemony citrus and some red fruit with limestone mineral and a hint of spice. Really very long finish.      Bear Note: Delicious,  focused, fresh, alive-in-the-mouth. Really hit the spot. Yum. BS: 92.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that this is not one of Miss Carol’s favorites (but she will drink it in a pinch).

To paraphrase from “I love Paris”:
   I love Champagne in the summer.
   I love Champagne in the fall.
   I love Champagne in the spring and winter.
   But I love Champagne Friday best of all!