Champagne, Champagne, and more Champagne (my recipe for success!)
Picking up where we left off - the last few days in Champagne all seem like a blur. My notebook is crammed full of over 165 tasting notes. This IS what I do for a living! I've learned over the years to pace out the tastings and have small bites food throughout the day, so as not to completely fatigue the palate. I came close after a day of five appointments, the last of which was to taste the new 2015 Vins Clairs at Laherte Frères. Aurélien Laherte has 80+ different lots in his cellar, and left to his own devices he would have me taste them all. I begged off after about 20 or so. It is amazing to see the clear differences in terroir from adjacent plots and from different villages. These 2015s are going to make some amazing Champagnes in a few years - there's a depth of flavor I've rarely seen in the base wines. Aurélien's dad Thierry said he has never seen the Pinot Meunier reach levels of ripeness like this in his lifetime - they were picked at nearly 11% alcohol (Meunier struggles to get past 9.5% normally.)
I started the day across the river in Cumiéres with cult Champagne god Vincent Laval. To say the tasting is never disappointing there would be the understatement of all time. The Georges Laval Vins Clairs are better than most of what's in the cellars in Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault right now. Somehow it's almost a shame to turn these into Champagne, because they are mind-blowingly great as still wines (and you absolutely cannot say that about any other Champagne producer I know of.) There will in the coming years be a little more wine available here - Vincent will be taking over 1.25 acres in Cumières from his uncle soon, and has just added a new small parcel in Chambrecy that combined will ultimately increase his production to a whopping 1,000 cases or so. The best news, perhaps the best news in my years in this business, is that for the first time ever we will shortly be getting a small allocation of the Laval Rosé Brut Nature. In a word, holy shit! Based on the 2013 & 2012 harvests, it's 50-50 Pinot Noir and Meunier, and offers up the most delicious combination of fruit and delicate aromas I've ever encountered. This is one of those "unicorn wines" - you hear it talked about all the time, but no one's ever actually seen it. I'm here to tell you it exists, and it rocks. Watch for the offer soon...
As I mentioned last year, Marc Chauvet has dropped out of the "Special Club" - they have continued producing the wine that used to be their Club bottling, but it will now be called "Initiales", and the first vintage is 2008. Just over 400 cases were produced - it's 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, and deftly dosed at 6 grams/l. 2008 was a superb vintage, and I'm excited to be offering this wine soon - it's exceedingly fine and elegant and a great continuation of the lineage.
I tasted at four potential new producers to add to the Caveau family. As with anything, you have to kiss a lot of frogs, as they say. I think I may found a winner or two - I can't really say any more until the deals are done, but I'm pretty pumped.
Thanks to you, our Caveau Extra-Brut has been a huge success! It was the realization of a dream to produce a small cuvée in collaboration with Sophie Cossy. Everyone seems to be very happy with the results, so we're going to continue the program - and possibly add a new Rosé bottling to the line as well. I spent most of the day yesterday with Sophie working on our next release, the Caveau Extra-Brut based on the 2009 harvest, with 25% reserve wines from 2008 & 2007 in the final blend. 35% Pinot Noir, 40% Meunier, and 25% Chardonnay, all from Sophie's 1er Cru vineyards in Jouy-lès-Reims and Pargny-lès-Reims. As always, the most fascinating piece of the puzzle is the dosage trials. We tried everywhere from 1.6 to 5 grams per liter, and it was really clear to me that the version dosed at 2.4 grams hit the sweet-spot. Just to make sure, I tasted all the versions blind one more time, and again chose the 2.4 grams version. I love the minerality, and the way the fruit presents itself. Rich but refined - I think this may be a hair better than the first cuvée we released. Sophie will disgorge it in the coming weeks, and we'll have it in the US in the spring. As we did the last time around, I'll be offering it exclusively on pre-arrival, so be sure to watch your email for the upcoming offer.
Sophie surprised me by bringing a bottle of our original Caveau Extra-Brut to lunch. We enjoyed it with some yummy pork and potatoes at a great little bistro in the village of Geux just outside of Reims. Great stuff!
The big news at Cossy is that Sophie and Cédric (vigneron at Champagne Moussé in Cuisles) have collaborated on a tremendous new cuvée that will be coming soon under the Cossy label. It's named "l'Instant", a Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature from the 2010 harvest, aged in an oak foudre, and only 1,500 bottles produced. Five years on the lees, it's being released in France for the holidays, and we'll have some here in the spring. I am so stoked to see Sophie pushing the envelope and getting daring and creative, The wine is drop-dead gorgeous. More details (and an offer) soon...
Thanks to wine writer Caroline Henry in Reims for turning me on to Au Bon Manger, a great charcuterie-cheese-wine bar in the Forum neighborhood in Reims. They specialize in all the cool, cutting-edge organic and Biodynamic Champagne producers, and source all of their goods from the absolutely most impeccable sources. It is essentially the Champagne equivalent of La Dilletante in Beaune. I loved it and highly recommend it.
I am now back in Volnay, with one more day here on the Côte before I head back to Portland for the holidays. It has been a hugely successful trip, and I can't wait to share all these great wines with you. Thanks for being part of the adventures!