Emmanuel Lassaigne

Champagnes You Must Drink: New Bouchard, Lahaye, and Lassaigne, and a fresh face in Mesnil: Vergnon!

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Our friend Paul Grieco at his chain of wine bars called “Terroir,” bills a portion of his snack roster as “Things You Must Eat.” And it’s precisely that: an eclectic little list of assorted tasty morsels. As we look at our Champagne shelf going into the holidays, we see an assortment of new and tasty morsels from our favorite small growers, crying out to be drunk without delay.

fRecognized for his particular style of minimalist Champagnes, Cédric Bouchard makes wines that are unlike anyone else’s. His winemaking philosophy is essentially Burgundian: to exactly preserve the character of the vineyard. To that end, all of his wines are from a single parcel, a single vintage, and a single grape. He does his fermentations in steel, believing that wood adds something that wasn’t there before. (To me he described wood as being “like makeup.”) He never adds sugar to the wines, and they are bottled with less pressure than standard Champagnes (4.5 atmospheres versus 6.) While we have the utmost respect or his higher-end bottlings, we’ve always had a soft spot for Cédric’s Inflorescence, the 2010 vintage of which we have just received.

From Benoït Lahaye, subtle genius of Bouzy, we have several wines in stock, but let us draw your attention to a new release of his Brut Prestige Blanc de Noirs based on the stellar 2008 vintage. Benoït farms a tiny, five hectare Domaine in the southern Montagne de Reims. He has been certified biodynamic since 2008 and he ploughs the majority of his vineyards with his horse. His wines are incredibly elegant for Bouzy Grand Cru and, as much as we try, we cannot sufficiently sing their praises. 

From Emmanuel Lassaigne in Montgueux, uniquely positioned between the Côtes des Blancs and the Aube, we have the very last release of Rosé de Montgueux. Lassaigne had a parcel of Pinot Noir planted on chalk, the juice from which he used to make a Blanc de Noirs called “Papilles Insolites,” also to blend with Chardonnay in his Rosé. He recently uprooted his Pinot in order to replant the vineyard with massale selected Chardonnay, which means this is the last of his delicious Rosé, based on the zippy 2010 vintage.

Finally we welcome a new grower in Mesnil-sur-Oger: J-L Vergnon. Peter Liem tipped us off to Vergnon half a year ago, and it’s a delight to see the wines on our shelf. This five hectare Domaine is very much in transition since the arrival of the current winemaker: Christophe Constant, in 2002.  Since Constant’s arrival, there has been an increased emphasis on harvesting ripe grapes, abandoning chaptalization, lowering (if not eliminating) dosages, and avoiding malolactic fermentation. The results are very much to our liking: extremely dry yet richly styled wines that show off the distinct, abundantly chalky minerality of Mesnil. We hope you agree! Salut! -Sophie

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Bouchard, Cedric 2010 Champagne Infloresence Blanc de Noirs Val Vilaine R

This is an extremely pretty wine with luxurious yet delicate, creamy texture and notes of red and purple fruits on the nose. There's almost a quality of raspberries and cream about the wine in spite of its dryness, cut, and lingering minerality. As is often the case with Cédric Bouchard's wines, this feels effortlessly, perfectly dry but not overly austere. The wine is from a vineyard called "Val Vilaine" in Polisy, just a few kilometers away from Celles-sur-Ource where Cédric is based. Less than 1.5 hectares, the vineyard is owned by Cédric's father but worked by Cédric himself. Trust us; you want to drink this. (disgorged April, 2012)

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  • white sparkling
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  • $64.99

Lahaye, Benoît NV Champagne Blanc de Noirs

The first thing I noticed about this wine when I poured it in the glass was how incredibly fine the bubbles are. Certified biodynamic since 2009 and organic since 2007, Lahaye's Champagnes are a testament to what good vineyard work can do for a bottle of bubbly. On the nose, there's an initial burst of tangy yellow fruit such as mirabelle plum. Further nosing reveals a floral, raspberry note. More ethereal than rich, the wine maintains a certain level of vinosity while also being quite airy, lacy, and delicate. Constantly changing in the glass, this wine over-delivers for its price and offers a lot to contemplate. Dosed at 5 grams/liter. MSB

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  • white sparkling
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  • $69.99

Vergnon NV Extra Brut Grand Cru Mesnil "Eloquence"

There's something very special about the wines of Mesnil. It's a lasting, shelly, chalky minerality that tastes so good. It's a mineral note that lingers on the tongue long after the wine has been swallowed. Vergnon is a new Domaine for us at CSW, but we've been extremely impressed by the three wines we've tasted so far. This Grand Cru Mesnil "Eloquence" is based on the stellar 2008 vintage and the wine has the finish to prove it. Winemaker Christophe Constant has, since his arrival at the Domaine in 2002, begun harvesting riper grapes, eliminating the "need" for chaptalization. Constant prefers the wines without malolactic fermentation, with the result that this Extra Brut has bracing acidity to complement its richness. For sure this Domaine is one to taste and one to watch. -msb

 

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  • $46.99

Vergnon 2007 Mesnil sur Oger Grand Cru Brut Nature Confidence

This Grand Cru Mesnil from Christophe Constant comes from an old vine parcel and is vinified in barrel. It's bottled with out any added sugar, meaning that it's quite dry, yet rich and vinous with a hint of apple and toast to the nose. We are especially attracted to the wine's long and mouth-coating minerality. All around intriguing, this is a must try for lovers of Mesnil. -msb

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  • white sparkling
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  • $75.99