Champagne: What We’re Drinking Now…

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A few days ago our good friend, Mike Carleton of the small Connecticut-based import company, Transatlantic Bubbles, braved the worst snow storm of the season to bring us Champagne to taste. Low and behold, his bag was full of delicious wines that revived us from the torpor of dreary January with fine, energetic bubbles, and bracing minerality. In addition to the soulful Champagnes of Vincent Laval in Cumières, about which we’ve written extensively and often, we now receive from TB the wines of Laval’s neighbor, Fabrice Gass in Damery, and the excellent biodynamic Champagnes of Benoït Marguet in Ambonnay.

Fabrice Gass – a winemaker for Bollinger by day – has eight tiny plots of vines in Damery, totaling one hectare, which he farms and vinifies himself. (He makes less than 4,000 bottles a year and is – officially – our smallest-production Champagne grower to date.) Split between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, his base wines are matured in giant, old barrels, the largest and oldest we’ve seen in Champagne. All fermentations take place with native yeast, and as one might expect of a Domaine this size, riddling and disgorgement are done by hand. From time to time we find great correspondence between wines and their authors, and such is the case at Domaine Alexandre Filaine (Alexandre, who gives his name to the Domaine, was Fabrice’s grandfather). Possessed of a big and boisterous personality, strong opinions, and an abundant love for making and drinking Champagne, Fabrice’s wines show a breadth and power reminiscent of Bollinger, and are balanced and quaffable. He makes these wines to drink (preferably in large format as he feels that a 750 of Champagne is simply not enough wine…), and thankfully he’s been convinced to share.

Marguet Père et Fils, like several other favorite Champagne estates with young, fervent vignerons at the helm (Bérèche, Laherte, etc…), is changing for the better, and the quality of the wines is on the rise. The Domaine has a long history, dating back to the 19th century, when the Marguets experimented with grafting onto American rootstock in advance of phylloxera.  Today, Benoït Marguet, an avid proponent of biodynamics, seeks to revive the traditions of his mother’s side of the family, the Bonneraves, who’d produced estate bottled Champagne since the early 20th century. Three of Benoït’s 10 hectares are now certified biodynamic, with the remaining seven in conversion. With two of the largest horses we've seen to plough, and an ample array of biodynamic preparations to treat the soils: essential oils, tisanes, nettles, citronella, lavender, rhubarb, the young Marguet takes his commitment to this type of agriculture very seriously, and the results are beginning to show.  In the cellar, Marguet uses tanks for blending and storage of reserve wine, and barrels for fermentation. Today we highlight the stunning first release of Marguet’s single-vineyard “Les Crayères” bottling from one of the best vineyards in Ambonnay, as well as “Sapience,” a joint project between Marguet, Laval, Lahaye, and David Leclapart. These wines absolutely blew us away. Santé! -Sophie 

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  • 10 in stock
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  • $39.99

  • Organic
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Filaine (Fabrice Gass) NV Brut 1er Cru Damery Cuvee Speciale OLD

This wine is based on the 2009 and 2010 vintages and is a creamy and classical Champagne from the 1er Cru of Damery in the southern Montagne de Reims. The cepage is as follows: 45/35/20 -- Pinot Noir/Chardonnay/Pinot Meunier, and aromatically the wine offers warm Christmas spice, baked apple, and chalk. The wine sees several years of aging before disgorgement and has about seven grams of dosage. With no malolactic fermentation, there is no shortage of cut to balance its ripe and creamy profile. Fabrice Gass, the winemaker, works for Bollinger. This is his side project and he essentially makes these bottles to drink... so kind of him to share! MSB

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
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  • $49.99

Filaine (Fabrice Gass) NV Damery 1er Cru Cuvee Confidence

Essentially the same wine as Alexandre Filaine's Cuvée Speciale (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Meunier from Damery), Cuvée Confidence is based on slightly older vintages (2006 and 2007) and thus sees longer lees aging before disgorgement. Unlike Speciale, which is aged under capsule, Confidence is aged under cork before release, a more risky and costly process that allows for some very slow oxidation during aging. Confidence is rich, powerful, and expressive with savory and umami notes complementing the wine's delicious apple-iness and spice. MSB

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  • white sparkling
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  • $59.99

Marguet, Laval, Leclapart, Lahaye 2006 Champagne Sapience

Sapience is a collaboration between Benoit Marguet, Benoit Lahaye, Vincent Laval, and David Leclapart. The concept is to craft a Champagne using extreme biodynamic methods. This rendition of Sapience comprises Chardonnay from David Leclapart, and Pinot Meunier from Vincent Laval. The next version will have Pinot Noir from Benoit Lahaye. The wine is made in the cellar of Benoit Marguet, who is one of the most passionate biodynamic winemakers we've encountered. The base wine spends two years aging in Bordeaux barrels before the second fermentation in bottle. This is an exceptional bottle of Champagne, and one that warrants a special occasion. The nose is very rich with brown butter, green, fresh-cut grass, aloe, and fresh cream. The wine's earthiness made us think of Meunier, but in fact the wine has more Chardonnay in the blend. Dosed at 3 grams, the wine is absolutely perfectly balanced and seamless with great, toasty richness and lingering acidity and minerality on the midpalate and finish. A stunning bottle. MSB  

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Laval, Georges NV (2010 Base) Champagne Cumières Premier Cru Brut Nature

Domaine Georges Laval is the epitome of a tiny, artisan estate. The estate is just 2.5 hectares in the 1er Cru village of Cumières, close to Ambonnay and Bouzy but with full southern exposition. Vincent Laval makes a miniscule amount of extremely terroir-driven wine (we are one of the few places in NY offering Laval). The estate has been organic since 1971 and is certified with Ecocert. Fermentation takes place in barrel with indigenous yeasts; there is no fining, filtration or cold-stabilization, and minimal use of sulfur. It is 50% Chardonnay and then split between Pinot Noir and Meunier. This edition of the Cumières is based on the steely 2010 vintage. The wine smells like delicate wildflower honey and fresh cut grass. It's extremely mineral-driven and resonant on the palate, and very chalky on the finish. Brut Nature Champagne lovers dream come true... (disgorged April 2013)  MSB

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  • $84.99

  • Organic
  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
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  • $199.99