Pascal Agrapart’s Stunning 2007 Blanc de Blancs.

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Champagne lovers are beginning to care a lot about vintage, which is a testament to the fact that they are viewing Champagne as wine first and foremost. This is refreshing and mildly surprising because the vast majority of Champagne is bottled non-vintage, and it’s widely held that vintage-dated Champagnes should be made only in the best years. On the other hand, this heightened interest in vintage subjects Champagnes to the same black and white judgments we’re quick to form about other wines and regions: “2005 is a bad year; 2008 is a great year.” Of course this is a convenient way to narrow down the selection process when it comes to opening our wallets for these often quite pricey bottles. But we’re long-time subscribers to the idea that great winemakers flourish in “off” vintages, and that vineyard work regularly trumps the hurdles of climate.  

I’d observed at past tastings with Pascal Agrapart that he seemed to think all the vintages between 2002 and the present were great, but I didn’t remark upon it until my most recent visit in April. His explanation begins in the vines. Pascal Agrapart is fortunate that his father farmed organically before him (rather than treating the soil with herbicides), which is somewhat unusual as most Champagne vignerons from the previous generation preferred chemical to organic farming. The longer the soil is worked organically, the deeper the roots descend into the earth, and the less the vines struggle with surface issues such as drought and humidity. Agrapart is certainly not the first Champagne grower to tell me that when the roots go deep, there’s less vintage variation; in his words: “75% work in the soil, and 25% climate.” We began to speak about the famed 2008 vintage in Champagne, as “great” a vintage as they’ve seen since 1996. 2008 was an easy vintage in the vineyards; Agrapart remarked: “why would you only make vintage wine in years where you didn’t have to do any work!?!” In other words, one owes it to oneself and one’s hard work in the vines to make vintage wines in less-than-perfect years. The results of working the soil, and a deft hand in the winery are crystal clear in these beautiful 2007s from Pascal Agrapart.

With the recollection of my tasting and conversation with Agrapart in the forefront of my mind, I read about the 2007 vintage on Peter Liem’s superb website: champagneguide.net, and found the following comments: “Chardonnay seems to be the most consistent performer, as well as the most plentiful in yield … Overall, it will be a vintage that favors those who worked hard in the vineyards, and while vintage wines will probably not be widely produced, there should be some successful examples nevertheless, particularly from the Côte des Blancs.” The 2007s from Pascal Agrapart are not just amongst the best 2007s I’ve tasted, but amongst the best Champagnes I’ve encountered, ever. They are wines that have a distinct shape on the palate: round, circular, and mouth-filling on the front palate, showing Pascal’s preference for barrels in the cellar, coming to a fine and tapering pinpoint of sapid, rocky, and lightly bitter minerality on the finish. These are extremely limited, and will be allocated to the best of our abilities. You’ll find details on the individual wines below. Santé! –Sophie 

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Agrapart NV Champagne Blanc de Blancs "7 Crus" (10/11 base)

This is an excellent release of Agrapart's 7 Crus bottling. Upon first opening, the wine is delicate and lacy, chalky and floral, with notes of sweet lime flower and stone fruit. It's fresh, balanced, and easygoing. However, as the wine opens up it reveals all the Agrapart power and structure. If you share the bottle between two people, by the end, you'll have a very different wine, one that delivers lots of cut, mouth-watering acidity, and a seriously mineral-drenched finish. This wine comprises fruit from all seven villages where Agrapart has vines; unlike Agrapart's top wines, which see 100% barrel for the base wine, 7 Crus is partially made in tank. Terroir, organic farming, and a superb hand in the cellar shine through in this wine. (disgorged February 2014; dosage 7 grams) -Sophie Barrett

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $55.99

Agrapart NV Avize Grand Cru Extra Brut Complantée

This wine is based on the three classic Champagne varieties with the addition of Arbanne, Pinot Blanc, and Petit Meslier. The vines are planted in the "La Fosse" vineyard, the same vineyard that gives us the fabulous cuvée Vénus. The idea behind this wine is to see if terroir trumps variety, the ancient varieties sort of cancelling each other out to reveal greater expression of minerality. The wine is outstanding with fennel and red fruit notes on the nose, very fine mousse, and a beautiful, chalky finish. In general, these ancient varieties can yield a rustic Champagne, but, as we'd expect from Agrapart, this wine is the soul of refinement. (dosage: 5 grams) -Sophie Barrett

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  • white sparkling
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  • $89.99

Agrapart 2007 Champagne Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Expérience

"Most Champagne" Agrapart told us "is 95% juice, and 5% other things: water, sugar, sulfur, and yeast." With this wine, the aim is to make a Champagne that is 100% "jus de raisin," which requires a second fermentation using cellar yeast and must from the current vintage rather than the sugar and neutral yeast combination used to create bubbles in virtually every other Champagne under the sun. This is the fifth time Agrapart has made this cuvée, and it's the first time he's been allowed to label it as "Champagne" because in every other edition, the CIVC (Champagne's regulating body) did not deem it Champagne-like enough to earn appellation status. Last year it was Agrapart's Complantée bottling that had us sprinting for our email to make a reservation with the supplier. This year it was Expérience. As memorable a bottle as you'll ever taste, this wine has gorgeous, chalky minerality, impeccable balance despite its lack of dosage, and vivid aromas of sweet, ripe Chardonnay. Not necessarily a Champagne to be cellar-ed, but a Champagne to be reveled in over the course of a meal.

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  • white sparkling
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  • no discount
  • $259.99

Agrapart 2007 Champagne Brut Nature Blanc de Blancs Vénus

Vénus is widely considered to be Agrapart's top wine. From a parcel of horse-plowed vines in Avize called "La Fosse," Peter Liem calls it the "crown jewel" of Agrapart's collection. I think of it as the most clawed from the earth Champagne in the group, showing intense chalky minerality, and the finest, most high-toned and high-acid aromas and flavors of sweet lime and lime flower. This is a vivid and powerful bottle of wine that is tightly coiled at this juncture; it warrants some time in the cellar, but is also oh-so delicious right now. (disgorged February 2014; non-dosé) -Sophie Barrett

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  • white sparkling
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  • $184.99

Agrapart 2007 Extra Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs L'Avizoise

The Avisoize bottling highlights the relatively clay-heavy soil of Avize. From several old-vine parcels, this wine is more full-bodied and powerful than the Minéral cuvée, which shows more delicacy and finesse. Agrapart calls Avizoise "a winter wine," which we took to mean something like "more roast chicken than oysters." All the base wine is raised in barrel, and Agrapart does "tirer à liège" for this cuvée, the technique of aging the wine under cork rather than capsule for the second fermentation. Smokier and toastier on the nose than Mineral, the wine shows pineapple notes with incredible length on the finish, when the flavors of chalky subsoil come out. This wine is all about power, and will certainly reward the patient Champagne lover who manages to stash a few in his or her cellar. (disgorged February 2014; 5 grams dosage) - Sophie Barrett

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  • white sparkling
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  • $129.99

Agrapart 2007 Champagne Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Minéral

In reference to the single vineyard Champagne trend, Pascal Agrapart made an interesting point namely that he has between 60 and 70 parcels of vines, too many to separate! For him it makes more sense to highlight terroirs. His Mineral cuvée highlights his chalkiest plots. The base wine is made in 50% used barrel and 50% tank, a combination that works well to preserve freshness and acidity, but also to add some breadth to the palate. This is a summer wine, with gorgeous white fruits and flowers on the nose, and a beautiful stony finish with an almond-y, citrus-y bitterness on the palate. Agrapart loves that light touch of bitterness on the finish, and so do we! This is a wine for oysters, or the cellar, or for both! (disgorged February 2014; 5 grams dosage) -Sophie Barrett

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
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  • no discount
  • $94.99