Champagne's Bérêchian So(u)l

Share

Walk a vineyard’s rows before harvest and taste the grapes from different plots, from vine to vine, from bunch to bunch, and one thing jumps out: Ripeness varies! Should those differences in ripeness be, in part, chalked up to the naturally occurring mosaic of soils from one corner of the vineyard to another? Yes, but not necessarily in the way that might be imagined.

There is little evidence to suggest that the minerals in vineyard soils account for the primary aromas in wine. Most of the aromatic compounds in wine are carbon based and a vine sources most of its carbon from atmospheric CO2. What is well documented is that spring’s increasing soil temperatures awaken vines out their winter dormancy. This is the eventual grape’s starting point for reaching physiological ripeness by season’s end and soil temperature, water retention, and porosity will determine the rate of that ripening throughout the growing season and give rise to the aromatic nuances from bunch to bunch, vine to vine, vineyard to vineyard, village to village.

Still, wine growing remains a human endeavor, for which understanding and judgement matter. Choices of rootstock, pruning, soil pH, cover crop, and canopy management will have a great deal to say about the final quality of the fruit. Raphaêl Bérêche is one of our favorite growers, and one who understands and champions the primacy of vineyard work and specific lieux-dits.

 

From the family’s historical base in the Champenois village of Ludes (Northern Montagne de Reims), Raphaël still works the centenarian Chardonnay vines planted by his great grandfather in the Beaux Regards lieu-dit (bracketed above as: les Bx Regards). Bérêche’s Beaux Regards cuvée is sourced, primarily, from this chalky vineyard and yields ethereal and elegant wines, even in difficult vintages.

Also highlighted in the vineyard map above is the lieu-dit of Les Hautes Plantes (bracketed above as les Htes Plantes). 45-year-old Chardonnay vines from a chalky, mid-slope parcel of Les Hautes Plantes provides half the fruit for Raphael’s deepest and darkest-toned cuvée, Le Cran. Much of that brooding, almost red wine character, comes from 40-year-old Pinot Noir vines planted in the east-facing vineyard of La Vigne St-Jean.

 

Now to Bérêche’s Marne Valley wild child, Rive Gauche, perhaps the most fun to drink of Raphael’s single vineyard bottlings, especially in the 2011 base vintage. This aromatically striking cuvée is grown exclusively from nearly 50-year-old Meunier vines planted in a north-facing, chalk and clay, vineyard of Les Misy (bracketed above in blue).

Beyond the single-vineyards, we’ve managed to get a few larger format bottles of this year’s best-loved Champagne, The Bérêche Brut Reserve NV, ever the crowd pleaser and a great value in Magnum.

Finally, we’re delighted to offer several older vintage Champagnes from Maison Bérêche. Many of these bottlings are hitting real sweet spots, particularly the Chardonnay based Côtes. For Raphaël, these are standard-bearer wines of their respective Champenois terroirs. For me, they are delicious proof that Champagne is a region of rich and varied vineyards, capable of growing wines that speak as much of place as any in France.

Without further ado, here is our widest selection, to date, of the wines from the most justifiably buzzed about Champagne-grower in our little corner of TriBeCa, Raphaël Bérêche.

-David Salinas

 

 

 

No Longer Available

Bérêche, Raphael 2006 Champagne 1er Cru Ludes Le Cran

This vintage of Bérèche's "Le Cran" is the best yet (given, there have only been three...). The most powerful of his single vineyard wines, it highlights the terroir of Ludes, where the winery is located. These are the vineyards Bérèche first farmed organically. From midslope parcels and a blend of equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the base wines are aged in old barrels and cork is used rather than capsule for the second fermentation and lees aging. In 2006 the wine is slightly more delicate, less oxidative, and more chiseled than in 2005. The nose offers fleshy orchard fruits, stones, fresh mint, and white flowers. The finish is extremely long and impressive. It's a wine that stands up to food and always reminds this drinker ever-so-slightly of a white wine from the Jura for its intense minerality and high acidity. Three thumbs up! -msb

Light golden in color and carried by gently rising beads, Le Cran begins with ripe red currants, dark mint chocolate, toffee, and honeycomb that dovetail into red and black peppercorns, smoked venison, and cinnamon sticks. The palate is dark-toned and delicious with highlights of toffee-covered hazelnuts and black plums before an anise seed, cherry cola finish (Disgorged 1/13, Dosage 3g). -David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $92.99

Bérêche, Raphael 2005 Champagne 1er Cru Ludes Le Cran 1.5 L

What a difference a Magnum makes! Running counter to the received wisdom on the 2005 vintage in Champagne and even some commentary on the regular format 2005 Le Cran, this bottling has tremendous aging potential, thanks to a ringing acidity that will keep these bottles for a decade plus. Light straw yellow and detailed by a nano-fine bead, aromas of dark-roasted coffee are intermingled with fresh strawberries and cream, toasted almonds, mulberries, cayenne pepper, and black figs. The palate is tighly coiled and spools out threads of honeysuckles, coco powder, and blood orange zest through to a Meyer lemon finish. This one's a keeper! (Disgorged 3/12, Dosage 2g). -David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $219.99

Bérêche, Raphael NV (2011 Base) Champagne Extra Brut Rive Gauche

Rive Gauche shows the adaptive and expressive nature of old vine Meunier, this wine has enough personality to carry the whole of Raphaël's lineup. Light amber in color and offering up a generous mousse, striking aromas of root beer, black tea, freshly baked biscuits give way to McIntosh apples and dark chocolate covered tangerines. The palate is expertly poised, but remains juicy and fun at its core with notes of ripe raspberries, vanilla bean, and Graham crackers before a savory, umami finish. A gastronomic Champagne, from drop to drop, with enough tannic structure to pair with more generously sauced seafood (Disgorged: 11/14, Dosage 3g). -David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $65.99

Bérêche, Raphael NV Champagne Brut Réserve 1.5 L

The much loved Bérêche Brut Reserve is back! The previous iteration sold out early in the 2014 holiday season and we are downright giddy to stock this newly arrived instant classic, a 2/3rds blend of the 2012 vintage (equal parts pinot noir, chardonnay, and meunier) and 1/3rd reserve wine (pinot noir dominated). Disgorged in October 2014 and immaculately balanced at 7 grams of dosage, this is a nod to an era of bygone elegance.

Golden in faded and burnished tones with amber-pinkish edges, one could be forgiven for buying 2 bottles: one to enjoy immediately and one to marvel at in a coupe or lyre-shaped decanter. Immediately upon uncorking, there are fleeting aromas of fresh raspberries and fresh mint, followed by cinnamon, butterscotch, hazelnut, and wheat biscuits. The palate is rich and balanced for days with hints of lemon/lime zest, raspberries, and chocolate that crescendo to a biscuity finale. As an aperitif it’s a showstopper and paired with food, one’s thoughts turn to roasted poultry or game and their drippings! David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $99.99

Maison Bérêche 2008 Champagne Côte des Blancs "Côte"

The power and the detail of the 2008 vintage are on full display in this golden mean of a Blanc de blancs that shows enough verve and poise to put many older vintage Champagnes to shame. Stately golden in color and driven by a lively mousse, delicate aromas of linden, thyme, and Mirabelle plums give way to headier aromas of sage, allspice, and tarte tatin. The palate is absolutely electric with a bracing acidity that will keep this Champagne for decades. Few wines have the grace to usher in a moment of silence during staff tastings, but the 2008 Côte had it in spades (Disgorged 12/14). -David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $69.99

Maison Bérêche 2001 Champagne Côte des Blancs "Côte"

Masterful lees-aging can do wonders for a wine and this slightly bigger-bodied, but bone dry Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs is a shinning example. Dark straw yellow and boasting a super-fine bead, the opening is lime blossom, white flowers, and honeycomb followed by dark-roasted coffee, papaya, and hyssop. The palate is broad and generous with a filigreed background of acidity that carries notes of lime and verbena onto a nutmeg finish. (Disgorged 1/14, Dosage 2g). -David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $109.99

Maison Bérêche 2001 Champagne "Côte" 1.5 L

Raphaël considers the 2001 Côte to be the ideal marriage between the richness of Avize and the electric verve of Mesnil. In fact, time has worked its magic on this impressive Blanc de blancs. Light golden in color and impeccably beaded, the nose hums with aromas of white truffle, buttered brioche, and lemongrass. A majestic palate has a finely formed acid backbone that carries aromas of spiced pears, lavendar, and fresh ginger to an extremely fine and lengthy finish. No need to cellar this one, it's ready to drink! (Disgorged 1/15, Dosage 3.5). David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $229.99

Maison Bérêche 1999 Champagne "Côte" 1.5 L

Another excellent selection from Raphaël Bérèche's négociant project, this is a long-lees-aged magnum of Côte des Blancs Chardonnay. It's rich wine with notes of almond pastry and sweet cream on the nose and front palate. On the mid-palate and finish, however, the wine is all acid and chalky mineral precision. It's a full-flavored yet elegant Champagne that is nicely representative of a style of bigger-boned Côte des Blancs Chardonnay with age. Who says you need a party to have a magnum? MSB

Some wines speak both to the head and the heart. Sixteen years of lees aging have resulted in a towering Blanc de Blancs that is just flat out delicious. Multiple trains of micro-bubbles rise through a dusky golden yellow profile that offers star fruit, orange blossom, lemon soufflé with nutmeg, lime blossom, and hyacinth. The palate is expansive and electric with great veins of minerality, followed by a growing creaminess and a lingering finish of blood orange zest, brown sugar, and a lip-smacking chalkiness (Disgorged 1/15, Dosage 2g). David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $229.99

Maison Bérêche 2006 Champagne Extra Brut Grand Cru "Montagne" Disgorged 12/14

Finally, let's climb Maison Bérêche's smoulderingly savory "Montagne", a blend of 70% Pinot Noir from Mailly and 30% Chardonnay from Verzy.This dark-toned beauty is bright brass in color with aromas of mesquite, toffee, candied red apple, and cardamom carried aloft by a discretely beaded mousse. The palate is broad and juicy with a savory core of lemon butter, apple galette, and hickory that extends out lemon/lime edges and a finish of dark chocolate nibs, peppermint, and sun-brewed black tea. Just gorgeous! (Disgorged 12/14, Dosage 3g). -David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $99.99