A Time of Gifts : Champagnes

Share

The following is a collection of some of the best Champagnes that John McIlwain and I have tasted throughout 2015. From affordably priced splits to good value vintage Champagnes and larger formats, there's enough stylistic range here to suit a myriad of celebrations. Enjoy!

- David Salinas

Laherte Frères NV Champagne Brut Ultradition .375 ml

60% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay that doesn't go through malolactic fermentation, along with 10% Pinot Noir. There is a delicate red fruit quality — pale plums — but otherwise the high-toned Chardonnay comes through with a delightful lemon tone. Earthy salinity and minerals lead to a dry, mouth-watering finish. A large percentage of Meunier gives this Champagne a broad, rich, earthy character that matches very well with Beau Soleil oysters and Caviar. MSB

  • white sparkling
  • 18 in stock
  • no discount
  • $23.99

  • Organic
Sorry, the Following have Already Sold

Bérêche NV (2011 Base) Extra Brut Rose Campania Remensis

There are arts in Champagne that are too little understood and too little appreciated. One is that the Champenois have some of the most rigorous pressing and juice separation methods of any French appellation. Another is the incredibly long trajectory challenge of growing grapes, pressing them, vinifying them, all with the intent of bledning the base wines before beginning the second fermentation that brings the fizz. In the Campania Remensis, the Bérêche brothers have masterfully succeeded at both.

This Champagne is born of the blending of 94% of a base white wine (60% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Meunier) and 6% of a base red wine (95% Pinot Noir and 5% Meunier). While most rosés are blended in pursuit of a particular shade of pink, the Campania base wines are blended in dark glasses, with a nod towards aromatic and palate balance The rewards are ethereal and numinous for this pale, strawberry, silver-lined Champagne, which evokes aromas of fresh raspberries, vanilla bean, dark chocolate, lemon zest, hazelnuts, and cumin. Sustained by a crackling acidity, the palate remains zen-like in its balance, enough to be lithe and restrained through to a finely pointed finish of sour cherries and ginger. This is refined and delicious! (Disgorged 3/15).

- David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • rosé sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $74.99

Bérêche, Raphael NV Champagne Brut Reflets d'Antan Base 10

For holiday celebrations, Champagne is a must. Not just for the festive association of bubbles, but also because it is truly one of the most versatile wines to grace one's table. The inherent acidity of the wine cuts through the richness of the foods, while the bubbles and moderate alcohol invigorate the palate rather than tire it. One of my favorite Champagnes for the table (not just Thanksgiving) is Bérêche's Reflets d'Antan. Based on a perpetual cuvée dating from the 1980's, the wine combines the vivid, nervy fruit of a recent vintage with the burnished, textural and aromatic complexity of the aged wines which make up the 'solera.' The secondary fermentation under cork rather than crown cap adds an additional layer of finesse with a delicate bead and soft mousse. This will pair beautifully with most of the foods on your holiday table (skip the marshmallows, please). Better served in a white wine glass to allow  the aromas to develop. John McIlwain

Based on a perpetual cuvée started in the 1980s, this Reflet is 2/3rds reserve wine and 1/3rd from the 2010 vintage. Whatever may have been the experience of 2010 for other growers, this Champagne speaks to Bérêche's deft hand in the vineyards and the cellar. Deep golden yellow in color and boasting a super-fine bead, the aromas reveal themselves in stages of Braeburn apples, fresh mint, and laurel, followed by honeysuckle, orange zest, and candied ginger. The palate is round, broad, and electric with notes of peppermint, black tea, cardamom, and verbena that continues through to a anise, lemongrass, and tart green apple finish. Complex, to be sure, but lighter on the palate than the previous release. This is a statement Champagne. (Disgorged : 5/2015). - David Salinas  

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

Bérêche, Raphael NV Champagne Brut Reflets d'Antan 1.5L (b10)

Based on a perpetual cuvée started in the 1980s, this Reflet is 2/3rds reserve wine and 1/3rd from the 2010 vintage. Whatever may have been the experience of 2010 for other growers, this Champagne speaks to Bérêche's deft hand in the vineyards and the cellar. Medium golden in color and adorned by a finely-beaded mousse, a parade of aromas begins with fresh ginger, ripe raspberries, and hazelnuts, followed by cinnamon buns, black licorice, hickory, and creamy millefeuille. The palate is guided by a concentrated core of minerality that expands out to tingly edges of fresh butter, blackberry preserves, black cherries, and a limeade finish, garnished with sage and blackberries. Time will unfold this super-concentrated Champagne. (Disgorged : 5/2015).

- David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $239.99

Bouchard, Cedric 2013 Champagne Blanc de Noirs Val de Vilaine (Inflorescence)

Formerly known as Infloresence, as of 2012 Val de Vilaine, this blanc de noirs comes from a south-facing 1.49ha plot of vines in Polisy planted in 1974 owned by Cédric's father. If there's such a thing as an 'entry level' Champagne in Bouchard's lineup, this is it. Historically more approachable when young than Bouchard's other wines, Val de Vilaine, is now more tightly wound and concentrated as the already small yields were nearly halved to 26hl/ha bringing it in line with the other cuvées of Roses de Jeanne. Here you'll find a classic expression of Polisy terroir. -John McIlwain

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $71.99

Brochet, Emmanuel 2011 Champagne Extra Brut 1er Cru Mont Benoit

I've been quite impressed by success of the top bio growers with the difficult 2011 vintage. Certainly Vincent Laval, certain growers in the Aube, and now Emmanuel Brochet. Their farming seems to have transcended the vintage achieving phenolic ripeness where conventional growers often fell short.

Emanuel Brochet meticulously farms a 2.5 hectare plot called 'Le Mont Benoit' in the village of Villers-aux-Noeuds, where the three major Champagne grapes are grown in the chalky-clay soils over Cretaceous chalk of the mid-slope vineyard. The 2011 is lean and chiseled, certainly savory, but without all the hard greenness that besets a lot of the wines of the vintage. The nose is pretty and cool, redolent of white flowers, yellow stone fruit and sea spray. On the palate there is good energy, mineral zang, and ripe, if cool-toned, fruit. Though enjoyable now, with a few more months in the bottle this should come together quite nicely. With less concentration than riper vintages, the 2011 works nicely as an aperitif, but will certainly shine with richer dishes like pan-seared scallops or pasta carbonara. (Bottled with 4g/l dosage, disgorged March, 2014.) -John McIlwain

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $64.99

  • Organic

Chartogne-Taillet 2008 Champagne Brut

This wine comes from a clay and limestone vineyard called "Les Couarres." The vines were planted in the 1960s and 1980s and the blend is 60/40 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. From the righteous 2008 vintage, it's worth picking this bottle up for the vintage alone... In the hands of rising talent Alexandre Chartogne, it should be a stunner. Fermented in concrete egg with naturally occurring malolactic fermentation. -msb

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $68.99

Chartogne-Taillet 2009 Base Champagne Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Heurtebise

Take the time to visit the Chartogne-Taillet website, there one finds gorgeously rendered maps and sketches of each of Alexandre's parcels showcase his belief in and his commitment to his vineyards, in the northern Champagne village of Merfy. The Heurtebise parcel has a clay topsoil with a sandstone sub-soil, which yields markedly different Blanc de Blancs than are to be found in the storied Côte des Blancs. Considered to be one of Alexandre's top cuvées, the Heurtebise is a mineral powerhouse from start to finish with notes of lemon blossom, verbena, and fresh mint on the nose, and lemon zest, grapefruit, and green tea on the palate, which crescendos to a stirring finish. A shinning example of the terroir of Champagne!

- David Salinas

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

Claude Corbon NV Champagne Brut 1.5 L

 The 1995 Blanc de Blancs Brut was sourced from old-vine, Grand Cru Chardonnay vineyards in the Côte des Blancs village of Avize. It has rested for almost twenty years on its lees, before being disgorged in June of 2014 and it is remarkably vibrant for a late-vintage Champagne. The pillars of its story are a radiantly golden yellow color, an astonishgly finely-beaded mousse, and an ocean of minerality, which crests and breaks to superbly long finish. This is a Champagne for contemplation and the most special of occasions. 

David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $267.99

Doyard 2010 Champagne Premier Cru Extra-Brut Clos de l'Abbaye

Grown from Chardonnay, planted in 1956, in a walled off (Clos), half-hectare parcel. Le Clos is located just behind the Doyard estate and is now farmed biodynamically. It sits a pale godlen yellow in the glass, dotted by a fine mousse. Heady floral and herbal aromas dominate the nose with tones of lilacs, linden blossom, lemon blossom, fresh mint, and verbena. The palate has a finely hewn minerality that operates on several registers and hums with energy, carrying tones of citrus, sage, and lemongrass through to a lengthy and savory finish. An elegant Champagne for a more civilized time. (Disgorged : 5/2015).

- David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $95.99

Geoffroy, René 2004 Champagne Premier Cru Extra Brut Millésimé

In the sometimes treacherous passage from grapes to wine, Geoffroy's flagship cuvée has been gifted every advantage. 50-year-old vines, on average, from JB's finest plots are used in the 2004's final blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. At pressing, only the "tête de cuvée" juices, the best juice from the first press, are used. The prise de mousse occurs under cork, not capsule, and the 2004 has aged for almost ten years on it lees to delicious results. It shines a medium golden yellow in the glass, adorned by a discrete mousse. Initial smoky tones, on the nose, give way to aromas of Cortland apples, honeysuckle, Mirabelle plums, and tamarinds. The palate is rich, round, and weighty with notes of green apples, greengages, and vanilla before a tart and smoky finish. (Disgorged 5/2014).  - David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $119.99

Rene Geoffroy 2008 Champagne Brut 'Empriente'

When John McIlwain and I tasted the 2008 Empreinte this past July, the potential, the power, and the value of this Premier Cru Champagne were on full display. The subsequent months have rendered more subtly refined aromas, while the palate has retained its memorable core of minerality and a strikingly long finish. It shines a pale golden yellow, dotted by a finely beaded mousse. The nose teases aromas of lime blossom, lemon blossom, fresh raspberries, and toasted hazelnuts. While the palate shows the weight and the power of Pinot Noir grown in Cumières and all the minerality of the 2008 vintage that carries through to a mouth-puckeringly tart finish. Overlook this Champagne at your sensorial peril!  (Blend : 79% Pinot Noir, 15% Meunier, 6% Chardonnay; Disgorged : 7/2015). - David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $56.99

Rene Geoffroy NV Champagne Cumieres Saignee 1.5L Rose 1er Cru

Although this magnum shares the same base vintage (2012) as the 750ml, the stylistic differences between the two are clear. The magnum offers greater aromatic range, greater minerality, and greater aging potential, while remaining every bit as savory and delicious. It shows a striking ruby-pink in the glass and a finely-beaded mousse. The nose is a parade of black cherries, gooseberries, wild strawberries, thyme, and sage. The palate brings great concentration and focus with a zinging minerality that carries notes of black cherries and perfectly ripe raspberries through to a cranberry and blood orange zest finish. Rosé de Saignéee method Champagne does not come more refined, complex and lip-smacking than this great effort from Geoffroy. (100% Pinot Noir, Disgorged : 7/2014). - David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • rosé sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $145.99

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

  • Organic

Larmandier-Bernier 2010 Champagne Grand Cru Extra Brut Les Chemins D'Avize

A relatively new cuvée for Pierre Larmandier, Les Chemins d'Avize was born of a desire to vinify, separately, two of his best parcels (Le Chemin de Plivot & Le Chemin de Flavigny), which had previously been included in the blend for his Longitude cuvée. Desire drove perseverance for Pierre, in the form of acquiring a new, smaller press to use with grapes from these two chalky sites. Les Chemins shines a stately golden yellow in the glass and sports a super-fine mousse. The nose shows delicate aromas of white flowers, lime-wood, chestnuts, and thyme. While palate courses with a finely-grained minerality that carries tones of Meyer lemons, chamomile, and white peaches through to a salty, savory finish. From vineyard to cellar to bottle this speaks volumes of two great Côte des Blancs terroirs and of one of Champagne's great growers. (Disgorged 11/14).

- David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $114.99

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $104.99

Peters, Pierre 2009 Champagne Blanc de Blanc 'Les Chetillons' 1.5 L

Sourced from 3 tiny parcels in the vineyard of Les Chétillons in the Côte des Blancs village of Mesnil-sur-Oger, the 2009 Cuvée Spéciale is 100% Chardonnay, with vines ranging in age from 68 to 35 years old, planted in this chalky, highly regarded vineyard. It shines a pale straw yellow in the glass, sporting a finely-beaded mousse. The nose offers up aromas of ripe red peaches, hickory, cardamom, candied ginger, and smoky tones. The palate is absolutely towering and here one has a sense of the tremendous aging potential of this wine, with a powerful, yet fine minerality that holds up aromas of spiced pears, hazelnuts, and thyme through to a long and savory finish. A tremendous Champagne! (Disgorged : 2/2015).

- David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $263.99

Selosse, Jacques NV Champagne Brut Initial

Anselme Selosse makes the most unique and original wines in Champagne. "An ethical approach: the respect of life for the expression of the soil." This bottling of the Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Initial was disgorged in April of 2012.

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $199.99

Selosse NV Champagne Blanc de Noirs Sous le Mont disgorged 2014

Grown from a single 7.5ha Pinot Noir Premier Cru vineyard in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, on the eastern facing slope of the same hill as the venerable Clos des Goisses, Anselme believes that the magnesium carbonate in the soil of this site gives the wine a savory quality. Light copper in color and adorned by a discrete and finely beaded mousse, the nose offers aromas of dried rose petals, cardamom, smoked venison, grilled almonds and hops. The palate is powerful and carried aloft by a mineral frame with notes of black licorice and cloves that shimmer to a bitter mint chocolate finish. (Disgorged 2/2014, Dosage 2g). David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $349.99