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From year to year there seem to be few greater values in Champagne than those of biodynamic grower Thomas Barbichon in Gyé-sur-Seine in the Aube. From his 9 HA domaine he produces wines of purity, elegance, and precision. The current disgorgement of his Blanc de Noirs is Point Noir dominant. The robe has a faint peach hue. The nose offers fine mélange of floral and red fruit aromas, hints of wet stone, orange oil, and toast. The palate is bright and racy, yet ample with crunchy minerality and a brisk, mouthwatering finish. John McIlwain
This bottling of the Beaufort NV Ambonnay Rosé is based on the 2011 vintage and was disgorged in July of 2018. Notes to follow.
Les Contrees is a fascinating study of terroir within the Riceys. Four separate lieux-dits harvested at nearly the same time, vinified the same way and disgorged within days of each other. The expressiveness of each terrior makes this a must for Champagne obsessives. Yes, Virginia, there is terroir in Champagne!
I have a not-so-secret love for Champagnes made from Pinot Meunier. Godmé's single vineyard expression, Les Romaines 1er cru, is an especially stunning example. The biodynamically farmed vineyard located in Villedommange has calcareous soils which lend a particularly savory minerality to the wine, offsetting the sometimes over-generous nature of the variety. And in 2008 this minerality offers great cut and energy to an already vibrant Champagne. There is impeccable balance here; ripe fruit framed by the nearly pointillistic earthiness, the 2 grams of dosage is barely perceptible. This is classy, harmonious, and long, speaking vividly of place. -John McIlwain
Hugues Godmé 2010 Les Alouettes Saint Bets Brut is a single vineyard blanc de blancs from Villers-Marmery near the border with Verzy. The soils of this climat are very chalky with little topsoil. The grapes are farmed biodynamically, vinified in neutral oak with native yeasts, with no malolactic fermentation, and bottled with low sulfur. There is an electric sense of chalky minerality to this Champagne. While there is a degree of richness to the wine that hints at Verzy, and a silken quality on the palate derived from its time in wood, ultimately a cool, deft sense of fruit and chalkiness defines the nose and palate. Still a bit taut, there are floral and citrus oil notes on the nose, followed by Meyer Lemon and a subtle salinity on the palate. The mousse is fine and the finish long, complex, and supple. This should shine brightly with a bit more time in the bottle. John McIlwain
If the Rosé des Riceys from En Barmont is generous, verging on sensuous in nature, En Valingrain offers more linear, bordering on cerebral, pleasures (both are fantastic, I hasten to add). The 2014 En Valingrain offers aromas of wild strawberry, rose petals, wild roses, cherry blossoms on the nose. The palate displays achingly pure wild strawberry and sour cherry flavors, wet stone and a surprising, albeit pleasant, electric jolt of minerality negotiating all the supple curves of red fruit. Lightning rod or nothing but flowers. This has the crystalline structure to support the suppleness. A great young bottle of Rosé des Riceys and one of the most convincing arguments that there’s a world of terroir in Riceys. And please recall that Rosé des Riceys ages beautifully. John McIlwain
A staff favorite, this is the go-to Blanc de Blancs for a lean and food friendly Champagne. The nose is understated with notes of Meyer lemon, sage, and orange blossom. The palate offers a rush of freshness that carries aromas of white peaches, apricots through to a McIntosh apple finish.
Though perhaps unusually for a domaine located in Ambonnay (Pinot Noir terroir), vigneron Benoît Marguet prefers a Chardonnay dominant blend for his rosés. In the 2016 edition of his non-vintage Shaman Chardonnay makes up 96% of the blend.The robe is a pale pink. The palate is medium-bodied with a fine mousse offering red fruit strawberry, cherry stone, with a pleasing bitterness on the finish. This has good length, fine mineral detail, and a nice herbal uptick on back end. Delicious now, but this should gain suavity with a year of two in the cellar. John McIlwain
70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, biodynamically farmed. Fermented in tank and bottled without dosage or SO2.
A blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier offering aromas of wild strawberry, wild cherries, a supple red-fruited palate, and delicate, fine-grained minerality. A lovely wine for cheeses or a fine apéritif with a light chill. Pretty and graceful, rather than powerful. John McIlwain
While it's always a pleasure to receive a fresh shipment of bubbles, it's especially gratifying to receive new wine from organic vigneron Thomas Perseval. From vines in Chamery, located in northwestern Montagne de Reims, the Perseval Tradition 1er cru Extra Brut is a blend of 43% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, 17% Chardonnay based on the 2013 vintage. Raised 70% in enamel, and 30% in barrel and disgorged in April of 2018. The nose shows white flowers, Meyer lemon peel, red fruit, candied ginger, and sea spray. The palate has a snappy mineral attack followed by layered flavors of wild strawberry, cool crushed herbs, chalk, brioche, and shows considerable drive and power on the medium-long, suave, rising finish. John McIlwain
A blend of 1/3 Chardonnay, 1/3 Pinot Noir, and 1/3 Pinot Meunier fermented in tank with native yeasts, from the 2010 vintage with reserve wine from 2007, 2008, 2009. Bottled without dosage, this still has a fine sense of energy and depth on the palate due to great farming and long lees-aging. The nose tends towards orchard fruit, citrus peel, and pear skin, with fine biscuity after-aromas. The palate shows a fine bead and with a good balance of concentration, minerality, and a bracing, zesty finish. John McIlwain