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Mineral is a vintage-dated blend of Chardonnay from two particularly chalky lieux dits within the grand cru villages of Cramant and Avize, with the grapes from Bionnes (Cramant) vinified in demi-muid and Le Champ Bouton (Avize) vinified in tank and blended in equal parts.Sea spray, peach skin, grapefruit peel on the nose. Bright and fresh on the palate with good cut, incisively mineral with pungent chalk notes on the long driving finish. Delicious now, perhaps better still with a few years to allow the structural elements knit. John McIlwain
Tasted in January 2017 at the estate. Complex aromas of lychee, candied pear, citrus, beautiful palate of yellow fruits, minerals, citrus, caramel with fabulous length. (This shipment disgorged in June 2017)
The 1998 Ambonnay Brut has long been a staff favorite and this disgorgement does not disappoint. Brillliant, golden yellow in color and showing a finely-beaded mousse, this offers one of the two most expressive aromatic profiles of this current Beaufort lineup. Aromas of Mirabelle plums, toasted hazelnuts, and crème brulée transition to notes of Jonagold apples, cinnamon, and wild flowers. The palate is generous and expansive and carries tones of brazil nuts, greengages, and irises that crescendo to a fine, zippy finish. This is complex and delicious Champagne! David Salinas
A sensational mature Champagne from André Beaufort - the estate converted to organic agriculture in the early 70's and makes brilliant, full-bodied Champagnes that are among the most "vinous" being made today. Medium golden yellow in color and sporting a discrete mousse. The nose is quite floral with tones of cherry blossoms, apple blossoms, and irises before touches of quince and fresh baguette. The palate is concentrated with a spherical yet laser-like focus that offers notes of lemon sorbet, tart lemon custard, and apple pie, underlined by a fine minerality that persists through to a rounded, savory finish. Really a very pretty and lovely wine. This medium-bodied Champagne is made of approximately 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay and was disgorged in March 2017 after 14 years of sur-lie aging, illustrating the Beauforts' commitment to releasing mature wines.
The 2006 Ambonnay Brut Grand Cru shows subtle mature aromas of pear, almond, marzipan and citrus, very earthy with hints of exotic fruit and spice and wet stone. Give this some time to open up. The palate shows a delicate, creamy mousse with complex earthy white fruits, herbal notes and mineral flavors with nice acidity in the finish. A lovely wine of contemplation. (Disgorged June 2017)
"Really superb, subtle, long. Quiet nose. Winy. Seems like old school white Burgundy. Very serious..." Anonymous notes from Beaufort dinner, Jan 2017 (Disgorged April, 2017)
For those of a classical bent who prefer not to shop at the big Champagne houses, André Beaufort is a wonderful alternative. Longtime organic farming and extended lees-aging produce rich wines of uncommon detail and complexity. The 2010 Ambonnay offers aromas of white flowers, orange peel, bergamot, and chalk on the nose. Bright acid, salted plum, citrus oil, and a fine line of sapid minerality on the supple and rich palate. This shows a fine interplay between power, tension, and a suave, supple finish. This is one heck of an Ambonnay and a fine bottle of Beaufort! (Disgorged June 2017) John McIlwain
The new Beaufort Polisy Reserve Brut Nature NV is from the 2014 vintage and was disgorged in November of 2017. (Organic farming since 1971, wild yeast fermentations, minimal SO2.) This lovely Champagne shows a pale gold/bronze color with aromas of brioche, pear, lime flower, apricot and vanilla with a bit of brown spice and anise. Full, soft mousse on the palate with creamy pear, citrus, stone and herbal flavors, with hints of raspberry and red currant emerging. A bit soft and ripe for a Brut Nature, at 12% alcohol, but well balanced with refreshing acidity in the finish. Serve with a ceviche of squid or scallop, fish in sauce, goat cheeses or perhaps with berry or citrus desserts. David Lillie
We're fans of the Champagnes of Beaufort for a number of reasons. The farming at this historic Domaine is impeccable and the winemaking is classical and refreshingly old school. The 2013 base Ambonnay Grand Cru in handy half bottle is a pocket-sized example of Beaufort's distinctive character. Aromas of ginger, brioche, ripe golden fruit and almond lead to similar flavors on the elegant, generous and honeyed palate which finishes with beautifully firm acidity and mineral flavors. This has the brightness and acidity to accompany oysters and shellfish, but enough weight and grip to serve with grilled fish, caviar and goat cheeses. Also, please note that while the label reads "Polisy" it is in fact the Ambonnay Grand Cru Reserve. Amanda Bowman
A blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from the Montagne de Reims, partially destemmed, fermented in barrel, and bottled without fining or filtration. The 2014 Bérêche Coteaux Champenois offers aromas of wild cherry, black raspberry, brambles and roasted nuts. The palate shows good density with dark fruits, crushed herbs, an underlying iodine-like soil note, and a fairly packed and somewhat dense lingering finish. This is a bit inscrutable at the moment and will benefit with a couple of hours of air or some time in the cellar. All the elements are here for further development: a serious Coteaux worthy of mid-term cellaring. John McIlwain
Les Beaux Regards is a blend of two parcels of Chardonnay in Ludes on the northern slope of the Montagne de Reims planted in 1964 and 1970. The loamy clay soils produce a Champagne more vinous in character, rather than exclusively taut and chalky. The 2014 displays lemon and apple blossom and stone fruit aromas, with delicate notes of spice and citrus peel following. The palate is distinctly nervy and racy, with overtly stony notes, cool notes of orange oil and lemon balm and a long tangy, expressive finish. There's a penetrating minerality here matched by equally vivacious fruit. Delicious! (Dosage 3g/l., disg. 01/18) John McIlwain
The Rive Gauche bottling from Bérêche is 100% Pinot Meunier from vines planted in 1969 in the north facing parcel Le Misy in Port-á-Binson near Mareuil-le Port in the Marne. The north-facing slopes and old vines keep in check Meunier's tendency to over-exuberance, preserving the mineral expression of the variety. The 2014 exhibits floral, citrus peel, stone fruit scents on the nose with aromas of acacia blossom, peach skin, and marzipan dominating. The palate is ripe, but racy, with flavors of white peach, orange oil, ginger, and salted plum on a mouth-watering, driving, insistent finish. For fans of the Rive Gauche bottling, this is more linear than the generous 2013 edition, but a compelling expression of this terroir. (3 grams dosage/ disgorged 10/17) John McIlwain
For lovers of extravagant Champagne and terroir, Ulysse Collin, from Congy in the Coteaux du Morin just southwest of the Côte des Blancs is a grower worth exploring. The wines are all from single parcels, farming is organic (though not certified), fermentation is in used barrels with native yeasts, and the wines are neither fined nor filtered. The Pierrières bottling is from a plot in the nearby village of Vert-Toulon, where the soils are chalk mixed with black silex, which gives the wines a broad, spicy, smoky character. The 2013 edition offers aromas of orange oil, lemon curd, and ginger. The ample palate combines ripe fruit, a deeply mineral core, and suave, supple richness with a broad, chalky, delicious finish. This has the stuffing to age effortlessly. John McIlwain
Made from 100% Pinot Noir planted in 1971 in Les Maillons, a lieu-dit located in Barbonne-Fayel, whose soils are made up of chalk and heavy red clays. From his cellars in Congy, located to the southwest of the Côte des Blancs, Olivier Collin produces serious, vinous, Champagnes of terroir. His "Les Maillons" bottling is one such wine. The 2013 is ripe, dense, rich, and complex. With a faint copper hue, and fine bead; the nose is redolent of ripe red fruits, such as sour cherry, pomegranate, and wild raspberry. The palate is concentrated, stony, and bracingly dry. The power and poise of this wine are impeccably balanced, and this should knit beautifully with 5-10 years in the cellar. John McIlwain
100% Pinot Meunier from the single parcel La Ruedes Noyers, farmed biodynamically, fermented in barrel. The 2013 Coteaux Blanc from Benoît Déhu has a lovely nose combining aromas of fresh stone fruit, sea spray, salted plum, and spice. The palate is racy and ripe with good richness (for a Coteaux Champenois). Flavors of fresh apricot, Rainier cherry and citrus peel vie with mineral notes for attention on a long sapid finish. This is a lovely Coteaux with just the right tension between the bright fruit notes and savory character. Delicious! John McIlwain
100% Pinot Meunier, fermented in barrel with native yeasts bottled with low sulfur. From the Rue des Noyers parcel. Violets and hedge fruits on the nose. Brambles and black raspberry on the palate with spice notes and a distinctly stony energetic finish. This has great lift and drive and is fascinating to taste alongside the Coteaux Blanc and Champagne from the same parcel. Le terroir parle! John McIlwain
Filaine is one of our favorite Champagne houses. And the singular Fabrice Gass is one of our favorite Champagne characters. His wines are made up of Pinot Noir/Chardonnay/Pinot Meunier from the south-facing village of Damery on the slope of the Montagne de Reims over looking the Marne. The wines are made in the manner of 100 years ago. Fabrice farms the without chemicals, ferments in wood, and due to the age of his barrels, avoids malolactic fermentation. This disgorgement is based on the 2012 and 2013 vintages and balances nicely the classic richness of Damery with undertones of minerality. Aromatically the wines offer up aromas of baked apple, spices, and soil notes. On the palate flavors of ripe red fruit and a pervasive sense of chalkiness vie with with a creamy texture on the broad, rich finish. This is a perfect wine for the table with its balance of generous fruit and earthy structure. John McIlwain
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
If ever there were an argument that portions of Cumières merit Grand Cru status, Laval's Les Chênes makes a convincing case. The amphitheater-shaped vineyard is something of a sun trap and produces Champagnes of power and precision in Vincent's able hands. Made up of 100% organically farmed Chardonnay from the eponymous lieu-dit on the eastern side of the village (near the bottom of the slope down by the river), where the soils are chalk rather than the clays of other portions of the village. This is a particularly powerful blanc de blancs. While the nose offers tropical fruit and citrus aromas, the midweight, sinewy, and broad palate is pungently mineral, displaying notes of salt, green tea, and quinine on a driving, powerful, persistent finish. This is certainly delicious now, but tastings of previous vintages of Les Chênes lead one to believe there is plenty ahead for the patient. John McIlwain
Benoit Marguet is a true believer in the power of biodynamics to change not only wine but the vineyard and life for the better. He is passionate about the relationship between the vigneron, the vines, and his wines. His vineyards are plowed by horse, fermentation is with native yeasts, his wines see little to no sulfur, and his viticulture shows clearly in the finished wines. Les Bermonts is a blanc de blancs from vines planted in 1952 in the grand cru Ambonnay, unusual as the village is more notable for Pinot Noir. Les Bermonts is deeply chalky and mineral, displaying the characteristic power of Ambonnay, while also showing an incisive minerality, which drives the wines. The 2012 is deeply pitched with pungent quinine, lemon rind, salt, and iodine notes on a full-bodied, tightly-coiled palate. This shows citrus blossom and chalk on the nose, while the broad palate is saline, textured, and savory. With air, nearly kaleidoscopic layers of citrus and green apple fruit and chalk flavors reveal themselves on a long, elegant, precise and vibrant finish. The 2012 will benefit from time in the cellar and is a compelling expression of the terroir of the Montagne de Reims. John McIlwain
While we love biodynamic grower Benoît Marguet's Champagnes for their combination of Ambonnay power and frank minerality, it may be that his most pleasurable wine is his excellent vintage-dated rosé. Chardonnay dominated in a village noted for its Pinot Noir, the wine offer a beautiful nose highlighted by aromas of wild strawberry, raspberry, tarragon, and chalk. The palate is brightly mineral and structured, with a deep stoniness at its core within its layers of ripe red fruits and savory notes. The wine balances deftly its grand cru power with a lacy bead, vibrant acidity, and achingly pretty florality. John McIlwain
Benoît Marguet has long been one of our favorite vignerons. Not only is he passionate about biodynamics and terroir, but one can't overlook the fact that his wines are positively delicious. Imagine our delight when he opened a bottle of his Coteaux Champenois for us in Ambonnay last year! Dark ruby robe. Effusively aromatic displaying aromas of violets, Morello cherry, and Pinot spice. The palate offers waves of bright cherry and red plum fruit, with notes of black tea and spice, deftly framed by ripe tannins and fresh acidity. This shows great poise and balance between gorgeous ripe fruit and a pungent, nearly saline sense of minerality. Wonderful now, but this should really blossom with 5-7 years in the cellar. John McIlwain
An organically-farmed Blanc de Noirs from the eponymous lieu-dit in the premier cru village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. The wine is a notable expression of this terroir, as Fabrice Pouillon reveals by vinifying with only the natural sugars from perfectly ripe Pinot Noir, in addition to only utilizing the indigenous yeasts present in the must. He accomplishes this by chilling unsulfured grape must in tank to a temperature low enough to prevent spoilage or fermentation. This must is then used for the secondary fermentation, as well as for the dosage after disgorgement, rather than cane sugars or MCR. The resulting wine is layered and supple with a fine bead, displaying red fruits, blood orange peel, and spices, expressing the vinous character of Pinot Noir grown in the clays of the Grande Vallée de la Marne. John McIlwain
Côte de Béchalin (formerly known as La Parcelle when part of the Inflorescence lineup) comes from a meticulously farmed .73 hectare parcel in Celles-sur-Ource. Where previously Bouchard sold wines made by the former owner,he later vinified the wines in those cellars. 2007 was the first vintage where the wines were made completely in Bouchard's cellars. While these champagnes have seemed to have a broader palate with more exotic fruit, they maintain poise with pinpoint acidity. One can certainly enjoy this now, but some time in the cellar to further knit the elements of structure and fruit should pay off handsomely. -John McIlwain
Aurelien Suenen is one of the bright young stars of the Côte des Blancs, whose Champagnes seem to improve with every new release. His 2014 based Oiry Blanc de Blancs is a beauty. Wines from the village are typically sold under the Cramant designation (we haven't been able to find another Champagne with this single village designation, as yet), so this is a fine opportunity to taste Oiry's distinctive, chalky terroir. Aurelien's parcels contain some very old Chardonnay vines which make for some pungently mineral, stony wines. The vins clairs are fermented partially in barrel, spend nine months on the lees, and are bottled with 1 g/l dosage. The 2014 is brisk, briny, and fresh on the nose with aromas of yuzu, Meyer lemon, quinine, and chalk dominating. The palate is chiseled, taut and very dry with racy acidity and an energetic driving finish. Suenen continues to grow with each vintage and this new line up of village designated Champagnes are particularly exciting. The 2014 will make a fine aperitif and shiny brightly with crudo or sashimi. John McIlwain