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Champagne — Any Time Is Time For Champagne

John Tilson • 12/24/10        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

We did our first review of Champagne in December 1979 (see Volume 1, Number 3 Underground Wine Letter Retrospective Issue). Interestingly, back then many wine drinkers paid little attention to Champagne. In those days a lot of Champagne had been poorly stored and were not at their best. But, to use a Yogi Berraism, then was then and now is now. Today great care is taken in shipping and storage. Finding a bad bottle of Champagne is virtually impossible. In fact, I have long believed that it is the most consistently high quality wine in the world. And, today Champagne is very popular amongst virtually all wine drinkers.  Truly Champagne is not only a wonderful beverage for the holidays, but it is probably the most versatile of all wines in matching with a wide variety of foods at any time of the year.

Although there are those who still think of Champagne as something only for special occasions, and some who do not know the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine, the fact is that Champagne is unique. And, great Champagne is available in almost every price range – from around $20 a bottle on the low end to over $3,000 a bottle at the high end. Non-Vintage Champagne is almost always priced in the lower range and it is here where you can find many great bargains. In fact, prices on a lot of these are not much more than they were many years ago. And, further more, with the exception of the luxury cuvées and a few others, most Champagne is reasonably priced.

Below are tasting notes on some of my favorite small producer Champagnes (as well as a note on a stunning new Rosé cuvée from the venerable house of Ruinart). I have been buying and drinking Champagne from J. Lassalle and Paul Bara for over 30 years.  And, with a few exceptions, most of the others reviewed here I have been buying and drinking for a  long time as well. The Champagnes of the producers reviewed here have been consistently outstanding over the years and the new releases are some of the best Champagnes I have ever tasted. There are great wines from the 2002 and 2004 vintages. The 2002 vintage is turning out to be the best since 1996, but, surprising to me, there are some really superb 2004s. And there are also many great values in non-vintage Champagne. The Champagnes reviewed here are Champagnes you can buy with confidence and I’m sure you will find many new favorites. Cheers!

AR Lenoble.

AR Lenoble is a family-owned business now under the direction of the 4th generation. The name AR Lenoble comes from the initials of the founder Armand Raphael and the name “Lenoble” is based on the belief that “Champagne is the most noble of Wines.” The grapes come primarily from their Grand Cru Chardonnay vineyards in Chouilly, one of the Grand Cru villages in the Cote de Blancs and some Pinot Noir from the Premier Cru village of Bisseuil in the Montagne de Reims. This is a Champagne house that consistently produces outstanding wines that are great values. Imported by Atherton Wine Imports San Jose, California.

NV AR Lenoble Cuvée Intense Brut. This Champagne is made from 70% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier, and 15% Chardonnay. A blend of 2007 and 20% older reserve wines, the wine is light golden in color, with a perfumed nose hinting of baked bread, spice, and citrus. On the palate, it is quite rich, rounded and creamy with a spicy nuance and has a nice crisp citrus tinged finish – Highly Recommended.  $43.00  2-yellow-stars

NV AR Lenoble Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru. Consistently this is one of the best values in NV Blanc de Blancs. This cuvée is a blend of 2005 and 2006 with 15%  aged in barrels which adds a bit of complexity and richness. Light yellow in color, it has a lovely perfume with tinges of spice, vanilla, citrus and peach. Creamy with great finesse, flavor and balance, this is yet another terrific Blanc de Blancs from AR Lenoble – Outstanding. $49.00  3-yellow-stars

2002 AR Lenoble Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru. This is a delicious Blanc de Blancs from the excellent 2002 vintage which looks to be the best since 1996. It is light yellow in color with a golden hue and has a deep perfume of citrus with hints of peach and a faint spicy nuance, Creamy and quite rich and round, there are spicy, citrus, mineral tinged nuances on the palate with a long, crisp finish – Outstanding Plus.  $72.00  3-n-half-yellow-stars

2005 AR Lenoble Rosé Brut. This is a delicious Rosé that is a blend of 88% Chardonnay Grand Cru and 12% Pinot Noir Premier Cru vinified as a  red wine. Light salmon pink in color with a faint golden hue, it has a lovely perfume of cherries and citrus with a faint tinge of spice. Quite rich, but very fruity with great finesse, the flavors have cherry-tinged fruit with hints of citrus and spice and the finish is long and crisp – Outstanding Plus. $56.00  3-n-half-yellow-stars

Fallet-Dart.

This is a small, little known Champagne producer that we first discovered some 20 years ago. Amazing since it has been family owned since 1610. That’s 400 years!! This has given them a very long time to perfect their Champagne and perfect it they have as it is consistently delicious. Their 45 acres of vineyards are east of Epernay near Hautvilliers in an area known as “Les Clos du Mont.” Grapes have been grown in these vineyards since the 7th century. Total production today is around 13,000 cases. In addition to the superb 2002 reviewed below, Fallet-Dart also makes a NV Grand Selection Brut, a NV Cuvée Reserve Brut, a NV Rosé Brut, and a prestige cuvée Clos du Mont.  Imported by Wine Markets International, Plainview, NY.

2002 Fallet-Dart Brut. This is simply a great Champagne from the outstanding 2002 vintage. It is light yellow in color with a gorgeous perfume of peach, citrus and a faint floral, spice nuance. With great fruit, it is creamy, elegant and balanced with faint citrus and spice nuances and a long lingering finish – Extraordinary.  $55   4-yellow-stars

Ruinart.

Ruinart is a very old Champagne House with a history dating back to 1729.  It is perhaps best known for Blanc de Blancs, but Ruinart also makes a wonderful Rosé, both vintage and non-vintage.  This recent release of non-vintage Rosé in magnum is terrific. Imported by Moet Hennessey USA, Inc. New York, N.Y.

NV Ruinart Rosé Brut (magnum). This is a delicious Rosé with depth, complexity and gorgeous fruit. Pale salmon pink in color with a golden hue and golden edge, the nose is perfumed with raspberry, citrus, cherry and spice. These flavors follow through on the palate with a faint toasty accent and a long finish – Outstanding Plus.  $118.00 magnum  3-n-half-yellow-stars

J. Lassalle.

Founded in 1942 by the late Jules Lassalle, this Champagne house is now run by his wife, Chantal Decelle-Lassalle, and daughter, Angeline Templier who is also the winemaker. These Champagnes have been imported into the U.S. since the mid-seventies by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Berkley, California and I have been buying and drinking them for all these years. The winemaking style is very traditional with low yields and minimal handling and filtration to preserve freshness and delicacy. The domaine is located in Chigny-les-Rosés. There are 25 acres of vines, all Premier and Grand cru, and annual production is around 6,000 cases. The J. Lassalle Champagnes are superbly elegant, with great finesse and complexity and they age beautifully. They are consistently outstanding and are not to be missed.

NV J. Lassalle Reserve Cachet Brut Premier Cru. A blend of 25% Chardonnay, 60% Pinot Meunier, and 15% Pinot Noir, this Champagne is made to be enjoyed in its youth. With a light yellow gold color, it has a deep perfume of peach and citrus with a mineral, spice nuance. Rounded and flavorful, it is quite lush and creamy with flavors of peach, citrus and spice and has a long crisp finish – Outstanding.  $42.00  3-yellow-stars

NV J. Lassalle Imperial Preference Brut Premier Cru.  Made with 20% Chardonnay, 60% Pinot Meunier, and 20% Pinot Noir, this is a Champagne of great finesse. Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue, it has a gorgeous perfume with floral, vanilla, citrus nuances and a faint spiciness. Creamy, rounded, and elegant, the flavors have floral, vanilla and spice tinges and the finish is long and crisp – Outstanding. $48.00 3-yellow-stars

NV J. Lassalle Rosé Brut Premier Cru. Made with red grapes (75% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier) and 15% Chardonnay, this Rosé is consistently one of my favorites and this cuvée continues the trend. It is pale salmon pink in color with a faint golden hue and has a gorgeous perfume with floral, peach, raspberry, and citrus nuances and a faint spiciness. With great fruit, flavor and finesse, on the palate there are hints of peach, citrus, spice, and raspberry followed by a long crisp finish – Outstanding Plus.  $58.00  3-n-half-yellow-stars

2002 J. Lassalle Blanc de Blancs Brut Premier Cru. This Blanc de Blancs is drinking beautifully now, but will keep for many years.  Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue, it has a deep perfume with hints of vanilla, citrus, and spice and a faintly candied nuance. Elegant and faintly honied with hints of citrus and spice, there is a lot of finesse with a nice creaminess and a long lingering finish – Outstanding Plus.   $76.00  3-n-half-yellow-stars

Champagne-Angeline2005 J. Lassalle Cuvée Angéline Brut Premier Cru. Cuvée Angéline is J. Lassalle’s luxury cuvée made only in the highest quality years. This 2005 is stunning. Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue, it has a gorgeous perfume with tinges of vanilla and peach and a floral, citrus nuance. With great intensity and balance, there is also a creamy elegance with complex peach, citrus, vanilla, spice, and floral flavors followed by a long lingering finish – Extraordinary.  $72.00  4-yellow-stars

2002 J. Lassalle Special Club Brut Premier Cru. In 1971 a few winegrowers decided to form an association to produce a special cuvée of their very best champagne. They named these cuvées “Special Club.” These Special Club cuvées are subjected to a very high degree of peer scrutiny and are consistently outstanding. This 2002 J. Lassalle Special Club is superb. Light yellow gold in color, it has a gorgeous perfume with hints of crème brulee, peach, citrus, spice and baked bread. These flavors carry through on the palate creating a Champagne of great complexity. Creamy, rich and full, with great balance and length this is a classic that is great now, but will keep for many years – Extraordinary.  $92.00  4-yellow-stars

Paul Bara.

Domaine Paul Bara was established in 1833 and has been handed down for six generations. Paul Bara and his daughter, Chantale, are the current proprietors. The domaine consists of 27 acres of vineyard located in Bouzy (a renowned Grand Cru) in the heart of the Vallee de la Marne. This location is noted for Pinot Noir and their vineyards are 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. Annual production is 4800 cases. This is another domaine that has been imported to the U.S. since the mid-seventies by Kermit Lynch Winw Merchant Berkeley, California. And, like J. Lassalle, I have been buying and drinking it for all these years. Paul Bara is made in a rich style and also very long lived. The Rosé is yet another personal favorite. In addition to the Champagnes reviewed below, Paul Bara also makes a Bouzy Rouge.

NV Paul Bara Reserve Brut Grand Cru. This Champagne is blended with 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. It has a light yellow color and a lovely perfume with hints of citrus and mineral and a spicy nuance. These flavors follow through on the palate and the wine is creamy and full with long crisp finish – Outstanding.  $54.00  3-yellow-stars

NV Paul Bara Grand Rosé de Bouzy Brut Grand Cru. This Champagne is made with a blend of Brut Reserve (75% Pinot Noir and 12.5% Chardonnay) and 12.5 % Bouzy Rouge (Pinot Noir). This Rosé is another personal favorite. It is usually intensely fruity, but this cuvée is a bit more restrained. I suspect it will open up with some time and age beautifully. Light pink in color, it has a nice berry tinged perfume with a hint of citrus. On the palate there is a flavor of raspberry and citrus with a tinge of mineral and spice and the finish is long and crisp – Outstanding. $58.00 3-yellow-stars

2000 Paul Bara Brut Grand Cru. This Champagne is made with 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay, Light golden in color, it has a perfume of citrus, spice, and mineral with a faint honied nuance. On the palate it is rounded, full, and creamy with floral, spice, citrus, mineral nuances and a long finish – Outstanding.  $62.00  3-yellow-stars

Champagne-Comtesse-Marie-de1999 Paul Bara Comtesse Marie de France Brut Grand Cru. This is Paul Bara’s luxury cuvée and it is 100% Pinot Noir. Light yellow gold in color, the perfume hints of spice, citrus, apple, and mineral with a faint floral nuance. Complex flavors on the palate hint of spice, mineral, citrus, baked bread with vanilla tinged nuances. Rich and flavorful, this champagne is amazing since it also has a great deal of finesse – Outstanding Plus.  $105.00  3-n-half-yellow-stars

2004 Paul Bara Rosé Special Club Cuvee Grand Cru. Wow! What a stunning Rosé. With a pale reddish pink, faintly golden hued color, there is a great perfume of cherries and raspberries with a hint of citrus. Very fruity and flavorful, this Rosé is rounded, rich, and creamy with raspberry and cherry fruit tinged with citrus and a faint spiciness. The finish is very long. This is a great Rosé – Extraordinary.  $110.00  4-yellow-stars

2005 Paul Bara Rosé Special Club Cuvée Grand Cru. This 2005 is yet another really lovely Rosé. Not as intense and fruity as the 2004, but really tasty and beautifully balanced. The color is light reddish pink and the perfume has floral, strawberry, mineral, and citrus nuances. Flavorful, yet with finesse, there is lovely strawberry fruit with a touch of citrus and spice on the palate and a long finish – Outstanding Plus. $116.00 3-n-half-yellow-stars

Veuve-Fourny & Fils.

Founded in 1856, Veuve Fourny & Fils has been family owned from the beginning and today is run by Mme. Monique Fourny, representing the fourth generation. She is assisted by her two sons, Emmanuel and Charles-Henry who are both enologists. The vineyards are rated Premier Cru and are in Vertus which is part of the Cote de Blancs. The vineyards average 35 years of age and are mostly Chardonnay with smaller amounts of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Production is 10,000 cases annually. The wines are made in a relatively dry style and retain freshness with a crisp mineral undertone. The Rosé is another personal favorite. The Veuve Fourny & Fils Champagnes are imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA.

Vve-Fourny-Fils-RoseNV Veuve Fourny & Fils Rosé Brut Premier Cru. This is a delicious fruit driven Rosé with great early appeal. It has a light reddish pink color with a gorgeous strawberry, citrus, spice tinged perfume. It is lush and fruity with strawberry, citrus, cherry, and mineral nuances and a long crisp finish – Outstanding Plus. $54.00  3-n-half-yellow-stars

NV Veuve Fourny & Fils Grande Reserve Brut Premier Cru. This Champagne is blended with 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, it is light yellow in color with a lovely perfume that is tinged with spice and citrus and faintly floral, mineral nuances. On the palate there is lovely spice tinged fruit with a faint mineral undertone. Balanced and creamy, this is lovely – Outstanding.  $43.00  3-yellow-stars

NV Veuve Fourny & Fils Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature. This Blanc de Blancs is almost totally dry, yet there is not a trace of austerity. Light yellow in color, it has a gorgeous perfume of citrus and spice with a faint floral mineral undertone. Elegant and finesseful, yet also flavorful and complex, this Champagne is harmonious with citrus, spice, and mineral flavors and a long crisp finish – Outstanding.  $47.00  3-yellow-stars

NV Veuve Fourny & Fils Cuvée “R” Extra Brut Premier Cru.  This Champagne is blended with 90% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Noir, and 5% Pinot Meunier and is very close to the Brut Nature in being almost totally dry. It is a bit richer, but again totally harmonious. Light yellow in color, there is a lovely perfume of citrus, spice, mineral, peach, and a hint of baked bread. It is creamy and rounded with citrus, peach, mineral, and spice flavors and a long crisp finish – Outstanding.  $62.00  3-yellow-stars

NV Veuve Fourny & Fils Blanc de Blancs Brut Premier Cru.  Light yellow in color, this Blanc de Blancs has a lovely floral tinged perfume with hints of citrus, spice and vanilla. It has very nice fruit with a citrus, mineral tinge, nice balance, and a nice crisp finish – Highly Recommended.  $47.00  2-yellow-stars

2004 Veuve Fourny & Fils Blanc de Blancs Brut Premier Cru. This is a lovely complex Blanc de Blancs. It is light yellow in color with a deep floral, citrus, spice, and faintly exotic perfume. On the palate, there are complex floral, peach, citrus, spice and mineral flavors that are wrapped in a creamy texture and are followed by a long lingering finish – Outstanding Plus.  $69.00  3-n-half-yellow-stars

2000 Veuve Fourny & Fils Cuvée de Clos Fauberg Notre Dame Extra Brut Premier Cru. This is Veuve Fourny & Fils luxury cuvée made from the oldest Chardonnay vines located in a unique microclimate which optimizes grape maturity. It is light golden yellow in color and has a deep spicy, crème brulee, citrus perfume. The flavors show the same complexity with a faint mineral tinge. This is a gorgeous, lush, creamy Champagne with a long citrus tinged finish – Outstanding Plus.  $160.00  3-n-half-yellow-stars

Launois Pere & Fils.

Launois Champagne was founded in 1872.  Today the Launois family owns nearly 46 acres of vineyards mostly in the Grand Cru village of Mesnil.  All Launois Champagnes are Blanc de Blancs and all are Grand Cru.  This producer consistently makes some of the very best Blanc de Blancs Champagnes, and the quality/price ratio is exceptional.  This is a must visit if you are in Champagne, not only for the fabulous Champagne, but to visit Bernard Launois’s private museum.  It encompasses a large portion of the Mesnil village underground.  And it has virtually everything that has to do with Champagne from centuries old wine presses to ash trays with Champagne themes.  Words cannot do it justice.  You have to see it for yourself.  But, if you want to go, you must arrange your visit in advance.  Selected by K & L Wine Merchants and imported by Premier Wine Company, Richmond, CA.

NV Launois Pere & Fils Blanc de Blancs Reserve Brut Grand Cru. This is consistently one of the best non-vintage Blanc de Blanc Champagnes and a great value. This cuvée is made from the 2004 harvest with 10% from 2001. Light yellow gold in color, it is perfumed with hints of baked bread, citrus and spice, With superb flavor, depth, and structure, the flavors have tinges of spice, citrus, mineral, and baked bread. The finish is long and lingering. This is lovely to drink now or keep for many years – Outstanding Plus.  $34.99 Best Buy  3-n-half-yellow-stars

2002 Launois Pere & Fils Blanc de Blancs Special Club Brut Grand Cru. This is a superb Champagne that is made from 2 plots of 65 year old vines located in the Grand Cru villages of Les Mesnil and Oger. It is light yellow gold in color with a great perfume of crème brulee, peach, citrus, spice and baked bread. Creamy and rich, the flavors hint of baked bread, citrus, spice, and hints of crème brulee and are followed by a long, lingering, crisp finish – Extraordinary.  $59.99  4-yellow-stars

bottle-launois2002 Launois Pere & Fils Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Maxime Brut Grand Cru. This is a special limited production cuvée made for the birth of Bernard Launois’ grandson.  It is simply great.  Maxime is a lucky boy!  Light golden yellow in color, this Champagne has a deep complex perfume of baked bread, citrus, and spice and is faintly honied with floral crème brulee nuances.  It is rich, lush and creamy with lots of complex flavors hinting of spice, crème brulee and mineral with a faint floral nuance.  This is a great Champagne and a great value – Extraordinary.  $44.99  Best Buy  4-yellow-stars

2004 Launois Pere & Fils Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru. Light yellow in color, this 2004 Blanc de Blancs has a great perfume with floral, citrus, mineral nuances and a faint spiciness.  Round and creamy with a citrus nuance, it has great elegance and structure with lovely fruit showing floral, citrus and mineral tinges and a long finish – Outstanding Plus.  $44.99   3-n-half-yellow-stars

bottle-frank-bonvilleFrank Bonville.

The Bonville family grew grapes in the Cote de Blancs until after World War II when they began making Champagne from grapes grown the grand Cru villages of Avize and Oger. The domaine is now run by the third generation. The vineyards total 45 acres in the Grand Cru villages of Avize, Cramant, and Oger. This domaine is the source of some of the best Blanc de Blancs Champagne available and they are reasonable priced. The non vintage is consistently outstanding and this cuvée is a prime example. The Frank Bonville Champagnes are selected by K&L Wine Company and imported by Premier Wine Company Richmond, California

NV Frank Bonville Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru.  Light yellow in color, this Blanc de Blancs has a gorgeous perfume with tinges of spice, baked bread, and citrus with mineral, floral nuances. Flavorful, yet with great finesse, it is creamy and balanced with citrus, spice, floral nuances and a lovely lingering finish Outstanding Plus.  $29.99 Best Buy  3-n-half-yellow-stars

bottle-michael-arnouldMichel Arnould & Fils.

The Arnould family owns some 27 acres of vineyards in the village of Verzenay.  They are planted to 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay.  Several of the plots have vines that are 40-50 years old.  Selected by K & L Wine Merchants and imported by Premier Wine Company, Richmond, CA.

NV Michel Arnould & Fils Reserve Brut Grand Cru. This Champagne is made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay from the Grand Crus of Verzenay and Verzy. It is a blend of the 2006 and 2007 harvests. Light yellow gold in color, it has a stunning perfume with exotic nuances and citrus and spice. This is a champagne of great intensity that is creamy with lots of citrus tinged fruit, a spicy exotic nuance, and a lovely crisp finish – Outstanding.  $29.99 Best Buy  3-yellow-stars

Ariston Fils.

Since 1794 the Ariston family have made champagne in Brouillet. The domaine has 22 acres of vines that are over 35 years of age. The Aspasie bottlings are made from old vines and revive the old family name, Champagne Aspasie, The wines are consistently brilliant and are great values. The Ariston Fils Champagnes are selected by K&L Wine Company and imported by Premier Wine Company, Richmond, California.

NV Ariston Fils Aspasie Carte Blanche Brut. This Champagne is a blend of 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, and 20% Pinot Meunier, all from family owned vineyards in the village of Brouillet. The wine was aged for 5 years and shows impressive richness. Light golden in color, it has a lovely perfume with hints of vanilla, spice, and citrus. Creamy and flavorful with complex flavors of peach, vanilla, and spice, this is a lush, delicious Champagne and a great bargain – Outstanding Plus.  $24.99 Best Buy  3-n-half-yellow-stars

bottle-aspasieNV Ariston Fils Aspasie Rosé Brut. This is a very flavorful Rosé and a great value.  It is a blend of ½ Pinot Noir and ½ Pinot Meunier with 12% old vines Pinot Meunier vinified as a red wine added.  Light salmon pink color with a golden hue, it has a lovely floral, berry and spice tinged perfume.  The berry fruit follows through on the palate with spice and floral nuances.  This is a creamy, flavorful Champagne with a lovely finish – Outstanding Plus.  $32.99  Best Buy  3-n-half-yellow-stars

NV Ariston Fils Aspasie Prestige. This cuvée is made all from 2002 vintage wine from 60-year-old vines.  It is 50% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier.  These old vines were destroyed by hail in 2003 so this is the last old vine Aspasie Brut Prestige.  And what a wine it is!  With a yellow gold color, it has a great perfume hinting of crème brulee, citrus and spice.  Rich and creamy with lots of flavor hinting of crème brulee, citrus and spice, this is a gorgeous Champagne, with a long, lingering finish – Outstanding Plus.  $39.99 3-n-half-yellow-stars

NV Ariston Fils Aspasie Cepage d’Atan Brut. This is a unique Champagne.  It is made from some of the nearly extinct native varietals of Champagne – 40% Petit Meslier, 40% Arbanne and 20% Pinot Blanc.  Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue, this wine has a lovely floral perfume with a hint of vanilla and a tinge of spice.  It is elegant, with great finesse, but also creamy and flavorful with spice and citrus nuances – Outstanding Plus.  $99 3-n-half-yellow-stars

Michel Loriot.

Leopold Loriot began this domaine in 1903 in Festigny.  They were a long time supplier of grapes to Moet.  The present company was established in 1931 and today consists of over 30 acres in Festigny and three neighboring villages.  Selected by K & L Wine Merchants and imported by Premier Wine Company, Richmond, CA.

NV Michel Loriot Blanc de Noirs Cuvée Reserve Brut. This Champagne  is made entirely from estate grown Pinot Meunier from the village of Festigny. It is light golden in color and has a perfumed nose with a citrus tinge and a faint spiciness. Rich, round, flavorful and creamy with a spicy complexity and a long crisp finish this is an unusual and delicious Champagne that also just happens to be a great bargain – Outstanding.  $29.99 Best Buy  3-yellow-stars

NV Michel Loriot Blanc de Noirs Cuvée Reserve Brut. This Champagne is made entirely from estate grown Pinot Meunier from the village of Festigny.  It is light golden in color and has a perfumed nose with a citrus tinge and a faint spiciness.  Rich, round, flavorful and creamy with a spicy complexity and a long, crisp finish, this is an unusual and bottle-micahel-loriotdelicious Champagne that also just happens to be a great bargain – Outstanding.  $29.99  Best Buy 3-yellow-stars

2004 Michel Loriot Pinot Meunier Vieilles Vignes Brut. Wow!  This Champagne is unusual, unique, distinctive and great!  Made from Pinot Meunier vines planted in 1942 in a less than one acre vineyard in the village of Festigny, the production totals only three to four thousand bottles (250-300 cases).  It is made only in the best vintages and this 2004 is a superb example.  Light golden yellow in color, the wine has a stunning perfume with hints of mango, spice and citrus.  Very rich and full, these flavors show tropical fruit nuances  and tinges of citrus and spice, and the finish is long with a citrus, mineral tinge.  This is absolutely a superb Champagne of great distinction and flavor – Extraordinary.  $44.99  Best Buy 4-yellow-stars

Philippe Gonet.

Philippe Gonet is a relative of Michel Gonet in Avize.  Philippe’s family has been in business in the area of Les Mesnil Sur Oger since 1820.  The vineyards consist of some 40 acres with approximately 75% in Mesnil and 25% at Oger.  The business is now run by Chantal Bregeon Gonet and her brother, Pierre Gonet, who represent the 6th generation.  In addition to the fabulous limited production Belemnita reviewed below, Philippe Gonet makes several non-vintage Champagnes including a Rosé and vintage Blanc de Blancs.  Selected by K & L Wine Merchants and imported by Premier Wine Company, Richmond, CA.

2004 Philippe Gonet Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Belemnita Brut Grand Cru. The name of the Champagne is Latin for the extinct fossiled squids that are prevalent in the chalk soil of the village of Mesnil.  It is a very small production cuvée totaling only 4,000 bottles (about 330 cases), and it is stunning!  Light yellow gold in color, this Champagne has a deep perfume with hints of baked bread, spice, vanilla, citrus and mineral.  Very rich, full and round, but with good underlying acidity, it is creamy and complex with flavors hinting of baked bread, citrus, mineral and spice, followed by a long, lingering, spice-tinged finish – Extraordinary.  $119.00  4-yellow-stars

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3 comments for “Champagne — Any Time Is Time For Champagne”

  1. Great review, but I like to do my yearly Champagne purchasing during the sales at the beginning of December. Would you consider the next review of November of 2011?

    Regards, Steve Rosenberg

    Posted by Steve Rosenberg | January 1, 2011, 5:45 pm
  2. Hi Steve,
    Great idea to buy when there are sales. I do the same thing! That is why many of the reviews are there in December. Going forward, I am going to try do do Champagne reviews every few months and spread them out over the year. But there will always be some in December as well if there is a sale of things that I have not reviewed.

    In Vino Veritas,
    John

    Posted by John Tilson | January 4, 2011, 12:37 pm
  3. WOW! Thanks for all those reviews on some great Champagnes. I’ve had plenty over the years, but somehow “forgot” about Champagne the last few.

    With that inspiration, I went to a wine store in Silverlake last weekend and bought and drank: Laherte Freres Brut Rose (about $50), imported by Garber & Co., Topanga, CA. I’ve never had (or even heard of) this one before. No matter, it was delicious. Properly tight, with a nice perfume nose, beautiful color and elegant taste. I think Champagne is back in my life. Thanks.

    Bill

    Posted by Bill Tisch | January 4, 2011, 8:55 pm

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