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Posts Tagged ‘chardonnay’

How can one not take notice of the blond in the room? The blond to which I am referring is this stunning 100% chardonnay (see champagne flutes below) from the Cote de Blancs, our third stop through the regions of Champagne.

My good friend Sunhee cookin' up a storm with a glass of champers..

The Cote de Blancs lies south of the Champagne capital of Epernay, and stretches southwards 20+km. Here, Chardonnay reigns supreme, where it is planted to predominantly east facing vineyard sites. Over the centuries, each grand cru village in the Cote de Blancs has also established a reputation or characteristic “style”. More specifically: Cramant for it’s heightened chardonnay aromatics and bouquet, Avize for it’s focus and delicacy, Oger for both it’s fine bouquet and raciness, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger for its superior finesse and intensity, and Vertus (premier cru)  for its inherent fruitiness and rondeur. In its youth, a Blanc de Blancs can sometimes seem a bit austere or one dimensional. Fresh citrus, lemon curd, or biscuit are pretty common descriptors.  However with several years of ageing, wonderfully complex nuances can develop like toasted bread, grilled hazelnuts, dried flowers or salty-savory notes.

Important villages located north to south:

Grand Cru:

Chouilly

Cramant

Avize

Oger

Le-Mesnil-sur-Oger

Premier Cru:

Cuis

Vertus

Bergeres-les-Vertus

Important  Grower -Producers located in the Cote des Blancs: 

Jacques Selosse

Pierre Peters

Diebolt-Vallois

Pierre Gimmonet

Launois

Pierre Moncuit

Franck Bonville

Philippe Gonet

Salon (really a Grande Marque house)

Delamotte (owned by Salon)

Larmandier Bernier

Duval-Leroy

A classic Blanc de Blancs from Pierre Moncuit

Wine:  Pierre Moncuit-Delos

Composition: 100% Chardonnay

Style: Blanc de Blancs

Sweetness: Brut

Vintage: non-vintage

Country: France

Region: Champagne

Sub-Region: Cotes de Blancs

Geology/Soil: Topsoil: Lignite, sandy-loam, clay. Subsoil: Predominantly Belemnite chalk, with some Micraster at lower edges of the slopes. The chalk here is less dense than in the Montagne de Reims.

Alcohol: 12%

Importer: Vintage 59, In California, Charles Neal Selections .

US Retail: $40

Food: Fresh oysters, caviar, gougeres, hamachi crudo, grilled cheese sandwiches!

Hands down one of the coolest marques/logos in Champagne. The bold black font and somber gray make me think this is a serious wine. But then those wings makes me think light, lithe, and ethereal! This Cote de Blancs from Pierre Moncuit is made from 100% Chardonnay, all from Grand Cru vineyard sites. I think that it is one of the best grower-producer values from the Cote de Blancs. True, this bottling is young and a bit more primary (vinifcation and ageing in stainless steel only) and less characterful than what I am certain it will become in 5+ years. However, at the end of a busy day, a glass of elegant, bright and racy is just what I need. Along with a white cheddar cheese puff or two..

A view of the grand cru vineyards at Le Mesnil-sur-Oger

 

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A classic Blanc de Blancs from Franck Bonville

 

Wine: Franck Bonville

Composition: 100% Chardonnay

Style: Blanc de Blancs

Sweetness: Brut

Vintage: Non-vintage

Country: France

Region: Champagne

Sub-Region: Cote de Blancs -Avize

Class: Grand Cru

Geology/Soil: Topsoil: Lignite, sand, clay Subsoil: Belemnite chalk

Alcohol: 12%

Importer: Premier Wines

US Retail: $30

Food: Grilled snapper or bass, Trout in cream sauce, super thin crispy potato chips, Vegetable stir-fry.

Domaine Franck Bonville is a family run domaine established in 1947 by Franck and Jeannine Bonville. Presently, Ingrid and Jean Bonville, along with their son and third generation Olivier Bonville produce an elegant range of Blanc de Blancs from their 20 hectares of vines planted in the Grand Cru (100% echelle rating) vineyards of Avize, Cramant and Oger in the Cotes de Blancs. All of fruit for the non-vintage “ Cuvee Selection” comes his chardonnay vines planted in the Grand Cru Village of Avize. The particular cuvee that I recently enjoyed is a blend of the 2000, 2001 and 2002 vintages. Elegant and refined, with a lithe texture that is at once bright and creamy, make this one of my go to Champagnes. Lemon curd, dried chrysanthemum flowers and just the slightest nuance of biscuit toast lead me strait to a young, but classic Blanc de Blancs. Although its subtle characteristic make it a great candidate to unwind with at the end of a long day, I enjoyed a glass (or two) of this sprightly number the other night with left my delicious leftovers of turkey and truffle stuffed cabbage from Olivetos. Clean, refreshing and, because it’s Champagne, with modest alcohol, Franck Bonville and I got along just fine.

Monday night dinner. Bonville, Olivetos and me..

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Champagne Grapes

Presently, three classic varieties are utilized in the production of Champagne. While Chardonnay and Pinot Noir considered the most significant varietals in terms of producing quality wine, Pinot Meunier also provides a unique set of characteristics that, when grown in optimal areas, and masterfully vinified and blended, endow Champagne with its exceptional character. Think of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as the leads in a film, with Pinot Meunier as a great supporting character that, like Philip Seymour Hoffman, often turns in an inspiring, memorable and sometimes downright brilliant performance.

PINOT MEUNIER:

% of vineyards planted to varietal:  45

Principal region: Valley of the Marne

Growing cycle: Buds later than Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, matures early. 

Attributes: Because of late bud-break, it is less prone to spring frost. Planted extensively in the lower vineyard sites (like the Valley of the Marne) where frost can post a problem to vine growth.

Sensitive to: Powdery Mildew and Botrytis

Characteristics imparted: fruit, earthiness, roundness/rondeur. Helps to ‘flesh’ out a wine.

General consensus: Pinot Meunier based wines tend peak earlier than those based on Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. In my experience, this is not always true.

CHARDONNAY:

% of vineyards planted to varietal: 25

Principal region: Cote de Blancs

Growing cycle: Buds earlier than Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, but ripens later than both.

Attributes: Relatively hardy and resistant to cold temperatures.

Sensitive to: Spring frosts, due to its early bud-break, Powdery Mildew, Botrytis

Characteristics imparted: Finesse, acidity and length. Relatively neutral flavor of its juice works benefits the expression of certain autolytic characteristics that develop due to extsended lees ageing during after the secondary fermentation.

General consensus: Chardonnay, being higher in acidity than both Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier also tend to produce the most age worthy wines. Blanc de Blancs can often taste more austere and one dimensional in their youth, however after extensive ageing can reveal a multitude of wonderfully complex flavors including roasted nuts, honey and toast.

 PINOT NOIR:

 % of vineyards planted to varietal: 30

Principal region: Montagne de Reims

Growing cycle: Buds later than Chardonnay and before Pinot Meunier but is the earliest ripening of the three varieties.

Attributes: High pulp to skin ratio yield abundant juice. Most planted varietal in Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. Early ripening lends its suitability to vineyards sites that face south/southwest.

Sensitive to: Powdery Mildew, Odium, Gray Rot.

Characteristics imparted: Weight, structure and depth of flavor, more aromatic fruitiness.

General consensus: Pinot Noir, while not imparting as much finesse or length as Chardonnay, will often endow a wine with added structure, intensity and depth of flavor. These characteristics are even more evident in young Champagne. Example: Taste compare a recently released Blanc de Blancs (Chardonnay) next to one with 50% or more Pinot Noir in the final blend.

In addition, the following 5 varietals are also authorized in the production of Champagne, however they are rarely utilized, and there are restrictions on new plantings of such varietals. 

Arbanne

Petit Meslier

Pinot Blanc

Fromenteau (Pinot Gris)

Gamay

Aubry's Le Nombre d'Or -keepin' the dream alive

Interestingly, L. Aubry Fils in Jouy-les-Reims has made it their raison d’etre to resuscitate these traditionally planted varietals and restore them to their former glory. The Nombre d’Or is a masterful blend of Fromenteau, Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Substantial, lush and almost “salty”, I find it to be one of the most unique wines from the region. Definitely a wine for gastronomy perhaps assorted funghi, sweetbreads, or aged cow’s milk cheeses, or my favorite, uni.

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