Saturday, December 28, 2013

THE BEST Champagne for New Year

I drink Champagne on a weekly basis with sushi and pretty much anything, so it's not an anomaly for me to grab something really fantastic to ring in the New Year. I stay away from the likes of Moet, Veuve Clicquot, Nicolas Feuillate and the other 'NM' (Negociant Manipulant) Champagnes, which are commercial brands sourced from less than perfect vineyard sites, with the sole goal of making the SAME EXACT style from bottle to bottle, and year to year, not necessarily trying to make the BEST they can, EVEN if that means deviating from the 'house style'. This is where RM (Recoltant Manipulant), aka GROWER Champagnes come into play. In the biz, we like to call them 'Farmer Fizz'.

If you haven't gotten your hands on a beautiful bottle of grower Champagne, it's WAY past time. If you have, then KUDOS to you! These wines are hand-harvested, typically organic or biodynamic in their production, and come from Premier Cru and Grand Cru Champagne Vineyards. They are tinier in production, and come in an infinite variety of styles, from full, toasty, rich and yeasty, to elegant, delicate, perfumey and refined. I have something for every palate and every budget posted below at Nicholas Roberts Fine Wines in Darien- available for free delivery if ordered by 10am on Monday. See why every Sommelier refuses to drink the mass-produced stuff, and swears by RM bubbles in their restaurants. If you insist on that iconic orange label on your bottle this New Year, I DO have a can of spraypaint at the ready...... ;)


Champagne in Stock:

Chartogne Taillet Brut- $45 60% Chardonnay/ 40% Pinot Noir- you find yourself asking how a wine’s flavors can possibly come from grapes!) Ultra-juicy and palate- as well as saliva gland-massaging, the finish here left me licking my lips in anticipation of the next sip. What’s more, this cuvee is among the most versatile at table of any in Champagne- 92 RP, 91 WS

Gouturbe Brut Premier Cru $60- 100% Chardonnay- it’s just loads of hay and hawthorne, an old-school
Champagne as rendered by an elegant lithe lady with a warm soul. What we love about
this wine is the mingling of firmness and generosity. 91 BH, 90 WS, 90 Tanzer

Vilmart Grand Cellier- $77- 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. VERY fine and has laser-like precision. Our store best seller and a HUGE review from Parker, Spectator, and Tanzer! Vibrant, finely cut acidity structures this seamlessly integrated version, with layered flavors of poached apple, quince, honey and candied ginger- 95 WS

Henri Billiot Cuvee Laetitia- $110 Wow, this is the best Laetitia I’ve yet tasted; it extends the silky transparency of the ’04
into even more raciness and incisiveness. Really by now and in the last few years this
wine swings between outstanding and stellar according to time on the cork, but this
1/10 disgorgement is stunningly good, with fine measured power and high fluting brilliance. 92 Rp, 93 BH, 93 Tanzer


Pierre Peters Cuvee Reserve- $60- 100% Chardonnay- Light gold. Highly perfumed bouquet of yellow apple, pear skin and quinine, with a smoky mineral overtone. Spicy orchard and candied citrus fruit flavors are complemented by notes of sweet butter and anise and gain weight with air. 92 Tanzer, 91 RP, 91 WS

Duc du Romet - $36 75 % Pinot Meunier, 25% Pinot Noir- A fine, creamy mousse defines this elegant version, underscored by a chalky note of minerality and offering subtle notes of patisserie apple, blanched almond, fresh ginger and a hint of crystallized honey- 91 WS

Varnier Fanniere Grand Cru $58- Green-tinged yellow. High-pitched aromas of candied orange, yellow apple, white flowers and ginger. Smoky mineral and white pepper notes add lift and refreshing bitterness to ripe citrus and orchard fruit flavors. The mineral note repeats on the sharply delineated, long finish, which features a subtle anise quality- 91 Tanzer


Gaston Chiquet Brut NV- $48 ******AMY'S FAVORITE****- Bollinger lovers rejoice! This big, rich, toasty Champagne has LOADS of fresh baked bread aromas, and a long, silky mouthfeel. Sexy!!! 91 Tanzer, 91 BH, 92 WS

Marc Hebrart Premier Cru $47- 81 % Pinot Noir- Apple and lime laced with cilantro and garlanded in bittersweetly perfumed iris make for a fascinating aromatic display that presages the juicy, metaphorically cool, herb- and flower-tinged, mouth-coating palate impression. Soothing, sustained, and subtly interactive, the finish offers a fine sense of transparency to nuances including the chalky sort.91 pts RP, WS, BH

Andre Clouet Brut- $53 Primarily Pinot Noir from the region of Bouzy with layers of hazelnut, pear, spice and dried flower aromas. This rich, creamy wine impresses for its balance and sheer richness. I loved it. RP 90

Marc Hebrart Special Club 2008 Vintage Magnum $245- Pear, Ranier cherry and apricot tinged with frangipane and licorice render the satisfyingly soothing, metaphorically cooling, buoyant and refreshingly persistent Hebrart's 2008 Brut Special Club irresistibly luscious today; but a sense of firmness underlying its leesy patina as well as of myriad mineral nuances only beginning to shimmer, suggests the likelihood that this will merit following for another 3-5 years. 93pts RP

Chartogne Taillet Rose- $58- From Montagne de Reims- 60% Chard/ 40% Pinot Noir; A crowd-pleasing rosé, this offers finely tuned, mouthwatering acidity paired with fruit-forward flavors of candied cherry and black currant, macerated plum, pastry dough and spiced nut. Displays lovely texture and a lingering finish. Drink now through 2020. 185 cases imported.- 93 WS, 92 RP, 91 Tanzer
Here's a great quote by the world's leading importer of Artisan Grower Champagne:

Henri Billiot Rose- $60 Billiot’s Rose is a rich, broad-shouldered wine with plenty of intensity and vinous depth. This edition is 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay- 92 WS, 91 RP, 91 Tanzer


“You should drink ‘farmer-fizz’ if you’ve forgotten that Champagne is WINE. You should drink ‘farmer-fizz’ if you’d rather buy Champagne from a farmer than a factory. You should drink it if you’d rather have a wine expressive of vineyard, and the grower’s own connection to vineyard, than a wine ‘formed’ by a marketing swami who’s studied to the Nth-degree what you can be persuaded to ‘consume.’ You should drink grower-Champagne if the individually distinctive flavors of terroir-driven wines matter. You should drink it because it’s honest REAL wine grown and made by a vintner—by a FAMILY just like yours—by a ‘him’ or 'her,' not by an ‘it.’ You should drink it because its price is honestly based on what it costs to produce, not manipulated to account for massive PR and ad budgets. You should drink grower-Champagne because, like all hand-crafted estate-bottled wines, it is not a mere Thing but is indeed a BEING, expressive of where it grew and who raised it. In drinking it you help protect DIVERSITY, and diversity leads to VITALITY.”

- Terry Theise, James Beard award-winning importer of grower champagne

Amy Dixon CSW

The Blind Sommelier

Nicholas Roberts Group

Office: 203-656-9463

Mobile: 203-981-9304

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for these suggestions! I will print this out and make some of these recs the next time I take my Certified Sommelier exam (I'm guessing my examiner will want a Champagne rec or two, right?)