A couple of local friends had a vision to organize a vertical tasting/ dinner to explore and celebrate vintage champagnes from Louise Brison. A total of 16 750 ml bottles were amassed from 1992-2008.
I had been turned on to this house in the last few years as it is often featured in the small grower/ producer champagne releases from K&L and more specifically, Gary Westby, who is quite informed about all things champagne and reviews many after a first hand visit during frequent visits to the region. I believe he and/ or the stores may have also been a source for some of the bottles we had on this night as well as a couple of local collectors who attended.
The Louise Brison champagne house is located in a quaint small village, Noe-les-Mallets, in the Aube which is about 10 kilometers NE of Burgundy. Although they have been growing grapes for generations, they have only made champagne since 1991 using about 1/3 of the best of their own fruit before selling off the remainder. They use an old fashioned Coquard basket press and do barrel fermenting for their entire production. Remarkably, they make a vintage wine every year regardless of vintage quality and they do so organically.
Thirteen of us dined in the dining room in the home of one of the organizers and enjoyed a nice starter wine, the 16 champagnes from Brison, a 750 ml of 86` d`Yquem and a class night capper, 04` Cristal. We had wide bowl Riedel stemware that worked perfectly for getting the most essence from the champagnes as well as the other wines.
This was a tough challenge for me to decipher and interpret the wines and make notes on them that accurately describe what my senses picked up especially that of umami. I found many of the champagnes with an oxidative quality and was left wondering if this was an intentional house style at least in the earlier vintages as some are known to prefer like those of Jacques Selosse or just a sampling of bottles that have been exposed to or effected by heat. There were enough wines that did not have these notes and thus I`m a bit confused by the results of this tasting. Contributing to this was the fact that I did not know when the older bottles were disgorged and how they were dosed which can have a huge effect on how the wine
From past experience with some of those in attendance, I`m confident of one thing, they will not agree with my sensory perceptions and that is OK as I realize and respect we all have our own palate preferences and different levels of sensory perceptions as well as being entitled to our own impressions.
Dinner was prepared on premises by a local chef/ caterer who partnered in a very fine local restaurant, Meritage, many years ago. She was aided by our consummate wait staff server from the Santa Barbara Club who serves our monthly lunch group of which all who attended this event are members.
The menu for the righteously good food we had and the wine pairings was: [My notes follow]
2014 Samuel Billaud les Grands Terriors Chablis
Home made curried gravalax with capers and pink peppercorn, dill oil with a fennel, jicama, red radish slaw & local cucumber, side of rye toasts
Champagne course plates:
Brison 92`, 94` and 01`
Dungeness crab cake with a mango & green relish and a Persian cucumber- apple puree served with a bed of spinach, kale and shaved cabbage.
Brison 95` and 99`
Seared wild caught coho salmon with a mini potato pancake [a signature dish from our chef which I fondly remember from the days of Meritage and had 3 of them, only 1 per serving for the others, with 6 more for take home], chive- tarragon cream fraiche, daikon sprouts.
Brison 04`, 06`, 07`
Watercress and haricot vert with roasted chicken salad with shaved papaya, celery and sunchoke.
Brison 98` and 03`
Scallop crudo with a cold honeydew and wasabi- ginger sauce, wild arugula and radish sprouts sprinkled with Fleur de Sel.
Brison 97`, 00` and 03`
Grade A ahi, sesame tartar with avocado and scallions with a black sesame honey- ginger glaze, bulls blood macro greens.
Brison 02`, 08` and 09`
Torchon foie-gras with a sun dried cherry gastric, poached pear, baby beet and honey compote with roasted pistachios and raisin nut triangle points, black peppered baby frisee greens.
1986 Chateau d`Yquem Sauternes and 2004 Roederer Cristal
Dessert of berries, mint and strawberries with a vanilla sable.
2014 SAMUEL BILLAUD les GRANDS TERRIORS CHABLIS- nicely chilled, this was an interesting choice for a starter wine and as it turned out, a good one; a perquisite for being a starter wine IMHO is to be refreshing and palate cleansing; this nailed it on both levels; it was majorly acidic and devoid of anticipated flint, mineral and graphite character; it was a huge citrus statement with grapefruit being the most predominant; OK, I`m ready to drink some bubbly.
1st flight of 3:
1992 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- the color was a light gold which was a bit surprising since slightly oxidative notes of caramel, butterscotch and toasted almonds immediately hits the olfactory senses; the taste profile also had what was in the nose plus a touch of spice and toasted brioche; it had some weight to it as well as a characteristic that came up in a many others on this night, an oily texture which I loved as this served to carry all of the treats all the way through to the back end as well as massaging the palate for added sensory pleasure.
1994 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- the color for this bottle was a dark gold; the nose had seemingly some oxidative notes and even a touch of corkiness, neither of which blew off with time; there was some sherry like nutty flavors along with butterscotch and mature, as in dried, stone fruit with apricot being the most obvious; again, there was that oily mouthfeel, heavier in this wine.
2001 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- to be paired with the 92` and 94`, this seemed like being in another world; from the worst vintage since 94` and 84`, I was surprised by the quality of this bottle; the perfume was so inviting and the contents delivered with fresh white cherry prevailing over other fruit; it had significant acidity and a spritziness that stood out from all others on this night; by the time it hit mid palate, it was already cleansing the oxidative notes from the first 2 and actually made for a cleaner experience for the next wines; this had an endearing charm about it and I sipped it with delight.
2nd flight of 2 :
1995 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- I got some maderized notes again here following the noticeable cloudy, gray brown gold color which denotes such to me; the dried fruit faded quickly and past mid palate was literally a mute point; I kept a bit in the glass and returned later on to find it had actually improved just a bit and for some it was probably to their liking; IMHO, this bottle was certainly past prime time and not holding it together.
1999 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- no aging or oxidized issues here; it was a winner with a youthful yellow white and the aromatics were so pleasing with floral, tropical and citrus notes singing loud and clear; a spicy accent blends into the lemon, lime and kiwi flavors; I loved the balance, refreshing palate experience and the perfect acidic integration; one of my favs on the evening.
3rd flight of 3:
2004 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- the first of 3 winners in a row, this was balanced, had bright acidity and that oily texture I referred to above that carried all of the treasures to the back end; the lemon lime fruitiness graced the palate and left a lingering oily zest through the lengthy finish which did not want to quit and would have carried into the next wine had it not been for a plunge into the paired food course.
2006 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- this was my fav of the 3 superb sparklers in this flight; loved its balance, integrated acidity, playfully teasing citrus notes with lemon oil being the highlight; my lasting impression was once again of refreshment and in champagne, that`s one of the things I so dearly enjoy.
2007 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- one of the hallmarks of this bubbly was the nose which had interesting and delightful fresh cut flowers with an unexpected hit of mintiness; the taste profile was very engaging with mineral infused pear, green apple and an acidic blast of quince; the oily thick texture kept it on the palate for longer than a hedonist would normally survive.
4th flight of 2:
1998 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- oxidative, tertiary notes accompany this bottle that as with a few others, seems to be aged and past prime; the nose was of musty, nutty, dried citrus and the dried fruit character continued on.
2005 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- major acidity dominates the early perceptions of this bottle; the fruit profile consisted of a very different minty, anise flavored lemon and lime; there was also some minerals and chalk that peeked through.
5th flight of 3:
1997 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- the nose on this one had some mineral and chalk along with dried apricot that was followed up by a taste of more citrus notes than stone fruit; it seemed to evolve within a short period of time and had more roundedness.
2000 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- now we`re back to the more eloquent and fresh fruit style evidenced in the “younger” champagnes than most of their 90`s counterparts; however, there was a buttery component that distinguished this from those; nice acidity and lots of concentrated citrus with orange blossoms, lemon and lime coming in.
2003 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- the best of this flight for me, this had bright acidity, nice balance and upfront delicious fruit again with more citrus and especially of lemon; there was a hint of minerality and a trace of mustiness.
6th flight of 3:
2002 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- decent bubbly with good, viable citrus notes somewhat on the dry side which is how the taste ended; in the middle is some pleasant apple, lemon and lime with a touch of spice; medium body; integrated acidity.
2008 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- I`ve had a few bottles of this previously and found it to be quite good and especially as a QPR; this bottle was no exception; along with most noticeable lemon meringue notes, nice apple and especially pear flavors join in; it has bright acidity, refreshing mouthfeel served up with a medium body and offers a palate cleansing, delightful experience.
2009 LOUISE BRISON BRUT- this was young and playful with its attributes dancing around and teasing the sensory receptors; I liked its fresh and vibrant lemon-lime flavors that supported the fine acidity and its crisp and refreshing nature; there was a tinge of oyster shell minerality present which was more pronounced in previous samplings.
1986 CHATEAU d`YQUEM SAUTERNES- from a 750 ml; from our “Prince of Sweets” who graces us every time with a stellar sweetie; the WOW factor went up a couple of notches with this gem; the aromatics are of honeyed apricot nectar which is consistent with what`s in the taste as well as an intense petrol component; the acidity is quite apparent although integrated and the creamy rich viscous texture delivers all of the treasures across the palate ensuring delight.
2004 LOUIS ROEDERER CRISTAL BRUT- our gracious host gifted us with this fine bubbly of which I`ve had a few and always found it to be something near stunning for my palate preference; yes, it can stand and merits to do some time in the bottle and evolve into an even greater experience AND it has so many gifts to offer now, I can accept it for what it is and where it is and where it will go to; light gold in color, this had a nose that was redolent of floral, spicy citrus notes and a hint of toasted brioche; the taste profile had more of the same with a streak of minerals showing up intermittingly; I`ve got to keep this stored off premises so I can let it reach its potential; 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay.
This was a very interesting, well organized and thought out evening. The champagnes represented 2 styles to me; most of the “older” ones were more than mature and the “younger” ones were very approachable, refreshing and pleasing. The food, service, ambience and friends in attendance was over the top. I`m very happy to have had this experience as I would think all others would also agree from their own take.
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