Our blind tasting group enjoyed a tasting of champagne, a logistical nightmare that has only been attempted once since the inception of this group in 1989 and then, not to this elaborate extent.
Thanks to the diligence and commitment of one of our members, he pulled it off much to the delight of all 12 who attended. First, he chose to provide all of the bottles for quality control as opposed to having others bring pot luck. All bottles were sourced from a local wine shop.
Then the trick was to keep the bottles ice water chilled which allowed for all bottles to be served at the same temperature when poured. Next, the bottles had to be wiped dry so they could be double bagged in order for a minimum amount of moisture to soak through and avoid revealing the labels.
In addition to a generous amount of assorted quality appetisers, we had 2 starter wines, a 2015 Ebner Ebenauer 'Hermanschachern' Gruner Veltliner, Weinviertel, Austria and a Spanish white, Albariño de Fefiñanes from Rias Baixas produced by Bodega del Palacio de Fefiñanes.
There were 3 blind flights of 5 with the 1st and 3rd known to be Brut and the 2nd, Brut rose. We individually noted our impressions on a score sheet and announced our rating for each wine for each flight.
The first flight of 5 Brut:
NV LAURENT-PERRIER LA CUVEE BRUT- pale yellow colour; the nose had mild spicy lemon and vanilla notes followed by really nice citrus fruit on the palate with lemon zest especially discernible; the spicy component actually stood out on the finish; this was noticeably sweet, had nice acidity and was very tasty; I had it tied for 2nd in the flight, the group’s #!.
NV TAITTINGER LA FRANCAISE BRUT- 40% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier from vineyards in 35 villages; it was fermented in stainless steel and blended with 30% reserve wines; I pegged this as a Bollinger Special Cuvee and was surprised to discover the amount of Pinot Meunier which really stayed in the background even at 25% of the total; pale yellow colour; hints of citrus in the nose with tangy, lemon curd on the palate; it had a nice mousse providing an incredibly soft mouthfeel, enhancing the body and aiding in all the treasures going to the back end with more weight; my other #2 and the group’s 2nd in the flight.
NV HEIDSIECK & CO. MONOPOLE CHAMPAGNE BLUE TOP BRUT- what a surprise to find this as my best in the flight as I`d had it before and found it to be just so so; this bottle had a light gold colour, a toasty brioche and mildly fruity nose and a taste profile that consisted of apple, pear and fresh citrus, all with that toasty note in the background; it was full bodied, creamy rich and flavourful and held on for a pleasing finish; my #1 and the group`s #3 in the flight.
NV ROEDERER BRUT PREMIER- over the years, this entry level bubbly has satisfied many a palate including mine; it is a blend typically of around 40% Pinot noir, 40% Chardonnay, and 20% Pinot Meunier mostly sourced from estate vineyards and in fact, this is the only Roederer release not 100% estate sourced; it is matured in oak tuns, aged for 3 years and left for a minimum of 6 months after disgorgement; this bottle faced some stiff competition and it would have fared much better on its own; it was tangy and refreshing and was more stone fruit laden although there was evidence of citrus and apple; it was nicely rich and full bodied; I had it #4 as did the group.
NV HENRI GOUTORBE CUVEE PRESTIGE BRUT- 1er Cru; the colour was a bit darker than the others in this flight; the nose was immediately evident of oxidative notes and I know some of the champagne producers intentionally allow their wines to be more expressive this way; I mentioned it and this house as being one of those recalling a visit to the winery and a weeks stay at the Goutorbe`s locally owned hotel in Ay, Hotel Castel Jeanson; the more pronounced flavors included peach, apricot, almonds, caramel and butterscotch; the blend is 70% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 5% Meunier; a consensus #5 in the flight.
The 2nd flight of 5 Brut Roses:
NV WARIS-HUBERT BRUT ROSE- from Avize, this is a new producer to me, I found this sweet and refreshing with a fruit profile that was dominated by fresh and ripe red raspberry; it was light in weight and body and sort of on the thin side; its copper red colour differentiated it from the others in this flight; a little more raspberry and I get this higher than #3 in the flight, the group had it #2.
NV MICHEL MAILLIARD CUVEE ALEXIA BRUT ROSE- 1er Cru; an unusual estate-bottled blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, all which is red wine; it is vinified and aged for 8 months in stainless steel with no ML, then aged 4 years en tirage and finished as a true Brut with a 7g/l dosage; I thought this was Geoffroy Rose made via the Saignee method with its deep salmon-pink color; it was fruity good with slightly sweetened red cherry most prominent; although the fruit seemed to dominate mid palate, before and afterwards everything was in nice balance; I had it #2 and the group got it #3 in the flight.
NV PIERRE GERBAIS CELLES-sur-OURCE BRUT ROSE- medium red colour; loads of red fruit in the nose followed by slightly sweetened wild cherry/ berry on the palate; medium bodied at best; it had a long, fruit laden finish; we all had it as a consensus #4 in the flight.
NV J. LASSALLE BRUT ROSE- 1er Cru; one of my favourite roses over the years and our house rose back in the late 90s and early 00s, this had a salmon pink hue, some nice spicy red fruit in the nose and much more on the palate with red raspberry and red cherry most evident; this bottle was sweeter than I remember past bottles being, but not to its detriment; the group loved it and had it as the best in the flight.
NV GOSSET GRANDE BRUT ROSE- founded in 1584, Gossett is the oldest wine house in Champagne; another old fav that even included saving the dimpled black coloured bottles for candle holders for awhile; the colour was a cloudy medium amber; the bouquet suggested some serious fruit which is exactly what the taste profile included with sweet red cherry, blood orange, strawberry and citrus notes accented with a bit of spice; it was full bodied, had layered complexity snd a mouthful of cherries at the back end; #2 or 3 in the flight.
The 3rd flight of 5 Brut:
NV PAUL BARA RESERVE BRUT- grand cru; light yellow colour; I got more a mild hit of stone fruit in the aromatics, then sweet, as in honey, spicy and yeasty apple, citrus and pear notes; it`s full bodied with depth and complexity as well as really tasty; I had it tied for #2, the group got it as their #4 in the flight.
NV PIERRE GERBAIS CELLES-sur-OURCE BRUT- light yellow colour; the nose was somewhat muted, but the flavours jumped out of the glass giving toasty brioche accented baked apple notes delivered in a creamy rich texture; full bodied and with layered depth, this had much to offer; my #3 as well as the group`s.
NV GOSSET BRUT EXCELLENCE- this full bodied bubbly makes a statement from the nose through the tail; there’s a toasty component that flavours the pear, apple and peach fruit with a touch of caramel and ginger coming in late; this is very rich and complex with an unexpected generous amount of energy; 45% Pinot Noir (all from Grand and Premier Cru vineyards), 36% Chardonnay and 19% Pinot Meunier, including 24% reserve wines from two vintages. I learned that they also use a small amount of Fromenteau (Pinot Gris) Petit Meslier and Arbanne in this reserve wine; #2 in the flight.
An interesting fact about this house, which is considered to be a Grande Marques, is its small size having 50,000 cases a year total production which is about as much as Krug. Also surprising is that they have been making wine there since 1584 which places them as the oldest currently operating wine producer in Champagne.
NV J. LASSALLE CASHET d`OR BRUT- 1er Cru; light yellow colour; 1/3 Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier; 8 g/l dosage; this had nice inviting aromatics suggestive of elegance and class; balance, bright acidity and stone fruit notes are hallmarks of this fine, entry level bubbly; this may have been as good as any other Brut of the 10; most got it as their #1.
NV FORNY GRANDE RESERVE BRUT- from Vertus, 1er Cru; 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir; the nose had really nice spicy citrus which gave way to creamy, rich lemon, lime and kiwi fully expressed and modestly sweetened; the sweetness was more pronounced past mid palate; it was full bodied and highly energetic; my #3, but the groups #5 in the flight.
There so much to learn and blind tastings set up the consummate learning experience. In this tasting, I`d be happy with every wine in the mix, some a bit more than others. Although I’ve had 10 of these producers wines previously, I have not had any of these specific releases. I’m guessing the price range is $35-50 which makes these relatively affordable and great QPRs.