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A tasting note: 1995 Champagne Fleury Extra Brut

Champagne Fleury S.A.
43 Grande Rue
10250 Courteron – France
tel:  (+33) 03.25.38.20.28

The Fleury family used to grow grapes to sell to other Champagne houses.  They stopped doing this in 1929 due to the financial crisis and produced their first vintage that year.  In 1989 they converted to Biodynamic viticulture – the first house in Champagne to do so – the first plot to convert being a small 3ha plot.  They were officially certified in 1992 and they had their first certified biodynamic vintage in 1995.  Today, they own about 15ha and purchase another 12ha of biodynamically farmed grapes. They have an annual production of approx 200,000 bottles. Read the rest of this entry »

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Aube, biodynamic wine, Champagne

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A tasting note: 1998 Egly-Ouriet Ambonnay Rouge Cuvée des Grands Côtés

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Date tasted:  July 11th, 2009 22:30 (10:30 pm)

Egly-Ouriet has been a personal long time favorite producer of mine. The Champagnes see long lees ageing making them very complex and yeasty.  Located in the village of Ambonnay, Francis Egly owns approximately 8ha of vineyards, the majority of which are in Ambonnay.  All of the vineyards are classified as Grand Cru and have the reputation for producing some of the best Pinot Noir based Champagnes.  Most of the vines average between 30-50 years of age and are farmed using “common sense” principles.  In the most recent years, Francis has reduced the amount of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.  He never fines nor filters his Champagnes.

This specific wine is a still red wine made with Pinot Noir.  I am told that Egly-Ouriet produces some of the best wines in the Coteaux Champenois under the guidance of Dominque Laurent.  Only about 200 cases are made.  12% Alcohol.

Appearance: Classic light Pinot Noir color with medium plus intensity. I was in a dimly lit place so I can’t be very precise with the appearance.

Nose: Sweet smoke, cedar, oak and minerals. Ripe cherries, red licorice and raspberry. The bouquet reminded me of the small candies and anise seeds you get when you leave an Indian restaurant.   Some hints of forrest floor and leaves. Quite complex on the nose.  Hints of tobacco.  Intensity about medium.

Palate: Cedar and smoke. Raspberries and those same small Indian candies and anise seeds I got on the nose. Great acidity with medium plus length.  Good concentration while remaining light and fresh. Great structure with mild oak tannins.  Sour cherries. Very elegant.  Hints of dried sour plums.  This is a very elegant wine with still dominant, sweet, cigar box oak.

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23:35

Subtle hints of sulfur emerging, stinging the nose ever so slightly.  Hints of rubber. Seems as though the wine is closing and the fruit becoming less obvious. The wine never quite returned to it’s initial glory.

A great wine to have the opportunity to taste. I have tasted this vintage on two diferrent occassions and have been impressed both times. I have also tasted the 1999, but prefer the 1998 for its elegance.  This is a well-made Pinot Noir that is drinking well now so if you own a bottle, drink up!

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Champagne, Coteaux Champenois, France

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A tasting note: 2002 David Léclapart L'Amateur Blanc de Blancs Extra-Brut

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Date tasted: March 25th, 2009 (also on at least 4 other occasions over the last two years.)

David Léclapart is a biodynamic Champagne house located in Trépail in the Montagne de Reims. Montagne de Reims is the home of the Pinot Noir grape, but Trépail is an exception to this rule.  Trépail is a Premier Cru village that grows Chardonnay in the heart of Pinot Noir land.

David has farmed his 2.75ha of vines biodynamically since 1998, producing a measly 7000 bottles per year in total,  spread across 4 different wines.  He uses minimal sulfur and doesn’t filter.

This cuvée is called L’Amateur and from what I gather, it’s his “entry-level” Champagne. It’s a blend of Chardonnay grapes from within Trépail.  Although the vintage is not clearly marked on the front label, this IS a vintage Champagne. On the back label in small writting you will find “L.V02”. I don’t know how long the wine has been on the lees, but I would estimate based on purchase date that it spends around 4 years on the lees.  This is an Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of sugar per liter).

Appearance: Some development showing. Good bubble structure and fine mousse.

Nose: I have had this cuvée and vintage on at least 4 other ocassions and this Champagne has really developed in the last few years. Intoxicating flinty minerality dominates with  pure green and yellow apples with some citrus overtones. Some honey notes and mushrooms in the background as you might expect to find on a developed Chardonnay.

Palate: The best way I have come to describe this Champagne when I have tasted it in the past has been to describe it as a very well made, unoaked Chablis with bubbles. Think Louis Michel or Daniel Dampt and you’ll get it. Ton’s of fresh minerals, yellow apples and hints of flint on the palate.  Fine and elegant bubble structure.

This is what I call a transparent wine. Everything is as it should be and easily understood. The fruit and structure are clean. It’s like cooking that fresh meal using the freshest of ingredients and being able to taste every single one of those ingredients. This is why I like naturally made wines. You can taste what should be in the bottle. David respects four principles:  purity, energy, pleasure and ecology. And, this is evident.

Some say that Champagne doesn’t develop well when it’s given a low dosage (of sugar in the form of grape must) after dégorgement, but this Champagne with it’s very low dosage has developed marvelously and is simply put,  is impressive. I have always loved this Champagne and this experience was no exception. I did feel however, that it was at or very near it’s peak, so if you find a bottle of the 2002, buy it, drink it, enjoy it!

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Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, biodynamic wine, Champagne, Trépail

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A tasting note: 1985 Krug Clos du Mesnil Magnum

Date tasted: March 8, 2009

Krug is in a league of its own. Of all the big boys in Champagne, I have to say that this is my favorite. Always muscular, but feminine at the same time. Everytime I drink Krug, there is just something so Krug about it. If you have tasted Krug, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, then you need to go and find out.

krug_logo

Founded in 1843 by Johann-Joseph, Krug is a Négociant-Manipulant (they source the majority of their grapes rather than growing them) located in Reims in the Montagne de Reims. They own 19ha of their own vineyards, and buy in top quality grapes from around 56ha.  Krug remains one of the few Houses in Champagne to ferment in small oak barrels.  They don’t practice malolactic fermentation (the fermentation that converts the natural occuring, tart tasting malic-acid to a softer tasting lactic-acid), and they utilize extended lees aging of 6-8 years even for their “basic” Grande Cuvée. They don’t filter their wines. Annual production is around 500,000 bottles.

clos-du-mesnil-vineyardThe Clos du Mesnil is an exception to the Krug rule of  blending. This wine is 100% Chardonnay from the renowned Clos du Mesnil vineyard within the village of Mesnil-sur-Oger in the Côtes de Blancs. This historic 1.85ha vineyard has been enclosed by a stone wall since 1698  and is set on a southeast-facing slope and is sheltered from the weather by its wall and surrounding houses.  This vineyard was purchased by the Krug family in 1971 and started to carefully restore the vineyard to its previous glory by replanting the Chardonnay vines one section at a time. By 1979 the vintage had achieved the quality Krug was aiming for and was therefore the first vintage of the Krug Clos du Mesnil. Only about 12,000 bottles of this wine are made in only the top vintages. Even less bottles are produced in the desireable Magnum size.

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Tasting this Champagne was a rare and most likely once in a lifetime opportunity for me. One I am very grateful for. Let’s talk vintage for starters. The 1985 vintage in Champagne was considered an excellent vintage. Perhaps the best vintage of the 1980’s.

2009-03-08_3200910701985 started with the worst frost the residents of Champagne had seen in over 150 years. In January, the temperature outside reached a low of -25 Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit)! At this point, the vines were still hibernating, so no damage done. However, by the time the vines had awoken it was still -15 Celsius (5 Fahrenheit) outside resulting in around 10% of the vineyards freezing. Even into April, outside temperatures were below freezing.  Thankfully, the weather changed substantially as the vines flowered and temperatures in August and September were hot.  Thanks to the long Indian Summer, harvest was in late September resulting in a small harvest of very concentrated grapes. The wines made from this vintage are still quite youthful and can rest a few more years down in the cellar.

Appearance: Slight development showing. Slightly darkened color, but not much. Fine and elegant stream of bubbles with a delicate mousse.

Nose: Fresh lemons with hints of mushrooms and truffle with overlaying minerality. Hints of toasted wood.

Palate: Very minerally with bright lemon fruit. Awesome acidity and length. Some toasty bread notes and hints of oak, but only hints.

I call this the sleeping giant. I don’t think that this wine fully opened this evening. We were a group of around 10 which meant that the Champagne was drunk up too quickly for it to come around. It was elegant, acidic and fresh, but not what I expected from this great wine. According to a reputable source, the  75cl bottled scored 98 points with a drinking window of between 2007 and 2020. Since Magnums (150cl) bottles are deemed by many to have superior aging potential (they age more slowly), I would imagine that perhaps this bottle was not quite ready and nowhere near its peak. I look forward to the next time we meet then. If there is a next time!

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Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Champagne, France, Reims

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A tasting note: (1997) Egly-Ouriet Cuvée Speciale Grand Cru Brut

Tasted: 8th of March, 2009

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(1997) Egly-Ouriet Cuvée Speciale

First of all, I would like to apologize for the quality of the photo, specifically the glare. I am not a photographer and especially on occasions like this evening where 8 different Champagnes of this caliber were pulled out of the cellar  by our most gracious host, I got so excited that my photography suffered even more!

On to the information which is, after all, why you are reading this! Thanks again to The Wine Doctor, which is where I found the most amount of useful information about Egly-Ouriet to add to my own.

A Récoltant-Manipulant (RM), Egly-Ouriet is considered by many, and myself,  to be one of the finest growers in Champagne today. Located in Ambonnay in the Montagne de Reims, they farm about 8ha of vines, all of which are Grand Cru.  75% of the vineyards are Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and the average age of the vines is 35 years.  In addition, he also owns a small plot of Pinot Meunier (not Grand Cru) in Vrigny which he bottles separately as the Vignes de Vrigny NV.

In recent years, Egly has reduced the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides and he aggressively green harvests during the summer to control yields.

In the winery, he is one of the few in Champagne to ferment in Oak. His wines are never fined or filter before being bottled for the second fermentation. Sulfur use is minimal.  He practices long lees aging, up to 10 years on the 1996 Magnum. Low dosage is a trait, along with the date of Dégorgement (The process of freezing and removing the end of the bottle to extract sediment after the second fermentation of a sparkling wine) on the back label.

Egly-Ouriet also makes an Ambonnay Rouge. A 100% Pinot Noir still wine. I have had the opportunity to taste the 1998 and I thought that it was an extremely good effort. I tasted this wine in 2008 and although the oak was still dominant, the character of the oak was not offensive and the wine was quite fresh. I remember sweet cherries, minerality and good acidity and balance with a long finish. It was drinking quite well at the time, but could spend a few more years in the cellar for the oak character to soften a bit.

I am quite the Egly-Oriet fan. Due to extended lees ageing for his top wines, you can expect to find a rich style of Champagne with lots of yeast, toast and biscuit. When opened his Champagnes need lots of air

On to the Cuvée Speciale!  According to the Norwegian importer for Egly, this was most likely an experiment for Egly-Ouriet. It was only made in two vintages, 1997 and 1998, and few bottles were made. Although the vintage on this wine is not stated on the label, it is a single vintage.  This was the 1997 vintage. Date of Dégorgement was 2002, so it spent about 48 months on the lees. This wine was aged for approximately 10 months in 100% new french barriques. 100% Pinot Noir.

Appearance: a bit darker than the other Champagnes in it’s company. It appeared to be a bit older than it actually was.

Nose: the first aromas that were present for me were the mushrooms. My initial impression was that it may have been slightly over it’s peek. Aromas of yeast and minerals also showing along with the somewhat muted fruit.

Palate: a very mellow attack and first impression. Quite fresh, at least fresher than the nose would have indicated. Yeasty with mellow with persistent acidity.  Oak still dominant. Mushroom character also on the palate.

Overall, this Champagne did not impress me. I will admit, there was some heavy competition this evening but based on my knowledge and past experience with other Egly-Ouriet’s, this is my least favorite Cuvée. Although it was rich and yeasty, an Egly trademark for me, it lacked the backbone of freshness I have come expect from Egly and I think this Champagne may have been past it’s prime.

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Ambonnay, Champagne, France

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A tasting note: 1996 Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas Francois Billecart Brut Magnum

Date tasted: 8th March, 2009

This has always been my favorite Cuvée from the well-known Champagne house Billecart-Salmon. They also produce a benchmark Rosé (many think that the name Salmon is the name given due to its color) that is a favorite among many Rosé Champagne lovers. Located in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ in the Valée de la Marne, this house was founded in 1818 by Nicolas Francois Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon.

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This is cuvée was created in 1964 as a tribute to the House’s founder. It results from the blending of Grand Crus from the classified Côte des Blancs vineyards (Chardonnay – 40%) and the Montagne de Reims (Pinot Noir – 60%).  Alcoholic fermentation is carried out in steel at a very low temperature of 12C (about 54F).  After the malolactic fermentation, this wine is left to age on the lees in the bottle for at least 6 years (this was the amount of time for the 1/2 bottle, so the magnum could have been on the lees longer) before dégorgement (the process of freezing and removing the end of the bottle to extract sediment after the second fermentation of a sparkling wine).

On the nose: Fresh white toast, in other words, lots of autolysis (yeast). Fresh red apples and some minerals also appeared on the nose.  After some time being opened, I got the sensation of roasted duck breast on the nose as well. On the palate, this wine was extremely well balanced and extremely young and well-balanced. Excellent concentration of red apples, yeast and minerals.

This Champagne is extremely drinkable now, but in my opinion has huge cellaring potential. Keep in mind that this was a Magnum (150cl) and the 1996 vintage is considered by many to be one of the finest vintages of the century. Magnums tend to age more slowly and are referred to by many as the bottle size of choice for Champagne’s and other wines.

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Champagne, France, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ

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A tasting note: Champagne Claude Cazals Cuvée Vive Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut

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Date tasted: 8th March, 2009

Champagne Claude Cazals is  located in Mesnil-Sur-Oger in the Côtes des Blancs, the home of the Chardonnay grape in the Champagne region.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay and is without dosage (the sugar in the form of grape must that is added after the second fermentation). Malolactic fermentation is not encouraged, but can occur spontaneously.  The number of months on the lees is not known.

Claude Cazals is a Récoltant  Manipulant (a grower that also makes wine from its own grapes (a maximum of 5% of purchased grapes is permitted)). You will find the intials RM at the bottom of the label in small letters. Typically, these houses produce smaller quantities of wine than the “Big Houses” do and very often these Champagnes are more affordable as well. These are the Champagne’s I prefer to drink.

We drank this Champagne as an aperitif. It had a very fresh nose which included aromas of green apples, autolysis (yeast) and minerals. On the palate, again green apples, minerals and autolysis. This wine was very fresh and concentrated and due the high level of acidity, could benefit from a year or two in the cellar. I felt that at times, the acidity seemed to be the most notable attribute of this wine and it slightly overpowered the fruit and overall balance of the wine. The finish was very long and had some bitter notes not unlike the bitterness you find when chewing apple seeds.

A very well made Champagne indeed. One I wouldn’t mind storing for a few years to see if it improves.

Price in Norwegian Kroner = NOK 294,-  ($45)

Category: 1 WINE, 3 TASTING NOTES, Champagne, France, Mesnil-Sur-Oger

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Vinosseur is the company name of sommelier Joseph R. Di Blasi. Vinosseur.com is his web page where he writes about wine, food, restaurants and other gastronomic experiences.

Joseph has a special place in his heart for quality wines from the old world, especially France & Italy, with a strong focus on Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines.

Joseph grew up in Italy and California, but left The States in 2002 and now resides in Poland.

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Joseph would love to hear from you! You can contact him by email at vinosseur@gmail.com