Lanson – A Champagne House on the Move

November 20th, 2017

Lanson champagne

There now are lots of Champagne houses and growers producing bubbles which are somewhat difficult to score. It is good to keep in mind that there are 4 main grape growing regions: 1. La Montagne de Reims (most northerly with firmer pinot noir), 2. La Vallee de la Marne (middle slopes from Ay beyond Chateau-Thierry for all 3 grape varieties but pinot meunier is prominent), 3. La Cote des Blancs (classy chardonnay on mainly east facing slopes from Epernay to Sezanne), 4. La Cote des Bars & Mongueux (warmest most southerly area near Troyes & Aube river favouring pinot noir). However the best vineyards tend to have the highest chalk content but there is no real overall classification of all the vineyards except for rating 17 Grand Cru villages at 100% & 38 Premier Cru ones between 90-99%. Still the majority are only 80-89% so it is important to try and find out where the grapes in your Champagne bottle are being grown. More information is being supplied both on the back label and the websites but it still can be elusive to determine. There are approximately 15,000 growers averaging small holdings of only 1.5 hectares with larger co-ops also involved. Therefore it becomes most important to rely on your own nose and palate to judge the quality of the bubbles in your glass. Also there is bottle variation as there in no assemblage later on but each bottle starts out uniquely and stays as such during lots of changes throughout production and bottling.

On November 15, 2017 a Lanson Champagne dinner was held in Vancouver at the innovative Peruvian influenced Ancora restaurant with Enguerrand Baijot their personable and so knowledgeable Director for North America. The menu courses matched well the style of all 5 different Champagnes tasted. Lanson claims to be the oldest family firm plus fourth oldest Champagne house founded in 1760 by Francois Delamotte who celebrated their 250th anniversary in 2010. They pride themselves in avoiding malolactic fermentation (MLF) used by many producers to soften the malic acid and to allow the Champagne to show more forwardly. This is an important current issue as with global warming more grapes are being picked with higher Ph and lower acidity levels. Many houses now are rethinking using automatic MLF and are checking acidity levels of all incoming grapes more closely before deciding.  However Jancis Robinson in an article in vinesmag.com Annual 2017/18 tasted the 5 last vintages of Lanson Noble Cuvee Blanc de Blancs (2002-1989) and because the 1997 and more recent vintages were not yet ready noted that “A 20-year-old wine that is still a bit too tart to enjoy seems a bit of a commercial mistake to me.” Note one also could argue that it is a good sign of a quality wine with fresh balancing acidity that will reward even more complexity with further bottle aging.

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Some brief impressions of your scribe on the wines served:

1. BLACK LABEL BRUT NV – 50% pinot noir, 35 chardonnay, and 15 pinot meunier plus 60% Grand & Premier Cru on lees for 3 years (minimum by law is 15 months) with 25-30% reserve wines (used to be only 15-20%) and lower 8 g/l dosage Brut which is 65% of their total Champagne production. Chef de Cave Herve Danton (replaced 27 year winemaker Jean-Paul Gandon in 2015) has allowed some softening MLF on his current blends of Black Label but shows still their consistent fresh clean crisp pure fruit styling.

2. CLOS LANSON 2006 BRUT – First vintage of 100% organic chardonnay blanc de blancs unique one hectare walled Clos site in Reims next to their cellars since 18th century on top of a hill facing south on very chalky soil (planted in 1960 & 1986). Warmer here so harvest grapes from older vines earlier using only the first pressing vinified partly in wooden barrels. Only 7870 bottles (and 320 magnums) produced using 7-9 years on lees with low 3 g/l dosage Brut Nature shows remarkable fine delicacy and elegance as a perfect complex aperitif on its own. Worked with a delicious lobster dish here too. Very impressive prestige Champagne indeed! No rush with that amazing Lanson balance again.

3. EXTRA AGE BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT MV – All chardonnay only from three exceptional vintage years (2003, 2004, 2005) and 100% Grand Cru & Premier Cru in this blend so qualifies as MV compared to Black Label only with NV. Long lees aging of 7-9 years of full bodied yet citrus flavours is underrated quality of excellent value. Will age further.

4. GOLD LABEL 2005 BRUT – First vintage releases are 2002 & 2005 of 51% pinot noir & 49 chardonnay. Made to age but 2005 is already quite charming. The one to cellar is their next release of 2008 (an outstanding year) which is very promising for very long aging. Could turn out like those old Red Label (no longer made) treasures like the 1969 I enjoyed so much recently. Recommend Gold Label 2008 on release.

5. ROSE LABEL BRUT – 53% pinot noir, 32 chardonnay & 15 pinot meunier with 50-60 crus and 8 g/l dosage. Pioneer of the Rose style has salmon colour with some red fruits showing with the wine added from Bouzy. Classic.

Admire the direction Lanson are going. Check them out. Have you tried their quality bubbles recently?


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Ask Sid: What is a flabby wine?

November 15th, 2017
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flabby wine

Question: What is a flabby wine?

Answer: Flabby usually means limp or relating to a person with some flesh sort of hanging down. In wine terms however we usually use it to mean a wine without enough balancing vibrant acidity. In other words the exact opposite of high acidity to describe a wine with soft low acidity. Sometimes also used for a sparkling wine that has lost most of the bubbles.


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LURE: Sustainable Seafood Recipes From The West Coast

November 13th, 2017

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I wanted to alert you all to a brand new outstanding unique cookbook LURE by talented sustainable-seafood driven chef Ned Bell with Valerie Howes. It is published by www.figure1publishing.com and distributed in the U.S. by Publishers Group West but of course is available on Amazon and other book outlets as well ($38.95 Canadian & $32.95 US). Ned Bell founder of Chefs for Oceans was Executive Chef Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver (including Yew seafood + bar) until 2016 when he became totally committed as Ocean Wise Executive Chef for the Vancouver Aquarium. His exciting first book contains wonderful recipes captured well by Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin: “When it comes to preparing delicious fish and seafood dishes, Ned has a gift for combining flavors that speaks to our minds and our bellies.”  Yes it is a remarkable cookbook with recipes easily listed by Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Sandwiches, Snacks, and Mains – and even (Sea)Weed Brownies for dessert. However it is much more than that as a mission statement that helps you understand the compelling need to support ocean preservation with sustainable-seafood and how best to use it in your home. It provides an encyclopaedic breakdown on recommended products (each one with a comprehensive profile) into categories of White Fish (Char, Cod, Halibut, Lingcod, Rockfish, Skate, and Sturgeon), Fatty Fish (Sablefish, Salmon, Sardines, and Tuna), Shellfish (Clams, Crab, Geoduck, Mussels, Octopus, Oysters, Scallops, Sea Urchin, Shrimp, and Squid) and Sea Greens (Dulse, Winged Kelp, and Bull Kelp). Outstanding photography throughout shows the 6 varieties of whole salmon so clearly captured in detail. Full of so many tips from a monthly seasonal guide to how to cook from pan-frying, baking, grilling, poaching, steaming, ceviche to his “naked fish” approach to building a recipe. What a useful valuable reference work! Highly recommended.


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Ask Sid: Confused by the producer name Moreau in Chablis

November 8th, 2017
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how many Moreaus in chablis?

Question: Ordered at dinner in a restaurant a 2015 Chablis from the producer J. Moreau. The sommelier told me there are several different Moreau producers. Would you kindly clarify this for me. Thanks.

Answer: Yes Moreau is an old very common producer name in Chablis. J. MOREAU had many choice historic vineyards plus a wine negociant company that they sold in the mid-eighties to Hiram Walker. CHRISTIAN MOREAU (now an outstanding top producer) bought back those vineyards resulting in their first vintage from them in 2002. There is another part of the family dating back to 1814 producing LOUIS MOREAU now in their 6th generation producing excellent Chablis over all 4 levels of the appellation. You can also find the newer MOREAU NAUDET (no relation to the above mentioned 3 Moreau producers) run by the late Stephane Moreau-Naudet producing Chablis in a low yielding riper richer style. Try them all and appreciate their differences.


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Comparing Château Pichon Baron vs. Château Latour

November 6th, 2017

Château Pichon Baron vs. Château Latour which is better

Pauillac is an outstanding long aging Left Bank appellation in the northern Medoc region of Bordeaux. Almost every wine produced from this unique terroir is impressive and of course quite expensive. However it is the home to 3 First Growths of Lafite, Latour, and Mouton which are really high priced especially compared to some of their top neighbours such as Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Lynch-Bages, Pichon-Baron, Pichon-Lalande, and Pontet-Canet. Super second growth Pichon-Baron (P-B) is owned by AXA insurance since the late eighties with vineyards on south facing gravelly soil next to Château Latour. Actually the encepagement grape variety mix is quite similar both using a majority of cabernet sauvignon (more in Latour 75% to 60+% in P-B) plus merlot (Latour less at 20% to P-B maximum 35%), and equal 4% cab franc & 1% petit verdot. We wondered how the wines of these two properties would match-up in four top vintages of 1996, 1995, 1990 and 1970 and so our Group of 8 arranged this tasting dinner on October 17, 2017 at CinCin Ristorante in Vancouver to find out. Here are your scribe’s brief impressions:

1996: Super vintage for Pauillac favouring the late ripening cabernet sauvignon. P-B took the opportunity to increase the cabernet sauvignon component in their Grand Vin this vintage to near 80% resulting in an excellent dense layered impressive wine. Latour also is so concentrated showing such classic outstanding potential. Both are clearly successes. P-B is still excellent value! Your scribe feels 1996 Latour may ultimately prove to be the greatest of all these wines in this tasting.

1995: Ripe merlot but less consistent cabernet year. P-B quite a few shades lighter on the rim than both 96s & the 95 Latour. This is forwardly drinking in a greener more herbal elegant style. Latour is much darker deeper riper with some medicinal notes but still somewhat disjointed. Both 96s preferred for cellaring over the 95s.

1990: Hot sunny year requiring grape selection and favouring heavier soils like St. Estephe. P-B shows much better colour than their 95 & 96. Young still but has real depth loaded with ripe cedar fruit. Like the structure despite the lower acidity. The silky textures now just developing were superb with the squab dish. Latour also excellent with some roasted earthy plum notes and though both are 25+ years of age they are just approaching a plateau maturity (from cold slow aging cellars) and will drink well for years in the future. Most felt 1990 Latour perhaps wine of the night but P-B still a value buy at auction.

1975: Slow developing very hard tannic vintage doing well presently in Graves & Pomerol. Only Latour here in a drier currant-like style but dropping some of those early harder tannins and is perfectly matched with the beef course. Has interest with fruit underneath and is much better than expected. Will always be one of the more austere steely Latours but may delightfully surprise you with some more bottle age. Be patient.

1970: Probably the most consistent healthy crop between 1982 and back to 1961. Most wines now mature approaching 50. P-B is ready as expected but has that exquisite open explosive complex coffee-mocha bouquet that was the best of the evening. Shows you that even though rated only 73 by Parker these old bottles of Pauillac can turn from leaner astringent problem bottles into quite delicious interesting old treasures. Don’t drink your Pauillacs too early. Latour slightly disappoints tonight as this bottle is a bit funky of unclean mushrooms. Enjoyed a wonderful clean concentrated one 4 months ago but still no rush. Always expect bottle variation from these elder aged wines.

cincin

Summary: Latour consistently delivers an outstanding deservedly praised and worthy First Growth quality. Also highly recommend the 2000 and their historic 1961. P-B perhaps is more vintage variable but showed very well indeed in vintages 1996 & 1990 and gives Latour a real run for the money with great terroir in the best vintages. Buy immediately some bottles of their amazing 2010. P-B 2000 is also excellent as is the underrated drinking well presently 1982.

Have you tried an aged Pauillac wine?


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