Seeing many more unique Grower Champagnes in the marketplace these days. We are celebrating this June “Grower Champagne Month” in Vancouver with such a diverse selection. Congrats to Van Doren Chan and her team with all the cooperation of the wine agents for spotlighting these independent grower bubbles. As Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart aptly states: “Each bottle of champagne is highlighted by a family and a face behind the label and their stories.” Recent visits to Paris by this scribe brought home the increasing use of these for by the glass wine programs in restaurants as a popular aperitif. Look for initials on the label of especially RM for Recoltant Manipulant (95% estate fruit) and CM Cooperative Manipulant (or less seen MA, ND, RC, and SR) as opposed to most common NM for Negociant Manipulant of the bigger houses. Many producers now make wider use of the softer Pinot Meunier grape variety (some even 100%) and are so reasonably priced that almost everyone in those restaurants is ordering a glass. Look for it. Some are grown in the more southerly warmer region of Cote des Bar (Aube) resulting in a more forwardly style perfect for earlier drinking. Impressive how many are now sustainable, organic and even biodynamic while using lower dosage even down to Extra Brut.
The attached list is worth exploring. Enjoyed tasting them all but these five were so well balanced and showing so delicious:
1. Le Mesnil “Blanc De Blancs” Grand Cru from Le-Mesnil-sur-Oger. A go to standard in the BC market for best quality value (QPR) of $60. Grand cru rated Cooperative chardonnay grapes with a sweeter dosage close to 10 but balanced by lovely acidity presenting a classic rich full smooth toasty attractive style.
2. Larmandier-Bernier “Latitude” Blanc De Blancs Extra Brut. Used to be called Tradition but now Latitude to showcase the charming round riper terroir of the southern portion of Vertus. Sees wood and uses some 40% of reserve wines in the blend plus 4g/l dosage. Excellent intensity by this top producer selling at $80.
3. Rene Geoffroy “Cuvee Empreinte” 1er Cru Brut 2009. Winery in Ay using earlier ripening plots of 1er cru village Cumieres with 75/20/5 PN/PM/C first juice pressing only with 6 grams dosage but no malo in this hotter vintage results in a classy fresh strawberries value at $83.
4. Eric Rodez “Cuvee Crayeres” Grand Cru. From Ambonnay a well known pinot noir region using 60% for structure but adds 40% chardonnay for elegance & finesse. Uses small oak barrels vinificiation for 20-25% adding several previous years of reserves to deliver a floral fruity minerally style at $90.
5. Jacquesson “Cuvee 741” Extra Brut. Based on 2013 vintage with 57% chardonnay, 22% pinot meunier, and 21% chardonnay with lots of vin de reserve disgorged November 2017 with 2.5 dosage. Admire this producer a lot whose sustainable vineyards are among the best maintained. Always delivers from the first one 728 (base year 2000) with wonderful fresh deep expressive complexity for $100. Recently enjoyed their 1996 Avize one of the very top bubbles of all time!
A short PS toast to one of my fav Champagne producers Vilmart an RM from 1890 in Rilly-La-Montagne now at the top of their game with the 5th generation of Laurent Champs. Both of their organic low yielding 1er cru Brut elegant bubbles were outstanding as usual: “Grande Reserve” $90 & older vines “Rubis” most expensive of all the samples at $120 but both well worth it. Perfect food wines too that age so well. Ferment all their juice in oak from barrique size up to large foudres with no malo. More reasonably priced “Krug” wannabe and a real winner itself!
Do you have a Grower Champagne you like and recommend?
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Question: Tasted a South African red wine Cape blend The Flatrock from Rhebokskloof that featured the Durif grape variety (mixed with Shiraz & Pinotage). Is there another name for that grape?
Answer: Yes indeed. Synonym for the same grape is Petite Sirah, You see this name used more often in America (California). This grape variety always contributes a lot of deep colour to the wine.
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Seeing more streets closed for car free days and especially annual food festivals. Really a good idea bringing the community closer together. Some interesting ones in Vancouver including the popular Greek Day on Broadway Street coming up again on June 23. They know how to have fun. However, by far the most massive in Vancouver is free Italian Day on The Drive (Commercial Drive) just held on Sunday June 9 for their 10th year with hundreds of thousand mashed onto a lively closed off 14 street block promenade – only really crowded. What a transformation of The Drive. It is a special cultural street festival celebrating everything Italian with prominent green, red & white decorations plus balloons with live music and fashion, so many food items, patios, food trucks etc. Even a choice of Italian wines served in a closed off side street area. Lots of pizza including portable wood burning ovens, pastas, pastries (including cannoli), donuts, and of course gelato. Three of my top favs this year were grilled octopus, samples of aged Parmigiano Reggiano and especially grilled fresh sardines – best in town! Lots of kids enjoying special activities, bocce ball, and a unique vibe throughout the region. Fun outing with a real taste of Italy.
What street closure that includes a food fair is the most popular one in your city?
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Question: What is is it called when a person is afraid of wine?
Answer: Never met anyone who was actually afraid of wine in the same way they might be with say snakes (called Ophidiophobia or Snakephobia). However know people who worry about having an adverse reaction to drinking wine because of an allergy to sulphites (or sulfites). Also those who have quite a strong passionate dislike in general for all wines. I guess this would really amount to almost a fear of wine. This condition as you might suspect is naturally called OENOPHOBIA.
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One of the intriguing fun aspects of wine study is to search out and try wine anniversaries by the decade in 10 year periods from the current year. An opportunity as well to try some older vintages. Last year had its memorable moments finding some amazing choice bottles that included treasures from 2008 (vibrant white Burgundy & Chablis), 1998 (Bordeaux – especially merlot & Right Bank), 1988 (last true classic red Bordeaux old style plus fresh lively Sauternes), 1978 (solid red Burgundy year), 1968 (some killer pioneer California Cabs from Napa – like BV Georges de Latour, Heitz & Mayacamas), 1958 (more difficult but some fine Spanish wines like Marquis de Riscal Rioja) and older ones from 1948 (super Vintage Ports -Taylor, Fonseca, and Graham) & 1928 (long ageing year highlighted by Chateau Palmer). Already a buzz in the air from friends searching out that magical “0” bottle to try next year when 2020 arrives. Start your own bottle hunt now! Will be lots of fine wines to look back at by the decades and see how they are developing including 2010 (killer Barolo year for ageing to check out at 10), 2000 (double 00 very specially unique), 1990 (some solid consistent wines at 30 from many regions), 1980 (maybe can skip this year), 1970 (some well stored Bordeaux at 50 will still be hitting it out of the park like Chateau Lynch Bages), The rest of the decades were less exciting but but if you can avoid fraudulent bottles that 1900 has a remarkable true Chateau Margaux.
What should you drink in this year 2019? Your scribe has experienced already some delightful libations with the year not yet half gone. 2009 generally are excellent earlier approachable at 10 because of the hotter riper softer style in many regions. Bordeaux has many 100 pointers – with an admirable warm spot for that amazing 2009 Chateau Haut-Bailly from Veronique Sanders and her team. Several excellent bottles from Burgundy including underrated white Meursault Perrieres Bouchard Pere & big still primary intense red Savigny-Les-Beaune Dominodes Pavelot. 1999 Bordeaux lighter and charming now like reasonably priced Chateau d’Armailhac while red Burgundy really an incredible vintage across the board! 1989 underated for elegant red Burgundy at 30 – remarkable Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses J. Drouhin singing beautifully!
1979 has some excellent if well stored or recently released balanced complex Champagnes – splurge for the Krug Vintage. 1969 is less consistent most places and needs careful choices to find something alive at 50 but 1959, 1949, and 1929 still have some very complex aged beauties – like 59 Lafite or 49 La Mission Haut-Brion. However this past week your scribe was in wine heaven tasting a fresh lively very complex dessert wine at 80 years old from The Crimea matched with an appropriate rhubarb & fresh BC strawberry crumble cake. The wine was a special Auction item from Sotheby’s The Massandra Collection of 1939 Rose Muscat from the Gurzuf vineyard clocking in at a high 274 grams per litre of residual sugar but balanced by total acidity of 7.5 showing outstanding complexity. My best 10 year decade wine so far in 2019 and expect it will be hard to top. Joseph Temple wrote on March 7, 2014 about “A Sober Ukraine” and your scribe commented about another bottle of this wine and a 1936 Cabernet Sauvignon White Port. However, this last bottle was the best one yet and very hard to open. The outside of the bottle was covered by moldy deposits from long cellar ageing and then covered by tight shrink wrap with Sotheby’s label stuck on plus a very hard crusted capsule and difficult cork that a Durand opener was successful in pulling out intact. Vintage port-like heavy sediment but colour an enchanting dark Rose look but much more too. See the attached article on this treasure and if you see one or are able to seek one out it is highly recommended. Look for any of these old dessert wines from The Crimea and especially Massandra for a rare treat indeed.
What wine vintage bottle ending in 9 will be your favourite this year?
Russia Takes Credit for Crimean Winery’s International Awards
Ukraine says Crimea vintage wine sale at Massandra illegal
Crimea Massandra winery makes first exports since sanctions
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