David 4 December 2014
Family gatherings and long summer celebrations are not far away, so this week we've prepared a bumper fizz edition. Whether you need a single bottle as a gift or for us to mix a case for you, we'll ensure you won't turn up empty handed.
1. A.R. Lenoble Cuvée Intense NV
A few days ago I had the pleasure of hosting Antoine Malassagne, owner of Champagne house A.R. Lenoble, for lunch. He’s a pretty low-key sort of fellow, so I wanted to take the time to share a meal with him and find out more about this small champagne house.
Here’s the juice... Before assuming his place in the Champagne world, Antoine was an engineer, the profession to which he attributes his meticulous and scientific approach in the vineyard. High rainfall in Champagne makes mildew a constant threat but Lenoble’s vineyards are managed without the use of chemical sprays and the house was the second (after Bollinger) to receive the High Environmental Value Certification. I also learnt, most importantly, how exceptional Lenoble’s 18ha of vineyards are. They have holdings in the Grand Cru village of Chouilly (Chardonnay) and Premier Cru holdings in Bisseuil (Pinot Noir).
Out of 320 villages in Champagne there are only 6 grand Cru Chardonnay villages, which can provide only a fraction of the Chardonnay required for the millions of bottles of champagne produced each year. Top houses such as Louis Roederer (Cristal), Bollinger and Pol Roger are unable to use just Grand Cru Chardonnay in all of their blends.
I was stunned to learn that Lenoble’s Chouilly holdings and their small production means they are the only house in Champagne able to use Grand Cru Chardonnay in all of their wines, even the entry level Cuvée Intense NV. When Antoine explained their unique position over some delicious and trés stinky Brillat-Savarin, it made me realise just how special Lenoble is.
“An exciting discovery. One of the more positive developments in Champagne is the number of small domains that are getting recognition for the high quality of their selections, particularly those offering wine with a quality/price rapport such as Domaine A.R. Lenoble.” Robert Parker, Wine Advocate #107.
Last year A.R. Lenoble was ranked 14th out of the 50 Best Champagne Houses by La Revue du Vin de France (there are over 300 international houses). “A must discover!” they exclaimed, putting Lenoble ahead of big names such as Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger.
The latest release of Cuvée Intense NV is again 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier. Being non-vintage, it includes fruit from various vintages and in this case the vast majority is 2010. The remainder is made up of 2008 and 2009, with some reserve wine (ie. older stock) to give that extra power and complexity. The dosage is about 6g/L (sugar), making it a dry style.
Earlier this year Wine Spectator rated the Cuvée Intense NV 91 points. “Lightly floral and fresh, with a firm backbone of acidity and a fine-grained texture structuring the tightly knit flavours of crunchy white peach, pear, pickled ginger and biscuit.” March 2014.
Tyson Stelzer’s Champagne Guide 2014-2015, which just last week was awarded ‘Best Wine Book’ by the Wine Communicators of Australia, rates the Cuvée Intense NV 94 points, putting it ahead of Moët NV (88 points) and Veuve NV (91 points). “An impeccably crafted wine from noble fruit sources, offering sensational value for money. A delightful bouquet is filled with lifted lemon blossom, red berries of all kinds and stone fruit depth. The palate is honed and focused, structured around the taut lemon and grapefruit of Chardonnay and understated generosity of white peach, pear and red berries of pinots. A bright finish is scented with tense energy and an undercurrent of salty Chouilly chalk minerality.”
Like Antoine, Domaine A.R. Lenoble avoids the limelight, but there’s no doubt this understated producer is destined for a little more time in the sun.
I can offer it for $60 a bottle. Click here to order.
Thiénot is an exclusive, family owned house and the official supplier of champagne to The Oscars. This is the first time the Academy has elected to feature a little known Champagne, which was chosen for it’s premium quality and extremely selective distribution.
This is a blend of 45% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier and of this 20% is reserve (ie. older wines). The wine has a minimum of 3 years ageing before release and with a dosage of around 10g/L it’s Brut (dry), the most common style.
“An exotic sparkler, displaying rich, caramelized smoke and brioche notes, balanced with citrussy acidity and flavours of ripe apple, candied pineapple, lemon meringue and crystalised honey. Mouth watering finish.” 91 Points, Wine Spectator.
“Cool steely lemon nose. Sharp and brisk and lemony. No-nonsense champagne. An appetite-whetter rather than a food wine.” 15.5/20 Jancis Robinson.
Served at the pre-show reception of the Oscars, a great tipple to get your night started!
I can offer it for $65 a bottle. Click here to order.
A blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, it is aged for at least 6 years prior to release. The dosage is around 9g/L, once again making it Brut (dry).
It’s a more golden colour than the NV, due to the extra age. Rich honey and yeast flavours become bready with melted butter notes and with its creamy mousse, delivers a lovely long finish.
“Bright yellow. Fresh orange and pear aromas are complicated by chamomile, honey, herbs and fresh porcini. Sappy and expansive on the palate, offering intense orchard fruit flavours braced by gentle acidity. A smoky, leesy nuance lingers on the long, supple finish.” Josh Raynolds, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar.
“Developing an intense bouquet, smoked, fruity, brioche hints. A lively mouthfeel with a long finish.” Le Guide Hachette des Vins 2014.
This was served (along with the Thiénot Rosé) at the decadent Governor’s Ball following the Oscars - it’s the essence of celebration.
I can offer it for $89 a bottle. Click here to order.
4. Daosa Blanc de Blanc 2010
This is the second release from Xavier Bizot and Lucy Croser. These two were born into winemaking - Xavier’s father was Bollinger patriarch and chairman Christian Bizot and Lucy’s is Brian Croser of Petaluma fame.
Xavier makes this wine using the traditional Méthode Champenoise and being a Blanc de Blanc, it’s 100% Chardonnay. The wine spent a total of 51 months on lees, 8 months in barrel and 43 months in bottle. It has a dosage of about 8g/L of sugar, making it dry.
Xavier is a fastidious winemaker resulting in wonderfully balanced wine. In the traditional Champagne blend, Chardonnay is thought to provide freshness and elegance, and you'll find both in this wine. It’s structured, lively and delicate, has a fine and gentle bead (bubbles), attractive toastiness and tart green apple characters. Dry and light, it finishes with a fresh minerally acidity. Beautiful to drink.
“Toasty with floral perfume, pie apple, citrus, mint and crackers. Fine. Full flavoured. Complex. Vinous. Almost silky. Then dry with lemon soda, brine and toast to close. Lovely wine. Super Australian sparkling.” 93 Points,Gary Walsh, The Wine Front 2014.
Xavier’s notes: “This is a step up from the 2009 vintage. There are more pronounced toasted aromas from longer ageing on yeast, with bright floral and apple nuances on the nose. The characteristic floral flavours come through on the palate and it finishes long with a great balance between acid and dosage. Typical floral and apple flavours linger on the palate.”
Single vineyard Blanc de Blanc is a rarity in both Champagne and Australia (only 2,000 bottles of this are made) so this is something special.
You’ll find it at several of the best restaurants, including Quay, where it’s $100 a bottle.
I can offer it for $45 a bottle. Click here to order.
5. Domaine J.Laurens ‘Moulin’ Blanquette de Limoux Brut NV
Here’s a fresh alternative to your usual Champagne - a wonderfully refreshing sparkling aperitif with a great history.
Blanquette de Limoux is both an appellation and a sparking white wine, produced within the exciting region of Languedoc-Roussillon, whose many long established vineyards are finally being recognised for their quality.
Unique to this region, records show that Benedictine monks at the Saint Hilaire Abbey in Limoux were producing this wine as far back as the 1530s. It’s regarded as the oldest sparkling wine in the world, appearing about 150 years before champagne. It’s made in the same way as champagne (ie. secondary fermentation in the bottle) and local folklore has it that famous monk, Dom Perignon, visited Limoux and took the technique back to Champagne where he popularised it.
Domaine J. Laurens is an esteemed Blanquette de Limoux producer which features regularly with critics and was one of only 2 Blanquette producers recommended in an article on Limoux by international winehead Jancis Robinson MW.
A fresh batch arrived this month and it’s a lively blend of 90% Mauzac, 5% Chardonnay and 5% Chenin Blanc. It’s light gold in colour and is a fresh, crisp mouthful of green apples and yeastiness. It has a fine bead and with 10 g/L of residual sugar, it’s at the dry end of the spectrum. It even has a ‘champagney’ toastiness and body to it, which comes as a pleasant surprise. I found it more substantial than I expected and at this price I reckon it's great value fizz.
Yet to be discovered, you won’t find this wine around town. So try something fresh this summer.
I can offer it for $29 a bottle. Click here to order.
6. Borgo Molino DOC Treviso Extra Dry 2013
Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine made from the Prosecco grape - sometimes referred to as Glera. It’s from the north-eastern corner of Italy, centred around the cities of Trieste and Venice. Unlike the rich taste and complex secondary aromas of Champagne, Prosecco is meant to taste light, fresh and simple.
For Italians, Prosecco is an anytime wine, not just for celebrations, but as an aperitif, as a wine served with dinner, an after dinner digestive or mixed as part of a cocktail. The warm hospitality for which Italy is famous gives a starring role to this wonderful wine.
From the province of Treviso in Veneto, which produces about 90% of Prosecco, Prosecco DOC Treviso is a cut above the more generic Prosecco DOC. What’s interesting about Borgo Molino is their use of the Ganymede Method. This technique captures the CO2 produced naturally in the fermentation process and uses it to gently pump over the grape skins in the ferment. If skins are worked too vigorously they can impart undesirable characteristics such as excess tannin and phenolics (tea bagginess). However, this gentle method extracts what they describe as the ‘noble substances,’ the delicate and light aromatics from the skins, without the tannins.
The resulting wine is elegant, floral and clean. It’s only 11% alcohol - a percent or two less than your standard fizz. As for extra dry, it’s extra dry on the Prosecco spectrum. It does have a little sweetness, not too much though, and importantly, it’s well balanced. You’ll find it light, delicate, aromatic and not too complex.
The Builders Arms in Fitzroy, Melbourne are pouring it for $12 a glass or $59 a bottle.
I can offer it for $21 a bottle. SOLD OUT - Check availability
7. Rinaldini Ose Lambrusco Rosé NV
Azienda Agricola Moro di Rinaldini is a traditional producer situated in the region of Emilia-Romagna, around Bologna, in Italy. This is an area rich in food and commerce, home to parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar as well as Lamborghini, Ferrari and Ducati. It also gives us Lambrusco, which unsurprisingly has an image problem in Australia as most we see here are sweet, ordinary and less than $10. Let’s dispel that myth.
“One of my favorite ‘keep your cool’ reds is Lambrusco... rewards a brief dive into an ice bucket better than almost any other red. And, I might note, few red wines poured cool serve the cause of grilled meats better, especially fatty, like sausages. What’s more, we are now starting to see (finally!) some of the more artisanal Lambruscos, that for too long were confined to the wine’s native Emilia region.” Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator.
Here’s a wine that’ll change the way you view the much maligned Lambrusco. A wine made for long summer afternoons. You’ll find it musky, clean, refreshing and dry (yes, dry) and at only 11%, easy to enjoy. It’s a blend of Salamino and Lambrusco Marani, has a lovely rosey colour and is lightly sparkling.
“The bouquet is quite fresh, with brambly raspberry fruit supported by slight greenish accents and underlying ripe cherries and berry fruit. Pleasant and zesty. On the palate it’s fairly light and bright, with lively sour cherry fruit supported by brambly raspberry acidity and by the sparkle... clean savoury finish with underlying sour berry fruit.” Kyle Phillip’s Italian Wine Review.
Great lunchtime drinking. Serve well chilled.
I can offer it for $29 a bottle. Click here to order.
8. Eric Bordelet Poire Granit 2013
This pear cider (perry) is an absolute gem. Made by French wine superstar, Eric Bordelet using organic and biodynamically farmed heirloom fruit, this is his ‘Grand Cru’ so to speak.
The trees that produce the pears for Poire Granit are estimated to be at least 300 years old. The orchard is dry farmed so the fruit is tiny but has concentrated flavour and they are picked by hand.
This tipple is seriously good. Delicate, crisp and refreshing, its luscious pears are offset by a rich champaney breadiness. Its creamy textured mousse rounds to a lovely dry finish. And the balance of acid to sugar is masterful. Best of all, it’s only 3.5-4% alc/vol, the perfect aperatif or daytime celebration.
“Eric Bordelet produces some of the finest French ciders imported into the U.S. The most complex of his wines is his wonderful Poiré Granit. It exhibits an enthralling nose of pure, refined pear and spice aromas. On the palate, it has exceptional length, balance and definition. Light to medium-bodied, this pear cider has the depth, complexity and length of a top-flight wine. High praise indeed fromRobert Parker.
Revue de Vins de France describes Eric Bordelet as ‘hors classe’ without peer - when you taste this you’ll understand why.
I can offer it for $45 a bottle. Click here to order 2014 vintage.