Sunday, November 4, 2007
[Full disclosure: The company for whom I work, K&L Wine Merchants, hosted a large champagne tasting yesterday under a tent outside their Hollywood store. While I will be reviewing some champagnes (I did not get to all of them), I have decided to hold off on reviewing K&L's direct imports (DI's), with the exception of two spectacular standouts. While I love the DI champagnes, which are mainly very small growers of terrific quality wines, I thought it best to avoid the conflict of interest inherent in reviewing a large amount of stuff that my store sells exclusively on the west coast. Sorry for the long, sober disclosure, just trying to sneak in a touch of professionalism on these pages. Now back to the usual irreverent content.]
Oh boy, oh boy, so much champagne and so little time. After becoming acquainted with our sister store in Hollywood, admiring the layout, saying hi to the few LA staff I know, greeting the bigwigs and their children (all roughly in that order), Marla (aka Marley Marl) and I got down to the seriously fun business at hand: attempting to taste nearly 50 champagnes.
As usual, I am not going to list a whole bunch of tasting notes here. Too tedious. Let's just condense into a few categories.
Laurent Perrier 'Grand Siecle Cuvee Alexandra' Brut Rose 1997 - I am not a big LP fan. Further, I will say flat out that I found very little to no pleasure in some of the other offerings from this large house. This rose, though, offered up a delicate copper color, with salmon tints, and a surprisingly true to Pinot Noir flavor. It was simultaneously silky and refined, red fruited and savory. The bead was as lazy and laid-back as a Grateful Dead cover band. Very enjoyable rose, for a price....
Deutz Classic Brut was bright, appley, clean, and the most enjoyable bottle I have had of this competent but unremarkable, red-headed stepchild to Louis Roederer.
1998 Gosset 'Celebris'- Very rich and tropical, with mango notes on the nose. Creamy and soft on the palate, with a fine bead, good intensity of flavors and length on the palate.
2000 Roederer 'Cristal' Brut - OK, I know this is not close to as good as it once was and I'm sacrificing geek cred here (not to mention potentially irking Mr. S. Carter) by reviewing Cristal, but oh well. My tasting note indicated a shy nose, not revealing too much, with an anonymous palate, though not as anonymous as expected. Judging by such brilliantly revealing notes, this must have been towards the end of the event. Nonethelesss, I do remember the wine having good acidity and tasting better than expected. Obviously way over-priced for the quality, but there are many, many wines that are equally (or more) overpriced that I would have a tough time drinking if they were offered to me (pick a cult Napa Cab, certain Bdx, 100 pts shiraz, etc.) I will happily drink Cristal if someone offers it to me.
Tarlant 'Cuvee Louis' - I have had this wine on several occasions in the past few months, and each time it duly impresses. 50-50 chard and PN from Oueilly, aged 13 months in oak and then 7 years on the lees. This is is a blend of '96 and '97, which is probably why I like it so much! A rich, powerful nose of citrus and hazlenuts leads to an equally rich, layered palate, with a hint of red currants sneaking through, excellent acidity, and a perfect balance of brawn and beauty. Mmm, mmm, mmm...for $45 this is one of the best wine values I have ever had. It blows away lots of more expensive champagne, and hangs in with all but the best of tete de cuvees.
1996 Fleury Brut Vintage - From Champagne's first biodynamic producer, the 6% acidity in this wine is something fierce! As it opens up though, the wine begins to tone itself down and show so much complexity. Interestingly, this RD release is 80% PN and 20% Chard, though it's the chard that seems to dominate currently. Meyer lemon and bread dough on the nose lead to a wine of great balance. It's another citrus and hazlenut number, with SERIOUS LENGTH. Five years from now this will be one hell of a drink. In 10+ years it will be phenomenal. My hunch is that this wine is not too far behind '96 Krug and Salon in terms of complexity and ageability. For drinking now, I'd actually prefer this to the Salon as I think that the latter, as brilliant as it is, is tight, tight tight. I need to buy some '96 Fleury and take a cue from Ron Popeil - set it and forget it.
'96 KRUG AND '96 SALON
1996 is the best vintage ever in Champagne. I have had quite a bit of experience with the 1928's over the years, and I can confidently say that 1996 is without a doubt the superior vintage. OK, I joke, I joke.
1996 Krug Vintage Brut - While at first the nose is reticent, it opens up to reveal an ever changing array of aromas. Vinography's aroma wheel couldn't even cover all of these aromas engulfing my olfactories. My first observation upon taking a sip of this amazing nectar was the soft, caressing texture. Rich lemon curd flavors were upfront, leading to bread dough and a touch of Carr's wheat biscuit on the finish, which was predictably long. I was very impressed by how well integrated this Champagne already is in its youth. Surely it's one to age for 1-2 decades plus. But so delicious right now. A special treat, and absolutely worth the cost. As an aside (albeit an important aside), this is the last Krug Champagne prior to LVMH control of the house.
1996 Salon Blanc de Blancs - What a different animal from the powerhouse Krug! 100% Chardonnay from the grand cru village of Mesnil. Impeccably pure, with boundless energy and intense minerality, '96 Salon is the most elegant and exciting expression of Chardonnay I have ever, and possibly will ever taste. One of my colleagues in blog land said he would happily drink this now. I would too, if it weren't on my dime...if it were, I'd be sure to put it away for a decade. It's a real tough one to pick a wine of the vintage between this and the Krug. But if I were forced to answer that question under duress, I'd probably have to go with the Salon just for its dazzling purity and electrifying character.
Thanks to all the staff at K&L in Hollywood for working so hard to make this event a sucess. Special thanks to Kerri and Gary for the red carpet reception! A hearty thanks as well to the hard-working staff for allowing me to slack off and drink champagne, and not giving me a hard time for doing so.