Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Favorite Grower Blanc de Blancs

Recently a woman walked into my friend's birthday party and handed him a bottle of Gosset Brut Excellence Champagne. As he was thanking her I said "Wow, what a nice gift," and we got to talking about wine. This is a woman who grew up drinking Champagne and who says that it continues to be her favorite thing to drink today. That said, she trusts several store clerks to recommend wine to her, and she doesn't know a whole lot about what she is drinking. She likes what she likes, and she hasn't spent much time researching what to buy. Cool - Champagne is great and everyone should drink it, and I would guess that this woman's way of buying Champagne is the most common way that people buy wine in the US of A.

When I meet people like this who are interested in wine, it always fills me with pleasure to be able to tell them about grower Champagne. Anyone who eats local and organic food, anyone who cares about the environment, anyone who doesn't want "natural flavorings" in their food, anyone who wants to save the whales, any one who cares about small businesses, anyone who believes in freedom of speech...should be drinking grower Champagne. Okay fine, that's ridiculous, but the organic and local food "natural flavoring" part is true.

And you know what, the big houses are psyched to do anything to increase revenues, regardless of what goes into the bottle. Just read this little piece by the NY Times Paris bureau chief from the weekend paper. They will expand the Champagne territory to be able to guarantee production, and why not? They turn the grapes from individual vineyards into uniform juice anyway using chemicals and other manipulations, so who cares where the grapes come from, really?

She had never heard of grower Champagne and I was happy to tell her about how the big houses make wine, and how differently it can be done when a grower also makes the wine. She was excited to try a grower Champagne and asked for some recommendations. I was about to tell her but then I saw an old friend who I hadn't seen in four years and got distracted, the jerk that I am. So here they are, woman who is interested in grower Champagne, my favorite grower Blanc de Blancs (why B de Bs? I've been into the all Chard Champs lately. There are loads of beautiful blends too - more later). There are many that I have yet to taste, but these are great.

NV Jos
é Dhondt Blanc de Blancs Brut , about $45.
This is the most intense of them, the most focused, and for me, the most haunting. On the nose I found white flowers, ginger-cream, pastry dough, and a bit of lemon oil. The palate is fresh, juicy, and super bright, yet absolutely lean with piercing acidity. It is a study in contrasts, as the freshness and the ripe full flavors are at odds with the finely chiseled mineral and acid spine. I love this wine, I really do. We enjoyed it as an aperitif, although it might be a bit intense for some folks. I think it would be great with any kind of chicken in a creamy sauce, with things like caviar, with seafood in general, but also with (and don't thumb your nose here) BBQ ribs. That's right, BBQ ribs. Why should you cut through the rich fatty meaty grease of BBQ with a laser of a wine like this one?

NV Larmandier-Bernier Blanc de Blancs Brut 1er Cru, about $47.
This is less focused and intense than the Dhondt, but the flavors are more broad and complex. It is easier to drink without food too. Not better, entirely different. Here are my tasting notes on this wine.

NV Diebolt-Vallois Blanc de Blans Brut, about $40.
This is ultra clean and pure, with well delineated flavors of citrus, chalk, a bit of bread, and grated ginger. But what really distinguished it from the others, to me, is the texture. This wine is like a spa treatment, it's so luxurious and smooth. A wonderful aperitif, maybe better that way than with food.

NV Pierre Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Brut 1er Cru, about $36.
I would happily drink this wine every night, if such a thing were possible. This doesn't have the focus, the breadth, or the creamy texture of the others, but it approaches each of the best qualities of the other wines and unites them in one glass. Clean and bright citrus and chalk flavors, very elegant and light, yet quite potent. A wonderful wine, and versatile too. Enjoy it on its own or with a variety of foods. I enjoyed an earthy white bean and mushroom soup with this wine once, and the pairing was amazing.

Are you this woman? Have you tried grower Champagne? Honestly, if you take any of these wines and taste it blind against Taittinger or some other big house wine, I guarantee you that you're in for an eye opening experience. Really, just try one.

13 comments:

Steve L. said...

Guess your second bottle of Diebolt-Vallois was less sweaty than the first, eh? Happy New Year.

Brooklynguy said...

decidedly UN-sweaty, and very delicious. so glad i listened to you all and went back for another bottle. happy new year to you too steve l.

David McDuff said...

I see Steve beat me to the punch.... I'm glad to hear the second bottle worked out better than the first. I agree that the Diebolt BdB makes for a perfect aperitif, though I've also been known to enjoy it with sushi, oysters or a little brioche with pâté de foie gras.

Have a great New Year, my friend!

Brooklynguy said...

hey david - so much better. what it is supposed to be like, i imagine. oysters...that sounds like a good match. good 08 to you too, pal.

Mark V Marino said...

Way to go! I am so sick of these guys deciding to make uniform grape juice to ferment. I got into it a few weeks ago with some guys that were into such manipulation. You remove alcohol add acid, filter and at some point you can make good wine! This is not wine making! Wine grapes start in the vineyard! Good wine is made from good fruit with the least messing around! Turns out both of these guys sell equipment to do all of the above and are actually saying it is the way of the future, Geez! I say this is not so! The guys that promote it are making big commissions on equipment, and the big houses are just interested in the bottom line ! I can only hope the intelligence of the consumer will make this a losing proposition!

Brooklynguy said...

hey mark - i'm with you man, fight the power! seriously, i appreciate the passionate and also respectful way you express your view. cheers-

Joe said...

Hi Neil. First, you have a choice between a woman asking you about champagne and an old friend, and you get "distracted"?! Seriously Neil, we need to talk.
I see that Billiot we had was a grower champagne as well, probably my first. Our tasting group is having our first champagne tasting next week, but I expect it will be all of the standard big house pricey stuff - I don't see any of your recommended grower wines locally. We are going to compare a few whites vs. a few roses.

Brooklynguy said...

hey joe - talk all you want, but i'm happily married, brutha. the more distracted i get in these situations, the better for everyone. yup, billiot is a grower/producer. i'm so sorry to hear that you don't have access to that kind of champs. are you sure? did you ask the SAQ police? there must be something. get it in there and watch it win if you go blind.

Joe said...

I'm happily married as well, but wine flirting is an acceptable diversion...
The website is detailed, and they don't show any of your recommendations. I won't buy the grower stuff at random - I need the Neil Seal of Approval. I will pick up a bottle of Saturday's winner and stick it away until I get to NYC, then you'll tell me where to go for your recommended stuff - then another blinded tasting (Joy!)

Brooklynguy said...

let me know when and where. and by the way, you SHOULD buy it at random. there is just no comparison, it's so much better than pj and vc and moet and that kind of crap.

Joe said...

Nope, at that price point I never buy at random - will look to your guidance. Crap? Maybe not your style, but crap comes in a can... ;)

Brooklynguy said...

check others too, like alice feiring and lyle and david mcduff and whoever else likes the growers. whever there is overlap is a pretty sure bet. by random i meant that i think most grower stuff will give that other stuff that comes in a can a good run for the $$$.

Joe said...

I hear ya. Never been to Alice Feiring, but I do stop by lyle and david's all the time.