Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

Hey Friends - This week you're in for a special Friday Night Bubbles treat. First of all, the wine is amazing, and although this vintage is gone, you should be able to find the current release, the 1998. But more importantly, fellow blogger and wine lover David McDuff is the guest-author, and as you'll see, he brings all of his astute charms for this post.

Would you like to write a guest post for Friday Night Bubbles? I'd love it if you would, whether or not you have a blog. If so, contact me using the info in my profile and we'll set it up. Why should I have to buy all of the Champagne? Without further ado, take it away McDuff...

In an ideal world, there’d be another case of the wine I’m about to write about sleeping in my cellar. In the real world, I can’t think of a more appropriate occasion on which to have pulled the cork from my last bottle.

1996 José Michel Spécial Club Brut Champagne. $42 on release. 12% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Wine Traditions, Falls Church, VA. When I headed up for an impromptu trip to New York last week, I threw a few goodies in my wine tote in hopes of sharing them with friends. There was a bottle of something interesting and slightly spirituous (Vieux Pineau des Charentes) for my Scotch loving friend with whom I was staying, an oldish bottle of Mittelrhein Riesling, just in case I ran into Mr. Rockss and Fruit (which I didn’t), and a bottle of grower Champagne, in hopes of a meet-up with Mr. and Mrs. Brooklynguy. That last meeting not only came together but came off like a charm, thanks to an extremely generous invitation to dinner from my host, a guy who happens to be your host every time (almost, that is) you visit this blog. Happily, the wine I’d carted along was showing just as generously.

José Michel, whose estate is located in the hamlet of Moussy, just southwest of Epernay, has had his hands in the vigneron business at his family property since 1955. A longtime member of the Club Trésors de Champagne, his vintage “Spécial Club” bottling is essentially, as it should be per the Club’s standards, his top wine, his tête de cuvée.

I could go into much more detail about the history of the Club Trésors but you’d be much better off just reading Peter Liem’s excellent post from earlier this year. Zooming into the photo, the embossed detail on the neck of the Spécial Club bottle will reveal that Michel's 1996 comes from a time when the group was still known as the Club de Viticulteurs Champenois. That very bottle, de rigeur for Spécial Club cuvées, would be the only downside to having that ideal case in the cellar. Handsome, yes, but its squat, wide bottomed shape makes for rather awkward storage. Then again, I have thought about expanding my cellar…. But I digress.

Though he produces lovely Blanc de Blancs, José (pronounced Zho-say) is best known as one of the true – and few – champions of Pinot Meunier. His current Spécial Club release, 1998, is a 50/50 blend of Meunier and Chardonnay from vines of up to 70 years in age. I seem to remember a similar blend for the ’96, perhaps with a slightly higher proportion of Meunier. It’s also an assemblage of wines vinified in both steel and oak.

In any event, Michel’s Champagne has benefited wonderfully from its several years of bottle age, showing a rich yet pale golden color and a nose full of autolytic character. Its aromas were richly infused with toasted brioche, hazelnuts, marzipan and buttered croissants. Generous, sweet and totally focused fruit kicked in on the palate, lush up front but with great acid providing muscle on the mineral-laced finish. Did I detect a little red-fruited spiciness? At this moment in time, there’s a great interplay between the onset of tertiary development and the retention of youthful vibrancy and freshness.

Two or three hours after opening, the wine, along with its stream of impossibly tiny bubbles, was still going strong. Its mouthfeel and aromas had become darker and rounder, almost figgy, with an abundance of fruit oils and an unmistakable lacing of beeswax. Beautiful stuff, shared on a beautiful evening in Brooklyn.


Peter Liem said...

Outstanding post, both of you. You make me want to dive into the cellar for a bottle of José Michel!

Brooklynguy said...

thanks peter, although i must say, this is all david. i've been wondering about your it in dizy in your house or off site, and how many bottles there are, and if it's all champagne, and things like that. i would probably enjoy wandering around in it.

Peter Liem said...

You are certainly welcome to come over whenever you like. I would be happy to let you wander. My cellar is under my landlady's house in Dizy, just next door. It suffers from a little temperature fluctuation throughout the year, but it's underground and protected from all our viciously scorching Champenois summer sunshine. ;-) But humidity is certainly not a problem in this chalky terroir — all my labels are getting moldy and my cardboard boxes are collapsing. I haven't got a ton of bottles down there, but there are nevertheless plenty of satisfying things to drink. And yes, it's 99% champagne.