Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Brut Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs, $37, Louis/Dressner Imports. Like driving at night on a lonely road, there is something about drinking this wine that closes out all other stimuli.

The outer layers are lovely, with a wonderfully clear sense of chalky soil, and focused mineral, saline, and citrus flavors. There is a fragrant chalky finish that really lingers, the acidity tingling the cheeks. But honestly, that's just the outer layers.

I've had this bottle for about a year now, and I'm starting to see that some non-vintage wines do really well with a little bit of bottle age. This bottle was so different from the first one I had back then. This is a wine of delicacy and great finesse, but there is something finely chiseled, penetrating, and powerful at its core. Not an aroma or a flavor, more of a sensation. Underneath all of the delicate aromas and flavors, there is an inner layer, a cylinder of intensity that drives through the mid palate and into the finish. It is a piercing sensation, and one that really defines this wine for me.

Larmandier-Bernier's Blanc de Blancs is made from the grapes of several villages in the Côte des Blancs. There are two other wines by this producer that are both highly prized - the Terre de Vertus, a non-dosé Blanc de Blancs and a Vieille Vignes de Cramant. I've not had the chance to drink either of these wines at home, but I do have a bottle of the 2002 Vieille Vignes sleeping in the cellar. That will be a good day...

This is a brilliant wine made by grower/producers that are completely dedicated to truth in the bottle. Not a surprise really - this is Dressner wine, which means that the growers practice healthy farming, natural yeasts ferment the juice, there is minimal dosage (minimal intervention of any kind) and the producers practice yoga and/or meditation at least 3 times a week.

The metal cap in the wire cage bears the Latin phrase "Abusus non tollit usum." I assumed that this quote contains the key to the mysteries of this great Blanc de Blancs, and so after some emailing and a little translation help from our friend in Dizy, I learned that this means "The abuse does not prevent the usage." Not what I was expecting...

In any case, the wine is great - one of the finest NV Blanc de Blancs that I know of.

8 comments:

Do Bianchi said...

First of all, I love the incipit of this post. You are the Raymond Chandler of wine blogging. It's great and it is my favorite part of wine writing and wine blogging: when a wine inspires to create metaphors (or similes, as the case may be) that transcend the physical experience of wine.

Secondly, just a thought on the motto on the cage...

Perhaps a better translation would be: Misuse does not preclude proper use.

Abusus can but doesn't necessarily mean "abuse" in the sense of alcohol abuse (ab-usus, literally, "against or contrary to the usage). This motto (probably goliardic in origin, i.e., late Latin of academic provenance) is a paronomasia and chiasmus that can be read as "using something in an unexpected way doesn't diminish the value of its original use."

That being said, the reading "abuse doesn't preclude usage" has powerful meaning in the light of the fact that French winemakers are planning a nationwide protest of France's prohibitive and puritanical legislation with regard to the advertising of alcohol.

Chief of Lab Research said...

I wonder whether it's a year of bottle age or a year of palate maturity? Probably a little of both. For me, Larmandier-Bernier is near the top of a very short list of favorite producers from Champagne. But I've had to grow into that perspective. Their wines have a depth and beauty and nuance that I think went over my head in time's past. They do indeed defy easy descriptors (or hard ones if you have a vocabulary like Jeremy's). But with some education, no doubt accelerated greatly for me by said friend in Dizy, I think I get them now. Or I'm getting closer.

A pleasure as always to read your posts.

cheers,
J David

Aaron said...

Anytime someone recounts having drunk Larmandier-Bernier, I get bottle envy. As in, "Damn but do I wish I were drinking that right now!" At the prices they command, they're not everyday wines, but then the gestalt experience of drinking this producer (as well as a handful of others) is not an everyday experience either.

One of the hallmarks of the L-B Champagnes is their negligible dosages, even for the NV Brut and especially for the Terre de Vertus, a "brut sauvage" that is savage in name only. Pure mineral goodness in bubbly format. In a region whose sparkling wines are loved perhaps too well, these are Champagnes loved well enough by their producer to be allowed to speak for themselves.

Brooklynguy said...

thanks jeremy, those are awfully kind words, especially coming from a fella like you. now, regarding your analysis of the motto - you're way over my head, pal. for example: is a paronomasia and chiasmus...???

and thanks to you too JD. i hear you on LB - I liked them in the past but i don't think i understood them as well as i do now, and now i probably get about 23% of what's going on.

hey aaron - bottle envy, while understandable, is just not good for you, you're going to get a stomach ache. don't hate the player...

right on on the LB dosagelessness. I have to drink the terre de vertus at home sometime. i had it only at tastings and that was probably the wrong environment. whatever subtlety it possesses was kind of lost amidst the din of the airplane hangar sized tasting room.

el tvrle said...

I have also learned by experience to leave Larmandier-Bernier's PC BdB well alone for some time, if the wine is "new". I also feel that it benefits enormously. (Incidentally, I visited LB some weeks ago, this was actually one of a numbers of matters that I raised with Pierre. On this, the reply was relatively non-committal, and along the lines of "sure, you can have a go, and then see what happens"... BTW, Pierre is a great, great guy.)

ncmussell said...

Broolynguy -
Just came across your blog today and from what I have read so far I really like what you are doing. I agree with your assessment of the Larmandier-Bernier BdB. We were pouring this as the glass pour champagne at a wine bar just outside the Twin Cities, and while I had a glass of it on 7 or 8 occasions I dont think I ever really appreciated all of its subdleties. After reading this I will definitely have to go back and revisit a bottle with a little bit of age on it.

Klaus said...

Hi Brooklynguy,
Thanks for a great blog, I read it all the time. Too bad it's hard to find a lot of the wines you write about in Denmark. Did find this Champagne though, and I'm looking forward to tasting it. Any suggestions for a food/snack that would go well with it?

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Klaus - thanks for the kind words. And I thought that your part of the world actually gets more of the best Champagne than mine does. Maybe I'm thinking of Norway. Anyway...I would drink this wine all by itself, especially if it's your first time with it. It's a beautiful wine, and very delicate - don't risk overpowering it. If you really want to eat something with it, I would think of something like a white fleshed fish in the most simple of butter sauces. or perhaps raw oysters or other shellfish. keep it simple, have fun.