Sunday, October 26, 2008

Terry Theise Tasting Notes

What's the right thing to do at an enormous industry wine tasting? Do you try to taste every wine being poured? Do you find some way of narrowing the field, and taste only a subset of the wines? The answer is personal, I suppose. I used to try to taste everything but in the end I learned less that way, and did not really enjoy myself. Nowadays I try to figure out what I most want to taste before I get there.

I was invited to both the Terry Theise Selections/Skurnik Champagne Portfolio Tasting and the Louis/Dressner Selections tastings last week, invitations that I am truly grateful for. The largest and arguably the finest portfolio of grower Champagnes in the US, and the largest and finest portfolio of natural wines from France and Italy - what a treat to participate.

Both tastings, however, took place on Tuesday October 21st from noon-4:00. Admit it - that just sucks. Thoughtfully tasting everything in the Terry Theise portfolio alone is challenging enough, but to do that and then find a way to do the same thing at the Dressner tasting...that's a tall order. Luckily I had my buddy and fellow blogger David McDuff as a partner in tasting.

I did a much better job at the Theise tasting simply because I went there first. I learned that if I had to pick one Champagne producer's lineup to take to a desert island, it would be that of René Geoffroy. From top to bottom, just amazing. I re-discovered Pierre Peters and Marc Hébrart. And best of all, I am beginning to put together an understanding of terroir in Champagne. Here are some of the wines that I would buy for myself (great wine, good value) from the Theise portfolio (prices are estimates):

NV Pierre Peters Cuvée Réserve Blanc de Blancs Brut, $50. My favorite on this day of the non-vintage Côte des Blancs wines.

NV Marc Hebrart Sélection Brut, $50. Deep rich perfume, just gorgeous. 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay. Complex, delicious, and balanced. I never see this in stores though...

NV René Geoffroy Expression Brut, $50. Heavy in the Meunier, and one of my favorite non-vintage wines of the whole portfolio. If you're skeptical of this whole grower Champagne thing, and you buy only one wine from this portfolio, try this one.
NV René Geoffroy Empreinte Brut, $60. This one is 82% Pinot Noir and it's gorgeous. Again, I've never seen it retail. Not in New York, nowhere. Please, this wine so I can buy it.
NV René Geoffroy Cuvee Volupté Brut, $80. For the first time (I think) this is a Blanc de Blancs. It's all 2004, although it's not a vintage wine. It's a baby and it's very delicate, but it's already got a well defined and muscular physique. This will be a knockout in a few years.
2000 René Geoffroy Brut, $125. I didn't say that I'd be happy about spending the money, I just said that I would buy these wines myself. And since I buy maybe two wines at this price each year, this is a serious comment on the quality I saw in this wine at this price. This wine has no sugar in the dosage, but you might not guess that when drinking it. What a thing of beauty! It is full and deep and rich and delicate and a full-on sensory experience. If you have the money and the inclination, this is not to be missed. Will someone carry it in their store, though?
1995 René Geoffroy Cuvée de René Geoffroy Brut, $300 (magnum). Truffles and strawberries. This was the wine of the tasting for me, and although I cannot spend my own (and my wife's) $300 on a magnum, I'm hoping that the gods of wine will somehow allow me to taste this again someday.

NV Gaston Chiquet Tradition Brut, $45. Also heavy on the Meunier, and another favorite non-vintage wine. I haven't always loved this wine, but on this day it was great.

NV Margaine Brut Rosé, $55. Refined and delicate, yet bold and lovely fruit. Delicious.
2000 Margaine Special Club Blanc de Blancs Brut, $75 (but this price could be totally wrong - the book is missing information). Gorgeous mature nose of nuts and minerals, very rich.

2002 Henri Billiot Brut, $75. Just gorgeous 80% Pinot Noir deliciousness. So deep fruited and satisfying. And a keeper too - this has a long life ahead of it.

NV Lallement Brut, $55, Intense spicy fruit with a steely mineral backbone. Powerful but also delicate somehow in its purity.

NV Chartogne Taillet Cuvée Sainte Anne Brut, $45. Bring this to someone who thinks they don't like Champagne. It's a classic, well balanced, fragrant, deeply fruited wine, and delicious wine. And I've seen it, the same disorgement as in the tasting, based on 2004, with the new label, for as little as $36.
2000 Chartogne Taillet Brut, $65. Bold and rich, with a spicy depth. This is big wine, but it's well balanced and gentle.
2002 Chartogne Taillet Cuvee Fiacre Brut, $75. From their oldest vines, this wine is refined and elegant, and still pretty closed. The 2000 Fiacre that I tasted in September was much more approachable. But this will be a beauty in a few years, I suspect.

Dressner notes coming soon...


RougeAndBlanc said...

Luck you to be invited to these tastings. Thanks for the notes. Very useful for future reference.

Anonymous said...

What about Vilmart?

Brooklynguy said...

Andrew! glad to see you back on the blogs. you kind of dropped off the face for a while, huh? You haven't updated your own since April. Glad you're back anyway...

hiya jack - i enjoyed the vilmart wines, but they do not move me the way the others do. their top wine is great, but way way way out of my price range.

Vinotas said...
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