Showing posts with label Margaine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Margaine. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Great Champagnes, Under $50

It's the time of year for lists of Champagne's greatest hits. Today alone, Eric Asimov of the NY Times published an article reviewing his tasting panel's thoughts on sparkling wines not from Champagne, and also a blog post listing some of his favorite Champagnes.

Well, I want to add my .02 cents. Here are some of my favorite Champagnes that cost $50 or less before sales tax:

Blanc de Blancs.

Pierre Gimonnet Selection Belles Annees Brut Premier Cru, $34, Terry Theise Selections/Michael Skurnik Imports. Bright fruit, a graceful style.
Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes de Montgueux Brut Blanc de Blancs, $47, Jenny & François Selections. Richer and more robust, from the Aube.

Pinot Noir-heavy wines.

René Geoffroy Empreinte Brut Premier Cru, $48, Terry Theise Selections/Michael Skurnik Imports. This is always based on a single vintage, and is usually about 90% Pinot Noir. Fragrant and vivid, well balanced.

Benoît Lahaye Brut Essentiel Grand Cru, $40, Jeffrey Alpert Selections. About 90% Pinot from the village of Bouzy. Simply excellent.

Pinot Meunier-heavy wines.

Françoise Bedel Cuvée Origin’elle Brut, $45, JD Headrick Selections. About 80% Meunier, slow to unwind, quite rich, made in a slightly oxidative style, lots of soil.

Blended Wine.

Chartogne-Taillet Brut Cuvée St Anne, $38, Terry Theise Selections/Michael Skurnik Imports. For me, a classic Champagne.

Rosé Wines (Tough, because there are few choices at $50 and under).

Margaine Brut Rosé Premier Cru, $50, Terry Theise Selections/Michael Skurnik Imports.

Brut Nature/Non-Dosé Wines.

Raymond Boulard Mailly-Champagne Grand Cru Brut Nature, $43, Imported by Selected Estates of Europe. Complex wine that is more about soil than about fruit, but still feels ripe and delicious.

Tarlant Brut Zero, $45, JD Headrick used to handle Tarlant, and I'm not sure who does now. Spicy and vibrant.

So...what do you think? Suggestions welcome. There is still time for us all to blow some dough on Champagne before the big eves and days arrive.

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...