Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Jacques Lassaigne Brut Cuvée Les Vignes de Montgueux, $38, Jenny & Francois Selections. Montgueux is located in the Côte des Bars region of Champagne, but is kind of an anomaly in the area. While the Côte des Bars is well known for Pinot Noir, Montgueux is famous for Chardonnay. These are chalky hills - hundreds of feet of chalk under the soil, and flecked with silex and other minerals. Montgueux wines are known for their mineral complexity - maybe that's why the area has been called the "Montrachet of Champagne."

Lassaigne is a Champagne house whose growing and wine making techniques focus on purity and true expression of place. Natural yeasts are used for fermentation, very little sulfur is used, there is no filtration, very little fining, and there is very low or no dosage. I've tasted Lassaigne's wines about five times, twice at home with meals, and each time I've been startled by the purity and finesse.

Lassaigne makes at least five wines, but I've seen only two of them here in New York: this Blanc de Blancs and also the 2000 vintage wine, a non-dosage wine, one bottle of which is presently napping in my little cellar. The Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Les Vignes de Montgueux is chalk, chalk, chalk upon opening. Incredible, really, how chalky the nose is. After about 15 minutes the nose opens up a bit and there are wafts of citrus and brioche. The palate is focused and intense, but also elegant and pretty with a clean chalky purity - you can almost feel the chalk on your tongue. The minerals are saline in character, but the palate feels lush and creamy - extended lees time maybe.

This wine achieves a great balance between power and elegance, of lean mean mineral focus and lush mouth filling flavor. Such a pleasure to drink, to feel the aromas and flavors change in the glass, to have the aromas linger in the mouth so long after swallowing. A special Blanc de Blancs, worth every penny. We enjoyed it on its own, but I bet it would be ridiculous with oysters. Somewhat less fantastically, I bet it would be great with fresh crusty bread and unsalted butter, or even with a chalky fresh goat cheese.


Anonymous said...

Sounds great. This is the same wine as the one pictured in your March post (i.e., there's been a name/label change)?

Brooklynguy said...

I think there was a label change, although the label in the March picture, a photo that I did not take, might be a label used on bottles for the French market. Peter Liem would know. Hopefully he will stop by and notice your question.

David McDuff said...

Great notes, Neil. Yet another to add to my shopping list.

Given the soil character in much of the Côte des Bars, it's surprising that there aren't more Chardonnay dominated Champagnes coming out of the region.

Brooklynguy said...

hey d mc d - i basically borders burgundy, far from the rest of champagne. why all the pinot and so little chard, i wonder.