Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Jean Lallement et Fils Réserve Brut, $55, Terry Theise Selections, Skurnik Imports. The Lallement estate is located in the Grand Cru village of Verzenay in the northeastern part of the Montaigne de Reims. There are only 1,700 cases of Lallement wines produced. This is the smallest production of any of the Terry Theise estates, and it will continue to be even when production increases to 2,500 cases in 2010. I'm not sure how many of the 1,700 cases make it to the US, I'm guessing the majority do, but in any case, there is not a whole lot of this wine. If you see Lallement Champagne, it's probably a good idea to just buy it.

Lallement's NV Brut is the first bottle of grower Champagne that I ever drank at home, and I still have a soft spot for the wines. Both that wine and this one, the Réserve Brut, are a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. The wines are deeply fruited, rich, and intense. The difference between the two wines, as I understand it, is that the NV Brut blends wines from at least two vintages, while the Réserve Brut contains wines from a single year.

I've enjoyed every bottle of the NV Brut, but the Réserve Brut has been more variable, as you might expect - grapes are different each year and blending wines from different years minimizes this in the final wine. The Réserve Brut was incredibly rich with great depth and finesse the first time I had it, and based on that I splurged on a few more bottles. Although very good, it has not been as amazing as the first bottle. I think that my bottles are made from 2003 grapes. I'm guessing 2003 because the new version of this wine that I tasted the other day at the Terry Theise portfolio tasting is based on 2004, which I thought was stunning, by the way.

The bottle we drank at home last Friday night had an elegant and broad nose, very fresh and classy. Dark fruit, ladies' perfume, roast nuts, very mature and stately. The palate did not quite live up to the promise of the nose, though. There is a celery-like metallic tone to the palate, with bitter minerals and high pitched red currant flavors - pure and refreshing. Somehow a bit thin from the midpalate to the finish, although there is a chalky grace there.
We left the bottle alone for a while and almost 5 hours later it was the same lovely nose, but the flavors on the palate had clarified a bit. Now it was the purest of red fruit completely surrounded by a pillow of chalk, and it was lovely. Still not as fleshy in the middle as the newer wine, but really very good. And I suspect this will get better with bottle age, so my last bottle goes into the tank for the next five years.

I hope that Terry Theise convinces the Lallements to include more information on the back labels of their wines. When I spend this kind of dough on a bottle of Champagne I would like to know whether it is 2004 grapes or 2003 grapes, for example, and when it was disgorged. These are the things that we as consumers need to know about this wine in order to understand what we're buying. Not that it's necessary to know this in order to enjoy drinking the wine, but if, like me, there are only so many $50 and up Champagne bottles you buy in a year, I'd rather not roll the dice - I want to know what I'm buying.


Vinogirl said...

I love your posts on bubbly.

Brooklynguy said...

hi vinogirl - i'm so glad to hear that, appreciate the compliment.

keithlevenberg said...

I love this Champagne but it's so frustrating figuring out what you're getting. Zachys has a stash with a neck tag indicating it's the '98 vintage. Some of those bottles are incredible and it's such a treat being able to find some with a few years of age on them. On the other hand, I never see the neck tag on these bottles anywhere else. You never know the vintage you're drinking or how old it is. Unless there's some secret code somewhere I'm not privy to.

Brooklynguy said...

hey keith - there is no code that i know of, and i agree - i spent money on 3 bottles that were not the same base year as the one that i originally tasted and liked. i hear that Theise is really encouraging his growers to include much more info on the labels.