Thursday, November 06, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

NV André Clouet Champagne Silver Brut Nature, $45, Village Wine Imports. This is 100% Pinot Noir and without dosage. I don't think I've ever had a non-dosage Blanc de Noirs before. Maybe a Cedric Bouchard wine? There are several Clouet wines that have hit NYC retail shops in the past month and because of the novelty (to me, anyway) of the Brut Nature Blancs de Noir, I had to try this one first.

I don't have a lot to tell you about Clouet wines - there is no website that I could find, no profile, no back story. The estate is located in Bouzy, in the southern part of the Montagne de Reims, near Ambonnay. There is no disgorgement date or any other information on the label. Anyone who has something to add about this producer, please feel free to do so in the comments. I do know this: there are printers in the Clouet family, and the intricacy and beauty of their wine labels attests to this. You should see the label on the vintage wines...

This wine has a classic and very pure nose of juicy dark fruit with a pleasant biscuit character and a definite chalky undertone. It is a broad and airy nose with good depth and resonance. With further airtime the individual components of the nose seem to become more pronounced, lifted up from their chalky background. The palate is bold with lots of muscular and spicy dark fruit, and the finish is fragrant with fruit and a delicate note of toffee. This is very rich and very lean at the same time. I imagine this would be great with oysters but also with, and bear with me here, a lean cut of venison with a simple red currant sauce.
All of that said, I did not love this wine in the same way that I love some other dark fruited wines of the Montagne de Reims. I wonder if this is a bottle age issue (this probably would do well with some time), or a style issue. Perhaps Maybe I should taste more of Clouet's wines...


Deetrane said...

Wow, Thursday night bubbles!

TWG said...

Supposed to be the producer

Vinogirl said...

100% pinot, interesting. Again thanks for another great, informative bubbly post.

Unknown said...

Here's an article about Clouet I found online.

Sandra Shoji / Special to The Daily Yomiuri
861 words
12 August 2007
Daily Yomiuri
(c) 2007 The Daily Yomiuri All Rights Reserved.

Jean Francois Clouet is everything the perfect Frenchman should be. Boyishly handsome, full of Gallic shrugs, huge smiles and passionate pronouncements. One of Clouet's passions is "naked" champagne stripped bare of its dosage--the cane sugar and wine mixture most champagne houses add before corking the bottles.

His passion for champagne's purest form grew out of being bullied. "I have bad memories of being bullied at school by children from the big champagne houses," Clouet said. "They teased me, calling me 'the farmer.' My family was a small producer, Andre Clouet."

However, Clouet learned from his tormentors. Boastfully, they told him about their families' secret production methods for blending different vintages of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes. Yet, he wanted to create something uniquely different using Pinot Noir, champagne's most difficult grape, from his family's vineyard in the Grand Cru (top rated vineyards) village of Bouzy, right next to classmate Bollinger's oldest vineyards.

While Clouet's family may have been called "farmers," their ancestors were wealthy printers for France's kings. Clouet proudly remarks that his family printed France's first wine label.

In 1996, Clouet made his first champagne. "Wine [making] is like an artist building a fantastic building," he said.

"My life is absolutely nothing compared to a vineyard's history," he said, adding some perspective. "In the last 100 years there have been three top [champagne] vintages. In my lifetime of 34 years there may have been only one or two best vintages."

"I want my signature on a bottle that people will still be able to drink in 100 years," he said, describing his dream. But Clouet worries that global warming may destroy the Champagne region's climate before his dream is fulfilled. Already many champagne houses have bought land in cooler southwest England on the same Kimmeridgian clay soil belt as Champagne.

While his family's wine cellars date from the rule of Napoleon I, Clouet finds the fashion for returning to the days of organic farming hilarious.

"'Organic' is a joke. It is impossible to work the same way your ancestors did 200 years ago. We are not in the same environment," he said. "Work with nature, but involve some technology, [too]."

Cars are Clouet's other passion. He recalls how a car salesman once ignored him when Clouet turned up in dirty work clothes. "So I told him I wanted his most expensive BMW coupe in my courtyard by the next morning. My mother said I would be killed for owning a car like that [by people wanting to steal it]. Later it was stolen from my driveway."

Clouet compares his dosage-stripped Silver Brut Nature to a car. "If you drive a car at 250 kilometers [per hour], you can [afford to] make no mistakes. A winemaker can't make mistakes with a Brut Nature," he said. "The true test when judging the best champagnes is to taste them at the lowest amount of sugar, when there is no sugar to cover the mistakes." The proof of his wines' excellence is that they are on the wine list of "the best restaurant in the world"--El Bulli in Spain.

When drinking Silver Brut Nature, Clouet warns against disturbing factors. "Pinot Noir is an animal, so [before] tasting champagne, no shower! You will be disturbed [even] by the smell of your shampoo." He continues, "The best environment for enjoying champagne is a fur rug, a fireplace, and a blonde with silver blue eyes like the Scandinavian sky."

Clouet did indeed have a Swedish girlfriend, who introduced him to caviar with champagne, although he shakes his head, "Champagne with fish is a folly."

Andre Clouet Star Picks:

Silver Brut Nature (6,615 yen) Pale gold with a pinkish tinge, this wine's tiny bubbles cavort endlessly in the glass. The nose is packed with freshly baked bread, dried fruit, lemons and ripe apples. The blend is of Grand Cru vineyard 100 percent Pinot Noir grapes harvested in 1998, 2000 and 2001. The warmer 2000 vintage gives a rich texture with a lingering nutty finish. As elegant as driving a vintage, black Jaguar.

Grande Reserve Brut NV (5,880 yen) Basically, Silver Brut, but no longer naked. A slight dosage intensifies the baked apples, lightly toasted honey cake and lemon flavors. It handles like a silver Porsche.

Millesime 2002 (9,135 yen) To his beloved Pinot Noir, Clouet has added creamy Chardonnay. This style is intensely luscious with pear, nut and brioche flavors. Keep this wine in a cool place until New Year's Day.

Millesime 2003 (10,580 yen) Clouet took Europe's hottest vintage, when few grapes survived, and made a stunningly luxurious wine. The yeasty, baked apricots in honey flavors are a treat for the senses and perfect for sipping in a chauffeured Rolls Royce.

Silver Brut, Grande Reserve Brut and Millesime 2002 available at Special Wine Shop Caves. .

Millesime 2003 available at Grand Vin Cellar, Sapporo. .

Anonymous said...

Drappier also do a zero dosage 100% PN wine which is well worth trying if you can source it. Very red-fruity nose and less in the way of biscuity notes, judging by your notes. Peter Liem has some notes on it in his blog, and as luck would have it, a few of us are currently discussing it on Wine Pages.;f=1;t=017991

André Clouet is not only on the winelist at El Bulli - it is also the house champagne at my local pub! (I am in the UK). Very nice, but it can show a bit of bottle variability.