Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Special Bottle from Larmandier-Bernier

The other night my generous friend Adam came to dinner and brought with him a truly fantastic bottle of Champagne, Larmandier-Bernier's Brut Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs. Larmandier-Bernier is one of the best producers in the Côte des Blancs, making delicious wines of finesse and purity that can be thrilling in their clear expression of terroir. Any bottle by this producer is special, but some are more special than others.
The thing that made this particular bottle so special is that it was disgorged in June of 2005. This is before team Dressner began to import the wines, back when Pierre and Sophie Larmandier-Bernier were working with Terry Theise and Michael Skurnik. We're talking about four years of bottle age here, more than most of us give our non-vintage bottles. More than I do, anyway. There is no code etched onto the bottle (recent bottles have an etched on the glass that reveals base year and disgorgement date) so I cannot be certain about the base year, but I'm guessing 2002 grapes primarily, and bottled in 2003.
What happens to high quality non-vintage Champagne when you cellar it? There are some folks who will tell you that nothing happens, except that the wine loses freshness. Perhaps that is true regarding many generic Champagnes, but not with wines from producers like Larmandier-Bernier. This wine was just fantastic, with a captivating nose that showed a regal and mature character, but still with great vibrancy and freshness. And it got better over the hour it was open, its nose broadening and its mineral and nutty flavors really crystallizing. The mousse is really just a gentle buzz on the palate, with great depth of fruit and mineral, and a lovely savory note that Adam described as Hoisin. Absolutely finely integrated - a well oiled machine. Truly memorable and delicious wine, a wine that has me re-thinking what I want to do with Champagne in my own cellar.


peter said...

We had a magnum of yellow-label Veuve that someone brought for New Years a while back and we never opened. It sat in the wine fridge for two more years before we popped it, and I have to say that it was markedly better than regular Veuve (which I do not love so much.) I think your instinct to age is right on.

Aaron said...

Damn, dude. You get the best house guests.

In other Champagne-envy news, a wine-rep buddy of mine recently visited Pierre and Sophie at their home. He brought back a bottle of their Grand Cru Cramant that isn't currently imported, as well as their Vertus Rouge - 100% still Pinot Noir. Said the Cramant was vinous and rich with a strong dose of oak and the Rouge tasted like their Rose Saignee but rounder and deeper (and obviously still). I had to fight off the impulse to run away with the bottles. If I'm very lucky I'll be around when these beauties are opened.

Director, Lab Outreach said...

If you're right about vintage, then no wonder it was good. If the '02s I've had are any indication, then maybe generous Adam should have kept this one in the dark for a while longer. Based on a purely anecdotal selection, I prefer 2002 to 96. They have all the necessary power but with more finesse and are very young at present.

As for Peter's Veuve, I seem to remember reading somewhere that because of the global run on Grand Marque champagnes (no doubt diminished as the fortunes of Russian oil men, Hedge Fund junior staff and West Coast rappers have faded), to keep up with demand, Veuve was releasing the yellow-label with three years less bottle age than previously. As if you needed another reason not to drink it. Like Peter, I have a few yellow-label gifts sitting around. I think I'll wait a few years to re-gift. That cellar age will be my value-add contribution.

cheers! (ingenepa)

Director, Lab Outreach said...

Had to leave a follow up for this reason only: (foreplog)

E said...

I'm a fan of Larmandier-Bernier and also love Blanc de Blancs. I agree that certain NV champagnes can gain extra richness and complexity but prefer that aging on the lees in bottle with a more recent disgorgement.

Brooklynguy said...

hey Peter - surprised to hear that about Veuve. Didn't think it had the material for aging.

hi Aaron - i do have generous friends, I am quite lucky in that arena.

hey JD - 2002's are excellent, i agree. wines to stock up on. thanks for the foreplog too.

hi Elisa - interesting comment, and I've heard this said by others. I don't have the experience to definitively say that I prefer one or the other, but I will say that the wines you;re talking about tend to be vintage dated wines, and more expensive, no? There are only a few houses I know of that age their NV wines the way you're talking about. And yes, those are great wines too.

Peter Liem said...

I know everyone likes (or is supposed to like) long aging on the lees, but I actually think that post-disgorgement aging is highly underrated in the modern day. It's a matter of personal preference, of course—some people prefer the nervy, primary-fruit freshness of newly-disgorged wines and are strongly averse to the oxidative richness of post-disgorgement aging. However, I personally like the mellowed, biscuity depth and subtly layered complexity that you get with cork age after disgorgement, and I would go so far as to say that ALL non-vintage bruts benefit from six months to a year of post-disgorgement aging. But that's me.