Sunday, September 20, 2009

NV Champagne from '05 and '06 - Thoughts on the Terry Theise Champagne Tasting

I went to the big Michael Skurnik / Terry Theise tasting last week, the only tasting in NYC where one can gaze upon Robert De Niro's father while sampling wine. I arrived quite late and had nowhere near enough time to taste everything. So I focused instead on the producers I like the most, trying to get to know the new versions of their wines.

Many of the non-vintage Champagnes are based on 2005 grapes, a very ripe year, as it was in most of the wine making world. Peter Liem of said that at one time he thought 2005 juice will make for very good non-vintage wines, in general. Now he's not so sure, as some wines are showing overripe flavors. There were also plenty of NV wines based on 2006 grapes, another very warm vintage, but with a cool and wet August that perhaps allows the finished wines to show better balance and freshness than the 2005's. Where am I getting all of this Champagne vintage and climate information from?

Please let me interrupt this post to tell you something very important: Peter has added new features to what is already the best online Champagne guide - there is now a 'vintages' section that provides detailed info on Champagne vintages, an 'articles' section where he will publish a feature length article every month, and most excitingly, for me anyway, a blog. Peter hasn't been writing about Champagne anymore on Besotted Ramblings, but he's blogging again on his new site and the posts are as fun, interesting, and chock full of insider's information as you would expect.

Sorry, back to the Theise Champagne Tasting. After the tasting it was interesting to compare my notes on wines based on '05 to those based on '06. Here is what I found:

The Gaston Chiquet NV Brut Tradition was based on 2005 (80%) and was very nice wine, although it did not seem to have the energy that I remember it having. Plenty of ripe dark fruit, but this wine is 45% Meunier and it felt a bit too spread out, its frame too malleable. The Chartogne-Taillet NV Brut Cuvée St Anne was based on 2005 (80%) and for the first time ever, I was not terribly impressed with the wine. I liked the nose a lot, with its flowers, ripe fruit, and chalky earth. But the palate felt a bit clunky, without the focus and clarity that I am used to.

The Pierre Gimonnet Brut NV 1er Cru Blanc de Blancs was better than I remember though, with a delicately focused nose of flowers and chalk. It felt both lacy and ample on the palate, and although I don't have terribly high expectations for this particular wine, I really liked this version. It was based on 2006 grapes, as it turned out. The other NV Blanc de Blancs that I liked a lot was the Pehu-Simonet NV Blanc de Blancs, this version almost entirely 2006 (90%). The nose was just gorgeous, with salty white flowers, very gentle, and the grapes are all from Mesnil, as with a famous Champagne you may have heard of, called Salon. The Lallement NV Brut smelled great, with clean dark fruit and a brooding earthiness, and it tasted great too, very well balanced. It is 80% 2006 grapes.

The interesting thing is, my favorites turned out to be more of a combination of 2006 and 2005 grapes. The René Geoffroy Brut NV Expression is always one of my favorite NV wines. This version is 65% 2006 and 35% 2005 grapes, and although it is more overtly fruity than in the recent past, I thought it was complex, well balanced, and just lovely. And the Henri Billiot NV Brut Reserve is 50% 2006, 25%2005, and 25% 2004, and it was delicious, open and inviting with ripe dark fruit and great energy. This wine always improves dramatically with a year or so of bottle age, and I'm curious to see what will happen with this particular version. Perhaps the folks in Champagne were onto something, with all of this blending.

1 comment:

Peter Liem said...

Thanks, brooklynguy.

Great descriptions of these wines. I'm really liking the '06-based NVs as well — they seem to provide a nice framework for the voluptuous ripeness of the '05 reserve wines. Delicious.