IPNC 2007: Grower Champagnes

DAY TWO (continued): The second morning’s sparkling wine seminar was followed by another that focused specifically on “grower Champagnes”, this time moderated by Eric Asimov of the New York Times and Pete Wasserman, an consultant and importer with Le Serbet / Selection Becky Wasserman, and an expert on both the wines of Burgundy and on Champagne. Grower Champagnes are those wines that are made by small producers who also grow their own grapes (as opposed to the large champagne houses like Bollinger who purchase grapes from sources far and wide).

This second session consisted mostly of winemakers and importers telling the stories of their Champagnes, which were interesting, but which I cannot do justice to here. Instead, I’ll just offer my tasting notes on the wines with a little of the crucial information provided on each one.

NV Vazart-Coquart Brut Reserve Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, Cotes du Blanc, Champagne, France
Pale gold in the glass this wine offers bright aromas of apple.and salty sea air. In the mouth it is clean and very delicate, lenghty and drawn out like a straight road disappearing over the horizon, carrying flavors of lemon, apple, and pear into a long finish. 9

This wine is made of 100% Chardonnay (hence the Blanc de Blancs designation) that started the tasting as a point of departure and a comparison for all the Pinot-based Champagnes to come after it. The producer, Vazart, is a very young winemaker with 15 parcels of vineyards, and he is proudly always the last wine to harvest each year. He likes his fruit ripe and his wines full bodied.

NV Camille Saves Carte Blanche Brut Premier Cru, Montagne de Reims, Champagne, France
Light blond-gold in color, this wine has a slightly muted nose of floral and stony aromas. In the mouth it offers beautiful green plum flavors and a crisp, even sharp minerality that hangs in perfect balance with the fruit flavors, in a creamy bed of the nicely textured wine. Long finish. 9

NV Fleury Carte Rouge Blanc, Cote des Bar, Champagne, France
Light blonde in the glass, this wine has an alluring nose of yeasty aromas mixed with chalk dust and marzipan. In the mouth it has gorgeous range, zipping like a firefly through flavors of tart plum, crabapple, and unripe pear. Velvety in texture with incredibly fine bubbles, the finish lasts for a long, satisfying time. 80% Pinot Noir, with the remainder being Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, all biodynamically grown. This wine is a blend of the 2003 and 2004 vintages. 9/9.5

NV Thierry Massin Brut Selection, Cotes de Bar, Champagne, France
C: Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a familiar and comforting nose of sourdough bread and cold cream. In the mouth it is smooth and downy soft, sort of like you expect those baby fur seal pups to feel under your fingers. The flavor profile includes a mix of red plum and faint orange zest elements with hints of herbs that stretch out into a pleasing length on the palate. 100% Pinot Noir with the base wine being 2004 and reserve blending wines from 2003 and 2002. 9

2002 Jacques Picard Premier Cru Blanc de Noir, Montagne de Reims, Champagne, France
Light gold in color, this wine has a nose of brioche, unripe pear and warm sun-drenched hay. In the mouth it has a particular lightness to it, especially in the front of the mouth. Ethereal flavors of lemon zest ride a creamy, slightly less acidic body that doesn’t resolve into a coherent statement for me. 100% Pinot Noir. 8.5/9

NV Godme Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Noir, Montagne de Reims, Champagne France
Light yellow gold in color with a pleasant brightness to it, this wine has a rich, liqueur like nose of apple pie and mixed berries. In the mouth it is weighty and powerful with bracing minerality that contains hard-to-pin-down fruit flavors that at times even seem like alpine strawberry in a field of summer wheat. Soft and satiny with a creamy texture and fine bubbles this wine lasts for a very long time on the finish. 100% Pinot Noir with the base wine from 2004, and 40% being reserve wine from 2003 and 2001. The fruit comes from 37 acres in three different villages. 9/9.5

NV Thierry Massin Brut Rose, Champagne, France
A beautiful medium salmon pink in the glass, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, yeast, and candied orange peel. In the mouth it offers simple flavors of berries and pink grapefruit with all the cheery citrus zing that you would expect from such a flavor profile. Made, as many rose champagnes are, 85% is vinified as “white” Pinot Noir (base wine from 2004 and reserve wine from 2003) as if it were going to be a normal Champagne, and then 15% red Pinot Noir wine (from 2004 vintage) is blended in before the first bubbly fermentation begins. 8.5