Hello and Happy Friday!
Ask any of my friends, family, or regular customers and you will find out that Champagne is my first love.
The Chicago market has lots of great choices for Champagne from the négociant down to the small grower Champagne houses. That isn’t always good enough for me. I seek out the best for my customers, and sometimes am able to land hidden gems like I did last winter with my Champagne value of the year from Marie-Noëlle Ledru.
When you are interested in wine, you go to great lengths to get information. Sometimes though you don’t have to reach too far. Back when I was living in Portland there was a “friend of a friend” who worked for a German/Austrian importer and distributor. His name is Peter Liem, and he later went on to co-author the “Riesling Report,” is currently a senior correspondent for “Wine & Spirits” magazine, and most importantly founded the website “ChampagneGuide.net.”
If you are a fanatic of Champagne then you must get yourself a subscription to this online journal. It provides in depth information on many of the major Champagne players, from some of the smallest to the biggest. It goes beyond fluff, and delivers real information that you should know to help you make informed decision and become more Champagne savvy. I can’t recommend it enough.
Peter was one of the people that first peeked my interest about Champagne Georges Laval. He was kind enough to let me share portions of his descriptions with you, which no one except Vincent Laval could have written better!
After tasting these Champagne, I went through the process of bringing them in exclusively for my shop in Illinois. As you will find out these are truly rare and special Champagnes, that I was thrilled to get an opportunity to offer to you!
GRAND VINS DE CHAMPAGNE GEORGES LAVAL
Everything written in quotes is directly written by Peter Liem, and is available in further depth on his website. This is copyright protected information.
“Champagne is full of tiny grower estates that fly under the radar of most wine consumers, but I doubt that any estate so little known as Georges Laval is as remarkably high in quality. The major problem, of course, is quantity, as Laval produces a mere 10,000 bottles in a generous year, and these are quickly and eagerly snapped up by a small, cult-like following of devotees. If you are fortunate enough to be able to procure a bottle of Georges Laval champagne, however, you will be amply rewarded: these are wines of intense personality, highly expressive of both the terroir of Cumières and of Laval’s philosophies of natural winegrowing and winemaking. The majority of his champagnes are released without dosage, and their ripeness and depth give them a rare harmony, complexity and completeness, emphasizing their vinosity and mineral character.”
Winemaker and grower Vincent Laval took over this job from his father starting in 1996. The winery has been estate bottling since 1971, since that time they have been farming their vineyards organically, something relatively unheard of then. They farm 2 hectares of vineyards in the Premier Cru village of Cumières. This village is just 5 kilometers away from Epernay and sits on the banks of the Marne. With Southern exposure and clay-chalky soil, this is a highly sought after village for all three of the dominant grape varietals of the region, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Half of Laval’s vines are over 30 years-old, with some over 70. This is extremely crucial in providing grapes with great depth.
“He notes that having larger parcels of vines makes it easier to work organically, with less pollution from neighbors, and over the years the Lavals’ have traded parcels of land whenever possible in order to assemble larger blocks of vines. Organic compost is used, and cover crops are planted in all of the plots, with regular tilling to oxygenate the soil and encourage the roots to descend deeper.”
The same great care is extended to the cellar. Vincent uses a traditional vertical press, the smallest size allowed so that he can work with more care and precision. After settling the must, it is put into oak barrels where together with natural yeasts it becomes a white wine. After an aging period, the different varietals and plots are then blended before going into bottle for that magical secondary fermentation that gives us the bubbles. Vincent keeps the Champagne on its lees for 2-4 years, with no hard fast rules, rather doing so according to what the vintage gives him.
Despite being very small, Laval does produce a range of Champagne, three of which I offer to you today. This special offering is a fascinating glimpse into the world of Brut and Brut Nature Champagne.
This is an offer that no Champagne fanatic should miss!
N.V. CHAMPAGNE GEORGES LAVAL CUMIÈRES BRUT
“With Laval’s meticulous selection and attention to detail, this is hardly an ordinary non-vintage brut, often showing a level of expression and complexity that can rival other producers’ vintage champagnes, and it is also a wine that’s well worth keeping in the cellar.”
For both the Brut and Brut Nature from Laval, these are actually the same Champagne, just with different dosage. They are a blend of 50% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier. With this wine, the Brut gets a secondary dosage of 6 g/l.
To review this process, after the Champagne is taken off its lees, there is a little bit of loss of wine. A producer will then fill up the remainder of the bottle with a mixture of base wine and sugar. A cork is then put in and the wine may be rested again before being shipped.
Brut is considered a dry Champagne, yet there is a great deal of fluctuation in the amount of sugar you can put in. Anywhere from 6 to 12 g/l is added and that is a big fluctuation! Laval puts the minimum amount to qualify as Brut. With the natural ripeness of his fruit, there is nothing that needs to be masked by sugar.
This particular bottle of Brut is made from two vintages, 65% from 2007, and 35% from 2006.
“This was just disgorged in July, and it remains very compressed and reserved, needing some time to recover. Still, it shows a lot of promise – it’s not as large in body as the last couple of releases were, but it has a lovely purity and focus about it, its tart flavors of raspberry, apple and lemon zest feeling subtle and expressively energetic.”
This is a Champagne to buy several bottles of, as you will want to drink it over its evolution. Amazing juice!
$65.99 BTL. / $395.94 SIX-PACK CASE
N.V. CHAMPAGNE GEORGES LAVAL CUMIÈRES BRUT NATURE
Brut Nature is a style of Champagne where 3 g/l or less of sugar is added after the secondary fermentation. This is one of the most difficult styles of Champagne to pull off.
It takes someone who is a great farmer to consistently make a quality Brut Nature, because ripeness is so important. Think of when you buy strawberries in the off-season. They are tart and not at all ripe. You can help them with a spoonful of sugar. In the summer though, when you go to a great farmers market you can come away with perfectly ripe strawberries that need no sugar whatsoever. This is the same concept as Brut Nature.
This bottle of Brut Nature comes primarily from the 2006 vintage, 95% to be exact. The other 5% is reserve wine from the 2005 vintage.
“This is rich in texture and bold in flavor, its red fruit accented by notes of white peach and citrus. It feels tense without being aggressive, demonstrating an outstanding balance and length for a brut nature, and it finishes with a complex, saline intensity that seems to hold the fruit flavors in a vivid and energetic grip.”
This is so interesting to compare against the Brut, that you will want to make sure you try both!
$65.99 BTL. / $395.94 SIX-PACK CASE
2002 CHAMPAGNE GEORGES LAVAL CUMIÈRES BRUT NATURE EN MAGNUM
Vincent Laval does produce very tiny amounts of magnums and jeroboams. His Brut Nature that is released in magnum comes from a single vintage. This bottle just happens to come from one of the most historic vintages in Champagne in the last couple decades, 2002.
The production methods and varietal breakdown is exactly the same as the Brut Nature above.
Magnums are the best format to age Champagne in, and while I will be popping one of these open soon, they also can be kept for some time. Seeing this arrive at my store was like Christmas for a wine geek!
The ripeness and richness of this wine is amazing. It is absolutely palate staining with tropical, citrus and raspberry notes. The finish won’t quit, and the lift from the acidity keeps it alive with every sip.
If you don’t drink it, I will!
$139.99 MAGNUM / $839.94 SIX-PACK CASE