Hello and Happy Friday!
Recently I was asked to do an interview for an upcoming newspaper article. One of the questions posed to me was something that comes up often. What is my favorite type of wine?
Those that know me could probably answer this for me better than I can. I really do appreciate and enjoy drinking almost every type of well-made wine. Yet when it comes down to it, Champagne, it’s true, I never get tired of you!
Every year Champagne is becoming a more expansive topic. As more and more long time growers decide to keep their grapes and produce on their own, not to mention promote various cuvée’s that highlight different terroir, one can argue that Champagne will become the new Burgundy. A place that one can spend a lifetime – researching, tasting, and most importantly enjoying.
This all, of course, comes at a price. There is no such thing as $13 bottles of Champagne. Yet I think just like any regular white and red wine, consumers sometimes forget about the middle. What does that mean?
For me, somewhere between the least expensive and the most expensive, lies the really interesting stuff. On today’s Friday feature, you are going to read about two excellent Champagne houses that you may or may not have heard about.
As mentioned above, these aren’t at the extremes of their category, but they represent the type of Champagne that we should be focusing on as consumers, and they both are great values given their quality.
N.V. CHAMPAGNE AUBRY BRUT, PREMIER CRU
Champagne Aubry is a small grower house located in the village of Jouy-lès-Reims, within the broader sub-region of the Montagne de Reims. Twin brothers Pierre and Philippe Aubry own about 40 acres of land, with the majority in their home village. There have been Aubry’s growing grapes in the area since 1790.
In total the Aubry’s make seven different Champagne. With just one exception, everything here is vinified in stainless steel tank. The house style is also to encourage malolactic fermentation, so that very little dosage is needed. For those that didn’t understand a word I just said, I should say just a bit about it.
Malolactic fermentation converts hard malic acids into softer, creamier lactic acids. Some producers encourage it, some don’t. Adding a dosage, a mixture of base wine and cane sugar is a critical part of the way a Champagne not only tastes, but feels on the palate. Most producers now go for lower amounts of dosage so that the flavors are clearer. You know when you have a bad cup of coffee, and the only way to remedy it is through sugar or maybe cream, well this is the idea here. Great Champagne, with clear flavors is best enjoyed without that extra booster. So for the Aubry’s, in achieving a good balance, you want that bit of richness, so that you don’t have to add as much dosage, which can also create that effect.
Now that the lesson is over, I can tell you a bit about this wine. It is a blend, with 50% Pinot Meunier, and then equal parts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to round it out. The base of the fruit comes from 2007, but the Aubry’s do use reserve wine in this as well. It spends about 2 years on its lees, and then another few months in bottle. This particular wine was disgorged in March of this year.
Now for the aromas and taste – hints at red berry fruit and citrus on the nose lead into a focused, and medium weight mouth-feel. There is an interesting spice note on the palate that adds to the complexity of this Champagne. Its freshness and length are very impressive.
This is truly an excellent non-vintage value, as you won’t find too much Champagne of this quality for under $50, let alone under $40. At this price, you may be drinking Champagne at your house more often – and that is the idea.
$37.99 BTL. / $455.88 CASE – IN STOCK TODAY!
2004 DIEBOLT-VALLOIS BRUT, BLANC DE BLANCS
This historic Champagne house of Jacques Diebolt can no longer be called a grower Champagne house or récoltant-manipulant because they are now purchasing some fruit from the father of Diebolt’s wife. Yet this amazing producer who owns only around 27 acres of vines, is every bit a grower house in spirit.
Diebolt-Vallois has been estate bottling their Champagne since 1959. They are Chardonnay specialists being located in the Côte de Blancs. They produce around 125,000 bottles annually spread out over eight different Champagne.
The producer is well recognized as someone whose Champagne often demand and can grow old gracefully in the cellar. The magnificent ’76 Blanc de Blancs was an epiphany for me when I tasted it a few years back. A glimpse into the “butterscotchy” world of old Chardonnay from this area.
The family is privileged to own some top vineyards in villages like Cramant, Chouilly, Cuis, and Epernay. Both stainless steel and old oak barrels can be found in the fermentation and aging of these Champagne.
This vintage Champagne comes from the terrific 2004 vintage. The more I have tasted various Champagne from 2004, the more I have been impressed with its overall elegance and balance.
The 2004 Diebolt-Vallois Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay of course, with 60% of the fruit from Cuis, 35% from Epernay, and 5% from Chouilly.
While a tad on the young side, this is incredibly aromatic with hints at grapefruit, ripe pear and mineral. The clarity and focus of the wine on the palate is really impressive, with more citrus and orchard fruits, and bright, but not overwhelming acidity.
The great thing about a Champagne like this, is that you can enjoy it in its youth, but it will age and gain dimension. For those looking for a drinking window, I say now-2020+.
By the way, I have to point out the great value of this for a top-notch vintage Champagne. Diebolt-Vallois re-releases some older vintage Blanc de Blancs. The ’97 was released recently and it is over $100 a bottle. So it pays to do your own cellaring sometimes!
$59.99 BTL. / $359.94 SIX-PACK CASE – WINE WILL ARRIVE IN TWO WEEKS