Nine excellent “grower champagnes” to put on the list

Champagne – this noble bubbly that makes the girls’ eyes twinkle and is almost synonymous with celebration and happy faces. I am not myself a big champagne enthusiast, but I do appreciate a really good bubbly when the opportunity arises (which happens quite often, after all). To be invited to a mini-fair of this kind – The Champagne Day 2016 (OFF) at the “Nature” restaurant in Gothenburg – is a privilege. The majority of wines that were there were either produced according to biodynamic principles or were some kind of unspecified “natural wines”. Let’s call them “honestly made with minimal unnatural influences.” And it was only small growers, which was extra fun.

Much of what was tested was also without dosage (adding sugar when you put in the final cork), so-called brut nature. I must say that I do not really like this trend. Perhaps it has already passed. It works well sometimes – when the fruit is sufficiently warm and ripe to balance the crisp acidity – but often they become too edgy, tedious and inaccessible. Or perhaps it’s just my preference that is the reason.

Champagne bottles lying "sur lattes" for ageing

Champagne bottles lying “sur lattes” for ageing, copyright BKWine Photography

Some of the wines I tried unfortunately failed on this although some managed to maintain the balance very well. If you choose to skip the dosage it should be because it makes the wine better, otherwise why not add it? Enough about that, it was just a general reflection.

Overall, it was a high quality of everything I tried. Probably so, I missed lots of brilliant bubble that was slightly too low-key and elegant to successfully penetrate the noise of the more extrovert skumporna that screamed for attention. A weakness of this type of portrait fairs with much mingling and congestion that requires sharp elbows and an ability to balance both glasses, notebook and mobile as the worst ballerina. The I choose to highlight my impressions are therefore those that managed to stand out and I with simplicity could remember well enough when I was with one hand tried to jot down a scrawl in my oversized notepad. I chose to focus solely on the positive experiences. I have also tried to score with the help of the classic parks scale, but take these points with a large pinch of salt. Too little time for analysis and reflection gives, at best, only an indication of my review right there and then.

The event as a whole was brilliant although the room was very small and it was somewhat crowded and over-heated. A good-size selection of wines in also, as a whole manageable. Sometimes it can just be too much.

Champagne bottles in a pupitre for remuage

Champagne bottles in a pupitre for remuage, copyright BKWine Photography

Franska Vinlistan

My first stop was Franska Vinlistan (“The French Wine List”, the name of a Swedish importer) where they had a lot of champagnes that ended up high on my top-ten list when the day was finished. Many wines with strong “brands” attracted people like bees to honey. I’m not hard to persuad with that kind of argument either, I must honestly admit. It feels safe when you see labels to recognize and to some extent maybe even have tried before. The most positive thing was that I also had to reconsider some prejudices I have had for some producers. I’m still a novice in this context and have a lot to learn.

David Léclapart: l’Amateur

100% chardonnay. Base wine from 2011 (cuvée LV11). Price: 38 euro (*).

(*) IMPORTANT: all prices are estimates based on Swedish prices excluding VAT.

Elegant and balanced fruit with high and crisp acidity. A little tropical beauty with white flowers and fresh citrus. Hints of French cider and of oxidation. Not as toasty as classical champagne, but yes, one can find some autolysis character in there. Some grapefruit and pleasant bitterness in the finish. Really good and interesting. Have tried some other wines from the producer in the past and then did not liked them all (my tastes may well have evolved since then). However, this is really good. Reasonable intensity and length, but at the same time easy to drink. A charmer. 89P

Champagne David Leclapart l'Amateur

Champagne David Leclapart l’Amateur, copyright M Schyberg

Vilmart & Cie: Grande Cellier

70% chardonnay, 30% pinot noir. Price: 34 euro (*)

Somewhat of a favourite producer for me. Rather bombastic and generous with some oak character. Power, intensity and great length, all with excellent balance. All reward system stands at attention and I give up any attempts to resistance. Quite a classic style with oyster shells and hazelnut. Delicious! 91p

Champagne Vilmart & Co Grand Cellier

Champagne Vilmart & Co Grand Cellier, copyright M Schyberg

Marguet Père & Fils: 2007 Sapience

33% pinot noir, 33% pinot meunier and 34% chardonnay. Price: 110 euro (*).

A lot of money to pay for the wine, but here we can fortunately talk about an expressive and different experience. Scores of butterscotch, dill, ripe banana (!) and sea. Felt a bit like a really good white Rioja with bubbles. A great wine and a unique experience with lots of power and finesse. Most probably too young, but it went down without problems though. Not so easy to get hold of a bottle, I understand, which is a shame, or possibly I should be grateful given my thin wallet. 94P

Champagne Marguet Sapience

Champagne Marguet Sapience, copyright M Schyberg

Benoit Marguet in his vineyards in Champagne

Benoit Marguet in his vineyards in Champagne, copyright BKWine Photography

Jacques Selosse: Initial

Degorged 2015/01, 100% Chardonnay. Price: 67 euro (*).

I have been very sceptical when I have had the chance to try Selosse at other times. The oxidized and very peculiar character of old over-ripe apples has not worked at all for me. Here I have no such problems at all. It is delicious and elegant. Delicate floral, almost like hyacinth, with great complexity and intensity. Fine and rich tropical fruit with many nuances. Fabulous. Also found some saffron tones, which was as odd as it was delicious. 92p

Champagne Jacques Selosse Initial

Champagne Jacques Selosse Initial, copyright M Schyberg

Grande Bouteille

A small importer of small-scale producers from France which was a positive surprise. At this fair they had only brought three wines from Cédric Bouchard and one from Ulysse Collin, Les Pierrières Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, which had clear barrel character and a nice Burgundy style.

The three first, from Cédric Bouchard, was without any barrel ageing but with similarities to complex chablis, premier cru or better. Although they were not barrel aged I could have sworn on my mother’s grave that they were.

The best of them, and the one that stood out the most, was Les Ursules made from 100% Pinot Noir from 2011. An absolutely brilliant champagne with a lot of complexity! 42 euro (*). A well-balanced and elegant champagne worth looking out for. Lovely toasted character, smoky minerality with some burned notes and some classic hints of chalk. 91p

Champagne Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Les Ursules

Champagne Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Les Ursules, copyright M Schyberg

Wine Trade

I have no track of Wine Trade as an importer and there were only two wines were to try. I fell for the utterly gorgeous 2010 Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus Blanc de Blancs (39 euro (*)). A style I love. A little reductive with lots of gunpowder and flint and complex notes of honey, citrus and fresh mushrooms. Gives me Loire wine vibes. Great after-taste with a little electric tingle from the sharp and slightly rash acidity. I like the style very much, but the fruit tended to feel somewhat light. Oh, who cares? It’s so darn good anyway, so why whine! 92p

Champagne Larmandier Bernier Terre de Vertus

Champagne Larmandier Bernier Terre de Vertus, copyright M Schyberg

Pierre Larmandier, Champagne Larmandier-Bernier

Pierre Larmandier, Champagne Larmandier-Bernier, copyright BKWine Photography

TM Kvalitetsviner AB

There were a lot of wines on this importer’s table, but my focus did unfortunately run out after a lot of slurping. So there was more talk and fewer notes. I found, nevertheless, some treasures:

Eric Rodez Champagne Grand Cru Ambonnay

100% pinot noir. Price: 36 euro (*)

Brilliant and well balanced in the classic style. Everything is there neat and tidy and nothing stands out nor is jaw-dropping, but yet it managed to impress enough to be included in the summation. I noted an exclamation point, and 89P.

Champagne Eric Rodez Blanc de Noirs Ambonnay

Champagne Eric Rodez Blanc de Noirs Ambonnay, copyright M Schyberg

Eric Rodez of Champagne Eric Rodez

Eric Rodez of Champagne Eric Rodez, copyright BKWine Photography

Françoise Bedel Champagne 2002 L’âme de la Terre

42% pinot noir, 36% chardonnay and 22% pinot meunier. Price: 39 euro (*).

Fine notes of ripeness and good balance. Should of course be possible to keep for many years, but already now things start to happen. (The 2001 of the same wine was also there to taste, but it did not feel nearly as good. Almost a little tired fruit in the finish.) Classic style with toast, nuts, red apples and a little grapefruit. I liked it a lot, but it did not quite give me goose bumps. 90p

Champagne Francoise Bedel l'Ame de la Terre

Champagne Francoise Bedel l’Ame de la Terre, copyright M Schyberg

Francoise Bedel, Champagne Francoise Bedel

Francoise Bedel, Champagne Francoise Bedel, copyright BKWine Photography

Conclusion

A very nice show. Looking forward to next year, I like the smaller dimension a lot. For me who is still a beginner when it comes to champagne, it’s invaluable and useful to have the chance to try and taste in this way. And so many very nice people too. Sometimes I wonder what came first: do you become a nice fellow when you start to take an interest in wine, or it is simply nice people who are wine geeks in general?

Mattias Schyberg is guest writer on BKWine Magazine. He is also one of the persons behind the very active wine forum www.finewines.se.

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This post is also available in: Swedish

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