Category Archives: Champagne – Wine Reviews

Pommery Champagne

Pommery Champagne

Barry Weinman: 14th October 2017

Wine is so much more than a just a drink or a commodity. It takes on meaning and a life of its own, depending on the situation in which it is drunk and the people with whom it is shared.

There is a story behind every bottle; joy, happiness, contentment and even sadness. Celebration or despair, friendship or a job well done.

Of all the wine styles produced, none is associated with more stories than Champagne. A wine that has been at millions of celebrations globally, and one that starts almost every social gathering in my house (ok, so I also drink plenty of good Australian sparkling wine as well!).

There are many other stories behind every bottle of wine, including the vigneron, the vineyard, the weather, the grape varieties and most of all, the winemaker.

There is also a team of people who work to bring the wine from the producer to your table. One of those people is Robert Palandri, a veteran of the Western Australian wine industry. Rob has worked in the background in a number of capacities in the industry over the years, including establishing his own restaurant and winery.

Rob has worked tirelessly over the years to share his passion for fine wine and promote the brands that he represents. Robert is currently the state manager of Vranken Pommery in Western Australia. The group distributes a number of brands in Australia, including their own Champagne houses; Pommery and Vranken.

So next time you are having a glass of fine wine, share a thought for people like Robert who work tirelessly in the background to bring wines to your table.

Champagne Pommery

Cuvee Louise

Founded in 1785, Pommery is one of the oldest Champagne houses. The focus appears to be on making wines with instant appeal. These are wines that put an emphasis on the enjoyment factor.

The highlight was undoubtedly the 2002 Cuvee Louise. A wine of power and grace. There are still small quantities of this available in Western Australia and it is worth seeking out if your budget can stretch to $250.

If your budget is more modest, then the 2006 Vintage is the value point in the range, and should be available for under $100.

PommeryBrut Royal – NV. Quite rich and forward nose, with red berry fruit to the fore over complex toast, dough characters. The palate has good weight and depth, with gentle acidity adding life. Made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay in equal proportions, this wine spends a minimum of 3 years on lees and has a dosage of around 10g/l.

PommeryGrand Cru – 2005 Quite fine and racy in comparison to the NV, yet remains approachable and offers excellent current drinking. Mouth-feel and texture are a highlight and there is excellent length and drive to close. A 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with the fruit coming from 7 villages – all Grand Cru. Spent 5 year on lees followed by extended bottle aging. Dosage is around 7 – 8 gm/l.

PommeryGrand Cru – 2006. Stone fruit aromas with a twist of lemon adding depth. Elegant and restrained, this is very fine, with the acid driving the palate. Amazing contrast to the 2005, and needs a few years to open up. Similar winemaking to the 2005, though I expect that the dosage might be a little lower in this wine.

PommeryCuvee Louise –– 2002. Opens with fine lemony fruit courtesy of the Chardonnay. This wine is bristling with latent power. The palate is restrained and taut, but the fruit weight and depth are palpable. Tightly coiled, this is a magnificent drink now or in 5 – 10 years and was a real highlight. Chardonnay 65%, Pinot Noir 35%, the fruit coming from 3 Grand Cru villages (Aye, Cremmant and Aviz). 6g/l of residual sugar and 10 years on lees.

PommeryCuvee Louise –– 2004.($250). Incredibly fine wine, and near seamless in the mouth. Very long, elegant, restrained with a very fine mousse, minerality and great finesse. Texture builds long after the wine has been swallowed. A worthy follow up to the mighty 2002.


Champagne – Master Class

Champagne – Master Class

Barry Weinman: 26th October 2016IMG_0699

The Comité Interprofessionnel Du Vin De Champagne (CIVC) is the trade association that represents both grape growers, and producers of Champagne. The CIVC has two major roles:

  1. Control of quality. This includes grape yields, permitted varieties, vineyard designations, dosage etc.
  2. The CICV has a big role in promoting the “special” qualities of Champagne to the media and the wider public.

There are a number of activities run to support this, including the Champagne awards and a number of tastings.

I attended the Perth leg of their 2015 Champagne – Master Class series. Three previous Champagne award winners were on hand to give insightful background on the wines, as well as thoughts on the wines themselves.

The tasting was cleverly designed to showcase the variety of styles that are produced in the Champagne region. One way to increase demand is to demonstrate that Champagne has a role beyond an aperitif, and is able to be consumed throughout a meal.

It was made mention that Champagne must surely be the most versatile wine, given that there are styles to suit all occasions.

I agree with this in theory, but for me, Champagne is about sharing with friends at the start of a gathering. I can think of no other wine that so perfectly sets the mood for the rest of the evening (or breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea).


Deutz – Brut – NV. (18). A fine, elegant nose that has poise. There is a creamy note, with only gentle lees aromas. Apple and lemon zest comes to mind on the palate. Quite delicate red fruits linger on a linear palate. Owned by Louis Roederer, the base wine is from the 2010 vintage.

Bruno Paillard – Brut – NV. (17.8). Fresh, vibrant fruit with intrinsic power. The palate is taut, fine and elegant, with depth and grace. The red fruit notes opening up on a finish that lingers. Balanced, this is a very easy wine to drink and deserves to be popular. Disgorged in 2013, with a blend of Chardonnay 45%/Pinot Noir 33%/Pinot Meuniere 22%. The two years in bottle post disgorgement adds to the richness. The 1st bottle was affected by cork taint, this review is based on the second.

Pol Roger – Blanc de Blanc – 2004. (18.5+). Restrained and delicate nose. A precise, taut, lean and angular palate, with apple, citrus and nectarine. A long and fine wine that really needs a few years to open up, or serve with freshly shucked oysters now. Dosage = 8gm/l. 9 years on lees.

Louis Roederer – Rosé – 2009. (18.5 – 19). Made by the saignee method. Palest salmon colour. Delicate strawberry and red fruits on the nose and palate, with a hint of brioche. Latent power, but the acid drive confers life and vitality. Excellent length, the fruit lingering to the close. A very fine Champagne that is drinking beautifully despite its relative youth. Chardonnay 62%/Pinot Noir 38%.

Roederer is one of the largest owners of vineyards in Champagne, (240 hectares) allowing them to grow much of their own grapes.

Pol Roger – Rosé – 2006. (18.5 – 19). A complex, powerful nose. Cherry, strawberry and red currant fruit. The palate is compact, yet powerful, with dense red fruit characters, length, and fine acidity. The residual sugar balances the palate perfectly, making for a meal in itself. Seamless palate transition, the fruit lingers for what seems like minutes. Super stuff.

Made in the addition method. Dosage = 10.5gm/l, 6.5yrs on lees. (50% of fruit from own vineyards)

Louis Roederer – 2008. (18.5 – 19). A Very pale straw colour. Very lean and racy, with taut, aspirin like minerality and fresh acidity. Zesty and fine. This is a wine that is crying out for a few years in the cellar to allow the fruit to uncoil and the structure to settle. Lemony acid to close. As this warms in the glass, the depth and structure of the fruit really becomes apparent.

Pinot Noir 70%/Chardonnay 30%, oak fermentation, lees stirring.

Charles Heidsieck – Brut Reserve – NV. (18). Opulent fruit on the nose. The palate is rich, but perfectly balanced, with brioche and coffee notes. The finish is gentle and complete, though the fruit builds in the mouth. After tasting the richness of this wine, it is understandable why it was served last. An excellent drink.

Remarkably, 60% of this wine is from the 2007 vintage, whilst the remaining 40% is made up of reserve wine of between 10 and 15 years age. Dosage =10gm/l, 6 years on lees.

Negotiants Imported Wine Tasting – June 2015

Chateau Musar, New Zealand Pinot Noir, French Wines

12th July 2015

Reviewed by Barry Weinman

Here are my first impressions on a range of excellent wines imported by Negotiants. Part of the Yalumba group, Negotiants has the most extensive range of high quality wines in Australia, so products should be widely available (though they may need to be ordered in).

The two highlights for the tasting were the bracket of Pinot Noirs, and tasting though several wines from Chateau Musar with Ralph Hochar, the grandson of founder Gaston Hochar.

Situated in Lebanon, Chateaux Musar was founded in 1930, with the aim of producing fine wines in the tradition of Bordeaux. Gaston’s son Serge was named Decanter Magazine’s inaugural “Man of the Year” in 1984. This was in recognition of his remarkable achievement in producing wines through the Lebanon civil war.

The Bekaa Valley is now home to a number of vineyards and wineries, but Chateau Musar remains their most famous export.


Marc Bredif –Chenin Blanc – Brut – NV. Creamy, textural nose. The palate is rich and generous, with decent acidity to keep the fruit balanced, and there is good length. An interesting and worthwhile alternative to Champagne. Will take antipasto very well.

Pol Roger – Champagne – 2004. Complex nose, but not overtly influenced by lees. The fruit really shines here, with pinot richness adding depth. Long, this is a very subtle, fine wine.

Pol Roger – Champagne – Rose – 2004. This has the palest salmon colour. A touch more red fruits on the nose compared to the vintage. Fine and elegant, with zesty acidity, but the subtle complexity drives the finish. Sublime.

Domaine du Vieux Telegraph – Chateauneuf du Pape – la Crau – 2012. Supple, subtle red fruits on the nose, with complex mineral and spice notes. The palate is alive, with vibrant fruit leading into savoury, earthy notes. Very long and fine, with minerality and texture, a wine of real presence and style.

Chateau Musar – Rhone Blend – Hochar Pere Et Fils – 2008. Lighter, pale colour, tending towards brick red. Lovely fragrant fruit with spice and depth to the nose. The palate is savoury and complex. The fruit is subdued, allowing the gentle complex characters to shine. The acid drive adds length. Good now with hearty food, this is from a lighter year, and is made to drink earlier than the premium wine.

Chateau Musar – Cabernet Blend – 2007. Lighter colour reflecting the age and the style. There is serious power to the fruit, yet the wine comes across as elegant and refined, with great length and texture. Not mainstream, but a lovely drink. (33% new oak and is from a strong year).

Chateau Musar – Cabernet Blend – 2000. Quite Burundian. Feminine, floral, complex, with ripe, savoury, spicy fruit. The palate is remarkable for the way the fruit builds and gains depth. A savoury treat.

Pinot Noir

Nautilus – Pinot Noir – 2012. Nice balance of fruit and savoury complexity on the nose. The palate is fresh, with the structured fruit giving way to oak and fruit tannins on the close. Quite serious, but needs a year or two. From Marlborough.

Fromm – Pinot Noir – Clayvin Vineyard – 2013. I liked this a lot. Serious fruit with cherry and spices – clove and cardamom. The palate is fresh and light, with an almost ethereal character. Delicate, refined and very long, this is a delightful wine. Now – 5 years.

Grasshopper Rock – Pinot Noir – Earnscleugh Vineyard – 2012. Restrained and taut, yet with a core of vibrant fruit running through the palate. Quite savoury to close. A fine effort from Central Otago, without the fleshiness often seen from this region.

Valli – Pinot Noir – Gibston Vineyard – 2013. Dense ripe fruit, showing cherry, plum and spice, typical of Central Otago. The palate is dense, with earthy notes adding depth and interest. The long finish sees the tannins dry up the fruit somewhat, making this a good prospect for a few years in the cellar, or served with lamb now.

Two Paddocks – Pinot Noir – 2013. A complete wine from Central Otago that is a great drop now. Deceptive, as the intrinsic quality is easy to miss due to the ease of drinking. Who needs food?

Ata Rangi – Pinot Noir – 2013. Brilliant colour. The nose is complex, yet delicate and refined. The palate has vibrant fruit, with a cloak of oak and tannins. The souring, cherry-like acidity really cuts through on the finish, ensuring drive and focus. With excellent length and persistence, the fruit fans out on the close. A brilliant wine that can be drunk any time over the next 10 years.

Francois Feuillet – Pinot Noir – Chambole Musigny – 1er Cru – Les Sentiers. A lovely nose that combines savoury/spicy notes with supple fruit. The palate is bright and fresh, with menthol and hints of tar and aniseed.

Geantet-Pansiot – Pinot Noir – Gevery Chambertain – 1er Cru – Le Poissenot – 2010. Quite savoury at first, with meaty/earthy notes. That said, there is a core of ripe, powerful fruit that defines the wine. The palate is quite elegant, with the earthy/savoury minerality carrying the length of the palate. Very long, this is a fine wine indeed. Not cheap, but very good.

Dugat – Py – Pinot Noir – Gevery Chambertain – Ville Vignes – 2008. Concentrated fruit on the noseDepth provided by the complex earthy notes. Old vines really show their worth here. On the palate, the balance is excellent, though the fruit is actually quite muted, shut down by the structural components and savoury oak. Superb wine in the making, and remarkable quality for a village wine.

1996 Cabernet Sauvignon

Vintage in Focus by Barry Weinman

27th June 2015IMG_0544

I am in the fortunate position to be able to drink old wines regularly. Often, this is in the setting of dinner with friends, or a themed tasting. It is a rare treat however, to be able to drink a number of aged wines from the same vintage.

To make this tasting even more interesting, all wines were Bordeaux varietals or blends and the wines were equally divided between France and Australia. An added bonus was that 1996 was an excellent year on both sides of the globe. I could not find a bottle of Mosswood from this vintage, so substituted a bottle of the 1994 Reserve.

All wines came from the Wine and Food Society of Western Australia’s cellar. The Australian wines had been in the cellar since launch, whereas many of the French wines I purchased a few years ago when they had been shipped ex-cellar.

Opening the wines told a tale of two standards. The corks in the French wines were uniformly in great condition. Longer than the Australian’s, but also of perceptibly higher quality. The Australian wines’ corks started crumbling with a standard corkscrew, whereas the French wines’ corks came out easily without breaking.

Once again, I was very grateful to have a Durant corkscrew on hand to assist with cork removal. This remarkable device is a must for those regularly opening wines older than 15 years. Remarkably, there was no discernible cork taint in any of the wines. This was indeed a very special day!

Initially, I planned on serving the wines in matched pairs (Australia v France). On opening the wines, this plan changed as the overt power of the Australian wines would have overwhelmed the French wines.

The Wines

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the night was the Champagnes in Bracket One. Support for the three wines was equally divided across the group. The “standard” 2002 was the most accessible, making it the choice for those who value drinkability.Bracket 1

At the other end of the spectrum, the Sir Winston Churchill is a sublime wine that was the pick for the aficionados among us. Sitting in the middle and offering outstanding value was the Blanc de Blanc. A great drink!

The highlight of Bracket Two was the Roc de Cambes, coming from a fully mature vineyard that has similarities to St Emillon. This demonstrated just how good the wines from Cotes de Bourg (Cotes de Bordeaux) can be.

Bracket Three saw a step up in perceived quality, as all wines were of Grand Cru status. This was also reflected in the overall quality. The highlight was the Cantemerle, a still youthful wine of real class.

Bracket Four saw the first of the Australian wines. The change in style was immediately apparent, with the fruit more accessible. The wines retained balance and poise, but there was a degree of immediacy that, if anything, made the wines more accessible to the average drinker.

The Wynns displayed classic Coonawarra fruit and was a delight to drink. The Plantagenet was my pick. A wine that is in its prime, but one that will also last for years.

Bracket 5The final bracket consisted of three superstars. The Mosswood was the most complete drink, the 707 the most long-lived. All were brilliant wines in their own right, and equal to the best Cabernets anywhere in the world, albeit in a different style to the French. Ultimately, it was the Vasse Felix Heytesbury that was my pick for the night!

Bracket One

Pol Roger – Champagne – 2002. A rich and developed Champagne that is powerful and complex, with honeyed, aged notes. Textured and very long, this was preferred by several guests.

Pol Roger – Champagne – Blanc de Blanc – 2002. Perfumed and floral, the taut chardonnay fruit characters are clearly expressed here. Refined and delicate, yet there is latent power and excellent length. A great wine that will age well for another few years at least.

Pol Roger – Champagne – Sir Winston Churchill – 2000. The term “Less is more” comes to mind here. Very fine and delicate, yet has tremendous presence in the mouth. Elegance is the key.

Bracket Two

Lilian Ladouys – Saint Estephe – 1996. Lovely fragrant nose, with subtle spice complementing the still-fresh fruit. The palate is fully mature, with decent depth and length and a well-structured finish. Good drinking.

Roc de Cambes – Cotes de Bourg – 1996. Made primarily from Merlot, the fantastic fruit here has an almost new-world richness. Cassis and spice on the nose. The silky mouthfeel and depth of fruit on the palate are noteworthy. Considered by many to be the best wine from the Cotes de Bourg, this was a standout.

Labegorce – Margeaux – 1996. The perfumed fruit is typical of Margeaux, but the palate was starting to dry out. Perhaps not the best bottle.

Bracket Three

Clos de L’Oratoire – St. Emillon – Grand Cru – 1996. Delicious sweet fruit that has obvious power. Very long and texture, this is drinking perfectly now.

Chateau Cantemerle – Haut Medoc – 5th Growth – 1996. Sweet ripe fruit, with minty highlights. A powerful wine, with still firm tannins. The excellent length on the finish is a feature. A stand-out.

Grand Puy Ducasse – Pauliac – 5th Growth – 1996. Obvious powerful fruit, with a touch of earthy/ funky notes adding to the appeal. Fine tannins fan out on a long finish.

Bracket Four

Wynns – Cabernet Sauvignon – “Black Label” – 1996. Cassis and menthol speaks of classic Coonawarra Cabernet. The palate is not overly dense, but this is a delightful drink.

Plantagenet – Cabernet Sauvignon – 1996. Plump, fresh fruit on the nose. The palate is bright, fresh, taut and full of life. The balance is a highlight and the finish is long and fine. Excellent now, but will hold.

Irvine – Grand Merlot – 1996. A big wine, full of plump ripe fruit. Loved by some, but this was a bit overdone for me. This was, perhaps not a typical bottle, as I have enjoyed excellent bottles of this vintage in the recent past.

Bracket Five

Vase Felix – Cabernet Sauvignon – Heytesbury – 1996. Intense, powerful fruit, with leather and spice over the superb fruit. The palate is remarkably youthful, with red fruit characters. A complete wine and quite spectacular!

Mosswood – Cabernet Sauvignon – Reserve – 1994. The most complete wine now, and an absolute pleasure to drink. The perfumed fruit retains power, but the palate is long, refined elegant and silky. A textural treat.

Penfolds – Cabernet Sauvignon – 707 – 1996. Tight and incredibly youthful, with powerful, yet restrained fruit. The palate is closed and tight, with chewy tannins that are remarkably fine. The line and length is a feature. The intense fruit builds and builds. The proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove, a great wine!

Champagne – January 2015

Reviewed: 31st January 2015

Drinking Champagne is about much more than just what is in the glass. The history of the region, the reputation of the producers and the house style (recipe) all add to the enjoyment. The mystique associated with the experience is key to what makes Champagne so special.

Tasting Champagne blind is always an illuminating exercise. Without all of the external cues and biases, the intrinsic quality of the wine is allowed to shine.

As has been the way in several recent tastings, it was the non-vintage (NV) Champagne from Moet that threw up one of the biggest surprised. This is a wine that is produced in massive volumes (21 million bottles per year), with grapes sourced from many growers. Yet the quality and consistency in recent years has been exemplary. That it is often discounted to around $50 is remarkable in itself.

Overall though, the consistency and sheer quality of the wines of Veuve Cliquot and Pol Roger were the stand outs.

As to Champagnes made with a high level of residual sugar, I will leave this for teenagers to review.


Pol Roger – Champagne – Blanc de Blanc – 2002 (18.8). This is a rich wine, with very powerful fruit. The palate is so complex, intense and long. The palate builds and evolves in the glass, with autolysis notes, creamy texture, green apple acidity and a degree of richness that comes from bottle age. Razor-like acidity adds life to this tremendous wine!

Veuve Cliquot – Champagne – 2004 (18.6+). Complex, developed, rich and broad, but not coarse. The palate is textured, long, supple, round and complete, with marvellous mouth-feel and balance. A totally delicious wine!

Veuve Cliquot – Champagne – NV (18.5). A racy, thrilling wine that is very youthful. The acid is fresh, reminiscent of granny smith apples. That said, there is a degree of complexity and the balance is excellent. A lovely aperitif style that has excellent mouth-feel and texture. The power really builds in the mouth. Superb!

Ruinart – Champagne – Blanc de Blanc – NV (18.5). Elegant, yet with power and intensity. Initially, this is a little reserved on the palate, but it has latent power. Opens to show lemon, peach, nectarine and grapefruit, with a hint of minerality. Great stuff!

Veuve Cliquot – Champagne– Rose – NV (18.5). Amber-stained colour. The red fruit notes are more obvious on the nose. Rich, textured, long and powerful, yet fine, refined and elegant. A most attractive wine that ticks all the boxes. The colour is achieved by the addition of 12% Pinot Noir prior to bottling.

Billicart Salmon – Champagne – Sous Bois – NV. (18.5). Very fine mousse. This is a beautiful, almost ethereal wine that is delicate and refined, yet has underlying depth. The length and mouth-feel are features. An extraordinarily fine wine of real class. (Sous Bois refers to the fact that this wine was aged in oak).

Pol Roger – Champagne – NV (18.1). This is a lovely wine! Taut, lean, elegant and refined, this is very long and fine. Deceptively approachable, but there is real depth to the fruit. Creamy and textured, this wine needs no accompaniment.

Moet & Chandon – Champagne – NV. (18). Delicate and refined nose, with floral fruit notes. The palate is bright and fresh, the acidity the perfect foil for the red fruit richness. Excellent length, mid-palate persistence and a sensible dosage make this an excellent aperitif. The lemony acid provides focus.

Egly Ouriet – Pinot Noir/Chardonnay – Grand Cru – Brut Tradition – NV. (18). Darker colour hinting at amber. The rich, pinot-dominant fruit leaps from the glass with this wine (strawberry and honeysuckle). The creamy (lees influenced) texture combined with bread dough and a degree of bottle aged richness suggests a serious wine that is more suited to light food than as a summer afternoon drink. (Low dosage, 2008 base stock, 30% Chardonnay).

D’Sousa – Champagne – Merveille – NV (18). Balance is the key here on both the nose and palate. This is a complete wine that has a degree of fruit richness, yet has a refined, elegant finish. Quite complex, with hints of autolysis and toast. The softer middle palate is the result of the wine spending two years on lees and undergoing 100% malo-lactic fermentation. (Biodynamic).


Magnum Lunch

Fraser’s Restaurant

24th May 2013

Eighteen wine enthusiasts, twenty one magnums of outstanding wine and one of Perth’s best chefs recently combined for a truly memorable experience. No occasion was needed to bring a remarkable collection of both wines and people together for the second magnum lunch at Fraser’s Restaurant in Kings Park.

The lunch was conceived by John Jens, but it was Bob Winterbottom who made the lunch a reality. Bob set the guidelines for what wines could be brought and coordinated selections to ensure that there was a spread of wines from various styles. Once the list was finalised, Bob passed this on to Chris Taylor at Fraser’s. Chris developed a spectacular meal that complemented the wines superbly.

There were so many vinous highlights that it seems unfair to give the wines points. Needless to say that many of the wines would have been awarded gold medals. I will go out on a limb and say that the line-up was one of the best collections of wine that I have tasted in years.

One highlight for me was the bracket of Corton Charlemagne’s from Bonneau du Martray. It was fascinating to see how the style has evolved over the last few years. The 2008 was drinking spectacularly, but the 2010 was, quite possibly, the greatest wine of the tasting.

Another highlight was the three Second Growths from Bordeaux. Whilst the quality of the 2000 vintage was superbly highlighted by the Leoville Barton and the Cos d’Estronnel, the 2001 Leoville Las Cases was also a superstar.

The food that was prepared to accompany the wines was uniformly superb. For me, the highlight was the roast whole pig! A special mention must go to William and Bronwyn from Fraser’s who provided us with superb service throughout the event.

Ultimately though, it was the company of the other 17 wine tragics who attended that made the day so memorable.

How soon can we do it again???


We started the lunch on the restaurant forecourt where Chris shucked Ceduna oysters as we sipped on the four Champagnes. It was a perfect start, the picturesque backdrop only adding to the sense of occasion.

Pol Roger – Champagne – 1996. This wine stood out for its great finesse and balance. Yes, it was fully mature, but there was still life and vitality. A great way to start. (From Magnum).

Krug – Champagne – NV. Remarkably, this had spent 11 years in bottle since it was purchased. Fully mature, complex, rich and finely balanced, this was a great drink and perfectly complemented by the ocean tang of the oysters. (From Magnum).

Dom Perignon – Champagne – 1990. Unfortunately, the cork on this spoiled the party. (From Magnum).

Dom Perignon – Champagne – Oenotheque – 1996. Unbelievably fresh and tight, the lemony citrus characters leading the charge on both the nose and the palate. This needs years to reach its drinking peak but is a superb wine!


The pairing of the Climens and the parfait was an inspired combination. The silky texture of the parfait was the perfect foil to the wines richness.

Chateau Climens – Barsac – 1995. Balanced, precise, rich (though not in any way cloying) and very long. Apricot, almond and marzipan combine with wonderful spice notes on both the nose and the palate. Whilst this is superb now, it will last for many more years.

White Burgundy and Chablis

Given the refinement of the wines in this bracket, I was concerned that the mushroom risotto that accompanied it would overwhelm the fruit. In reality, the risotto was remarkably delicate and refined, adding a lovely backdrop to the whites.

Bonneau du Martray – Corton Charlemagne – Grand Cru – 2004. A very complex wine, the minerals and honey on the nose combined well with the toasty, developed characters on the palate. Powerful, intense and very long, this has developed very nicely. (From Magnum).

Bonneau du Martray – Corton Charlemagne – Grand Cru – 2008. Sublime drinking here. Grapefruit and lemony acid lead onto complex mineral characters, spice and a hint of curry leaf. Outstanding drive and length to a wine that is great now, but will also develop well for a few years. (From Magnum).

Bonneau du Martray – Corton Charlemagne – Grand Cru – 2010.  Precise, focused and tight, this is a restrained and silky wine that flows seamlessly to a very long finish. A stunning wine and one of my favourites for the day. (From Magnum).

Domaine Francois RaveneauChapelot – Chablis – 1er Cru – 2009. Very tight, lean and racy, with lemon, nectarine and citrus rind notes. Outstanding length to a wine that needs 5 years to really start to hit its straps. (From Magnum).

Domaine Baron Thenard – Le Montrachet – Grand Cru – 2007. Opens with really tangy citrus notes. A very powerful wine that has subtle minerals and a very fine texture. Creamy and very long, this is a superb wine of power and restraint. Will age for years, but this is sublime!

Blain Gagnard – Batard Montrachet – Grand Cru – 2006. This is a very powerful wine, though the nose is remarkably tight at present. A big wine that still needs a few years for the powerful fruit to fully integrate with the oak and show its best. (From Magnum).

Red Burgundy

The Burgundies were accompanied by a complex and artistically prepared dish of braised lamb. A delicious dish, with the natural acidity of the wines complementing the richness of the food.

Pousse d’Or  – Volnay – 1er Cru – Caillerets – 1990. This bottle had, perhaps, seen better days as it was very earthy and old fashioned. (From Magnum).

Armand Rousseau – Ruchottes-Chambertin – Grand Cru – Clos des Ruchottes – 2007. Silky, sweet fruit with pepper and lovely spice highlights. The texture, balance and power have all the hallmarks of a great wine! Despite the powerful fruit, this is elegant, refined and very long. A great wine!

Mommessin – Clos de Tart – Grand Cru – 2008. Pepper, spice and cinnamon come to the fore here. Superb length and balance combine with a silky texture to make this a stunning wine. (From Magnum).

Mongeard Mugneret – Clos de Vougeot – Grand Cru – 2005. Leaner and more structured than the Clos de Tart, this is still youthful, long, fine and powerful. There are cherry fruit notes, while the finish fans out like the proverbial peacocks tail. A superb wine that is immensely long. (From Magnum).

Bordeaux and Dry Reds

From a food perspective, the roast pork that accompanied the bigger reds was spectacular. The crispy skin combined beautifully with the succulent meat. There were Asian cues to the preparation with galangal being an integral part of the seasoning.

In many respects, this dish stole the show!

Chateau Léoville Las Cases – St Julien – 2001. A brilliant wine, though the fruit is wrapped up in a very structured cloak. The tannins are firm, though very fine, while the supple oak complements the fruit perfectly. A powerful wine that will last for years, yet is a joy to drink now. (From Magnum).

Chateau Cos d’Estournel – St Julien – 2000. This is a great wine. The fruit is sweeter than the Las Cases (perhaps reflecting the year), though the wine is still very powerful. Wonderful length and texture, the fruit framed by very fine tannins. A complete wine. (From Magnum).

Chateau Leoville Barton – St Julien – 2000. Another stunning effort. This wine is silky and supple, with wonderful tannin and oak management. The most structured of the three St Juliens, this is masculine and very youthful. (From Magnum).

Joseph Phelps Eisele Vineyard  – Cabernet Sauvignon – 1986. Perhaps more than any wine here, the Phelps polarised the group. Spectacular fruit quality and power, but the wine initially appeared a little rustic and old fashioned courtesy of a touch of Brettanomyces. Certainly evolved in the glass and improved significantly as it opened up. (From Magnum).

J L Chave – Hermitage – 1983. This wine is totally, seductive, elegant and fully mature. The palate is defined by its finesse and length, the acidity providing drive right through to the close. From a drinking point of view, this wine was my favourite of the reds! (From Magnum).


At the end of such a spectacular lunch and with plenty of red wine still on the table, we finished with a selection of cheeses. An excellent way to end a memorable day.

Franck Bonville – Champagne – Blanc de Blanc – 2006. A superb way to end the meal, the freshness, balance and power left the palate refreshed (although it did not really refresh my mind at this point!)



Wine and Food Society of Western Australia

Reviewed 28th March 2013.

I need to start this article with a confession: I love Champagne. The real stuff from France, rather than just any wine with bubbles. So I was very pleased to arrange a tasting of predominantly non-vintage Champagne for the Wine and Food Society of Western Australia.

I used this tasting as an opportunity to explore how the plethora of lesser known brands that are making their way to Australia compare to the Grand Marques. Over the last year or two, the price of champagne has steadily decreased. Part of this is due to the overhang of stock in markets that have diminished in the GFC. This includes the likes of Hong Kong and Singapore.

This excess stock is being bought in bulk and shipped to Australia by some of the big retailers (parallel importing) and being sold at a discount to that which the official importer is sellingit for. There remains a question over the quality of the wines sourced from Asia and beyond, as there is no guarantee on storage conditions etc. There is also no way of telling how old the stock is.

There is no doubt in my mind that a champagne that spends two years in a un-refrigerated warehouse in Hong Kong is going to taste different to one that arrived direct from France in a refrigerated container. This issue of provenance only really applies to the Grand Marques in general.

Given that all the wines for this tasting were purchased in the week before the tasting, I noted that a couple of the wines were more advanced than I would have expected. Not that they were in any way bad, just more developed than I would have expected straight from the producer. As I tend to age my NV champagnes for a year or two anyway, perhaps this is not such a bad thing, but the consumer has a right to consistency.

There were several standout wines. From a value perspective, the Jean Richecourt and Pol Gessener were absolute bargains. Excellent quality at around $30 on special.

The Lanson Gold Label highlights the quality of the 2002 vintage and is tremendous value. (I already have some in my cellar). The wine of the night however, was the Grand Cellier D’Or by Vilmart & Cie. A superb wine at any price!

Below is a cross-section of wines that I consider to be most noteworthy, focussing on the less known brands.


Vilmart & CieGrand Cellier D’Or – Champagne – 2007 (18.5+). My tasting notes for this wine were brief but expressive. Fresh, vibrant, taut, long, linear, balanced, fine and refreshing. Superb length and great presence. This is a spectacular wine that is great drinking now, but will also drink superbly for 5 years or more. Try Lamont’s in Cottesloe.

Bollinger – Champagne – NV (18 – 18.5). A richer style, but a fresh and vibrant wine that has plenty of life and joy. The nose has lemony, fresh, fine and elegant fruit. The palate is powerful, showing autolysis and dough like characters, though there is a degree of finesse and elegance. The finish is very long and remains fine right to the close. A favourite of James Bond and a favourite of mine too!

LansonGold Label – Champagne – 2002 (18 – 18.5). Opens with delicate, floral fruit on the nose. Again, the acidity is a feature. Great line and length with lovely mouth-feel, balance and texture. There are stone fruit characters and subtle spice. Complete wine of great charm. It is amazing that a wine of this quality from such a good year is still available on the market for under $55. I already have some in my cellar. (Available from Dan Murphy).

Pierre Gimonnet & FilsParadox – Champagne – 2004 (18). Richer and more developed than the Vilmart, but still with life and balance. The palate has good penetration and attack and great mouth-feel. Everything a good champagne should be. Drink now. (Available from Vintage Cellars at $55).

Jean Richecourt – Champagne – NV (18). Wow, the group really liked this wine! A very delicate nose that shows hints of toast and brioche. The palate is fresh and taut, with tight minerality and great penetration. The dosage has been perfectly matched to the youthful fruit and acid. I like the persistence and the way the wine cuts through the palate to show hints of stonefruit and brioche. Stunning value at under $35 from Vintage Cellars!

Canard-DucheneCuvee Leonie – Champagne – NV (17.5 – 18). I like this for its balance and life. There are plenty of yeasty/leesy notes, with some bottle age evident. A lively, moderately complex wine that is very easy to drink. ($60 from La Vigna in Mt Lawley).

DrappierSignature – Champagne – Blanc de Blanc – NV (17.5 – 18). Balance, delicacy, finesse, this has everything you need in a champagne. Excellent acidity, length and penetration on the palate, with the powerful chardonnay fruit making this a complete wine. Excellent value from the team at Vintage Cellars.

Moet et Chandon – Champagne – NV (17.5-18). A more youthful wine with less obvious lees characters. Opens with lovely lemony fruit on both the nose and the palate. I like the acidity on this which combines with moderate dosage to make the finish quite drying. The palate has excellent length and intensity and, while there are not a lot of autolysis characters, the fresh style makes an excellent aperitif. It is great to see the quality from this house back up where it belongs.

Pol Gessener – Champagne – NV (17.5 – 18). Fresh, taut and racy, but the acid is a little bright just now. An excellent wine that would benefit from 6 months in the bottle to bring out its best. Great value at under $35 from Dan Murphy.

Pol Roger – Champagne – NV (17.5 – 18). Developed colour and a degree of richness on the nose. Creamy, taut, lemony, but with an underlying richness that comes from time in bottle. A gentle wine with excellent length and a touch of minerals.

Duperrey – Champagne – NV (17-17.5). Lighter, fresher, but still with excellent autolysis and aged characters. The balance here is the key. The palate has lemon, stone fruit, excellent acidity and good penetration. A very good wine, though the dosage is a touch more obvious.


Reviewed: 12th June 2012


I had the pleasure of attending a tasting put on by one of the candidates for the Vin du Champagne awards. My host for the evening wanted to explore dosage and its impact on house styles. Dosage refers to the liquor that is added to a wine when it is disgorged (yeast lees removed). This liquid typically contains a proportion of sugar which is added to help the balance of the final wine.

The label can often give you an indication of the amount of dosage added to a wine. For example:

  • Zero Dosage refers to a wine that had no sugar added. This style is quite fashionable at the moment.
  • Ultra Brut must have less than 5gm/l of sugar.
  • Brut may range between 5 & 10 gm/l, though up until recently, this was up to 12gms/l.
  • Demi-Sec can be up to 50gm/l.

It must be said that most non-vintage champagnes are Brut in style. There is no mention of dosage with Vintage wines, though those present felt that most would be in the Brut range.

There was a variety of interesting points that came out of the tasting. The most important being that a house’s standard NV was preferable to either the no dosage or the demi-sec. The small amount of sugar added balance and drinkability to the wines. Champagnes are naturally high in acid, so the barest hint of sugar can make an austere wine a delight to drink. NB. Brut wines are in no way sweet to taste, they are less tart.

Another important point for me was the startling improvement in the quality of Moet and Chandon NV. This is a wine that is worthy of its Grand Marque heritage. Indeed, several of the tasters present preferred this to the NV Verve Cliquot which is one of the best NVs on the market!

Finally, the comparison of the two 1996 Dom Perignons was a highlight. The recently disgorged version had so much youth and life. The original release was developing beautifully, whereas the Oenotheque was as fresh and lively as the current release (2002). Given the price of the Oenotheque, my suggestion would be to go out and buy the 2002 instead. This is a spectacular wine that is just at the start of its life. At less than half the price of the Oenotheque, it is a bargain. (Kemeny’s has this available for just $180 online).

A big thanks has to go to my hosts for arranging such an illuminating tasting.


Pol RogerPure – NV (17.5). The nose has floral notes and minerals, with one taster noting hazelnuts. The palate is very long, persistent and powerful, though austere and quite linear. The very essence of Pol Roger, but some of the joy has been removed from the wine. Whilst impressive now, a few years under cork will do this the world of good.

AyalaZero Dosage – NV (17.8). Richer, bigger and more obvious than the Pol Roger, with bread dough, brioche and a touch of struck match. Whilst obviously bone dry, the palate is richer, rounder and more generous, with more depth. This may be due in part to the longer lees aging. An interesting wine.

Ayala – Brut – Majeur – NV (17.9). Quite toasty and nutty, this has real personality when it opens up. The palate is balanced, refined, long and harmonious. There are no rough edges here, though this is not quite as complex as the Zero Dosage. The dosage was noticeable and this contributed to making the wine more enjoyable to drink. (9gm/l residual sugar).

Pol Roger – Brut – Reserve – NV (17.6). The white foil Pol has been our house champagne for many years. Whilst this was not as exciting or interesting as the Pure, it was familiar, comfortable and eminently drinkable. I am not sure if this was the best bottle, but a good drink all the same (9gm/l sugar).

Moet & Chandon – Brut Imperial – NV (17.5). Intense and focused nose that is actually quite vinous. Minerals and citrus notes add interest. The palate is fine and refined, with a finish that is very long and quite drying. Textured and nutty to close, this is the best Moet NV I can remember in a long time and is a welcome return to form. Indeed, several experienced tasters preferred this to the Verve! (9gm/l sugar).

Veuve Cliquot – Brut – NV (18+). A superb wine. Complex yeast and autolysis characters on a nose that is balanced, subtle and fine. The palate is dense, precise, very long, textured and fine, with a flinty finish showing a core of minerality. Textbook NV and 10gm/l of sugar.

Veuve Cliquot – Demi Sec – NV. (NR). Golden bronze colour with gentle spice, butterscotch and red apples. This is a nice wine that has enough acidity to balance the significant amount of sugar sweetness. The only question I have is when you would actually drink it and with what? (Both this and the Nectar had the same residual sugar level, though this tasted significantly sweeter).

Moet & ChandonNectar – NV (NR). I did not have a reference point by which to score these wines, so no points awarded. That said, this was an enjoyable wine with racy acidity that made the wine a joy to quaff.

Moet & Chandon – Dom Perignon – 1996 (18.8). More involved and approachable than the Oenotheque, this is a gorgeous wine at the peak of its power. Whilst still retaining a degree of youthful vitality, this is starting to drink beautifully now. The intensity and incredible length of the palate defined the quality here. The powerful fruit is starting to become more expressive on the palate. A more rounded structure here, that combines lovely balance with texture courtesy of the bottle aging process. This will live for many years, but it is a joy today!

Moet & Chandon – Dom Perignon – Oenotheque – 1996 (19). A spectacularly youthful wine of supreme quality. This actually received a lower dosage (6gm/l) than the standard release highlighting the quality of the fruit. The nose showed lemon, spice, brioche and toast due, I am sure, to the extended aging on lees. The power of the palate was the highlight here. Precise, long, evolving and taut, the acidity still suppressed the fruit somewhat. This is a wine that needs to be savoured to be appreciated. Disgorged in 2006, this had ten years on lees. I can only imagine how many decades this will live for. Given the price is over $500 per bottle, I think I will drink the current release (2002, 18.9pts $200) instead.

Champagne – Non Vintage

1 December 2011

I love champagne! So this was one of the most anticipated tastings for the year.

One of the challenges of reviewing NV champagne is that there is no way of knowing how old the bottle is. Like every other wine, champagne evolves as it ages, (often for the better in the short term). To get around this, all wines in the tasting were purchased within a few weeks of the tasting.

We did have to purchase most of the wines ourselves, but thanks needs to go to Paul at Vintage Cellars for helping out with some of the wine.

The star of the tasting was the Drappier. This was uniformly enjoyed by the entire panel. It is currently being sold for $40 and is a Vintage Cellars exclusive. It is a little more expensive than our perennial favourite – Pol Gessner, but it is probably a touch better (and a Blanc de Blanc).

There were some very good wines from both big and small houses, so there is plenty on offer this Christmas.


Pol Roger – NV (18.3). Refined and very stylish. There is a touch of spice that I can’t place but there are also hints of red fruits. Great length with excellent complexity, this builds in the mouth with a corresponding increase in flavour. A fine champagne.

GossetGrand Reserve – NV (18.2). Now this is interesting. Very appealing nose that combines chardonnay derived minerality with finesse and life. Very lively in the mouth, with a fine mousse. Develops richness and texture as it warms up. Very long and perhaps the most complete wine to date. Mainstream, and all the better for it.

Louis Roederer – NV (18+). Floral, and forward fruit. Very vigorous mousse. Long and complex, this is a complete wine though it needs a few years to hit its peak.

DrappierSignature – Blanc de Blanc – NV – (18). Lovely nose that displays autolysis, bread dough and minerality. A lovely palate that is fresh, vibrant and full of life with hints of grapefruit. Not overly complex, but this will develop with time in the bottle. A refreshing aperitif style. Delivers on the promise of a “mouth-ful of joy” and is a bargain at $40 from Vintage Cellars.

Serge Mathieu – Tradition – Blanc de Noir – NV – (18). Restrained and elegant, this is quintessential champagne. Fantastic palate that is full of life and energy, yet there is a degree of restraint that makes the palate almost seamless. Excellent length and mouth-feel. A very fine wine of real class.

Serge Mathieu – Cuvee Prestige – NV (18). Lovely nose. Fresh, with floral notes and hints of brioche and fresh bread. The palate is refined and long showing minerality and a degree of complexity that really develops in the mouth. A very stylish, if somewhat mainstream wine.

Tribaut Schloesser – Brut Origine – NV (18). Fine mousse, Lovely colour and great nose. Very refined, very long and totally delicious. It is hard to pin down any one flavour as the wine evolves continuously in the mouth. I like it a lot, though it is a dryer style.

Paul Barra – Brut Reserve – NV (17.9). More autolysis and lees notes to this wine. More mainstream, but very enjoyable. The dosage is perhaps a touch higher, though this plays well against the fresh acidity. Very good length and nice creaminess, this is an excellent stand-alone wine. From Grand Cru vineyards.

Arras EJ Carr – Late Disgorged – 1999 (17.8). Richer and more developed. A touch darker in the glass. Showing obvious aged notes. The length is the key here. Remarkably fine mousse and a very fine wine. It would be easy to dismiss this wine as it is so refined, but it really does build in the mouth. One taster described this as Chablis with bubbles. Not cheap.

Pierre GimonetParadoxe – 2004 (17.8). Much more of the autolysis, lees and yeasty notes. Another very enjoyable if somewhat richer wine. Good length and intensity, without the refinement of the very best here. Fine, classy, elegant and long, minerality the key.

Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve – NV (17.5). More obvious mousse and more forward on the nose. A very attractive and easy to drink wine that is both reasonably complex and long. The flavours develop in the mouth. Not quite the life of the best, but very easy to drink.

Tribaut SchloesserCuvee Rene – NV (17.5). Balanced, elegant and appealing. An appealing wine in a more commercial style. Unmistakably champagne, with apple and pear overtones. Not overly long, but a good drink.

VilmartGrand Reserve – NV (17.2). Rounder and more developed. Pleasant wine with apple acidity that carries the palate well. Enjoyable. Not as long as the best, but this is a textured wine aided by a degree of oak aged complexity. Do not serve it too cold.

Grant Burge Pinot Noir/Chardonnay – NV – (16.7). Rich and quite broad in the palate. An enjoyable wine with lovely texture and good length. There are red fruits with hints of apple and autolytic characters.

Champagne de Vigneron

A Boot-full of Wine

Tasting notes from Italy (and beyond!)

7 November 2010

Though the dichotomy between growers and makers has blurred somewhat over the years, with more vigneron producers on the one hand, and extended vineyard holdings by makers on the other, the peculiarity of the separation of growers and producers in Champagne continues. Though quality can vary among the large houses, due to their buying power, there is more consistency of quality.

Among growers, quality levels can vary much more. Note that where a vigneron or grower is located influences greatly the varietal type/s used, and therefore the style of wines produced.

The Grandes Marques of Champagne are responsible for over two thirds of the production of Champagne, and around 90% of Champagne exports. This is despite growers in Champagne owning 90% of the vineyard land!

The Champagnes reported on below were tasted at a large Champagne tasting, highlighting growers’ Champagne in particular. All in all there were 27 producers represented by 124 different wines! The tasting was hosted by Vinoteca Al Chianti, a wine shop on the outskirts of Florence, on Chianti’s doorstep. I am choosing to highlight those producers that particularly caught my eye – or should I say, my palate.



A small producer located in the Montagne de Reims, most of the vines in this area are Pinot Noir, and all Gatinois vineyards are Grand Cru. Bollinger is also in the area, and indeed Gatinois sell some grapes to them.

Gatinois – Ay – Grand Cru Reserve Brut (17.5). (85% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay) The essence of red fruit and apples. Crisp and fresh lively creamy mousse with some biscuity notes. 17.5 pts


A family run operation since, they claim, 1687, located in the Marne Valley.

Tarlant – Brut Zero – NV (17). Zero dosage in this blend with equal thirds of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Crisp, clean, bone dry, uncomplicated. Would be a great aperitif wine. 17 pts

Tarlant – Brut Prestige – 1996 (18.5). (65% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir) Amazing wine – great body and length with almond, brioche and honeyed characters with lively citrus fruit still very much in evidence. Fresh acidity, possibly contributed to by minimal, if any malolactic fermentation. 18.5 pts

Henriet Bazin

Again, located in the Grand Cru villages of Verzy and Verzenay in the Montagne de Reims, this is mainly Pinot Noir country. They use steel tanks – no oak, and like the house of Roederer, avoid malolactic fermentation. I think Ross Duke stock Bazin wines.

Henriet Bazin – Champagne- Grand Cru – Blanc de Noirs – NV (18). Red fruit and flint with bready hints, and even a touch of oysters – which would certainly make them a perfect match for this wine! 18 pts

Henriet Bazin – Champagne Grand Cru – Brut Millesime 2004 – (17.25). A lovely textured wine, with both Pinot Noir (70%) and Chardonnay (30%) components contributing – red fruits, mineral notes and citrus, with a lovely rounded mouthfeel. 17.25 points

Henriet Bazin – Champagne ‘Carte Or’ – Brut Premier Cru – 2005 (17.75). The Chardonnay component hails from Premier Cru vineyards, hence the designation. Complex, with yeasty autolytic characters and flavours from secondary development with age – caramel and honey notes. 17.75 pts

Barnaut Edmont

Located in the Montagne de Reims, the property is in the Grand Cru vineyard of Bouzy.

Barnaut Edmont – Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut Grand Cru Again, red fruit character on the palate, fine mousse, good acid, well balanced. Some brioche character evident. 17.25 pts

Barnaut Edmont – Champagne Grand Reserve Millesimé Grand Cru – 2000 (18.25). Toasty, biscuity and honey flavours from evolution in the bottle. Peach and citrus evident on the palate. 50% each of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 6g dosage. 18.25 pts

Marc Chauvet

Situated in Rilly la Montagne, a village in the Montagne de Reims and classed “premier cru”.

Marc Chauvet – Champagne Brut Selection – NV (18).One of their “base” wines, composed of 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, this was the best value for money at the tasting (34 Euro/ A$50). Fresh and crisp, with citrus and nectarine fruit. More feminine and less “angular” than the Pinot dominant wines above. 18 pts


Coulon – Millesime – 2002 (18).This is a Blanc de Noirs consisting of half each components of Pinot Noir and Meunier. It spends 5 years on lees before disgorgement (ie current vintage actually 2003). Dosage is at 5g/l. A versatile Champagne, with excellent red and white fruit aromas, could be an aperitif or food wine. 18 pts

Coulon – Cuveé Prestige – “Les Coteaux de Vallier” Premier Cru – NV ( 18.5). This Chardonnay dominant (80%) Champagne has spent 10 years aging in the Coulon cellars. Post primary fermentation, the Chardonnay component spends 12 months in barrels on its lees. The result is a complex and rich wine, with stonefruit, brioche/toast, butter and honey flavours which retains an fresh acid lift. 18.5 pts

Raymond Boulard

These guys have over 10 ha of vineyards spread over the Montagne de Reims and the Valleé de la Marne, including Grand Cru holdings in Mailly. I tried two of the three on offer and both were sensational.

Raymond Boulard – Grand Cru Mailly Brut – NV (18.5). (90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay) Complex and long, with red fruit and biscuit characters. There is a proportion (about 15%) of old reserve wine vinified in oak. Dosage at 7g/l. Website says full malolactic fermentation. 18.5 pts

Raymond Boulard – Petraea XCVII Brut Solera En Futs – NV (18.5). (60% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier, 20% Pinot Noir) Petraea refers to the oak quercus petraea. This explanation is lifted from their website: “Every year, the wine from the latest harvest, vinified and aged separately, is incorporated in the blend (up to ¼ of the whole quantity) and an equal quantity is then taken from the blend for bottling. This principle known as ” Solera ” assures the presence of old wines in the blend.” That is, the blend contains 75% reserve wine, at least a minute quantity dating back to when the “solera” was begun over 50 years ago. The result is a complex fuller bodied style superbly suited to food. I’m pretty sure Ross Duke has wines from Boulard. 18.5 pts

Paul Dethune

Again, a small operation, with 7 hectares of vineyards in the Montagne de Reims, all Grand Cru.

Paul Dethune – Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs – NV (17.75). (100% Pinot Noir) The use of barrel aging evident on nose. Fine structure with spicy notes and yet subtlety. 17.75 pts

Paul Dethune – Champagne Cuveé Prestige – “Princesse Des Thunes” – NV (18). (A blend of 50% each of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this wine displays bready characters, preserved apricot and lemon zest and has great length, complexity and elegance. 18 pts

Final thoughts It occurs to me that I have highlighted more wines with Pinot dominance, possibly reflecting my own taste preferences. Also, a significant number of vigneron producers still use traditional barrel maturation techniques, more so, I would venture to suggest, than non-grower Champagne.

Ciao for now!

Brendan Jansen