Clos & Cru turned two years old last week and how else would we celebrate but with good friends and lots of our beloved bubbles? We loved some of the distinctive single estate or “grower champagnes” that we tried during our visit to Champagne earlier this year (see our blog: Champagne Week: the Clos & Cru perspective for more details) so decided to revisit a small cross-section of these producers to see how their wines tasted away from their home turf, but also in a more leisurely setting than the busy tastings during Champagne Week.
We started out by warming up our palates with a Laurent-Perrier NV. As we were celebrating we had chilled down a methuselah – six litres, equivalent to eight standard 75ml bottles. This one had quite a bit of bottle age, with the base wines coming from the 1990’s, and although it had turned a buttery golden yellow the palate was still refreshing and elegant – a great aperitif.
As is our custom we tasted all the champagnes blind, and our very own “Champagne Charlie” (Pemberton) gave us a few tantalising hints as to their identity and challenged us to identify first the cepage (blanc de blanc, blanc de noir or a blend) and then which were vintages 2008 and 1996. I’m pleased to say that some of the knowledge from our April field trip must have stuck, not to mention the combined tasting memory of 11 wine geeks around the table: we managed to nail both challenges!
After the main tasting we had a couple of treats in store. First, a present from our co-founder Rytis, who was sadly not able to join our celebrations. A decanter came out containing a champagne with an appetising pale gold hue, it was quite chilled so initially very shy on the nose, but as it opened up it revealed zesty fruit and white flowers. On the palate it had some chalky notes, ripe lemon and grapefruit. The bottle was unveiled and the secret was out – 2006 Cristal – what a treat.
After all this tasting we were getting hungry. Luckily our hostesses Charlie and Manu had prepared some platters of fresh bread, ripe cheeses and tasty olives. To accompany these Charlie had one more wine up her sleeve – 2009, Oliver Horiot Rose de Riceys en Barmont – a rare rose wine from the Aube only made by 17 producers. Still wines from this region are often described as having more in common with Burgundies than Champagne, this example was quite fruity and powerful.
It wouldn’t be a birthday party without cake, to round the evening off we feasted on a rich hazelnut cake washed down with more Laurent-Perrier – we did have six litres to drink after all!
Martyn, co-founder and Director of Clos & Cru commented: We have really exceeded our expectations in these first two years building a diverse portfolio from grower champagnes to rare vintages from Champagne, Bordeaux and beyond. We are delighted to assist our clients to grow and enjoy their wine collections and to visit great producers in classic regions with them. We always remember that we wouldn’t be in this position without our loyal clients and the dedicated, hardworking team in the Clos & Cru office. Looking ahead to the next year we are eagerly awaiting the launch of a new website, which as well as a real time list of our stock, will feature an extensive directory of champagne producers.
Wines tasted and our scores:
NV Laurent Perrier 6L (methuselah) from 1990’s – 90 points
Strong mineral notes, roasted chestnuts, similar to mature Chablis. Fresh and fruit driven on the palate, yellow stone fruit, elegant.
2008, Vazart Coquart Blanc de Blancs – 92+ points
Made from 100% grand cru grapes from Chouilly, this wine showed a richness which you would expect from the fine 2008 vintage. The nose had a touch of yeast and baked apples. In the mouth it had tinned pineapple notes (Chouilly wines typically exhibit tropical fruit flavours) and white flowers.
NV, Olivier Horiot, Metisse – 91+ points
This wine was unusual in several ways: firstly it was made by a producer more known for his still than sparkling wines; secondly the grapes are grown in Les Riceys in the Aube the farthest south of the Champagne regions; and finally it was a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Blanc, a grape not frequently seen in champagne blends. The wine was darker and fruitier on the nose than the previous one, rose essence and quite waxy in the mouth with a very long fresh finish.
NV, Eric Rodez, Blanc de Noirs – 88 points
I loved Eric Rodez’s complex and finely crafted wines when I tried them in April. Before taking over his family estate Eric worked at other houses, including Krug, where he learnt a light touch with barrel fermentation, and also spent three years in Burgundy, which gave him a taste for a more boutique way of wine making. The blanc de noirs had a very prominent fruity nose typical of Pinot Noir from Ambonnay – almost wine gums, and some breadiness. You could taste a light touch of oak and blackcurrants.
NV, Gibourat Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru – 90 points
Ripe pear-drop nose, almost like a touch of botrytis. In the mouth there was marmalade, poached pears, peaches and strawberries. For me quite different to the searingly citrus wine we tried at Passion Champagne in April.
1996, Champagne de Sousa, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Reserve – 94+ points
This wine was visibly older with a golden yellow hue, the nose was slightly mushroomy and very toasty. In the mouth the acidity was quite high and it had a long, bread finish. This was the group’s favourite wine of the grower tasting, concentrated with the potential to improve.
NV, Egly Ouriet, Les Vignes de Vrigny, Premier Cru – 90 points
The only 100% Pinot Meunier champagne of the tasting, and on first sniff it was distinctly different. Sour greengages on the nose, a creamy texture and a slightly flat finish.
2006 Cristal – 92+ points
Elegant and shy, but very precise and round. White flowers, caramelised lemon, fresh apple acidity.
Olivier Horiot Rose des Riceys – 88 points
Funky nose with tons of concentrated red fruit. More austere on the palate, mineral and focused with gentle tannin and a long finish.