Dinner with Jean-Emmanuel Bonnaire

Join us for dinner on July 11th with Jean-Emmanuel Bonnaire (pictured), the owner of two excellent grower champagne houses – Bonnaire and Paul Clouet.

Bonnaire Jean Emmanuel ChampagneAs a special treat for our clients, Jean-Emmanuel will bring a few mature bottles from the family’s personal collection dating from 1982 and 1996. Both were excellent vintages in Champagne.

Bonnaire is based in the Grand Cru village of Cramant, renowned as one of the top terroirs for Chardonnay. And Paul Clouet is located in Bouzy, another Grand Cru village and home to outstanding Pinot Noir.

We’re not the only fans of these houses.  Probably the most notable devotee is champagne expert Richard Juhlin, who introduced us personally to Bonnaire. He has scored some of their champagnes at 98/100 points – as high as legends like 1961 Krug, 1934 Pol Roger and 1959 Cristal.

My private cellar is full of bottles from Bonnaire.” Richard Juhlin

In all, Jean-Emmanuel will be presenting 7 champagnes for you to taste.

The Wines

NV Bonnaire Rose (90 points, Antonio Galloni)
NV Paul Clouet Grand Cru (92 points, Allen Meadows)
NV Bonnaire Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (92 points, Allen Meadows)
2008 Paul Clouet Grand Cru (not yet rated)
2008 Bonnaire Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (90-94 points, Richard Juhlin)
1982 Bonnaire Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (95 points, Richard Juhlin)
1996 Paul Clouet Grand Cru (93 points, Richard Juhlin)

Event Details

Tuesday 11th July
6.30pm – Aperitif
7-9.30pm – Dinner
The Devonshire Club
4-5 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4YD

Prices are £130 for a single ticket, £120 each for multiple tickets. Your ticket includes seven champagnes, a three-course dinner designed to complement the wines, and £20 off any purchase of wines on the night.

Order your tickets by email to sales@closcru.com, or message us via the website.

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A Visit from Mark Haisma

By Rostislav Petrov
 We were happy to have a visit at the Clos & Cru offices yesterday from Mark Haisma. He is an Australian making wonderful wines in Burgundy. He started going to the region in 2007, and has been based there full time since 2009. Rather than buying land himself, which is extraordinarily expensive in Burgundy, Mark works with growers and buys their grapes to produce his wines. He even likes to put name of the grower on the label (if they give him permission), which is rather unusual.
Burgundy Cornas Mark Haisma 2013

Mark Haisma

His wines are very fruit forward, but also terroir-driven. We tasted several 2013s with him, and they were great – despite the challenge of difficult weather conditions.
Mark also produces some Cornas, using the winemaking facilities of the up-and-coming Cornas star, Vincent Paris.
Thanks, Mark, for sharing your delicious wines.
Burgundy Cornas Mark Haisma 2013

The 2013s of Mark Haisma

Tasting the Creme de la Creme of Champagne from the 1996 vintage

By Rytis Jurkenas

Over the last few years I have had the privilege of tasting over 100 different champagne cuvees from 1996 the historic and unusual vintage with very high acidity and very high ripeness levels. As these wines have turned 20 years old, by kind invitation of Alper Alpaslan, we met in Dusseldorf in early February for an extensive tasting of the creme de la creme from the vintage.

My general impression is that most of the 1996s are very fresh and youthful, with profound acidity. There was also some typical smokiness, which for me is vintage-specific and sometimes gets very hard when it co-mingles with the scents of the great terroirs of the Cote des Blancs (Mesnil-sur-Oger or Oger).

Here are a few of my highlights from the tasting.  All my scores are given at the end, as well as some other champagnes from 1996 that are worthy of seeking out.

Outstanding – Above 95pts

It was Bollinger’s VVF (Vieilles Vignes Francaises), which took the top spot, and stood out as a wine in its own league. This was my winner of the tasting, with 98pts.  It is already quite evolved, but still possesses great ageing potential.

All of the wines from Krug particularly the the Clos du Mesnil (97pts) and the Clos d’Ambonnay (97pts) were simply superb. They will probably be even better and longer-lived than the 1990 vintage, which shows beautifully today.

The Cristal and Cristal Rose also hit 97pts, and they shared second place with the Clos du Mesnil and the Clos d’Ambonnay. As a reminder, Cristal and Cristal Rose are produced only from Grand Cru communes in Ay and the Cote des Blancs.

With a strong showing in sixth place was Jacques Selosse’s Millesime – a pure expression of Grand Cru Avize terroir – with 96+pts. The Selosse was freshly disgorged in November 2015 exclusively for this tasting, but I have had the privilege of tasting the ones disgorged in 2005 and 2011, and all of them showed the same greatness with excellent ageing potential. I would cellar them for at least another decade.

Excellent – 93-95pts

The second group was led by the very pure Belle Epoque, with 94+pts.  Following closely were the Clos des Goisses, the Comtes de Champagne and Comtes de Champagne Rose.  All these champagnes were showing elegance and youth. It struck me that it is far too early to drink them I would cellar them for another decade. (How fabulous to be able to say that about 20-year-old champagnes!)

Jacquesson’s Vauzelle Terme from magnum is the rarest bottle of champagne I have ever tasted.  Only 100 were produced in magnum and they were never commercially released. The Chiquet brothers were experimenting with the lieux dits concept back in 1996 (before fully adopting it in their winemaking in 2002).  The Vauzelle Terme was young and shy during blind tasting, and I gave it 93pts. But half of the magnum was left to accompany dinner, and it improved enough in the interim for me to raise my mark to 95pts, although it was still far too young.

Very Good – 90-93pts

The third group was led by a shy and undeveloped Grande Dame from Veuve Clicquot and the Saint Gall cooperative’s Cuvee Orpale, which we tasted during dinner. Both were 92+pts, but whereas the Orpale is at its peak and is absolutely ready to be enjoyed, the Grande Dame needs more time to develop fully. In the past few years, I have come across some already fully mature bottles of Grande Dame, so it could be that examples with different disgorgement dates behave differently.

Only a few really tired bottles were below the 90-pt mark, which illustrated not only the greatness of the vintage, but also the true mastery of winemaking in evidence at these houses.

All of my scores are listed below.

‘Creme de la Creme’ Champagnes of the 1996 Vintage

Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Francaises (VVF)   –   98 pts
Krug Clos d’Ambonnay    –   97 pts
Krug Clos du Mesnil
Louis Roederer Cristal
Louis Roederer Cristal Rose
Jacques Selosse Millesime    –   96+ pts
Dom Perignon Rose   –   95+ pts
Krug Millesime    –   95 pts
Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque    –   94+ pts
Philipponnat Clos des Goisses    –   94 pts
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rose
Bollinger Grande Annee Magnum
Henriot Millesime Magnum
Legras R&L St. Vincent   –   93+ pts
Billecart-Salmon Nicolas Francois
Jacquesson Vauzelle Terme Magnum   –  93 pts
Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle Millesime
Diebolt-Vallois Fleur de Passion
Vilmart Coeur de Cuvee
Salon
Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame   –  92 pts
Co-op Saint Gall Cuvee Orpale
Pol Roger Millesime   –  91 pts
Duval-Leroy Femme
Billecart-Salmon St Hilaire
Pol Roger Winston Churchill
Egly-Ouriet Millesime (oxidation)    –   85 pts
Dom Perignon (oxidation)
Pommery Cuvee Louise   –   all were corked
Dom Ruinart
Henriot Enchanteleurs Magnum
* A footnote on disgorgement – Only three of the champagnes were recently disgorged and brought for the tasting – namely, the Jacques Selosse vintage, Vilmart’s Coeur de Cuvee (both were disgorged at the end of 2015) and the St Vincent from Legras R&L (disgorged a few years ago).

Other Stars from the 1996 Vintage

The champagnes below are also excellent examples from the 1996 vintage, and worthy of seeking out (listed in alphabetic order):

Billecart-Salmon Grande Cuvee
Francoise Bedel Cuvee Robert Winer
Henri Giraud Fut de Chene
Jacques Beaufort Grand Cru Ambonnay
Jacquesson Avize
Jacquesson Millesime
Lanson Millesime Collection
Pol Roger Blanc de Chardonnay
Dom Ruinart Rose
Tarlant Cuvee Louise
Jean Vesselle Troisieme Millenaire Cuvee Prestige Millesime Bouzy Grand Cru

 

A sense of place: pinpointing the terroirs of Champagne

Nicolas Feuillatte isn’t a name that generally sets pulses racing in the champagne world. Founded in 1971 and partnering with the Centre Vinicole de la Champagne in 1986 to form one of the largest cooperatives in the region. Richard Juhlin is lukewarm and describes the wines as “fresh and fruity, and good when one considers the volume.”

It wasn’t the Brut or the Palmes d’Or we were trying this week though, in 1995 Nicolas Feuillatte started to produce a collection of single-village, 100% varietal vintages sourced from six grand crus villages in a single year. This was a real departure for the house, and they only made these wines over a three year period (1995-97), which means it is difficult to find examples – particularly of all six. We were doubly lucky to have the selection from the 1996 vintage, which is renowned as being one of the best in champagne since the famed 1928s. A long, dry summer ensured ripe grapes, but they maintained acidity which promises great ageability.

One of the reasons we were so anticipating this tasting is that in a region so renowned for blending this gave a unique opportunity to examine the influence of the landscape and geology on the wines, and perhaps from there we will start to understand what each village can contribute to a blend.

The wines naturally split into two flights those from Chouilly, Cramant and le Mesnil sur Oger – all grand cru for Chardonnay, and the second from Ambonnay, Verzy and Ay – grand crus for Pinot Noir.

Champagne tasting

The line up, the Cote de Blancs in glass

Round one: Cote des Blancs

The Cote des Blancs stretches south from Epernay along the D9 to Bergeres-les-Vertus, the soils and geographies vary greatly over this 15km stretch.

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