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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
GROWER CHAMPAGNES TASTING at  GLENGARRY WINES,  21 OCTOBER 2015 …



This tasting was full of interest.  It contained wines dominated variously by pinot noir,  by pinot meunier,  and by chardonnay. It is very rare indeed to have the opportunity to compare and contrast the smells and flavours of the three main grapes found in champagne.  The tasting therefore merited much more thorough written documentation prepared for participants than was presented,  sadly.  The best of the wines were a delight,  illustrating why there is currently so much interest in the so-called 'grower champagnes',  the wines of individual proprietors.  They contrast with the grandes marques,  with their more standardised and in some cases industrial scales of production.  Sadly however,  Glengarry's prices in some cases did not show the price differential relative to grands marques that UK retail pricing shows,  in a more competitive market.  As always,  comment on the imagined quality of the bubble,  which is so totally dependent on the nature / internal surface of the glass,  I regard as affectation,  and it is ignored unless extraordinary.  Dosage is tricky,  the more you look for info,  the more 'estimates' you find,  including variation even within the maker's website.  Sometimes below I have given my impression,  even where it differs from the 'official' view.  But dosage is hard to estimate,  being so influenced by wine pH etc.  

Reference:  [ and what a great book this is … ]
Stelzer,  Tyson,  2013:  The Champagne Guide 2014 – 2015.  Hardie Grant Books,  Melbourne & London,  360 p.





THE WINES REVIEWED:

   nv  Champagne Henry Giraud Esprit de Giraud Blanc de Blancs
   nv  Champagne Henri Giraud L'Esprit
2009  Champagne Laherte Freres Les Empreintes Extra Brut
   nv  Champagne Laherte Freres Ultradition Brut
2008  Champagne J Lassalle Cuvée Angeline Millésime Brut
     nv  Champagne J Lassalle Premier Cru Preference Brut
2008  Champagne Serge Mathieu Millésime [ Blanc de Noirs ] Brut
   nv  Champagne Serge Mathieu Tradition Brut  [ Blanc de Noirs ]
   nv  Champagne Tarlant Brut Nature Cuvée Louis
   nv  Champagne Tarlant Brut Nature Zero Dosage


2008  Champagne J Lassalle Cuvée Angeline Millésime Brut   18 ½ +  ()
Chigny-Les-Roses,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $89   [ standard champagne cork;  cepage varies round PN 60%,  Ch 40,  all premier cru grapes,  average vine age 50 years;  full MLF;  c.7 years en tirage;  may still all be hand-riddled;  dosage 8 g/L;  500 dozen only;  waffly website,  Kermit Lynch much better,  more information in Stelzer;  www.champagne-jlassalle.com ]
Lovely lemon straw,  above midway for lemon hues.  Bouquet displays textbook autolysis of total crust of baguette quality,  top-quality baguettes,  mark you.  It is wonderfully fresh and enticing.  Flavour immediately shows a presence and weight of dry extract comparable with grand cru champagne,  an ideal blend of aromatic pinot noir and smoother chardonnay,  against a near-perfect dosage.  This is lovely champagne,  crisp dosage,  to cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 10/15

2008  Champagne Serge Mathieu Millésime [ Blanc de Noirs ] Brut   18 ½  ()
Avirey-Lingey,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $75   [ standard champagne cork;  cepage of the vintage wine PN 100%,  average vine age for the PN 50 years;  full MLF;  c.5 – 6 years en tirage;  dosage 6 g/L;  www.champagne-serge-mathieu.fr ]
Straw,  right in the middle for freshness.  Bouquet is both gorgeous and interesting.  It shows the subtle aromatics of a 100% pinot noir wine,  and you think you can just,  maybe,  smell red cherries in lovely pure autolysis.  Palate continues the interest,  great autolysis,  clear cherry flavours now when compared with the blanc de blancs wine,  yet still totally a white wine,  and a dosage which seems even drier than the Angeline,  given as 6 g/L.  This is marvellous both in itself,  and as a study wine.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 10/15

nv  Champagne J Lassalle Premier Cru Preference Brut   18 +  ()
Chigny-Les-Roses,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $80   [ standard champagne cork;  cepage varies round PM 60,  PN 20%,  Ch 20,  all premier cru grapes,  average vine age 50 years;  full MLF;  4 years en tirage;  may still all be hand-riddled;  dosage 8 g/L;  waffly website,  Kermit Lynch much better,  more information in Stelzer;  www.champagne-jlassalle.com ]
Lemon straw,  the second freshest.  On the bouquet of this wine immediately you can see the softer faintly strawberry (best side) perfume of pinot meunier,  contrasting vividly with the more aromatic hints of red fruits in the Mathieu Millésime.  Yet both wines have such exemplary baguette autolysis,  in another sense you can hardly tell them apart.  Palate is notably softer,  partly meunier,  partly an infusion of brioche-like flavours from the autolysis,  partly the higher dosage than the Mathieu,  8 – 9 g/L maybe.  This is gorgeous too.  Cellar 2 – 6  years.  GK 10/15

nv  Champagne Tarlant Brut Nature Cuvée Louis   17 ½ +  ()
Oeuilly / Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $110   [ standard champagne cork;  cepage PN 50%,  Ch 50,  average vine age 60 years;  based on 1999 vintage wine (85%) with 15% older;  primary fermentation in 5th-year barrels,  no MLF,  much lees work for 6 months;  c.15 years en tirage;  dosage 3 g/L;  more information in Stelzer;  www.tarlant.com ]
Full straw,  the second deepest wine,  worrying.  And the bouquet gives pause for thought,  being autolysed way beyond baguette crust,  to toasted Vogel's Wholegrain maybe,  with just the faintest hint of marmite.   And then you read the small print,  and see it has been en tirage for 15 years,  so you check again,  is it  oxidised,  or otherwise showing any characters you might associate with the colour.  In short,  no,  all healthy.   In mouth the wholemeal autolysis characters become really nutty,  hazelnuts maybe,  but there is still tactile fruit,  and the wine is not coarse.  Strong and flavoursome,  yes,  but coarse,  no.  One of the other dark wines is tending a bit coarse,  and provides a useful point of reference.  Intriguing wine,  which probably won't cellar quite as well as less characterful wines,  perhaps 2 – 5 years.  Though labelled Brut Nature,  there is trace dosage,  perhaps 3 g/L.  GK 10/15

nv  Champagne Tarlant Brut Nature Zero Dosage   17 ½  ()
Oeuilly / Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $80   [ standard champagne cork;  cepage PN 34%,  Ch 33,  PM 33,  based on 2007 vintage wine,  plus some Reserve;  primary fermentation in s/s,  Reserve wines in barrel,  no MLF;  c.6 years en tirage;  dosage 0 g/L;  more information in Stelzer;  www.tarlant.com ]
Deep straw,  the deepest wine.  Bouquet is similar to the Cuvée Louis,  just a little softer reflecting the percentage of pinot meunier,  as well as the autolysis being 'only' five years,  in contrast to Louis,  so that tiny marmite edge hasn't developed.  Bouquet has nearly a suggestion of anzac biscuits in baguette crust,  and some Vogel's Wholegrain.  In mouth the quality of fruit is so good,  and the dry extract likewise,  that the thought of the wine being zero dosage simply does not arise.  This tastes like grand cru fruit.  Like Louis,  this too is a characterful wine,  and won't suit those looking for delicacy and understatement in their bubbly.   Again,  cellaring 2 – 5 years might be best,  perhaps even less than Louis.  GK 10/15

nv  Champagne Laherte Freres Ultradition Brut   16 ½ +  ()
Chavot / Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $75   [ supercritical Diam 'cork';  cepage PM 60,  Ch 30%,  PN 10,  cultivation tending organic / biodynamic;  primary fermentation in barrel (none new),  foudre and tank,  matured on lees 6 months;  40% of the wine is Reserve kept in barrel,  none new;  average vine age 28 years,  all hand-picked;  some MLF;  tirage not known;  dosage 7 g/L ±;  more information in Stelzer;  www.champagne-laherte.com ]
Light straw.  This wine is a little different.  It is clean and fragrant,  but there is just a hint of premium Loire bubbly,  i.e. chenin blanc fruit smells and flavours,  with much lighter autolysis than the top five wines.   Bouquet and palate show a crumb of baguette quality of autolysis rather than crust,  on a more straightforward pale sparkling wine.  Dosage seems a little sweeter than the given 7 g/L,  but total acid is higher too,  confusing things.  Nett impression is of a quite crisp and aromatic wine,  with little sign of any oak.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 10/15

2009  Champagne Laherte Freres Les Empreintes Extra Brut   16 ½  ()
Chavot / Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $125   [ supercritical Diam 'cork';  cepage PN 50,  Ch 50%,  all hand-picked,  cultivation tending organic / biodynamic;  primary fermentation in barrel (none new),  matured on lees 6 months;  essentially the wine of one vintage;  some vines >50 years,  all hand-picked;  no MLF;  tirage not clear,  7-ish years;  dosage 4 g/L ±;  more information in Stelzer;  www.champagne-laherte.com ]
Straw.  First poured,  the wine is a bit reductive,  always a challenge in the sparkling class.  Behind that is a lot of nutty autolysis complexed by oak,  so this too comes into the Vogel's Wholegrain category.  Palate shows fair fruit,  nutty flavours,  tasting sweeter than the given dosage,  but highish acid and the trace reduction adds just a frisson of sourness,  too.  It could be scored lower.  A big flavoursome wine,  the oak clear on palate,  to cellar longer than the other bold  ones,  3 – 10 years,  and maybe come together more and score higher.  GK 10/15

nv  Champagne Henry Giraud Esprit de Giraud Blanc de Blancs   16  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $79   [ standard champagne cork;  cepage Ch 100%,  mostly fermented in s/s  and held on lees;  10% fermented and held in barrel 12 months;  full MLF;  c.24 months en tirage;  dosage not given;  more information in Stelzer;  www.champagne-giraud.com ]
Clearly the most lemon / least straw wine in hue.  Bouquet is much lighter,  simpler and plainer than the  wines rated more highly,  though not weak.  In fact it could be too fruity on bouquet,  or insufficiently complexed by autolysis.  On reflection,  yes,  autolysis complexity is lacking.  Palate immediately confirms that doubt,  big fruit but with hints even of banana,  a wine falling into the same trap as some New Zealand sparkling chardonnays masquerading as methode champenoise.  Both interesting and disappointing to have such a wine from Champagne.  Dosage is drier than New Zealand,  though,  8 g/L maybe.  Cellar 3 – 12  years,  hopefully to become less fruity.  GK 10/15

nv  Champagne Serge Mathieu Tradition Brut  [ Blanc de Noirs ]   15 ½  ()
Avirey-Lingey,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $60   [ standard champagne cork;  cepage PN 100%,  average vine age 50 years;  full MLF;  c.3.5 – 4 years en tirage;  dosage 8.6 g/L;  www.champagne-serge-mathieu.fr ]
Straw,  just below midway on the straw to lemon scale.  Bouquet is very familiar,  slight damp sacks,  not really crust of baguette,  more crumb for the autolysis,  the sulphur-related aromas hiding the fact it is a blanc de noirs.  Flavour is mild,  pinot noir more apparent now,  not a lot of autolysis (the right autolysis,  that is),  dosage higher than most,  maybe 9 – 10 g/L.  Minor champagne,  in this company.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 10/15

nv  Champagne Henri Giraud L'Esprit   15  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12.5%;  $70   [ standard champagne cork;  cepage PN 70%,  Ch 30,  fermented in s/s and held 12 months on lees;  5% Reserve wine held in barrel;  full MLF;  c.24 months en tirage;  dosage c.9 g/L;  more information in Stelzer;  www.champagne-giraud.com ]
Straw,  one of the deeper.  Bouquet is tending a bit wild on the yeast and fermentation side,  lacking purity of autolysis or precision of varietal character.  Palate is flavoursome,  but again there is a high wild-yeast component to this wine,  making it wayward.  It is perfectly wholesome,  but doesn't rank as a classical champagne style.  Dosage is one of the higher ones,  around 8 – 9 g/L.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 10/15