BONNAIRE is and long has been a favorite estate-bottler of fine Champagne from the Cotes de Blancs, With their production facility in Cramant and most of their vineyards in Cramant Grand Cru, they also have vineyards in Bergeres-les-Vertus (Premier Cru). I think of Bonnaire as a great source for fresh lively elegant Blanc de Blancs Champagnes. But then there is this Variance. Bonnaire Variance is a blanc de blancs but (unlike any of Bonnaire’s other cuvees) it is barrel-fermented and aged and goes through malo-lactic fermentation in barrels before the champenization process. Barrel fermentation and full malo-lactic are very unusual in Champagne and this is an unusual wine in that it has the elegance of chardonnay with the additional richness and depth that comes with the oak barrels as well as some roundness from the malo-lactic fermentation with all of that being enhanced by 68 months spent en tirage (on the lees) before disgorgement and another six months in the cellar before release.
BONNAIRE Brut “Variance” Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, NV ($41.79)
A 100% Chardonnay Champagne with 70% of the grapes coming from Cramant (Grand Cru) and 30% from Bergères-Les-Vertus (Premier Cru), fermented and aged in oak barrels with full malo-lactic fermentation prior to methode champenoise. 68 months on the lees before disgorgement. Finished with a dosage to bring it to a dry brut level of 6 grams of sugar per liter. Sensory: Seems almost a combination of fine bubbly and fine White Burgundy. The fruit is more in the lemony citrus range (typical of Blanc de blancs) but the mineral and oak are there as well. The mineral is Champagne’s chalk (The Cote de Blanc is the heart of Champagne’s chalk) rather than the Cote d’Or’s limestone. The oak is not new but the character of the barrels is there as a complement. The whole is a delicious, fresh but satisfying Champagne with a unique appeal. Delicious. BS: 94+.
Note: Due to its depth and richness, this is a blanc de blancs that transends aperitif status and can be used with food at the dinner table. Recommended serving temperature is 50-53°F.