The Friday before Thanksgiving, Carl Chargois of Favorite Brands and Gabe Howe of Classified Wines showed up in my office with a bunch of Champagne. Favorite is the wholesaler and Classified is the importer and all the bottles they brought are part of a boutique collection of grower (estate-bottled) Champagnes called “Champagne et Villages” owned by the Couvreur family. The wines were chilled so we tasted all of ‘em. Someone had to. And it was Gabe’s Birthday. And Friday. Here are the results. As we say in Texas, not a dog in the bunch. These are stunningly good, idiosyncratic Champagnes, each of which reflects a specific (in some cases very specific) place – which specificity is frankly beyond the pale for mass market Champagne.
VAZART COQUART Brut Reserve Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, Champagne, NV ($49.99)
100% Chardonnay (all from Chouilly in the Cote de Blancs – average age is more than 30 years) blended from several years with 25% reserve wines from a “solera” implemented by Jacques Vazart in 1982. Disgorged in May 2015 with 2.5 years on lees. Dosage 8g/L. Straw with green highlights; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity and scant phenolics. Supple richer but still focused style of Blanc de Blancs. Layered and textured with mostly citrus (and some tree) fruit. Adds richness in the mouth. Delcious. Dimensional. BearScore: 93+.
VAZART COQUART Special Club Brut Blanc de Blancs Gr. Cru, Champagne, 2007 ($89.99)
100% Grand Cru Chardonnay made in the “Special Club rules. Disgorged in June 2015 after 7.5 years on yeasts. Dosage 8 g/L. Pale-straw color with green highlights; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and light phenolics. Very rich and developed with juicy Chardonnay ripe fruit. Dimensional, layered, ripe, and textured. Delicious. BearScore: 95.
CAMILLE SAVES Brut Rose Grand Cru, Champagne, NV ($62.59)
60% Chardonnay (Bouzy Grand Cru), 40% Pinot Noir (Bouzy Grand Cru) from 40 year average age vines. Disgorged in Mar 2014 with 3 years on lees. Dosage 9g/L. Pale-salmon-pink color; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant phenolics. Richer rounder more focused Rosé with lots of red fruit balanced with a range of riper complex citrus. Has plenty of yeast and earthy minerality but the rich, integrated complete fruit here is the thing. This is great terroir talking without too much winemaking input. YUM. BearScore: 95+.
CAMILLE SAVES Carte Blanche Brut 1er Cru, Champagne, NV ($49.99)
75% Pinot Noir from Bouzy, Ambonnay and Tours-sur-Marne Grand Cru terroirs. 25% Chardonnay from Tauxières 1er Cru. Disgorged in Feb 2013 after 3 years on yeasts. Dosage 9 g/L Pale-straw color; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and scant phenolics. Very much in middle of the stylistic road with fresh crisp white fruits followed by a bit of red fruit essence and mineral earth. The toast is there but everything is knit together. Elegant, intriguing, integrated; delicious. BearScore: 93.
GODME Alouettes St. Bets Brut Blanc de Blancs 1er cru Champagne, 2006 ($129.99)
100% Chardonnay from 46 year old vines in the single vineyard Les Alouettes St-Bets in Villers-Marmery (on the border of Verzy), this is a chalky vineyard, with little topsoil, and it’s considered to be one of the village’s top sites. Vinified entirely in wood, without malolactic. Aged for 7 years on the yeasts and disgorged September 2013. Dosage 3g/L. Rich straw in color; dry, medium-bodied with freshly balanced acidity; light phenolics. Super rich delicious, integrated, layered textured complete. All the fruit and yeast and mineral are harmonized into a lovely whole. Wow. BearScore: 96+.
GODME Brut Reserve 1er cru, Champagne, NV ($48.99)
60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Meunier, and 10% Pinot Noir. All parcels are vinified separately or in small groups (small sites with similar terroir). 40% was aged in oak casks. The champagnes are not filtered. 50+%) reserve wines. Disgorged August 2014 after 3 years on the lees. Dosage: 7 g/l (true brut). Rich strraw in color; dry, medium full-bodied (for Champagne) with fresh acidity. Supple richer style Champagne with taste and depth to go with full range citrus and tree fruit and a bit of red fruit. The richness and texture comes from the high proportion of reserve wine. Textured and dimensional. BearScore: 93+.
JOSE DHONDT Brut Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, NV ($49.99)
100% Chardonnay. The vines average 25 years of age, Pressing is done in a traditional vertical wood press and only one “retrousse” is allowed. Vinification is in small temperature controlled stainless steel vats with individual lots kept separate. Disgorged in may 2016 after 30 months on the yeasts, Dosage 8g/L. Pale-straw color; medium-bodied with fresh acidity. An earthier style of Blanc de Blancs with citrus and toast but some earthier richness and a different sort of toasted brioche (how’s that for a ciché?) yeastiness. Delicious. BearScore: 92+.
SERVEAUX FILS Brut Cuvee Pinot Meunier, Champagne, NV ($69.99)
100% Pinot Meunier grown in Passy in the Vallee de la Marne. 30% reserve wines, Disgorged in May 2015 with 3 years on lees. Dosage 7g/L. Pale-straw color; dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity and light phenolics. Richer, rounder, toastier riper Champagne offering subtle red fruits and balancing citrus along with yeasty-biscuity toast. Supple and satisfying. Opens beautifully in the glass. YUM. Only the second all Pinot Meunier Champagne I’ve ever tasted. BearScore: 94.