Alternative Cuvée Online Tasting - By Marcus Little

Updated: Jan 4


I am just going to set the scene, on what has become one of our most successful, and eagerly attended tastings of the year. This is an opportunity for the 16 Houses of the Champagne Academy to showcase a particular cuvee, that is possibly a tad out of the ordinary. It maybe a new vintage, or a new style, even possibly a different approach in wine making to the mainstream, or something that they feel has been long overlooked and needs a moment in the daylight.


This started in 2017, and was raised as a possible freshening up of our approach to tastings, at a Committee meeting, the imaginative suggestion of Past-Chairman Alice Archer and Committee Member Jade Koch.

The first tasting, in the Crypt of a Church, was a triumph, not only appreciated by our Academy Members and their guests, but also by the Champagne Houses, as a chance to show what they can achieve, outside of their main house style.



Bollinger

Champagne Bollinger PN VZ15



Whilst at first glance this looks like it could be a vaccine answer to today’s troubles, it is in fact the first wine in a new series that will be released every year, always with a focus on one of Bollinger’s Pinot Noir crus, or villages.



A 100% Pinot Noir, the VZ indicates Verzenay, a Grand Cru Village in the Grande Montagne de Reims which makes up 50% of the blend with the balance from Aÿ, Bouzy and Tauxières. This blend comprises 80% from the 2015 vintage, and the balance coming from Bollinger’s Reserve wines of 2009 and 2010. Over 50% of the wine was vinified in oak barrels.

The dosage is 7 g/l and the wine has been aged on its lees for 3.5 years, enjoy this lovely wine now, or you can hang on until 2030.


Tasting Note: The nose is expressive, with Pinot Noir elements prominent, spices, ripe apples and hints of brioche expand through to the palate. A rich palate comes from the expressive reserve wines aged in Bollinger magnums. The wine takes you back to the Bollinger routes in Pinot Noir and this exciting first release really shows off the Verzenay fruits. (The Finest Bubble)


I am yet to taste this wine, but I have a bottle waiting at the Club, which I look forward to imbibing, in the distant uplands of being able to enjoy the company of the few friends that I have, that are not in prison.


Charles Heidseick

Charles Heidseick - Blanc De Blanc NV



I am a great fan of Champagne Blanc de Blancs cuvees, I find their particular style of freshness and acidity, balanced with the generosity of the fruit to be compelling, especially if fortunate to be drinking an older example that starts to explore its hidden depths.

Charles Heidsieck was one of the very first Champagne Houses to demonstrate its passion for Chardonnay, by producing a Blanc de Blancs in its 1949 vintage. There are also some accounts relating the existence of mono-crus from the Côte des Blancs being produced by Charles Heidsieck in 1906. The Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Blancs, was relaunched in 2018.


The Chardonnay Vineyards are 100% Grand & Premier Cru Côte des Blancs (Oger, Vertus) Montagne de Reims (Marmery, Trépail, Vaudemange) & Aube (Montgueux). The base vintage used was 2012, with 20% of reserve wines too. It was aged foe 4 years on its lees, and has a dosage of 10g/l.


Tasting Note: the aromas of ripe Chardonnay escape: vine peach, candied citrus fruits, with some notes of lime blossom, honeysuckle, fresh hazelnuts. A second nose bears on subtle notes of mandarin and lemon.

On the mouth: freshness and tension are coated in this generosity typically Charles: the attack is frank, pure, without aggressiveness with an almost atypical smoothness for a Blanc de Blancs that is often defined as more angular than creamy. The balanced finish surprises with its minerality and its salty side. (Charles Heidsieck)

I have tried this wine, and I would open it at least 45 minutes before serving, it does need a bit of time to broaden out, a delight for the patient!



Veuve Clicquot

Veuve Clicquot - Extra Brut Extra Old NV

This wine has everything that the British market should enjoy, a blend of eight Reserve wines to make a complex and luscious style of Champagne, that is Pinot Noir dominant.




In 2013, the Cellar Master created a unique blend composed exclusively from their reserve wines, in order to express the quintessence of Yellow Label and paying tribute to Madame Clicquot and her innovative and visionary process. Thus, was born the Extra Brut Extra Old cuvée, a particularly singular champagne. In 2019, the House reveals the second blend of the collection, Extra Brut Extra Old 2, a new blend testifying to the historical savoir-faire of the House.

The grape varieties used are 45% Pinot Noir, 28% Meunier and 27% Chardonnay. The blend of years from the Reserve wines are 1990, 1998, 1999, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 & 2012. All the Reserve wines blended have been aged for a minimum of three years on the lees, in vats. To extend the ageing further, Extra Brut Extra Old NV spends another three years maturing after bottling and another year in the cellars post-disgorgement. The dosage is 3 g/l.

Tasting Note: An intense golden colour in the glass with a fine stream of tightly knit beads. Initial notes on the nose are rich and intense: ripe fruits and citrus. Powerful on the palate but balanced and smooth. Full of citrus with hints of apples and toastiness. A well-balanced minerality through the long-lasting finish. Exceptional. This has the characteristics to supplement a meal but due to the freshness could be served as an apéritif. (The Finest Bubble)


This is a real difference to the norm, and takes the blending of Reserve wines to another level


Click here to see a video all about this wine created just for The Champagne Academy



Heidseick & Monopole

Heidseick & Monopole Premier Cru NV



This version from the House differs from the blue top by being 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay.


Tasting Notes Straw yellow appearance with golden highlights. A generous nose with complex, concentrated fruits. Full on the palate with ripe fruits and a soft, lingering finish.





Krug

Krug Rose 23rd Edition



Well, a wonderful opportunity to re-acquaint yourself with a wine that I rarely have the opportunity to drink, so really impressed to be able to sample this wondrous and complicated wine. I last tried the 21st edition, but would expect nothing less from this House.

This particular Krug Rosé is a blend of 60 wines from 10 different years, the youngest of which is from 2011, while the oldest dates back to 2000. It was completed with 13% traditionally macerated Pinot Noir from a special plot in Ay to add spiciness, colour and structure. Its final composition is 45% Chardonnay, 29% Pinot Noir and 26% Meunier. It has at least seven years in Krug’s cellars. Reserve wines make up 56% of the final blend.

Tasting Note: At first sight, its subtle pale pink colour holds a promise of elegance. On the nose, aromas of rose hips, cured ham, mulberries, redcurrant, peony, pepper and pink grapefruit. On the palate, delicate flavours of honey, citrus and dried fruit with a long finish, enhanced by its fine bubbles completes the experience. (House of Krug)


I have had the opportunity in my mixed and varied life, to try many versions of Rose Champagne, and I wish to impart to you, that the match of the wine when eating various game birds, venison or wild boar, is a true delight that you really should experience.


Lanson

Lanson Extra Age Brut NV





I would beseech you to go on-line and look up Champagne Academy on You Tube. On there, is an excellent video from the Wine Maker for Lanson, Herve Dantan, who will share his tasting of the wine and explain more about it.


To mark its 250th anniversary, Champagne Lanson created a range of cuvées, Extra Age. The range was created by chief winemaker Jean-Paul Gandon to celebrate the history of the house. Extra Age Brut is a blend of 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir selected from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards of Avize, Bouzy, Chouilly, Cramant, Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger, Verzenay using three vintages: 2004, 2005 and 2006. The Dosage is 8 g/l.





Tasting Note:A vibrant straw yellow with a fine stream of bubbles. Initial fragrances of honey, brioche and balance aromatic spices. A full bodied mouthfeel, with rich tropical fruits, apples and apricots. (The Finest Bubble)



Laurent Perrier

Laurent Perrier Blanc De Blanc Brut Nature

Another wonderful version of Chardonnay, but this time with zero dosage. The House had to carry this grape variety through a Cuvée; only Coteaux de la Montagne de Reims and Côte des Blancs wines planted in Chardonnay with low acidity and picked at perfect maturity have been selected to go into the blend of this Blanc de Blancs.


Tasting note: The nose displays minerality and hints of citrus. On the palate the wine is balanced and sustained with a finish that is fresh, with notes of lemon. (Laurent Perrier).




Moet & Chandon

Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Rose 2012



This is a wonderful example of a full-bodied Rose wine, that is excellent with food. The next time you are having a BBQ, forget the beer and get stuck into a Magnum or two of this wine. Even if you went to the Culinary School of Cooking by Carbon Dating, this wine will stand up to anything you can cremate, even if it is the salad.

The wine is a blend of 42% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 23% Meunier (13% of which is red wine) and is aged on its lees for 7 years. Only 5 g/l dosage.


Tasting Note: Coral pink with a suggestion of orange. Fresh hints of pink grapefruit and blood orange with morello cherry and wild strawberry throughout. The midpalate has bold plum and red fruits. (The Finest Bubble)



G. H. Mumm

G. H. Mumm RSRV Vintage Blanc de Noir 2012 Grand Cru



Whilst currently not available in the UK, so I have had not had the opportunity to try this wine, maybe one day soon? But the excellent video from Jonathan Simms, on the Champagne Academy You Tube, should mark your card and get you clamouring to drink this 100% Pinot Noir.



Perrier Jouet

Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque De Blancs 2006

This is a fulsome 100% Chardonnay that is to be savoured, if not revered, from only 2 vineyard plots, and has only been made 5 times in the last 25 years. There was a miniscule allocation of 200 bottles exported to the UK! Jonathan Simms has made a superb video that you should watch on the Champagne Academy YouTube page. He makes you want to sell the youngest child to be able to purchase a bottle.








Piper Heidsieck

Piper Heidseick Essential Cuvee Reservee NV



So, the difference between this Cuvee and the normal Cuvee Brut, is that this wine has a lower dosage, 6g/l, in contrast to the regular 9-10 g/l. This wine also benefits from a longer ageing.

The grapes come from a mixture of Grand Cru and Premier Cru sites, with the Chardonnay from Côte des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims. Whilst the Pinot Noir is sourced from the Montagne de Reims. It is however a blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Meunier and the final balance of 20% Chardonnay, from over a different 100 sites. There is no use of wood for the wine.


Tasting Note: A gold shimmer with notes of almond and fresh hazelnut accompanying the subtle and light pear and apple flavours. Crunchy pomelo, grapes and juicy white fruits of melon and some bright citrus notes fill the mid palate. All round great balanced acidity. (The Finest Bubble


Pol Roger

Pol Roger Brut Vintage 2013



Well, I think that this is a lucky vintage, especially as I used to play at number 13 in Rugby. Even luckier is the fact that it was a cool start to the year, only made up by the hotter July and August, with some fortunate light rain in early September, and a drier finish of the month to allow the picking to start. This wine is the amalgamation of 20 Grand and Premier Cru sites, being 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. The wine has 6 years on its lees and a dosage of 7 g/l


Tasting Note: The Brut Vintage 2013 is tightly knit on the nose with notes of lemon peel, grapefruit and white flowers. A taught palate, with a bracing backbone of acidity, which slowly opens to a broad rich mouthfeel. Incredibly well balanced elements, and will certainly be ranked among some of the great vintages of the 10’s. (Pol Roger)


Click here to see a video all about this wine created just for The Champagne Academy



Pommery

Pommery Les Clos Pompadour



As its name would suggest, this a Clos Champagne, which means that the vineyard is enclosed in a walled area, and has Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. I understand that they only make Magnums of this wine, now that is, as they might say in the South West of England, “a proper job!”


Tasting note: On the nose, the wine is straight, direct but also made of charm & tenderness. There are at first slightly dried lemon notes which stimulate the nose and then, in a continuing swing, floral notes of white flowers like hawthorn associated with some small touches of roses make their appearance. On the palate everything opens up, everything guides and transports us into a universe of softness, freshness, complexity, length, to take us to a vivid and immaculate finish. (Champagne Pommery)


Louis Roederer

Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs 2013




Ok, another 100% Chardonnay, but well worth the indulgence. This is from a vintage, that was initially cooler, where the Summer did not start until July. This wine is from 4 different sites of the Grand Cru village of Avize, the wines are organic and biodynamic, which means that it gets cold dancing naked in the moonlight.

You must, I mean must, watch Alex Tilling on the Champagne Academy YouTube page, giving a marvellous, impassioned tasting to camera on this lovely wine. Alex says that the wine has an Audrey Hepburn elegance, and this is delivered in a Jenny Agutter sort of way, think American Werewolf in London!


Tasting note: In the mouth, the attack is typically Chardonnay, it is smooth and delicate, and markedly sweet. Slightly sweetened floral notes and white fruit and dried fruit notes are combined with the almost chalky minerality of the Cote des Blanc. The texture has notes of sugared almond, a sensation that is strengthened by a soft effervescence that envelopes the mouth. This is followed by an impression of finesse, elegance and freshness, strengthened by suggestions of fresh mint and basil. (Louis Roederer)


Ruinart

Dom Ruinart 2007


This is one of those must try style of wines, the expression of the Chardonnay fruit that the Dom Ruinart brand always delivers is a joy. This particular vintage is no exception, and one of the few vintages that started in August.

The Chardonnay is picked from Grand cru vineyards, with 75% from the Cote de Blanc (Chouilly, Le Mesnil, Oger & Avize) and 25% from the northern slopes of Montagne de Reims (mainly Sillery and Verzenay).

You can go again to our YouTube page, and a certain Ethan Boroian gives a precise and informative tasting of the wine.


Tasting note:The attack is a hit of chalk, then flint and oyster shell notes mingle with the smoky aromas of blond tobacco. The nose continues into springtime notes, underscored with light aromas of sap, linden, acacia, extremely fresh yellow and green citrus fruit (lime, yuzu) and green fruit (plum). The subtle notes of fig leaf, liquorice and fine Chinese tea enhance the complexity of its aromatic bouquet.

The palate, which begins smoothly, quickly reveals a thrilling, stony liveliness and a deep intensity structured by notes of green citrus & grapefruit. The sap-infused and chalky finish is framed with an elegant bitter flavour. (Ruinart)


Click here to see a video all about this wine created just for The Champagne Academy



Taittinger

Taittinger Prelude Grans Cru NV



I have a great friend who swears by this wine, ok he has tourettes, but he does have a fine palate.

Prélude Grands Crus Cuvée is composed of Chardonnay (50%) and Pinot Noir (50%) that Taittinger has selected exclusively from the top Grands Crus vineyards classified as “100%” in the Champagne system. Produced only using first press wines, this rare blend offers finesse and structure.

There is, I am delighted to say, another video tasting on our You Tube page. This one is by the smashing, nay venerable, notable, impressive, preeminent, unwonted, phenomenal, yet surprisingly wicked, Kevin McKee.


Tasting note:The brilliant body is pale yellow with silver highlights, a sign of the high proportion of exceptional Chardonnays. The bubbles are fine and form a persistent and delicately creamy ring of foam. The wine is subtle and fresh on the nose. The initial mineral aromas quickly give way to green and then floral notes with the fragrance of elderflowers and spicy cinnamon undertones. The entry onto the palate is clean and lively, dominated by very exceedingly fresh citrus notes. These segue into much fuller, rounder and silkier flavours where white peaches in syrup predominate. The finish is rich, lingering and bursting with flavour. Prélude «Grands Crus» is a joyous blend of finesse and complexity. its balance of freshness and aromatic expression is outstanding. (Taittinger)


Prélude Grands Crus Cuvée is composed of Chardonnay (50%) and Pinot Noir (50%) that Taittinger has selected exclusively from the top Grands Crus vineyards classified as “100%” in the Champagne system. Produced only using first press wines, this rare blend offers the finesse and structure that a great wine needs if it to be laid down for any length of time. On the palate, this wine strikes the perfect balance of the instantly minerally Chardonnay and the strongly expressive Pinot Noir. Aged for more than five years in the cellar, the Prélude cuvée is unique for its remarkable youth and great wealth of flavours



The brilliant body is pale yellow with silver highlights, a sign of the high proportion of exceptional Chardonnays.The bubbles are fine and form a persistent and delicately creamy ring of foam.The wine is subtle and fresh on the nose. The initial mineral aromas quickly give way to green and then floral notes with the fragrance of elderflowers and spicy cinnamon undertones.The entry onto the palate is clean and lively, dominated by very exceedingly fresh citrus notes. These segue into much fuller, rounder and silkier flavours where white peaches in syrup predominate.The finish is rich, lingering and bursting with flavour. Prélude «Grands Crus» is a joyous blend of finesse and complexity. its balance of freshness and aromatic expression is outstanding.


Marcus Little – December 2020

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