Travel Tuesday: Adventures in Champagne

Louis Roederer Champagne Uncorked: Circling back to 2013, I had the unimaginable opportunity to tour the Champagne region with a small group of writers, the discoveries made that week left a lasting influence on how I viewed this renown area, then and now. So once again, I'm rolling out the second part to an article I wrote about LRC, which is trending mightly at the moment. Feel free to leave a comment or question below, enjoy. 

"A single glass of Champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced; the imagination is stirred, the wits become more nimble." ~ Winston Churchill

I will admit to feeling a bit of exhilaration, during my visit to Champagne, especially when I looked at the itinerary, and seeing a visit to Louis Roederer Champagne had been added to the list. When no one was looking, I jumped in the air and clicked my heels together. [I apologize in advance if you now cannot get that image out of your mind]. But again, hey it's not every day you get an invitation to visit Champagne and meet some of the big-time movers in shakers in the world of Champagne. So please, I beg your indulgence once more as I finish up my notes about the visit to LRC, which literally blew my mind. I think it's worth noting that not even one bottle of their bubbly was oxidized, not even the tiniest bit. 

First up in the tasting notes is this sinfully elegant dream, a classic Blanc de Blanc from the what many have described as the epic 2008 vintage, but JBL said, 2004 was the Champagne Aficionado's year. I do love an excellent blanc de blanc, [tho they are far less common, but are gaining in popularity] this one did not fail to deliver either. I found both vibrant and creamy. Persistent, lip-smacking acidity greets you with delightful flavors of freshly baked patisserie pears, bright honey-crisp apples, toasted almonds, a drop of honey and scented by acacia blossoms. 

This amazing juice is punctuated by a rich note of smoky minerality, quietly playing bass in the background, and a long, sumptuous finish will have you thinking about opening another bottle. Now just picture this in your glass, and a small tub of your favorite style of popcorn [mine is kettle corn] and you'll be in heaven. Only 20% aging on oak, no malolactic fermentation, and only 4% triage. I scored this wine 92 points, and if you like Chardonnay, this wine is highly recommended. 

Another unusual 2008, this time 100% Pinot Noir, a gorgeous Rose Champagne produced via the Saignée or bleeding method. Basically, the weight of the grapes, one on top of another, until they begin to burst and since the grape skins are only in contact with the juice for a short amount of time, the result is just a blush of color. Many people say, and I tend to agree that this method produces some of the more compelling styles of rose. The grapes harvested for this wine, came from the steep south-facing slopes, planted on chalky and sandy soils. 

This style of Champagne is becoming very popular here in the states, and this bottle helped me to understand why that is so. Blood Orange, toast and a brilliant splash of summer strawberries. The bubbles are vigorous, very concentrated, and continue to fill the glass. On the palate, this Champagne is creamy and elegant, more blood orange, citrus, rose petals, floral notes, and the finish sails on and on. Only 9 grams of dosage, it's pure, clean, and crisp from start to finish. My score 92 points, again highly recommended. 

"When I make Cristal, I make it in the classic style, not in the modern style" ~ Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, Louis Roederer’s Chef de Caves.

Okay, what can one say, when it comes to Cristal, and for many, there is only one word [ladies] swoon. I know, I know can you believe I tried not only this bottle, but also 2002, and 1993 a twenty plus year aged bottle, poured from a magnum. This was my first experience with this [and I feel free to use the word here] fantastic bottle of Champagne. The following are my notes, Grand Cru, 25+-year-old vines, 60% farmed bio-dynamically, and the dosage was 8-10 grams. The fruit is harvested from mid-slope vineyards and is a blend of  40% Pinot Noir [planted on chalk] and 40% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Meunier. 

This wine had seen very little time in oak,  with just 20% fermented, with a weekly stirring of lees which gives this wine just the right touch of richness. Lecaillon explained that Cristal is not released until 5 years after disgorgement, and I thought, my that is quite a long convalescence. Another thing I noticed, that after disgorgement and before release, the wines are NOT stored [aged in caves] with a metal cap, like some producers, and when I asked why it was further aged on cork, I was told it brings a textual difference and a richness you simply cannot achieve with a bottle cap. 

Described as being very young, and it was recommended that aging this wine for at least 20 years, would bring the best result for tasting these wines of finesse and power. I found it very round and inviting, it had a significant lift on the palate. Smokey minerality and vibrant acidity, carry the bright fruit, citrus, ginger, and slices of Macintosh apples. The secret to making great Champagne it would seem, gleaned from the trip there, is to plant Pinot Noir on as much chalk as you can find, the flavor profile is extraordinary. 

Here is the picture of 1993, which I thought was spectacular, and I readily accepted glass after glass, but this was opened during lunch, a pen's down, sit back and relax a moment. So sadly I didn't a single note on this wine, the only lasting impression was that this Champagne was quite exceptional. Again not even a hint of oxidation, nope not one. Now I was quite surprised and delighted to see a bottle of red wine being poured into a decanter, and wow a tasty little number from Bordeaux. I say little, but in every sense of the word, the wine in that bottle was over the top amazing, a near perfect wine in my estimation. 

After tasting this wine, I reached for the notebook for just a few quick notes. Because as many of you know, I've become quite enamored of all things Bordeaux of late. The 2006 Chateau Pichon Longueville is a drop-dead gorgeous wine, there is no getting around that, this is a wine that could make you wet your pants. Hopefully, that won't happen when I'm around, but if you happen to be pouring a gem like this, please, by all means, send me an invite, and I'll be glad to ignore everything else, ha. 

In the glass the wine nearly opaque, a gorgeous dark ruby color shimmering in the glass. This wine has many years of development ahead of it but is drinking amazingly well right now. On the nose, dark plums, cedar, leather, and floral notes. On the palate, this wine is seamless, well-integrated tannins, and a lush, silk-like mouthfeel. In the glass, vivid dark plums, cassis, mocha, blackberry, and the finish is off the charts long. I scored this wine 96 points, and if you can afford the price of admission, you'll love every drop, and it's entirely worth the price tag.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed wines are (typically) from media samples provided solely (not for sale) for the review process. Further, this press junket was funded by the CIVC and the EU to some extent of which I'm unsure.

All original content: Including text and photographs remain the copyright of the author, (W.R. Eyer) except where otherwise noted or absent the watermark.


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