Can one have a tasty, satisfying, multi-course wine lunch with Champagne only? Of course you can. Champagne is amazingly versatile with food, and Donato Enoteca made for a delightful spot, as usual, for our leisurely Sunday Euro lunch, with delicious Champagne-friendly creations from Chef Pedro.
For this lunch, we split our ten Champagnes into three flights. We started with an eclectic flight of mainly grower Champagne. We then moved on to our oldest Champagnes, including a ’75 René Collard. We did these wines with two courses, as the Gorgonzola gnocchi we were told was coming out seemed like it would be ideal with older Champagne. Indeed it was! Our last Champagne flight was an awesome pair of Clos des Goisses and a Salon. We ended with a couple of lovely sweet wines, including ’67 Climens from splits. A totally satisfying all-Champagne (and sweet wine) feast.
The Jacquesson and Pommery were my favorites in this flight. I’ve previously written about Jacquesson, and their numbered cuvees, here: http://www.rjonwine.com/champagne/jacquesson-jean-herve-chiquet/ The 733 is an assemblage based on the ’05 harvest, comprised of 52% Chardonnay, 24% Pinot Meunier and 24% Pinot Noir, entirely from Premiers and Grands Cru vineyards in the Grande Vallee de la Marne and the Cote des Blancs. Seventy-eight percent of the blend is from the ’05 harvest, 16% from ’04 reserve wines and 6% from 2001. The wine was vinified on its lees in casks with regular batonnage and no filtration.
The Louise is Pommery’s cuvée de prestige, and it’s typically 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir.
J.B. Michel is produced by Bruno Michel, son of José Michel, a longtime Champagne producer. Bruno cultivates 13 hectares of vines in Pierry planted 50% to Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Meunier and 10% Pinot Noir. Vine age is between 30 and 72 years, and yields are kept low. He uses secondhand barrels from Bonneau du Martray, and ferments largely in barrique, which gives him greater control of yeast selection and batonnage. I found this wine to have some intriguing flavors, but a little too much oak influence for my taste.
Egly-Ouriet is one of the original grower Champagnes, and a big Parker favorite. They own 9.7 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards, planted 75% to Pinot Noir and 25% to Chardonnay. The wines spend a minimum of three years on their yeasts. The ’99 was 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, and spent 96 months on its lees.
- 1996 J.B. MICHEL Champagne – France, Champagne
Light medium yellow color; yeasty, white chocolate, cocoa butter nose; rich, quince, tart green fruit, gooseberry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
- 1998 Pommery Champagne Cuvée Louise Brut – France, Champagne
Light lemon yellow color; yeasty, leesy, grapefruit, baked lemon nose; tasty, yeasty, baked lemon, mineral, tart green fruit palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
- 1999 Egly-Ouriet Champagne Grand Cru Brut Millésimé – France, Champagne, Ambonnay, Champagne
Light medium lemon yellow color; honeyed lemon, tart lemon, lemon drop nose; tasty, maturing, tart lemon, yeasty, lemon drop palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
- N.V. Jacquesson & Fils Champagne Cuvée No. 733 – France, Champagne
Intense, fine bead; light medium lemon yellow color; white chocolate, yeasty nose with a vague sense of white pepper; minerally, tart white fruit, smoke, white pepper palate with a sense of green chilies; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
René Collard is known for oxidative styled Champagnes made in oak barrels largely from Pinot Meunier. This ’75 was in that mold, but I enjoyed it as a mature Champagne, and it went very well with our two courses, especially the Gorgonzola gnocchi. I enjoyed the savory, old Champagne nose and taste of the ’85 Heidsieck Monopole Diamant Bleu as well. This prestige cuvée was 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay in 1985. The cépage on the ’90 Bollinger La Grande Année is 69% Pinot Noir, 31% Chardonnay. This wine is typically fermented in small, used oak barrels, and malolactic is typically not encouraged. I hadn’t had this wine for awhile, and it has definitely matured and fit in very well with our older Champagnes.
baccalà with cherry tomatoes and canneloni beans
gnocchi ala formaggi with three different cheeses–gorgonzola, latour and parmigiano-reggiano–with toasted walnuts and raddichio
- 1975 René Collard Champagne Brut Cuvée Réservée – France, Champagne
Light medium golden yellow color; mature, reduction, baked lemon, quince, green fruit nose; mature, a little oxidative, tart green fruit, mineral, lime palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (90% Pinot Meunier from 75-year-old vines, 10% Chardonnay) (91 pts.)
- 1985 Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Champagne Diamant Bleu – France, Champagne
Medium golden yellow color; mature, mushroom, earthy, savory, quince nose; mature, tasty, tart lemon, mineral, stony, tart lime, mushroom palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
- 1990 Bollinger Champagne La Grande Année – France, Champagne
Light medium golden yellow color; mature, beeswax, yeasty, baked lime nose; tasty, mature, tangy, baked lemon, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
Clos des Goisses and Salon
For our final Champagne flight, we had two of the greatest and most sought after Champagnes of all–Clos des Goisses and Salon. I was introduced to Clos des Goisses early last decade by my dear friend Philip Abrams, who many years before had worked a summer or two in Champagne, and spent time at CdG. It is a special and unusual Champagne, and I tend to think of it more as wine than Champagne, as it has a complexity and power that is more vinous than typical of Champagne. They also require many years, typically, before they’re ready to drink. The wonderful Clos des Goisses vineyard is 5.5 hectares, planted to both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and the Champagne is typically a 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay blend. The vineyard was purchased by Philipponnat in 1935. It is vinified in a combination of steel tanks and a small number of oak barrels. I know that we were drinking all three of the wines in this flight too young–Champagne writers talk about needing to decant Clos des Goisses if you serve it before it’s 20 years old–but I still found all three of these wines irresistible and quite delicious.
1997 was not a great year for vintage Champagne, but Salon’s bottling is thought to be the best of the vintage. Salon is 100% Chardonnay, and was the first commercial Blanc de Blancs. Although now owned by Laurent-Perrier, it started as a grower Champagne and still follows essentially a grower philosophy by making Champagne from only one varietal and from a single cru. In years when the vintage isn’t up to Salon’s standard, the grapes go to Delamotte. Salon does not go through malolactic fermentation, and the wines have almost no dosage. This is pure Champagne at its most vinous and ageworthy.
Monterey Bay Flounder with leek puree and squid ink sauce, crusted with almonds
- 1996 Philipponnat Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses – France, Champagne
Light medium lemon yellow color; big, lemon, baked lemon, mineral, lime nose; tasty, tart lemon, lime, yeasty, mineral, grapefruit palate; long finish 96+ points (96 pts.)
- 1999 Philipponnat Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses – France, Champagne
Light lemon yellow color; very yeasty, white chocolate, pear nose; tight, tart citrus, yeasty, tart pear palate; long finish 94+ points (94 pts.)
- 1997 Salon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs – France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne
Light green-tinged yellow color; nice yeasty, light mushroom, tart citrus nose; tight, tasty, baked lemon, yeasty, mineral, white chocolate palate, needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 94+ points (94 pts.)
I suppose we could have finished with a couple of sweet Champagnes, but frankly, I’m not a fan of either Champagne demi-sec or doux. These two lovely sweet wines were much more appealing. Our ’67 Climens, from two splits, was in remarkably good shape. This wine was produced when this wonderful estate was in a period of decline and neglect, before being purchased by the Lurton family in 1971. Nonetheless, the vintage was an excellent one, and this 44-year-old sweet treat was holding up beautifully, giving strong evidence for the reputation Climens has as one of the most ageworthy Sauternes. The ’04 Quarts de Chaume was a baby by comparison, but also quite delicious, as always.
zabaglione over wild strawberries and raspberries marinated with lime juice and Prosecco
- 1967 Château Climens – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
From split (187.5 ml) – medium orange color with pale meniscus; rich, orange creme brulee, cantaloupe nose; rich, mature, orange creme brulee, dried orange, cantaloupe palate; long finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
- 2004 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume – France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Quarts de Chaume
Light green-tinged yellow color; nice green apple, green peach, lime nose; tasty, creamy textured, ripe lime, ripe lemon, tart green melon, mineral palate; long finish (93 pts.)