Great Organic Champagne

Great Champagnes For Toasting 2011

 

Here are my top picks for sparkling wines and Champagnes for toasting this New Year’s Eve.  100% “Grower Champagnes”, meaning these folks own their vineyards and monitor quality from vine to bottle.  Yeah, you could easily run down to your big box store and snag a bottle of one of the big name brands made with grapes purchased from one of these growers, but why not just cut to the chase and drink something different, unique and delicious straight from the source?  Take a look.

R. Dumont et Fils Champagne “Brut Tradition”
Honest, delicious and round Champagne from two brothers farming 22 hectares in Aube.  80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, this is round with a soft mousse and flavors and aromas of roasted nut, bright citrus and floral nuances.
José Michel Champagne Brut “Pinot Meunier”
José Michel is known as the “Guru of Pinot Meunier”.  This grape is regarded by the larger Champagne houses as nothing more than a blending grape that contributes fruity characteristics.  However, one of the larger houses I’m especially fond of, Krug, uses a high proportion of the grape in many of their wines.  José discovered long ago that if planted in the right spots with lower yields, this grape was capable of making world class Champagne.  His wines now enjoy a cult following, and this one is highly perfumed and exotic with a fine mousse and aromas and flavors of spiced apple, delicate red berries and mineral.
Voirin-Jumel Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru

This wine took my breath away when I tasted it in November.  100% Chardonnay from Cramant, one of the best spots in Champagne for Chardonnay………and Grand Cru for less than $50.  This is pretty big and rich with a wonderful balance between toasty/leesy/minerality and focused acidity. 
2002 José Michel Champagne Brut “Special Club”

No, you don’t have to be in a special club to drink this, but José Michel is a member of the Club de Viticulteurs, a group of independent Champagne producers who have come together to promote the high quality of their work.  The group chose José’s Vintage 2002 Brut as one of their representatives to the world of what true grower Champagne is all about.  It’s a blend of 50/50 Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay from a vineyard first planted in 1929.  The wine is fermented entirely in oak and then moved to bottle and disgorged according to demand.  It would make a wonderful bottle for this New Year’s Eve or for one 10-20 years down the road.

Jacques Lassaigne Blanc de Blancs “Le Cotet”

Mark my words, Jacques Lassaigne will be the next highly sought after, cult Champagne producer.  This is his single vineyard, old vine Chardonnay based Champagne, and it is truly something special.  Unlike the bigger producers who look at the making of their wines as an industrial process (machine harvesting, quick fermentations, lots of manipulation), this is an entirely organic and natural wine, bottled without the addition of any sulfur.  Grapes are harvested super-ripe, kind of like Jacques Selosse, and the wine undergoes full malolactic before being placed in new and used oak barrels to “rest” for two years.  The wine is then held in bottle for another 1 to 5 years before disgorgement.  In a nutshell, this is the real deal folks, the ultimate “insider” Champagne that I would happily put in a blind tasting against any of the “Tete de Cuvees” from the larger houses.  Oh yeah, it costs about half the price of any of these!

There are many others that I could write about, but these are my personal favorites.  May your New Year’s Eve be fun, festive and safe and I hope you take my advice to try something different this year.  You won’t regret it!  Pre-Cheers to 2011……..it’s gonna’ be a great year!



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