Thursday, October 04, 2007

It's Love! It's...More Grower Champagne!

Brooklynguy is in love with Champagne. I mean seriously, it's just so good, I can hardly stand it. I've been thinking about it all the time, when I'm jogging, when I woke up at 3:30 AM the other night in need of water (too much whiskey at the ol' poker game), when I'm working...and maybe most tellingly, when I'm drinking other wine. SORRY OTHER WINES, but I cannot be true to you right now, because I've found another and I'm in love.

I had the distinct honor and pleasure of tasting as much of the Terry Theise Grower Champagne portfolio as I could last week, at the Michael Skurnik tasting last week at TriBeCa Grill. What an opportunity! I mean, this stuff is more expensive at the entry level than Burgundy, so to be able to taste the whole lineup like this, to learn this much at one time about Grower Champagne, to determine which are the wines that I want for my own cellar...fughedabadit.

By the way, having attended a few big tastings lately, I can confidently say that the Skurnik crew put on a classy event, one that actually encourages tasting and discussion. I found ample room at each table, as they were not loaded on top of each other, knowledgeable and friendly Skurnik folks pouring the wine, and time to breathe, think, and talk between swirls and sniffs. I had a BALL, and I learned a whole lot.

I am still developing my personal tasting scaffolding in Champagne, the structure that everything else will go on top of. So I really am not the guy to evaluate the wines. But I will tell you this - there were some utterly thrilling and gorgeous wines, wines that honestly haunt me now and it's a week later.

I learned that I love the wines of Rene Geoffroy. I tasted five of the wines, and two of them were as beautiful as anything I've ever had - the 1995 Cuvee de Rene Geoffroy (must be about $250 for a magnum), and the NV Cuvee Volupte (about $70/bottle?). Too rich for you? Me too. But the basic wine, the NV Brut Expression is just fantastic, it really is a calling card for the other wines, and you should be able to buy it for about $35. At 50% Pinot Meunier, this wine is deep, nutty, and juicy, and at the same time elegant and crackling with bright minerality and acidity. Geoffroy uses lots of Meunier, and the wines were all long and intense. Right now I'm in a place where if I were told, "you can take one case of one type of entry level Champagne to a desert island," it would be this wine.

But I also loved the Chartogne-Taillet lineup. And you know what - the top wines might not completely crush you wallet-wise. The 1999 Vintage Champagne, at 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay is really deep and fleshy, with roasted nuts, brioche, and other yummy things on the palate, and you might find it for about $55. This is a special Champs, holiday special. So is the 2000 Cuvee Fiacre, with an unbelievable nose of flowers, although that will cost you about $65 per bottle. The entry level NV Cuvee St-Anne was beautiful - delicate nose of white flowers and a balanced palate with sweet fruit and elegant acidity. And at about $33-36 per bottle, it's like you're stealing from the producer. Really, what I'd like to do is take half Geoffroy and half this wine to the desert island.

There are others from this tasting that could easily make you weep with joy - Jean Milan's 2002 Selection de Terres de Noel at about $85/bottle, Billiot's NV Cuvee Laetita at about $80/bottle, Lallement's NV Brut Reserve at about $55/bottle, Gimmonet's 1999 Special Club at about $75/bottle, or basically anything by Vilmart & Cie. And my palate wore out before I could taste some of the wines, like the Varnier-Fanniere or the Hebrart wines. But I bet they were real good too.

If I can say one thing based on this tasting, and on other recent tastes: buy Grower Champagne! Try one of these bottles before the holidays come and see what I mean. You'll pay maybe $8-10 more than you would for Perrier-Jouet or Duval-Leroy, but they're so much better, with such character and personality. You know what, buy one of these and one bottle of Duval-Leroy, the NEW 93 POINTS wine according to Wine Spectator. Bag them and taste them blind, and let's see what happens. That's right, I just challenged you to a tasting.

Okay sorry, my testosterone is in check now. but these wines are really getting me excited. Try and see for yourself, and please let me know what you think.

13 comments:

Jack said...

"I learned that I love the wines of Rene Geoffroy."

Told ya! Geoffroy is my second favorite (to Vilmart) in the TT lineup.

RougeAndBlanc said...

Neil,
Thanks for sharing your champagne tasting notes. It is indeed an eye opener for me too.
As for the price of grower champagnes, just think of the crazy price the '05 1'er Cru (or Grand Cru) Burgundies are asking for, then you'll not feel that bad.
For example, '05 Dujac Bonnes Mares future is $1k and you can't touch it until 10 years later.

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Jack - so good, all of them, the Vilmart too, of course. Vilmart is kind of out of my price range though, but happily I have Geoffroy to turn to.

Hi Andrew - I hear you, but there are amazing Burgs to be had, even '05s, at the entry level or village level in the Cote-de-Beaune for less than a bottle of Geoffroy Brut Expression. It's too bad because the pricing makes people think twice about enjoying the Champagnes as wines with dinner, makes them think they must be saved for a special occasion.

Joe said...

Brooklyn - how can you drink so much champagne in such a short period of time?! I am now picturing Neil in the back of a limo with gold chains, guzzling a a bottle of Cristal! Glad you are diving into this - we are having a Champagne tasting in December.

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Joe - my doctor has me on a once a week dose of the Champs. And you know what - it's really helping. I'm loving life.

Maman said...

Thanks for the recommendations, I have always loved champagne (got my first bottle from my grandparents for my 16th birthday...) I will be looking for some of those bottles in my neighborhood!

Brooklynguy said...

Bonjours Maman, et merci pour visiter. I'm glad these sound good to you, because they truly are delicious, and such an eye opener if you;re used to "regular" big house Champagne. If these specific bottles are not available, maybe try anything with Terry Theise's name on the back of the bottle.

See you again-

Julian said...

Hello Everyone! I'm new to this blog. Looks like fun! How does this lineup sound for a Champagne dinner:

Rene Geoffroy 'Expression'
Pierre Peters 'Cuvee Reserve'
Chartogne Taillet 'Cuvee Fiacre'
Vilmart 'Cuvee Rubis'
Henri Billiot 'Cuvee Julie'

Any recommendations on other Terry Thiese champagnes that might work better, as well as any food pairing advice?

Thanks!

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Julian - welcome to the blog, glad you stopped by. How did you find it? Sounds like one heck of a Champs lineup for the dinner - wish I was in your tasting group. You've hit some of my favorite Thiese producers. I also really like Lallement's Reserve wine, if you can find it. And I like Larmandier-Bernier, their 1er Cru Blancs de Blancs is a great example. Let us know what you think.

Julian said...

Thanks for the info! Well, change of plans since my two Terry Thiese distributors in Maryland do not carry certain wines, and the Billiot Julie is completely outside of my budget. Oh well.
1) Salad course (leeks, hazelnuts, blood orange) with A. Margaine 'Cuvee Traditionelle'
2) Wild mushroom quiche (or souffle) with Pierre Peters 'Cuvee Reserve'
3) Arctic Char with roasted fennel and arugula paired with Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs d'Ay.
4) Grilled lamb tenderloin and frites with Rene Geoffroy 'Rose de Saignee'
5) Macerated berries with goat cheese mousse served with Gimonnet 1er Cru Brut.

Oh, this is a dinner I'm putting together for a restaurant. Wish I could do this kind of stuff at home. And looks like I'll be driving to New York to find some Chartogne Taillet Fiacre (my favorite champagne. Still remember what it tastes like after I tried it for the first time 4 years ago)

p.s. I found this site through a Google search of grower champagnes!

Brooklynguy said...

julian-sounds like an AMAZING dinner. what restaurant? you're driving up from maryland for these wines? good for you, man. i respect that. better bring a uhaul so you can get back with everything you're going to want. glad you found the blog, stop by again - there are more recent champagne reviews since this one.

klcjoey said...

I found this blog via a google search on grower champagnes. I am drinking a Pehu Simoney Brut Rose as I type this and it's wonderful. I love wine but champagne is my elixir of choice and while I've historically been a Veuve girl, I must say I'm falling in love with the grower champgnes I've tried. I haven't yet tried Rene Geoffroy -but I've mentioned it to my local wineseller -I live in Atlanta and it takes a little longer down here to get w/ the new trends and unfortunately GA is one of those states that does not allow consumers to purchase wine via the internet. Oh well. I might have to get on a plane....

Brooklynguy said...

hey klcjoey - so glad you found me, and sooo glad you're digging the grower champs. it doesn't have to be geoffroy, there are so many others. there are lots of recent posts on champs on my blog. click the champs category to see them. maybe there's something else that you could find in a local shop. if not, there's always NYC for vacation...