February 14th on our winter tasting schedule is always an easy one to plan… What works better than Champagne and sweets on Valentine’s Day? For us at KWM, on the other end, it is always a struggle, and for more than one reason. For one: how do we reinvent ourselves after conducting the same Valentine’s Day tasting year after year? But most importantly: which staff member is going to devote their Valentine’s Day evening to teach a class instead of spending time with his or her sweetheart? Serendipitously, the answer was right in front of us this year… As the most passionate consumers of bubbly of all genres and partners in life, Christine and Sebastian were the perfect match to direct our Valentine’s tasting.
To change things up, we decided to present the tasting as one of our “dynamic duo” classes, putting Christine in charge of presenting the classic sparkling wines from Champagne, and Sebastian presenting some serious bubbly contenders from elsewhere. The one thing that each of the bottles presented had in common is that all of these sparkling wines were made in the Traditional method, or Méthode Champenoise. What this means is that all of the wines that we poured were bottle-fermented and have been done in the same time and money consuming manner that is known to produce the most refined type of bubbly booze in the world.
2012, Pierre Paillard Les Terres Roses Bouzy Grand Cru Extra-Brut $62.99
The Paillard family has been growing vine and making wine in Bouzy since 1768. Classified as Grand Cru as early as 1935, Bouzy is the historical heart of the Champagne area. This is one of the most delicate and refined rose Champagnes, and one of the absolute best value on the market. A combination of 65% Chardonnay, 28% Pinot Noir (vinified white), and 7% Bouzy Rouge Old Vine Pinot Noir, with a 4.5g/L dosage. It is made 100% from estate-grown fruit from the grand cru of Bouzy on the south-facing slopes of the Mountain of Reims and farmed without pesticides. Subtle and chalky, this minerally rosé frames hints of white raspberry, smoke, biscuit and preserved lemon with firm acidity and a light floral overtone. If you are a fan of rose Champagne with lobster, you have found your perfect bottle!
2012 (Bottled 2016), Fattori Ronca Methodo Classico $44.99
We’ve been working with this winery for a few years now at KWM as an Alberta exclusive, starting with the excellent value Pinot Grigio and Soave, and eventually bringing in the whole Valpolicella lineup including the Amarone wines. The new additions this year are two sparkling wines made of local grape varietal Durella (AKA Durello) which is suitable for sparkling wines due to high acid levels. The Durello grape is of ancient autochthonic origin and fossils found in the area are said to be the direct ancestors of Vitis Vinifera. Its vines are vigorous, disease resistant, and grow best in a soil composed of lime and clay of volcanic origin. The clusters are medium sized, pyramid shaped (sometimes with wings) and compact. The grapes have a thick and leathery skin (may be the reason for it name) and good acidity. Only 10 growers in all of the area make this wine and only about 600k bottles of Lessini Durello are made annualy. I’ve selected the Methodo Classico for this evening as it is closer to Champagne; with 36 months aging on the lees and it is bottle fermented to give finer bubbles. What you’ll find on the nose are characteristic notes of bread crust and yeast elegantly intertwined with hints of dried fruit and citrus. The palate is seamless and the persistent taste comes from good acidity that blends nicely with fine bubbles and a distinct flavour. The long finish offers notes of citrus and almond. This wine is perfect as an aperitif, and ideal with dishes of raw shellfish and sushi. Great with Verona’s traditional dishes like Sopressa (aged salami), cheese and Baccalà alla Vicentina (baked cod fish).
NV, Laherte Frères Les 7 $112.99
Champagne Laherte is at the cutting edge of artisan, grower Champagne production. It is based in Chavot, just to the south of Epernay, in a sector known as the Coteaux Sud d’Epernay, but it has holdings in 75 different parcels, covering 10 different villages mainly in the southern sectors or to the west in the Vallée de la Marne. Firmly environmental of temperament (farming organically, following biodynamic principles), the ‘brothers’ (Laurence, Auréline, Christian and Thierry) are pleasingly pragmatic when they enter the winery, although they favour wood for the first fermentation (70% of the wines are treated to neutral oak). Pale straw with a fine bead. Powerful scents of exotic fruits, brioche, smoky minerals and singed orange. Deep and rich but also precise on the palate, offering palate coating orchard and pit fruit flavors and sneaky minerality. Rich and energetic at the same time, finishing with strong mineral cut and lingering notes of candied rose and anise. A vibrant Homage to the old varietal used in Champagne when it all started!
2011 Argyle Brut $44.99
Since 1987, Argyle Winery has produced world-class methode champenoise Sparkling wine, barrel fermented Chardonnay and ‘silky’ textured Pinot Noir from low yielding vines on winery farmed hillside slopes. Argyle was named “OREGON’S PREMIER WINERY” by Wine Spectator in 2000. The Dundee Hills AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in Yamhill County, Oregon. It is entirely contained within the Willamette Valley AVA, and is approximately 28 miles southwest of Portland, near the town of Dundee. Aromas of grapefruit citrus-blossom, and fresh baked vanilla-caramel ladyfingers ride the pinpoint bubbles up into your senses. Is this a poem or a tasting note! We love the Argyle Brut. Made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it offers a long-lasting finish. This is one of the most exciting sparkling wines made in Argyle’s 20 years!
Ulysse Collin Blanc de Noirs Les Maillons Extra-Brut 109.99
“Insanely beautiful…Beguiling, totally fascinating,” according to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, which gave this fabulous Champagne 95 points. Sweet red berries, rich citrus, wax, flowers and subtle spices waft from the glass, but the Maillons is all about weightless, crystalline purity, tension and grace. From a purely textural standpoint, the Maillons stands apart for the finesse of its mousse and its exceptional overall harmony. Olivier Collin crafts beguiling, totally fascinating Champagnes from his tiny facility in the sleepy town of Congy. The wines are fermented and aged in barrel (with some lees stirring) and bottled without fining or filtration. Between 20 and 40% of the wines each year are kept back as reserves. This cuvee is a Pinot Noir from a 6 hectare “lieu-dit” called Maillons, which has heavy clay soils over chalk. Olivier owns 2.5 hectares here, and his vines average 40 years old. It’s a truly amazing wine, with lots of personality and character.
NV, Montauto Metodo Classico Brut $42.99
A KWM exclusive from a wonderful producer in the Maremma region (Tuscany) of Italy. Riccardo Lepri, a former economist, turned winemaker with a very simple motto: “drink my wine or don’t. There is no in between”. Riccardo Lepri has been at the helm of his family’s vineyard for more than a decade. Located in a part of Southern Tuscany that is terra incognita for most tourists, Vini Montauto has made the rather controversial decision to focus on white wines in a region that is far better known for her busty reds. But that’s very much Riccardo’s strong suit. He sees himself as an anti-conformist and his wines proudly follow suit. “We make wines that are drinkable. So many modern winemakers are entirely focused on a wine’s bouquet. The average wine drinker ‘tastes’ a wine by smelling it and then downing the entire glass. Winemakers know this and pay so much attention to the nose that they neglect the taste. Part of our job is to make the average wine drinker understand the proper tasting technique. Don’t just smell the wine, savour it on your palette and appreciate the taste it leaves in your mouth.“ This wine s made in the traditional method, and from organically grown grapes, this dry sparkling wine comes from 100% Sangiovese grapes. Very fresh on the nose with hints of red berry fruit and yeast. The palate is delicate and crisp with mineral flavors and good acidity. Delicate and fresh, this is a superb fizz with a difference. Works well as an aperitif or you could serve at brunch with a hearty frittata.
Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru VP Extra-Brut $154.99
They are only a handful of Champagne growers who follow biodynamic, organic or ‘living soil’ principals of viticulture. These producers do not use chemical fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides or chemical anti-fungal sprays; they work on very low yields (roughly half the regional average); produce vineyard or village specific wines; minimise the use of sugar addition and follow a very natural winemaking regime with no fining or filtration and low levels of sulphur. Egly is one of these rare roducers and the results are stunning. Golden-yellow in color, this wine opens clear, deep, ripe, concentrated and very fine on the nose displaying caramel, white chocolate and brioche aromas along with ripe golden apple, red berry and rhubarb flavors, notes of nougat and bread. The attack on the palate is highly elegant, super fine and balanced again. This full-bodied yet pure and precise Champagne from the grands crus of Ambonnay, Bouzy and Verzenay reveals a nobly elegant, harmonious, fruit intense and almost velvety texture as well as a long, very fine and fresh finish with a lingering and stimulating salinity. There is purity and intensity in this wine that should taste great for at least 5-6 years. “Few producers can equal Francis Egly in skill and experience, and larger houses cannot hope to emulate the cultivation norms…” Michel Bettane, The World’s Greatest Wines.
The Favourites of our guests:
1. Montauto Metodo Classico Brut (Italy)
2. Champagne Pierre Paillard 2012 Les Terres Roses Bouzy Grand Cru Extra-Brut
3. Ulysse Collin Blanc de Noirs Les Maillons Extra-Brut
Fantastic evening with a surprising result, having an Italian bubbly (and the cheapest wine of the evening!) as the favourite wine of the night! We all love Champagne, but finding alternative regions with lower ratio quality-price can be very rewarding.
Thank you all for reading. For those who enjoyed our “dynamic duo” tasting, stay posted for the release of our new tasting schedule. Next one: Burgundy vs Piedmonte.
Sebastian & Christine