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2008 Champagne J.L. Vergnon, Confidence, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Nature
Highy respected Champagne critic Michael Edwards advised us that a visit to M Christophe Constant at Vergnon ‘ vaut le détour’, and he was only wrong in the sense that there was not much detour involved, as Champagne Vergnon is located in the heart of the most famous village of all, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, which always features in our visits.
A gifted and well-known oenologue, Christophe has excellent raw materials to work with, and is helped by the situation of his vines, most of which are located in Avize, Oger and, of course, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. His philosophy is to nurture ripe and mature Chardonnay, usually from old vines, to eschew malolactic fermentation, and to allow the wines a lengthy maturation pre (and post) disgorgement, to facilitate integration and presage a potential for lengthy ageing. A very sound philosophy indeed it would seem.
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
In Champagne, the term Blanc de Blancs designates Champagnes made only from Chardonnay grapes. The vineyards located between Cramant and Mesnil-sur-Oger in Cote de Blancs yield the best examples of the style.
A classic Blanc de Blancs is restrained and elegant when young, yet with ageing it develops a mouth-coating brioche richness that overlays an intense expression of fruitiness. Blanc de Blancs are endowed with longer ageing potential than a typical Blanc de Noirs.