About this WINE
Anselme Selosse, variously described as eccentric, obsessed, charismatic and messianic,depending on one's point of view, is one of the most fascinating vignerons at work in Champagne today. His philosophy is conspicuously Burgundian in the winery, where all of his 35 Chardonnay plots (in Avize, Cramant, Oger, Le Mesnil, Ay, Mareuil-sur- Ay and Ambonnay) are vinified separately in small Burgundian barrels that have been bought in from Domaine Leflaive, no less.
Eschewing malolactic fermentation and keeping the dosage low are practices which find empirical antithesis in the ripeness of fruit which has been farmed as late as possible. Man and wine alike court strong opinion, in itself no bad thing in a region dominated by the power of the ur-Grandes Marques.
The range includes:
Initial - a blend of three vintages of Chardonnay grapes, aged for at least 2 years before disgorgement in a Brut style. Version Originale is also a blend of three vintages of Chardonnay, but aged longer in bottle (42 months) before disgorgment and has very little dosage (Extra Brut) style.
Millésime - a single vintage Blanc de Blancs from the grapes of two vineyards in Avize, Le Mont de Cramant and Les Chantereines. Substance is a Blanc de Blancs from a single vineyard in Avize. This Champagne is made in a unique solera system with the base grapes for this wine coming from the 1987 vintage, the blend is topped up with more recent vintages each year.
Contraste is a Blanc de Noirs, made from Pinot Noir grapes, from a single vineyard (La Côte Faron in the village of Aÿ), also made in a solera style with the base grapes from the 1994 vintage. Exquise is a Demi-Sec Blanc de Blancs champagne, with around 24g/l of dosage.
Blanc de Blancs
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.
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.
Antonio Galloni, vinous.com