About this WINE
Brut denotes a dry style of Champagne (less than 15 grams per litre). Most Champagne is non-vintage, produced from a blend from different years. The non-vintage blend is always based predominately on wines made from the current harvest, enriched with aged wines (their proportion and age varies by brand) from earlier harvests, which impart an additional level of complexity to the end wine. Champagnes from a single vintage are labelled with the year reference and with the description Millésimé.
Non-vintage Champagnes can improve with short-term ageing (typically two to three years), while vintages can develop over much longer periods (five to 30 years). The most exquisite and often top-priced expression of a house’s style is referred to as Prestige Cuvée. Famous examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, and Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
Recommended Producers : Krug, Billecart Salmon, Pol Roger, Bollinger, Salon, Gosset, Pierre Péters, Ruinart
Which grapes are included in the blend, and their proportion, is one of the key factors determining the style of most Champagnes. Three grapes are used - Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
26% of vineyards in Champagne are planted with Chardonnay and it performs best on the Côtes des Blancs and on the chalk slopes south of Epernay. It is relatively simple to grow, although it buds early and thus is susceptible to spring frosts. It produces lighter, fresher wines than those from Burgundy and gives finesse, fruit and elegance to the final blend. It is the sole grape in Blancs de Blancs, which are some of the richest long-lived Champagnes produced.
Pinot Noir accounts for nearly 40% of the plantings in Champagne and lies at the heart of most blends - it gives Champagne its body, structure, strength and grip. It is planted across Champagne and particularly so in the southern Aube district.
The final component is Pinot Meunier and this constitutes nearly 35% of the plantings. Its durability and resistance to spring frosts make the Marne Valley, a notorious frost pocket, its natural home. It ripens well in poor years and produces a soft, fruity style of wine that is ideal for blending with the more assertive flavours of Pinot Noir. Producers allege that Pinot Meunier lacks ageing potential, but this does not deter Krug from including around 15% of it in their final blends.
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The NV Brut Tradition Grand Cru, from the villages of Ambonnay, Bouzy and Verzenay, spent 40 months on its lees. Here the oak is a bit more intrusive, as sweet vanilla and spices seems to cover some of the varietal character. Texturally the wine is quite pretty, but the wine lacks just that touch of balance that makes the best wines from this address so compelling.
Egly-Ouriet is one of the reference-point growers in Champagne, with a deep selection of wines that offer remarkable transparency to site, vintage and variety. The small, bare-bones winery is located in Ambonnay, one of Champagne’s 17 Grand Cru villages, best-known for yielding broad-shouldered, exuberant Pinot Noir-based wines. The house style is defined by first-class fruit, extended lees aging and no fining and/or filtration. These are among the most pure, unmanipulated Champagnes readers will come across, and the estate’s new releases are all highly recommended.
Antonio Galloni Wine Advocate #186 Dec 2009
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