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Top drops under $20 (and over) and wine news from Joelle Thomson

Category: Champagne (page 1 of 2)

Taste Champagne Lallier in Wellington tonight… free

If you’re wandering around Wellington tonight between 5pm and 7pm, pop into Regional Wines for a free taste of an exceptional range of bubbles from Champagne Lallier…

My blog on Champagne Lallier…

Talk about modest. I’m talking about the price, not the big, beautiful taste of Champagne Lallier, which over deliver for the $50.99 you’ll spend on this wine. And the trio of Lallier bubbles will be open for a free tasting tonight at Regional Wines at the Basin Reserve in Wellington from 5pm to 7pm.

Our team here at Regional had the tasty pleasure of checking out Lallier Champagnes this afternoon and, while we’ve all got our faves, we agreed the rosé was the pick of this beautiful bunch, which range from $23 for a half bottle up to $50.99. That’s no mean feat, given the hefty resources of time, reserve wines and grand cru vineyards (the highest quality land) that go into making Lallier Champagne.

When, where and what…

Champagne Lallier is based in… the village of Ay (one of the 17 Grand Cru villages) in the Champagne region.

It was founded in 1906 by… Rene Lallier and the business was sold in 2004 to Francis Tribaut who is the current owner and also the winemaker. This makes Lallier the only champagne brand where the owner is also the winemaker.

The bubbles are made in two locations… in Maison D’Ay and  in the new Cellier D’Oger, 10 kms outside of Ay on the Cotes des Blanc; a modern facility built in 2012.

Lallier Champagnes only contain the two most respected grapes… namely, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The wines go through malolactic fermentation, which varies… depending on the vintage and the acidity in the grapes as a result of the vintage.

Dosage varies from zero up to… 18 grams per litre.

 

The champagnes

Champagne Lallier Ay Brut R012 $46.45

Very fresh, very flavoursome and very affordable; this is made from a blend of 62% Pinot Noir, 38% Chardonnay and 81% of the wine comes from grapes grown in 2012 (hence the R012 – ‘recolte’ means year) and 19% reserve wines. It’s also drier than many champagnes with a dosage of 8 grams per litre and the wine is made from 85% Grand Cru vineyards.

Champagne Lallier Blanc de Blancs Ay $53.80

This is 100% Chardonnay and all from vineyards that are classified as Grand Cru; 60% from Ay and 40% from Cote des Blancs. The wine spent 36 to 88% wine of the year, 12% reserve wines, aging on lees 36 to 48 months, dosage 9 grams.

Buttered croissant aromas, very strong yeasty flavours, high acidity, great concentration with strong citrus flavours, a full body and a long finish.

Champagne Lallier Rose Grand Cru $50.99

Wine of the year 92%, reserve wines 8%, grand cr vineyards only; 65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay. Pale salmon colour, savoury aromas, yeasty flavours, high acidity, very long finish. Very pronounced mushroom aromas with an explosion of beautiful red fruit flavours in the mouth…

Wines for milestones

How many laps around the sun have you done?

This weekend, I’ll be celebrating 50 of mine, or rather, a large number of friends will be helping me not to think too hard about what five decades may or may not signify.

We’re having a party, which triples as a house warming for my boyfriend and I, and a double-50th for another wine loving friend.

The only prerequisites are to bring a person you love and a bottle of wine you love – oh, and to be invited, of course.

It’s a great excuse for me to crack open some of the wines I love, which includes this top list.

5 life changing wines

Bolly…

Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee

Bollinger was the first bubbly ever to make me sit up and smell the hot buttered toast on speed deliciousness of what great Champagne is all about. And I’ve loved it ever since.

A minuscule 1% of all Champagne sold is Bollinger and the non vintage (made from a blend of grapes grown in different years) is the most challenging and difficult wine that the family makes each year because consistency is key. Their focus is on growing at least 60% of their own grapes so that they can control and maintain the high quality of this well known wine, which is aged for three years (double the legal French minimum) and this gives the wine its instantly recognisable deliciousness – like fresh sour dough toast with truffles on the side… it’s the warmth, the full body, the savoury ness of this bubbly that really rocks. And its consistent fantastic flavours are why I bought a magnum to celebrate this milestone. PS: It’s Pinot Noir-dominant, which also accounts for its rich savoury flavours.

 

Sauvignon with bells on…

2014 Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon

One of my favourite New Zealand wines and one that I buy extremely regularly and love even more every time I open it – again, it’s all about savoury flavours rather than upfront fruity appeal, which is still present and counted in each glass of this stunning South Island white made with grapes grown in North Canterbury by the Donaldson family. Both the Sauvignon Blanc and the Semillon spent time fermenting in old oak, which adds complex creamy notes and softens the zingy acidity. Every sip lingers, every bottle I’ve ever tried has aged brilliantly. The screw cap rocks in preserving this year – earlier in the year I tried one that was 10 years old on the shore at Kaikoura after fishing with the family who made the wine. It was still fresh and zesty.

Hot Spanish red…

2014 As Caborcas Single Vineyard Valdeorras 

Mencia is an old grape variety with a new lease of life – both in Spain and in my glass. Winemakers such as Telmo Rodriguez are at the forefront of pioneering new ways with this historic grape, which is mostly grown without trellising wires – en vaso (in the shape of a vase). Vines grown this way, as mini bush vines, can maximise heat from the granite soils because they are low to the ground, which aids ripening, leading to powerful flavours of wild berries, black fruit (plums, cherries) and licorice here. The flavours suggest a wine from a warm area, but its fresh zing comes from bright acidity which adds length of flavour, thanks to sensitive winemaking and great care in the vineyard – which is at 550 to 600 metres altitude on slopes above the Bibei River.

The grapes in this wine were hand picked, fermented with native yeasts and then aged for 15 months in old large oak casks. It’s actually a blend too – Mencia is the leading grape in this wine with fellow native Spanish grapes in supporting roles – these are Merenzao, Souson, Garnacha, Godello and Brencellao.

 

Riesling rocks…

2010 J J Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese

I love Riesling. And this one is 8.5% alcohol by volume, so it’s probably going to come out later on in the evening… And this is a very special wine made from one of the world’s great vineyards – Wehlener Sonnenuhr, which means the sun dial above the village of Wehlen along the Mosel River Valley, home to many of the world’s greatest Rieslings. It’s a cool climate, so the acidity in the wine is high which makes it taste incredibly refreshing. This wine is medium sweet and tastes of honey, limes, green apples, red apples, with aromas of peach and fresh flowers. It’s all about decadance. Need I say more.

 

Saucy Sicilian…

2014 Zisola Mazzei Noto Rosso

The name ‘nero’ means black and this wine lives up to its moniker with its intense aromas of blueberries, liquorice and even very ripe fruit such as peaches and blood oranges. This is intense, full bodied, long on the finish, velvety and smooth… like the party it’s going to be enjoyed at.

Champagne and New Zealand – likenesses and differences

Every silver lining has a cloud… said a friend at our three yearly catch up dinner last year. It’s not that we only want to catch up every three years. We live in different countries. It’s just how it pans out.

And it pans out that we weren’t drinking champagne, but the silver linings  analogy sprang to mind at a tasting of Champagne Mumm late last week in Auckland. There we were, two of us writers faced with six high priced sparkling wines, 45 minutes to taste them and one travelling winemaker-marketer – Didier Mariotti from Champagne G H Mumm in France.

It wasn’t the limited time we had to taste the wines but, as often occurs to me, the price of the wines in question. Many tasted outstandingly complex but are about as affordable as a Prada suit would be to most of us right now. Still, the flavours are intriguing, especially as all of the wines go through 100% malolactic fermentation to soften their acidity and add creamy richness, which has yet to come through – showing these wines have plenty of time up their sleeves for those willing to age them to watch their development.

The wines we tasted were

Champagne Mumm Cordon Rouge $66.49
Champagne Mumm Rose $103.99
Champagne Mumm Millesime $102.99
Champagne Mumm Blanc de Blancs $210.99
Champagne Mumm R’Lalou 2002 $390 (20 cases in New Zealand)

Prices  are recommended retail and may vary.

My pick… Mumm R’Lalou 2002 $390 (20 cases in New Zealand)

There is a quantifiable step up in this wine compared to the others and Lalou was my pick, which is about to be released in New Zealand after 8 years on lees and disgorgement in 2013. This wine has high acidity, fresh creamy flavours, pastry aromas and a long finish. It is high priced, in small supply (only 20 cases for the entire country) and definitely one for the collectors.

Comparing New Zealand to Champagne…

  • The Champagne region has approximately 34,000 hectares of grapes compared to New Zealand with 36,192 hectares in total.
  • The big difference between the production of sparkling wines in both countries is, says Didier, how champagne makers manage their reserve wines. “The quality of the still wine is very good from New Zealand, as it is also from cool areas in Australia, South Africa and California where sparkling wines are made. For me, the big difference is the lack of understanding of reserve wine. I would say that reserve wine is an insurance against frost, to be able to respond fast to market demand and to increase the quality of the wine to make more consistent wine over the years. It costs a lot of money to keep back reserves. always have nearly one vintage in advance in the winery.”
  • The entire range of Mumm Champagnes contains 6 grams per litre of sweetness (dosage) apart from Mumm NV Cordon Rouge, which contains 8 grams.
  • Mumm Cramant has a super fresh taste, noticeably higher acidity and less pressure (less CO2) because it is bottled at 4.5 bars of pressure compared to 6 bars, which all the other (and most champagnes) contain. This provides the wine with its fresher taste, says Didier.

A new Champagne Mumm Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noir are being launched in New Zealand within the next couple of years.

The history of Mumm and Lalou

René Lalou headed up Maison Mumm for over half a century from 1920 until his death in 1973 and on two separate occasions he breathed new life into this well known Champagne brand. He rescued the vineyards after they were destroyed by phylloxera and, later, by World War Two.

For nearly 50 years, he travelled up and down vineyard rows, pulling up, re-grafting and re-planting vines, so that he reorganised the entire Champagne Mumm vineyards that, under his supervision, grew from 50 hectares to almost 100 just before WWII.

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