Ayala No. 7

2007, just over a decade on lees. 2/3rds Chardonnay (Chouilly Cramant Oger Le Mesnil and Avize) 1/3rd Pinot (Ay and Verzy). All steel.

I like how this wine is pitched – it retails at around £60-70, sitting alongside vintage releases that are likely to be 5 years younger. A tempter, for sure.

It’s a one-off – a blend created for that year only. Incisive, energetic Chardonnay is resting on a bristling, textured bed of Pinot Noir, buzzing along with 2007’s acidity and intensity. Apricot and almond danish and pastry cream, yellow apples and candied citrus.

Firm, smooth and elegant, the weight of lees time pushes through and allows the wine’s natural drama to play out without much cushioning dosage.

No hesitation recommending this! Delicious. 17.5

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/ Ayala, Champagne, Classic Blend

Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV

All Grand Cru Chardonnay from the producer of Salon based in Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger. 100% steel, Not sure of the base vintage.

This is a classy, thorough Blanc de Blancs shows a lovely integration between classic Chardonnay elements without anything too obvious. Ripe lemons and yellow grapefruit, juicier elements of white peach and even some fleshier tropical touches of green mango and starfruit, cushioned with sweet autolysis and freshened with delicate blossom and powdery chalk. Lovely and airy through the palate, but still keen and mineral. Balanced and so refined, this is a serious effort. 17.5

A.R. Lenoble Chouilly Blanc de Blancs Mag ’14

2014 base with 40% reserves, partly aged in oak and partly in magnum under low pressure. Dosage 5 g/l.

This has had an extra stint in my cellar. Everything has mellowed here, including some of the oak influence. But it is still a bold, up-front champagne, landing with a big dollop of apple and cinnamon danish, toasted cashew and ratafia biscuit. Some blossom and bergamot lemon fragrance add delicacy, with a lick of vanilla buttercream that has settled out since I first tasted it.

Rich lemon oil and quite a gastronomic grip closes out a palate of front-end intensity and mid-to-late relaxation (borrowing an excellent @alavolee ism there!). The combination of the 2014 vintage, welcoming Chouilly fruit and the generous house style means this is a contrast from your tense, delicate kind of Blanc de Blancs, so if you like your Chardonnay with a bit of flair this is a cuvée to follow! 16

Jacquesson Cuvée 742

Jacquesson 742. 2014 base, 59% Pinot Noir from Aÿ, Dizy and Hautvilliers, with 41% Chardonnay from Avize and Oiry. Dosage 1.5 g/l. 100% old oak. Disgorged Jan 2019.

Any student of sparkling wine should probably get to grips with what makes a wine like this tick.

If you’re looking for a clean hit of zingy fruit, this is not it. It’s about developed fruits – dried peaches, bruised bramleys, preserved lemons in brine – and golden brown tones of dark-roasted hazelnuts, wood polish, sage, roast spices. There is some brightness of fennel and floral honey too, and the suggestion of almond essence sweetening the deal on the close.

Salty, rasping sherry notes frame the palate, which is actually not as tight as some of these 700 series. A lovely, smoothly-progressing shape, with no bumps or pinches. It is frank, but not unhinged.

All I end up wondering is what this fruit would taste like if it hadn’t been weathered quite so hard by oxygen. It is all very carefully and deliberately done, for sure. Which is why it is worth a taste, no matter which side your bread is buttered on. 16

Pierre Peters Cuvée de Reserve NV

2015 Base, 100% steel with 40% reserve wines. This is quiet, discreet and wholly convincing with its delicate lees sweetness and fine ripe apples and white fruits. Not tense or high-energy compared to some iterations of this wine 16.5

Henriot Brut Millésime 2008

Always enjoy Henriot. Lovely polish and freshness, welcoming rather than tense or challenging in style but always with plenty going on.

This 2008 vintage is drinking just right for me now. A lovely reductive signature of jackfruit and oyster shell, ripe golden fruits from candied grapefruit to fresh berries, richness of ginger snap and sweetness of almond essence and acacia honey. That sweet dried mushroom maturity is creeping in, maybe threatening to get ahead of itself.

Very cleanly-styled on the palate with candied fruit to the fore and a nice sweet, zesty punch. I’m feeling the dosage a touch high on the radar for me. It’s not the most focused 08 at this stage, but it is essentially very delicious. Knowing some more recent bases I’m expecting even more from 2012 onwards. 16.5

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/ Champagne, Classic Blend, Henriot

Geoffroy Brut Expression Brut Premier Cru

50% Pinot Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay. Cumières and Hautvilliers. All steel apart from some large oak for reserves. 2012/2013 Base, disgorged October 2017. Dosage 7g/l. 

A great blend of base vintages and no malo means this entry-level wine is shining very brightly even at 2.5yrs post-disgorgement. You receive a friendly, unpretentious Meunier greeting with apple pie and toasted oats (without the cream), then the fragrance of an orchard in blossom and some riper orange fruit. It’s pepped up with fresh lemon&limeade focus on the palate and a little almond essence. Warm flavours presented with icy coolness. Direct, charming, excellent value. 16.5

/ Champagne, Classic Blend, Geoffroy

Franck Bonville Pur Avize 2012

100% Chardonnay. 3 parcels  – Les Chapelles, Les Avats, Les Maladries. 5 years on lees under cork. Disgorged April 2018. Dosage 2 g/l. 2500 bottles made. 

Suave, silky blanc de blancs at that lovely point where tension starts to gently unwind. The caramelised pear and fragrant russet fruit is sweet and inviting. There’s a lovely sense of generosity, too, from honeyed, tropical fruit and peach sharpened up with praline and summery honeysuckle. It sets about the palate really quite calmly, with plenty of citric focus morphing into white pepper, chalk and zest without any sharp edges still in play. Farm shop apple juice lingers, and a hint of quince development is just starting. Lower pressure (?) sits with the subtle, airy creaminess just so perfectly – I haven’t tasted this producer in a while and need to catch up. 17.5

Laurent-Perrier Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature

100% Chardonnay from Chouilly, Cramant and Villers-Marmery. 40% reserves going back to 2009. It is difficult to know the base vintage but I believe this is still the original 2012 and 2013- based bottling. Disgorgement Q1 2019.

An unusual wine for a Grande Marque house to release. Quite a taut, reserved profile of apple juice, white peach, and lemon pith, lifted with chalk and some almond. It is not pinched or unbalanced for a brut nature, and indeed you get a good sense of the careful composure of the ingredients – in this case the slightly hollow, papery palate is not as vibrant as it should be, though. Worth trying again with a super-fresh release. 15.5

Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois

2007 base. 1/3 each Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, vinified in barrels averaging 15 years of age. Disgorgement 2014 or 15 here.

You notice some butterscotch upfront, but then it melts into caramelised apple tart and dried peach. Freshness is still there with some juicy papaya and a little squish of citrus, whilst some creamy milk chocolate and a developed layer of polished wood and peppery spice add up to a lovely set of flavours. 07 (and the Chardonnay) keep some keenness and bite on the palate, although it is quite plush and up-front in terms of shape. Meunier feels like it is in charge! Billecart really do have a way with it. You feel the connection with the NV Brut Reserve. 16.5