Legras & Haas Les Sillons 2013, Champagne

100% Chardonnay. Chouilly single vineyard. Vinification and élevage in foudres. Disgorged April 2019 with 4g/l

Tasted blind. Closed and slightly reductive upon opening, quite a lot of C02 at first. Some ‘cool’ profile here, pale yellow fruits and chalk, a slightly herbaceous lemon sherbet streak. The wine keeps growing, though, and after 45 minutes it is up and running with lightly roasted fruit, lime and demerara sugar, a marriage of refinement and slightly obstinate firmness on the palate (we thought it was probably the 2013 wine even if it didn’t seem very ‘Chouilly’ at first). A chameleon – top quality but give it some more time on cork if you can. It will certainly take five years, and probably longer. 17.5

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Pertois-Lebrun 2012 l’Egoïste 2012, Champagne

100% Chardonnay, Chouilly, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oiry. All stainless steel, disgorged October 2020 with 3 g/l dosage

Tasted blind. Beautifully assembled, the most ‘classical’ style of the night here. We agreed this ought to be one of the Northern Côte des Blancs wines. ‘Nose of the night’ is the general agreement! Fresh and fragrant yellow apples, ground almonds and zest. Beautiful tension and refinement, although I would leave it for another couple of years to see if the palate settles further. 17

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Henriet-Bazin Marie-Amélie 2012, Champagne

100% Chardonnay, Villers-Marmery. Enamel. Brut Nature

Tasted blind. Classic profile, clean, toasted/grilled lemon, some delicate stone fruit and florals. Quite muted on opening but it opens up beautifully. This is suave, powerful, tight, with real finesse to the mousse and incredible chalkiness and motion on the palate. Great energy. 17

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Domaine Vincey La Première 2014, Champagne

100% Chardonnay, Oger. 50% stainless steel, 50% oak. MLF is “non-recherchée!” Disgorged July 20, 3g/l dosage. 1574 bottles. 

Tasted blind. Big nose, toasted pine nut and tropicals, butter and hazelnut praline. Rich and decadent with some oily nut and candied grapefruit. It feels young, slightly puppyish, but quite serious with some oxidative flourishes. Needs time for the palate to calm down. 16

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Beaugrand Cuvée Gustave, Champagne

100% Chardonnay, Montgueux. Held in oak for 18 months before tirage. 4.5 g/l dosage.

Tasted blind. This is a firework! Explosive aromas on opening, yuzu and quince, green pears, a lift of white pepper spice and almond. Incredible acidity here – maybe this is the Oger wine?  With time a more oxidative aldehydic (sherry) profile becomes evident. At its peak upon opening – not necessarily a bad thing for champagne! This would be a great one to look into if you are a Selosse fan. Drink rather than keep. 16

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Jean Velut Lumière et Craie, Champagne

100% Chardonnay, Montgueux. No base year – all blended from reserves. Disgorged Jan 2021.

Tasted blind. This opens up rather reductively. Jackfruit, russet apple and green mandarin, really attractive underneath with some lovely silkiness to the texture. Just a little rubbery/sulphurous note showing at the moment which shades the profile. Give it a bit of time in the cellar to see if that equalises. 15

Peter Crawford mentioned a special bottling of this wine that Sip will be releasing with 4 years extra age.

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Fox & Fox Essence 2015, England

My first taste of this Chardonnay vintage from one of the top small producers in the country, moving on from the terrific 2014.

A fine follow up – a friendly greeting on the nose with blossom honey on rye bread, hazelnut praline…but underneath a smack of ripe lemon, lime meringues, serious tang. Kapow! Daring, but that opposition is addictive (and delicious)

Not one for the acid-shy. I imagine this one pushed the no-MLF ethos to the limit! The clarity of fruit and some careful taming on the palate means the effect is more like an intense, sweet ‘n sour burst of green mandarin syrup than an unalloyed acid hit, though. 

I would leave this for another 2 to 3 years to get the best out of the different moving parts. 16

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/ Blanc de Blancs, England, Fox & Fox

Veuve Fourny &. Fils Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Champagne

Vertus Chardonnay. 25% Oak, 20% Reserve wines.

This seems incredibly youthful. Amylic notes and esters abounding, pear, blossom and icing sugar. Seems very simple, if cleanly made. Not sure of the base vintage here but this is very primary still. A bit more time on cork might bring out some nuance. 15

Pierre Peters Cuvée de Réserve Blanc de Blancs, Champagne

2 years on lees. Northern Cote des Blancs Chardonnay, based on the very difficult 2017 vintage with 40% reserve wines. All steel, all malo.

I think of this as a bit of a ‘barometer’ Champagne. For me, that means a reliable, transparent style that tells you something about the time and place it comes from without lots of time on lees/oak to add to the picture. 

2017’s difficulties were centered on the North and West of Champagne though, with heat and rain hitting Meunier and Pinot Noir hard with rot. For Chardonnay (and the Southern reaches of the region) it was a better year overall. This has some of the bustle and exuberance of a high-maturity vintage, accessible rather than tense in style. Not quite reaching the heights of 2012/13 based wines I tried (especially in magnum!) 16 

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De Saint Gall 2012 Vintage Brut (Marks and Spencer), Champagne

Bought this in M&S a few years back and kept it to see what happened. Saint Gall is effectively the public brand of Union Champagne, the massive super-co-op that handles an enormous amount of Premier and Grand Cru juice. Most of it doesn’t end up as Saint Gall wines, though.

This is actually 100% Chardonnay. It was a good example of a bottle which was best upon opening, but slightly disintegrated after an hour or so. Good flavours – golden pear and mango, crème patissiere and yellow plum. Threatens some vegetality. That cool, bright, creamy reductive energy is what’s holding it together, lifting the appearance of quality and focus. At heart, though, it is a bit loosely-bundled. 15.5