Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve (2016 base)

Brut Réserve has been evolving over the last five years. Lees-ageing is down from the heights of 6 or 7 years to around 3 for current releases. From 2016 onwards 5-7% of old oak is in use too; something that appears to go hand-in-hand.

2016 base (mise en cave 2017), disgorged 2020. (I wish they’d give a month by the way). I believe this is still 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier with an addition of 46% reserve wine.

On popping the cork I was surprised by some roasted spices – a little oxidative flourish almost. This blew off and the heart of the wine came through, although it took a little while to open.

Roast apples and apricot pasties, a very sweet golden profile of mango lifted up with pepper and toasted almonds. The oak is there with a supporting line of sweet, buttery citrus-oil and vanilla richness, and there are some touches of licorice and something peppery that I love.

It is a bit jumpy, especially on day one. Day two is a different story – the texture has really settled. There is bristling, youthful energy and a fine kind of grippiness to it in comparison to the luscious, limpid creaminess of previous bottlings, but the balance and internal build feels as flawless as ever. 

 It’s still one of the first I’d pick off the shelf, and one of Champagne’s essential purchases. 17 (could be 17.5 with more bottle age)

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House of Arras Grand Vintage 2008

65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay in this vintage. Disgorged 2017. A Tasmanian classic.

This really was stunning, with everything counterbalanced perfectly.

Intense, heady charred and candied citrus next to a very distinctive creamy note like red berry fromage frais – such a well-defined leesy style here! – little touches of toffee round the edges and trademark briny, marine kind of edginess.

Posh tropical fruit patisserie hinting at delicious development now – whilst I wasn’t sure the 07 was one for ageing, the 08 seems tighter, better built. Yes there is breadth, but is so smooth and refined at heart. 18

/ Arras, Classic Blend, Tasmania

Wiston NV Brut, England

2015 Base. 1/3rd each Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Disgorged July 2017. 

This is Wiston’s entry level wine, of which the the 2014 base was very solid. It is all stainless steel and includes some bought-in fruit, unlike the vintage cuvées. The 2015 feels more open in style than I remember the 2014. Some baked red apple and a nut-oil oxidative streak behind behind floral honey and orange. A slightly unyielding nature despite some softening maturity. Is this as fresh as the 2014 base? 15

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/ Classic Blend, England, Wiston Estate

Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru, Champagne

2013 base. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. Ambonnay, Bouzy, Verzenay. 50% barrel fermenation. Broad-shouldered stuff with the walnut, beeswax and spice patina of old oak over some big roasted red pear fruit and a touch of honeyed plum. Hard not to smile at that nose. Spreads out rather than pushing on with forward motion.

Just a trace of bruised fruit, spiked a little with some oxidative notes. A bit plump. Still very appealing though – perhaps this would have been a shade brighter a year or two ago. I got this for a good price, but since then they have moved quite a bit unfortunately. 16.5

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/ Champagne, Classic Blend, Egly-Ouriet

Louis Roederer Brut Premier, Champagne

2013 Base. 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier. So great to taste this with an extra 2 years on cork.

An enveloping, enticing nose! Roast red apples and citrus still lightened with blossom notes but turning golden with maple/pecan/coffee richness now. A slightly fudgy blackberry and apple warmth with some yellow spice – reserve wines? Open and unified on the palate, a lightness but not tightness of the 2013 vintage in evidence with a delicate tang. Leaves an addictive waft of pecan, caramel apple and ratafia on the finish. Definitely worth cellaring these. 17

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Natalie Falmet Brut NV, Champagne

2013 base? Or 2014? Disgorged June 2018.

50% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 20% reserves from this small producer in the Côte des Bar. Some evolution here with some nice creamy walnut, a touch wild appleyness and red pear, alongside some juicy cherry and apricot kernel sweetness. Some oxidative development. A bit simple, but enjoyable and the mousse is nicely refined. I think this is better than it is showing, and perhaps a bit long in the tooth – maybe aim to drink nearer disgorgement? 15.5

François Secondé Brut NV, Champagne

Sillery, Northern Montage. Based on 2015. All steel with Malo. Very likeable stuff, showing a slightly exotically green side to its flavours – lime, white pepper, green mango, some herbs even. Nice clarity and suppleness. A good, stylish NV bottle, although there is a slightly hard, green phenolic character (especially noticeable on day 2). Picked earlyish for acidity in the hot, dry conditions of 2015? 15

Mailly Extra-Brut 2012, Champagne

75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay from this fine co-op based in the Grand Cru village of Mailly on the Northern side of the Montagne de Reims. Disgorged in 2018 with 2.3g/l dosage. 

A  bit of a change in style from the entry level wines here, at least with this bottle – broader, more oxidative. Roast apple, charred lemon, a meaty kind of Pinot character, some smokey woodspice. This is developing fairly quickly I think. I wouldn’t keep it too long but it’s in a good place to drink right now. 16

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/ Champagne, Classic Blend, Mailly

Ca’ Del Bosco Vintage Collection 2014

Summing up the vinification would take too long – let’s just say it’s unique! Lots of protection from ‘bad’ oxidation, but fermentation in small barrels for about 5 months. Chardonnay dominant, with a splash of Pinot Blanc and around 30% Pinot Nero. 

Cut a slice of ripe grapefruit and beautiful Mediterranean lemon, drizzle it with Demerara and pepper then roast it until just charring..grind up some hazelnuts (you left a bit of coffee in there), then smash it up over a fresh almond croissant. Finish it off with a teeny bit of woodland savour..scrunchy leaves, a little haunting of Pinot…delicious!

It manages to shape that lovely Franciacorta fruit into something with real direction and length. The sweet nature is there, but it is honed, channelled. 18

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Lantieri de Paratico Franciacorta Extra Brut

85% CH, 15% PN, Steel and some small oak.

This took a while to open. Initially it just showed a fruity duo of white peach and slightly chewy citrus, but it opened up to some nice candied ginger, golden apple and fragrant tropicals. A bit butch on the palate on first impressions, seeming young and undeveloped, but there is some elegance and clarity lurking. Fairly priced. 16.5