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

Find this wine on wine-searcher

/ 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

Find this wine on wine-searcher

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

Find this wine on wine-searcher

/ 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

Find this wine on wine-searcher

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

Vilmart Grand Cellier NV, Champagne

Vilmart Grand Cellier. This had been in my, er, petit cellier for a few years. Disgorged late 2016, I’m thinking 2012 base. Chardonnay dominant.

There’s the richness and boldness you expect from this terrific house based in Rilly-la-Montagne, but there’s also great refinement. Lemon shortbread and apricot kernel are getting delightfully heady with time in bottle, with delicious glazed apple tart set against a citric energy that pulls everything into tremendous, magnetic focus. 

This dances with all the magical duality of top champagne. Richness/precision. Decadence/stoicism. Naturalism/Stylism. Fancypants/Just-Bloody-Delicious. 17.5

Find this wine on wine-searcher

/ Champagne, Classic Blend, Vilmart

Taittinger Prélude NV, Champagne

Prélude is Taittinger’s in-betweener. A small production ‘non vintage’ wine that sits about £10 below the straight vintage in price. All Grand Cru, 50:50 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It’s actually a vintage wine, but the year is a guess – it spends 5 years on lees and tasted like a recent disgorgement (within the last year?) so I’m guessing 2014. Didn’t have the tension of 2013 to me. Not sure though. 

Really sweet-natured, fruity and clean style here. I was perhaps expecting something a bit more chiseled, but this turned out as more of a charmer with its white peach, blossom and whitecurrant fruit, the Chardonnay leading the charge at the moment with some crystallised pineapple ripeness coming through. Ample, but balanced dosage and the youthful post-disgorgement florals make this a very pretty wine that will gain in gravity with a little time in the cellar. Approachable but not quite as energetic as I was hoping for. Time, maybe. 16.5

Find this wine on wine-searcher

/ Champagne, Classic Blend, Taittinger

Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut, Champagne

Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut. Newish Cuvée, although I believe it is actually now labeled as Brut Nature. Which it is!

Classic Billecart blend of 40/30/30 Pinot Meunier/Pinot Noir/Chardonnay. All steel, all Malo, 48 months on lees.

Everyone loved this wine, myself included. It managed to harness all the magical Billecart Meunier fruitiness, which keeps things eminently jovial even in this kind of stark presentation.

Fuzzy apricots and red apple, with this sweet, gentle blackberry  blossom meunier plushness pushing through just when you think it might dip. The richness of dry honey and oat biscuits lurks, and an interesting lime-leaf note forms a layer of addictive fragrance. It plays a lovely arc, letting itself down gently into the hard ground at the end of the brut nature palate. Really good example. 17

Find this wine on wine-searcher