100% Chardonnay from Rotari, the Trentino arm of the Mezzacorona giant. This is being pushed in the UK at around £15 a bottle, which makes it amongst the cheapest Traditional Method wines available. It’s better than almost everything at that price (and better than a fair bit priced higher, too). Very bright with sunny yellow grapefruit and almond paste, clean and balanced with 36 months of ageing. The only real signature of a very affordable sparkling wine comes on the finish, which holds quite a build-up of grippy, slightly bitter citrus oil. But in its sunny yellow-grapefruit way, it is quite attractive. More fun than much ‘special offer’ own-brand champagne seen at this time of year, for sure. 16
100% Pinot Meunier from Vandières. 50% from the 2013 harvest and 50% from a perpetual reserve of more than 20 harvests.
The perpetual reserve here contributes a formidably-developed, oxidative character to this intense Champagne, with windfall apples, sherried notes, ground nuts and a generally autumnal feel. There is tang and brightness from the 2013 addition, though. An ambitious style. 15.5
Pinot Meunier from the Mont Martin vineyard in Villers-Allerand, in the hot, dry 2015 vintage. Harvested on the 10th September at 10.75% potential alcohol. 6 months in barrel without malolactic fermentation. Disgorged August 2019 with 0g/l dosage.
The heat of 2015 has made it quite tricky for Blanc de Noirs from what I’ve tasted, but the two I’ve had from Maillart both present the power and richness of their fruit with some delicacy and freshness. Pear skin, sweet-natured apricot, redcurrant coulis, gentle spice. You don’t feel the pinch, or the bumpy landing, of zero dosage because the texture and extraction is so nicely restrained. This will even take a bit more time on cork. 16.5
70% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier. Perhaps the top 5-10% of sites in the UK seem to be able to regularly turn out this sort of fruit expression. Henry and Kaye Laithwaite certainly have one in Marlowe, one of the earliest and warmest dedicated sparkling wine sites in the country.
Ripe, expressive blackberry and red apple fruit, even some pineapple, with some delicious maple richness and a refreshing, moreish palate. Real brightness, noticeable in a lineup of mostly Champagne Blanc de Noirs, and a pink grapefruit grip that is starting to settle more now. Excellent 17
2014 base, 2g/l dosage. 100% Pinot Noir from Ambonnay.
Disgorged September 2021, and drunk at the very beginning of December. I know what this wine should be like, and the flavours aren’t singing yet. The texture not quite settled, either. A wine like this needs 6 months at a bare minimum. I was surprised it was let out of the cellars this early! Not rated
Remarkably good value 100% Pinot Meunier from Alexis Leconte in Troissy (a separate project from Champagne Xavier Leconte), even more remarkable for having come from the very difficult 2017 vintage. Gently smoke-tinged classical poached orange fruits and red berries, a gentle herbal twist and the absence of any of the Blanc de Noirs pitfalls (heaviness, oxidation, vegetality). Essentially it was convincing, balanced and moreish. A great find, available in the UK with @sip_champagnes. 17
100% Pinot Noir from Bouzy. 2011 and 2012 blend. Tasted blind, this seemed slightly angular and lacking harmony, marked both by some vegetality and intrusive oxidation. Probably not helped by the 2011 harvest here, but the style seems a little rustic. 14.5
Heucq are based in Cuisles on the North bank of the Marne. 70% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir from the pick of the parcels. 10 years on lees sous liège. Disgorged January 19, which presumably means this is the 2008 vintage.
This is a big character. Tasted blind with a group, it went down very well with its developed aromas – there’s a bed of calvados and sherry, spice and cola, some warm ground nut richness and a delicious grapefruit tang drawing out the finish. Blackcurrant leaf and herbs, too. The oxidative side here seems to gel better than you might expect, tempered by the succulence of all that lees ageing and the almost fudgy richness of the style. 16.5
100% Pinot Noir. This was a very odd bottle, probably faulty but not in any way that we recognised. Very bright green, medicinal herbs and soap – almost minty. Weedy, bitter herbs on the palate. Odd. No TCA. 13.5
60% Xarel-lo , 30% Macabeo, 10% Parellada from some of the oldest vines at the estate. This is in a stunning place at the moment, beautifully fresh with grapefruit and lemon verbena, flecked with herbs and anise, lightly enriched with floral honey. Such clarity and refinement, with a succulent core of orange cream and citrus despite the addictive crispness. Superb 17