“Le Mesnil” – Masterclass (20110409)

A masterclass from Burghound in Asia event. I was looking forward to taste both Salon 96 & 97 and for some reasons, I wasn’t able to sit in. However, I managed to taste some of the champers, while Salon is definitely the steal the show. However, Guy Charlemagne was a surprise, great QPR (Quality – Price ratio).

Quoted from the event’s introductory note:

Distinguishing terroir in a single vineyard Champagne

There is no question Champagne is a very unique region and its wines distinctive in their “sense of place”, resonating terroir. There is however some debate that truly distinctive terroir cannot be achieved in a wine that is blended from multiple regions and vintages. Perhaps the interpretation of terroir itself is being misinterpreted as it is the relationship between the soil, climate – the environment – and man himself that defines terroir. Without man and the idiosyncrasies of vignerons terroir does not exist.

However, if we ‘drill down’ in geographical and geological terms, there are distinctive sub-regions with Champagne and individual villages and single vineyards where the aspects of soil and climate are enhanced and consequently more expressive in the wine. In the process of identifying these exceptional sites, the Champenoise developed a classification of villages rating them in a percentile system known as the Échelle des Crus (ladder of growth) with the lowest rating being 80%, followed by Premier cru villages rated between 90 and 99 percent, and the highest rated villages 100 percent and afforded Grand crus status. Needless to say, the higher percent the higher the price paid for the grapes.

There are 17 Grand cru villages and one such village, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the Cotes de Blancs is arguably the “King of Champagne villages”. The purists will point to the fact the village is almost entirely devoted to growing chardonnay and this in itself allows a heightened degree of minerality to permeate through the wine. There is also the propensity towards ‘Grower Champagnes’ in the village of Le Mesnil where individual growers are making their own wines with the notion these ‘artisan wines’, sometimes from single vineyards, are the most genuine expression of Champagne terroir.

I suspect the average consumer is unacquainted with the concept of ‘Grand cru’ wines from Champagne and that the Grand Marques (well known houses and labels) and the prestige of luxury cuvees dominate the status conscious. However, single vineyard Champagnes are indeed precious and they exist in concentration around the village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger.

One of the highlights of our master class program, this will be presented by distinguished wine author and writer Andrew Jefford who is also the contributing editor and columnist for Decanter magazine. Jefford is particularly passionate on the subject of Grower Champagnes and has an extensive knowledge on the subject in general along with his affinity for terroir and artisan wines.

End of quote

Pierre Peters

A new grower to me. I have to taste more in order to know what is the style. With this 2002, I have to say I’m pretty impressed by the beautiful aromatic nose, rather than palate.

2002 Pierre Péters Champagne Cuvée Spéciale Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Les Chétillons Le Mesnil – France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne

  • Alcohol :: 12.5%
    Intriguing nose with its high tone aromatic profile of white flower scent, freshly baked cake and an inner core of fresh honey syrup that surrounded by fresh orchard fruits. I’m hooked. However, the palate is not really for me, quite green with lots of green apple, like you’re chewing a fresh green apple with skin, medium intensity and lack a bit of complexity, very fresh then quickly turn to somewhat austere after the mid palate attack with spicy alcoholic finish. Would like to re-taste. Buy – No for what it is today, re-taste is needed.

Guy Charlemagne

Very impressive champagne, good punch on the richly white and yellow fruits coated palate, complex with pure mineral linger on the powerful finish. More to the power and weight compared to the Salon refinement and purity.

2002 Guy Charlemagne Champagne Mesnillésime Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut – France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne

  • Lightly oxidative nose of honey, hazelnut, toast with ripe yellow fruits, complex and broad-shoulder. Good ripeness of fruits that well blended with the refreshing, firm acidity, mineral and oxidative character that culminated into really powerful but doesn’t lack of precision and cut, dense, rich palate that going on to the detail, powerful finish with a tiny dose of fresh honey aftertaste. Good stuff, a buy.

2003 Guy Charlemagne Champagne Mesnillésime Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut – France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne

  • This too has very similar aromatic character to the 2002 but this is lighter and not as deep and powerful. Well-balance with good transparency to the flavor with relatively lower complexity and depth compared to the 2002 with juicy, persistent finish. That’s being said, this too is very good and for the mid term while waiting for the big brother to get ready. Buy – No.

Salon

Refinement and purity is the word to describe a Salon instead of power and weight, for me. While the 97 is more expressive, the underlying substance of the 96 is clearly a long run winner. However, to the price, I’m please to settle with Guy Charlemagne.

1997 Salon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs – France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne

  • This is indeed showing much better than the 1996, more approachable but the overall sense of harmonious and refinement is slightly a bar below, not too obvious though. Complex, deep, focus aromas of green apple, yeasty, freshly baked butter cake and hint of earthy complexity that reflect the similar flavor profile onto the palate with really fine beads that caressing the palate with layers of fruits and mineral that underpinned by the firm acidity that form the very structure backbone. Powerful medium finish that seem drop a little. Very expressive and showy compared to the 1996, or, more friendly. Buy – Not for the price.
1996 Salon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs – France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne

  • Nose was pretty tight but showing promising underlying material of pure white and yellow fruits intermixed with floral scent touch of honey and toasted oak. Palate is even tighter, restraint with medium weight and complexity, pure & elegance finished that seems lack a little bit of persistent and tension, quite charming though. This is certainly too young to judge and I believe with the total harmony and good underlying substance that the wine showed today, this will definitely add more weight and depth with additional bottle age, say, 10-15yrs. Buy – Not for what it is today.
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