Category Archives: Champagne Club

Champagne Club Tasting Notes: October 2015

Champgane Blog Post BannerPlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you the Champagne club tasting notes for October. This month we are showcasing two wines with very different pasts. The Lilbert-Fils domain has a centuries long history cultivating vines and making wine in Champagne, while the J-M Sélèque domain is relatively young, starting in just 1964. Lilbert-Fils is a classic Côte des Blancs champagne, while J-M Sélèque has become a leader in the organic and biodynamic movement amongst vintners in Champagne. We bring you theses two very different but very delicious wines just in time to celebrate the arrival of fall and the bounty of the season it brings with it.

                                          A Votre Santé,
Your Friends at PlumpJack Wine & Spirits


Champagne Lilbert-Fils Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Brut NV

Champagne J-M Sélèque Cuvee Tradition Brut NV

            Lilbert-Fils is a tiny Champagne house, but a very old one. The Lilbert family is another family of Champagne that has been cultivating vines in the region for centuries. Records show the family has been at it since at least 1746 and possibly longer (the oldest part of the family cellar dates back to 1712). They have been bottling their own wine for commercial sale since as early as 1907. With only 8.6 acres of vines the Lilbert’s are able to produce 30,000 bottles a year making this a difficult wine to come by.

Bertard Lilbert and his father, Georges, currently run the estate. They make all of their wine from their own vineyards, which break down into 15 parcels all from Grand Cru villages in the Côte des Blancs. Wine-producing villages in Champagne are classified as grand cru, premier cru, or simply cru. If a producer makes a wine using only grand cru or premier cru fruit, he may use these terms on the bottle’s label, and the Lilberts’ do just that. Unlike Burgundy, where the vineyards are rated according to their quality, the quality classification in Champagne is rated according to villages. Established at the end of the 19th century, the Échelle des Crus (ladder of growth) ratings are expressed from 80% to 100%, taking into account the quality of the soil, the nature of the sub-soils and the microclimate. The 100% wines are considered to offer the highest qualitative potential and are given the status of Grand Cru. There are 17 Grand Cru villages in all of Champagne, six alone in the Côte des Blancs. The Lilberts’ own holdings in three out of those six – 10% of their vines are in Oiry, 30% in Chouilly, and 60% in Cramant.

All Lilbert-Fils Champagnes are 100% Chardonnay and 100% Grand Cru. They produce a non-vintage blanc de blanc, made from grapes farmed from all three Grand Cru villages and comprised of two or three consecutive vintages. It is then aged on its lees for a minimum of three years and dosed with 6-8 g/l of sugar. Along with the non-vintage ‘Perle’, the house’s rarest and most sought-after wine produced from old vines sourced from all three communes, they relase a vintage wine that is only produced in the best of years. All of the wines are made in steel vats and all undergo malolactic fermentation. The bottles are riddled by hand in a deep, hand-dug chalk cellar, and the wine is disgorged the old-fashioned way (without freezing). The end result is a true connoisseurs champagne.

The Champagne Lilbert-Fils Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Brut is a classic Côte des Blancs with great purity and finesse and the unmistakably chalky perfume of the region. This is not a fruit forward wine. Though fruit is present (on the palate more than the nose), it is reminiscent more of a fruit tart than that of a fresh apples or pears. Aromas of flaky pastry become noticeable first, followed by baked orchard fruit. What you find in this wine is an elegant combination of chalky, silky minerals, a delicate creaminess similar to an éclair (without the chocolate), and the buttery flakiness of the best croissant you’ve ever had. This is a wine with true staying power and longevity. Enjoy it with a spread of fine aged French cheeses, accompanied by various nuts and dried fruits. It also pairs well with roasted pork tenderloin glazed in stewed apples and onions.

Compared to the long history of the Lilbert Family, the Sélèque Family are relative newcomers to growing and producing Champagne. Henri Sélèque planted his first plots of vines in 1965 with the help of his father-in-law, Jean Bagnost. Bagnost was the president of the Pierry wine cooperative at the time. In 1974 Henri’s son Richard, joined the domain and began making Champagne after earning a degree in enology. He helped to update the winery facilities as well as expand its vineyard holdings. The third generation in the family to join the domain was Richard’s son Jean-Marc, after returning to Pierry in 2008 after internships at Chandon’s facilities in Napa Valley and in Australia’s Yarra Valley.

After spending time at larger production operations Jean-Marc had a definite idea of what he wanted to bring back to his small family domain. In 2008 he steered the estate towards organic viticulture and in 2010 he began farming biodynamically. Today 10 of the 19 acres are farmed accordingly. Jean-Marc’s goal in going organic and biodynamic has been to encourage better vine and soil health and limit the amount of ‘corrections’ needed to be made in the cellar. The goal is to let the vineyards speak for themselves. Today the grapes are in much better health and are harvested with higher acidities allowing Jean-Marc to stop the practice of introducing malolactic fermentation in barrel (low pH inhibits malo). Some wines undergo no ML, while some spontaneously undergo partial or full ML.

What started in 1964 has today expanded to include vines growing in 36 parcels across 7 different villages producing around 5,400 cases of Champagne a year. Most of the Sélèque vines grow in the communes of Pierry and then Moussy, followed by Epernay, Mardeuil, Dizy, Vertus, and Boursault. About 60% of the vines are Chardonnay, 30% Meunier and about 10% are Pinot Noir. Jean-Marc’s unwavering dedication to quality and natural approach in the vineyards guarantee that J-M Sélèque will have just as much staying power as Lilbert-Fils.

What the Lilbert-Fils shows in elegance and finesse, the Champagne J-M Sélèque Cuvee
Tradition Brut
shows in vitality and playfulness. The chalky minerals, while present, are secondary here to the more spirited fruit characteristics. The Sélèque has a texture similar to the fluffiness of a cream cheese Danish and the richness to match. The nose smells like a lively mixture of lemon curd on top of piecrust, hazelnuts, almonds, and the chalky minerality coming into play to keep everything in balance. On the palate the fruit has more of a candied characteristic with a hazelnut and almond finish. A great pairing would be table full of fresh cracked Dungeness crab.

Champagne Club Tasting Notes: August 2015

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PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s Champagne club tasting notes for August. As summer draws to a close, we bring you a champagne with deep family roots in the Cotes des Blancs region. Champagne is perfect for all kinds of celebrations, whether they be a celebration of a new beginning or the last celebration of the season. What better way to say goodbye to summer than with a crisp and refreshing blanc de blancs champagne from a fantastic grower-producer in one of the top regions of Champagne? Gather your friends and give a final toast to summer!

A Votre Santé,

Your Friends at PlumpJack Wine & Spirits


Guy Larmandier Vieilles Vignes Signe Francois Grand Cru Blanc De Blancs Brut 2007

The Larmandier family has been tending vineyards in the Cotes des Blancs of Champagne for over a century. Starting in 1899 as Larmandier Père et Fils, the Larmandier Champagne family tree now includes relations on some level to many different champagne houses. In the 1970s brothers, Philippe and Guy Larmandier branched off from the original family estate to create their own estates. Philippe began the Larmandier-Bernier champagne house in 1971. His son, Pierre is currently the proprietor of Larmandier-Bernier. Now run by his wife Colette and son Francois, Guy Larmandier began the Guy Larmandier house in 1977 in the same village as his brother’s estate, at the base of the Cotes des Blancs in Vertus. Sharing a village and a name does not seem to have posed too many problems for these two exquisite champagne houses and the cousins who run them.

There is one other branch of the Larmandier tree involved in viticulture. Francois’s sister Marie-Helene along with her husband Vincent Waris established their own estate in 1989, Waris-Larmandier, in Avize. The original trunk of this champagne family tree, Larmandier Père et Fils, is now currently owned and operated by another cousin of Pierre and Francois’, Didier Gimonnet. As if things weren’t connected enough or confusing enough – Didier, along with his brother Oscar, are owners of the Pierre Gimonnet Champagne house. As you can see, the roots of the Larmandier family do indeed run deep and wide.

Located in the heart of the famous Côte des Blancs, the vineyards of the family Guy Larmandier can be found in the grand cru classified villages of Cramant and Chouilly and premier cru villages of Vertus and Cuis. Larmandiers’ vineyards total almost nine hectares (22 acres) with Chardonnay vines covering 95% of this land and pinot noir accounting for just 5%.  Colette and Francois Larmandier maintain the vineyards meticulously with a constant desire to reduce their environmental footprint harvesting their grapes manually so as to assure the best quality of the finished product.

The Champagne Guy Larmandier Vieilles Vignes Signe Francois Grand Cru Blanc De Blancs Brut 2007 is made with 100% chardonnay giving birth to an elegant finish, with subtle and fragrant flavors. A vintage champagne from 2007, this wine is still showing fresh and vibrant characteristics. The grapes used were from vieilles vignes, or old vines, giving the wine a lush, concentrated body. In the glass this champagne glistens with a lovely golden yellow hue and ultra fine bubbles. The nose has a fresh, fruity and floral finesse with notes of yellow apple, tropical fruits, quince, and citrus. There are hints of sweet herbs, and a slightly nutty, brioche aroma. The palate is equally as fruity with the brioche and nutty characteristic showing up stronger and a faint, chalky minerality to balance it all out. The finish is long and focused with notes of sweet citrus, toasted almonds making this the perfect champagne to bid adieu to summer. This champagne is perfect as an aperitif before dinner, however it also pairs well with scallops, shell fish, and citrus baked halibut. The best pairing for this champagne though is gathering a group of friends for one last summer hoorah!

Champagne Club Tasting Notes: June 2015

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PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s Champagne club tasting notes for the June. Summer is almost upon us and that means it’s the perfect time to pop bottles of bubbles. Then again, when is not the perfect time to pop bottles of bubbles?! This month we’re excited to feature a duo of Blanc de Blancs champagnes, one from a brand new hot off the press producer and the other from a old school family grower. As the days get longer, we hope you enjoy your start to the summer in good health and spirit.

A Votre Santé, Joshua Thinnes & Your Friends at PlumpJack Wine & Spirits

Champagne Guy Charlemagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2009
Champagne Tendil & Lombardi Blanc de Blancs

In a region that has survived two World Wars and resisted the countless attempts of foreign occupation over time, Champagne is hardly considered new or modern. Even the methods (méthode champenoise) are referred to as classique. But low and behold the new wave of Champagne houses is starting to form. Releasing their first cuvée just four years ago in 2011 meant that Laurent Tendil and Stéphane Lombardi would be realizing a childhood dream come true. Born in culinary super world of French gastronomy, Lyon, France, the two began life as friends, playing rugby and practicing judo. After completing their studies, both set out for careers in the food and wine world. Roughly fifteen years later the two rekindled the fantasy of starting their own Champagne label and left their successful careers to pursue their dream.

They began working with a young up and coming vine grower in the region and started blending their own cuvées. In May of 2011 the first Tendil & Lombardi cuvées were bottled. It was rough going at first, especially considering they chose to begin operations at the peak of the worst recession in modern times. But passion and persistence prevailed, and after just three years their wines are available in 14 different countries across the world.

The grapes used in the Tendil & Lombardi champagnes come from the Côte des Bars region, with most coming from vineyards in Aube. To ensure highest quality, all of the wines are produced from only the first pressing of grapes, called the first run juice. The non-vintage cuvées spend at least 24 months aging on the lees before disgorgement, then settling in bottle for another three to six months more.

Your Champagne Tendil & Lombardi Blanc de Blancs pours a pale yellow hue into the glass with lively effervescence. Aromas of fresh melon, pear and orange citrus varieties burst from the glass, supported by a subtle chalky backbone of minerality. The wine is juicy and fresh fruit driven, developing deeper flavors of poached fruits as it warms up in the glass. It is a great apéritif champagne and goes quite well with the sunshine. Fire up the grill in the afternoon, pop the bottle, and serve with grilled summer vegetables and grilled mango and pineapple… You’ll thank us later.

In the heart of the Côte des Blanc sits the tiny village of Le Mesnil sur Oger, considered by some to be heart of the best champagne in the world. It is home to famous producers like Champagne Salon and Delamotte alongside neighbors of smaller family run operations. Here you will find a small Champagne house, Guy Charlemagne. Guy’s son Philippe, a buzzing mile a minute talker, is the fifth generation descendant of father to son winegrowers in Le Mesnil since 1892.

A true grower bottler with RM sta­tus, the house only harvests and vinifies grapes grown from their 15 hectares (37 acres) of vines situated throughout the Côte des Blanc. The majority of the vineyards are located in the Grand Cru villages of Le Mesnil sur Oger and Oger, along with plots in Mancy, Cuis, Glannes and Sézanne, which are used for their non-vintage cuvées. The majority of their vines, 87% or so produce Chardonnay, with the remaining 13% producing Pinot Noir.

The Grand Crus vineyards from the Côte des Blancs used in Charlemagne’s wines average 42 years in age and have an east/southeast exposure. Planted on limestone rich soil, the limestone and chalk are slightly porous, which provides a slow but constant water supply to the vines. The slow and steady flow of water creates a Chardonnay with finesse and elegance while being laced with min­erality. Only the best single vineyards are selected for these cuvées (such as Chétillon, Coullemets, Vaucherots, Mont-Joly and Aillerand du Midi). The blending of small parcels allows Charlemagne to obtain champagnes with expressive characteristics and personality.

Harvesting of the grapes is carried out entirely by hand and usually takes place in September. After being freshly cut, the grapes are carefully pressed in one of the two traditional presses. Afterwards, fermentation is a slow gradual process in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats. After 100% malolactic fermentation, the different wines are blended together marrying different qualities for a balanced wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. Secondary fermentation and aging takes place in dark chalk cellars beneath the winery before riddling and disgorgement. Less than 130,000 bottles of champagne are produced a year, with 70% being exported abroad and 30% remaining in France.

The Guy Charlemagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2009 pours a beautiful straw yellow color into the glass creating a consistent stream of fine and persistent bubbles. The nose is complex, hinting at notes of dried fruit like California golden raisins and figs mixed with suggestions of candied fruit like oranges and pineapple. This wine really changes as it opens up, developing a more complex savory profile of hazelnuts, soft newly sheened leather and blond tobacco. The finish is long and luxurious with a persistency that oozes class and sophistication. Yet this is an uncomplicated, simply delicious wine. It makes an excellent pairing with a selection of French cheeses from creamy to aged. It will find harmony in a preparation of seafood paella, or perhaps even sing lead in a combination of date night popcorn and a movie.