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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.