These days much of the wine world outside the Côte d’Or is after Burgundy’s luster. That often translates to producers beginning to bottle wine from isolated parcels in the hopes of giving drinkers a taste of each and every microsite. No other region may be trying to catch up faster in this respect than Champagne. This trend of single-vineyard Champagnes isn’t inherently good or bad. It is often fascinating, and it certainly makes sense in the cases of outstanding vineyards. But Champagne’s history—and many of its best wines—revolves around blending juice from different vineyards. In his benchmark 2017 book, Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region, Peter Liem writes: “For me, as a devotee of Burgundy, it’s thrilling to be able to experience Champagne in a similar way, comparing the wines of one parcel to the next. But Champagne is not Burgundy. Its soil is not as diverse, nor is its climate as accommodating . . . when you taste vins clairs* in the spring after the harvest, it’s immediately apparent that not all parcels in Champagne are able to produce a wine that’s complete enough to stand on its own. Dom Pérignon knew this, even in the seventeenth century.” The Champagnes below are liquid proof that blending can result in stunning wines. Whether you favor Veuve Fourny’s chiseled, Chardonnay-focused blends from chalk-and-limestone terroirs, the lusher wines of J. Lassalle that complete malolactic fermentation and extended bottle aging, or the powerful, Pinot Noir–focused, grand cru Champagnes of Paul Bara, you will perceive the beautiful balance in each that says, “Just the right touch.”
* Fully fermented, still wine that is used to create the final blend for Champagne before the second fermentation in bottle.
This blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir sees partial barrel aging, partial malolactic fermentation, and two and a half years aging in bottle before release. The result is a sleek, elegant Champagne that has roundness along with the astonishing freshness and finesse that are characteristic of all Fourny wines.
The Fourny brothers’ meticulous attention to the local terroir is a perennial focal point that has distinguished the house style from the start. The chalky soils of Vertus, coupled with old vines inherited from their forerunners, allow Emmanuel and Charles to craft precise, terroir-driven Champagnes with gorgeous purity and finesse. The Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature is a a staff favorite: bone-dry, elegant, and surprisingly complex.
The village of Vertus is famous for its Chardonnay—here the long hillside known as the Côte des Blancs takes a turn that gives vines planted on the slopes above the village a southern exposure. More sunshine is crucial in a region where the climate does not favor full ripening every year. The wine is crisp and fresh and delightfully grapey—a reminder that premier cru Champagne is indeed made from grapes. **20% off through November 30th**
The wines of J. Lassalle are among the first, and certainly the longest-standing, “grower Champagnes” present in the United States. While the house style is deeply rooted in the terroir of Chigny-les-Roses, a small village in the Montagne de Reims, a vigneron’s touch—or a vigneronne’s, in the case of the three generations of Lassalle women to manage the estate—can also help define a house style. Their twenty-eight-year tradition of “une femme, un esprit, un style” (one woman, one spirit, one style) holds true today more than ever: one can point to their use of malolactic fermentations and careful blending of different climats and cépages as the key to their lush, creamy, sublimely refined Champagnes. The Lassalle women craft a pale, elegant rosé Champagne, all about delicacy and lovely, plush fruit. Aged extensively sur latte before disgorgement, this soft, round rosé maintains a great balance of richness and refreshing acidity. It will provide utter satisfaction sipped as an apéritif, or all throughout a meal.
The village of Bouzy and Champagne Paul Bara are practically synonymous: this historic house boasts over 170 years of history, throughout which generation after generation of Bara has crafted celebrated Champagnes from the village's south-facing slopes. Bouzy's vineyards enjoy Grand Cru status thanks to an exposure that favors excellent ripeness and chalky soils that provide stimulating freshness, in addition to housing the deep, cool cellars essential to aging Champagne. Pinot Noir reigns, and the Bara house style is honest to its exceptional terroir. The Brut Réserve features the rich, ripe fruit we come to expect from Bouzy–seductive, mouth-filling, dry and focused; a class act all around.
The Montagne de Reims boasts some of the best Pinot Noir in Champagne, and Bouzy is its capital. The village of Bouzy and the Paul Bara house, in turn, are practically synonymous. It's no coincidence Bara's grand cru rosé is a staff favorite and best-seller: with its ripe, juicy red fruit, fine bead, and creamy yet lively texture, it is the perfect pairing for anything, everything, or nothing at all.
Powerful, ripe Chardonnay fruit meets the nerve and minerality common to all Veuve Fourny cuvées. Chalky terroir and precise winemaking shine though in this richer vintage. Already showing beautifully, the 2012 will continue to develop for many more years.
The latest release of the Lassalles’ tête de cuvée marries the power and drive of the vintage with a velvety texture acquired from a seven-year élevage. This blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is a Champagne of luxury, from its decadent golden tinge to the fine, persistent bead that playfully caresses the palate. Uncorking this euphoric elixir will guarantee a ceremoniously delicious occasion.
The Lassalle ladies—three consecutive generations to lead the estate, with a fourth toddling around the cuverie—are characterized by fierce character, fine taste, and quintessential Champenois gracefulness. The same could be said of their Champagnes—lush, elegant representations of the Chigny-les-Roses terroir with exquisite balance and freshness. Don't miss this 2008 Blanc de Blancs, a powerful yet refined tour de force from one of the region's most consistent and talented growers.
That wine should be paired with a steak” said Anthony Lynch when tasting this tête du cuvée from Paul Bara. Not just any steak obviously. I wouldn’t pair it with barbecue tri-tip, but consider filet mingon or a dry-aged rib-eye. It sounds heretical, right? Don’t you pair steak with Cab? Often, red meat has elegance and subtlety to it that can be masked by big, juicy, tannic wines. Here’s an instance where opposites don’t attract—elegance often pairs best with elegance.
Drinking distilled spirits, beer, coolers, wine and other alcoholic beverages may increase cancer risk, and, during pregnancy, can cause birth defects. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/alcohol
Many food and beverage cans have linings containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical known to cause harm to the female reproductive system. Jar lids and bottle caps may also contain BPA. You can be exposed to BPA when you consume foods or beverages packaged in these containers. For more information, go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov/bpa