Sat 26 Dec 2009
Yesterday, our sparkling wine was delightful and fairly inexpensive. For today, Boxing Day, as they call it in Merry Old England, let’s go straight to the heart of Champagne for a truly impressive example of a blanc de blancs champagne, that is, made 100 percent from chardonnay grapes. Another distinction of the Guy Charlemagne Reserve Brut Blanc de Blancs is that its grapes derive completely from Grand Cru vineyards, which is to say the best. The house is a recoltant-manipulant, farmer-winemaker, meaning that the proprietors here, fathers and sons going back to 1892, cultivate their own vines as well as make the champagne. The house, located in the village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, produces about 10,800 cases annually.
The Guy Charlemagne Reserve Brut Blanc de Blancs is a resonant and generous champagne. The color is icy-pale blond; tiny bubbles seethe upward in a frothing tide. The bouquet is expansive, yeasty, bready and smoky, offering notes of spice-inflected roasted lemon and damp limestone. Wow, what terrific presence and tone this champagne displays, filling the mouth with the vibrancy of crisp acidity and flavors of baked apple, pear, quince and toasted hazelnuts. As deliriously pleasing as those elements are, however, the grand effect is of exquisite balance between substance and elegance; the limestone-drenched finish carries a thread of the ethereal through it. Excellent. About $65.
Dec. 26 is also the Holy Day of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. It’s the day when King Wenceslas “looked out … as the snow lay all about, deep and crisp and even,” at least according to J.M. Neale, who wrote the lyrics to that familiar carol in the 19th Century. The principle is that the fortunate should tend to the poor and needy on the day after Christmas, so you don’t get a glass of champagne until you’ve done a good deed.
This was a sample bottle from William Harrison Imports, Manassas, Va.