Mon 1 Aug 2011
Oh, come on, of course there’s an occasion this week that demands a bottle of Champagne! The rumored indictment was not handed down, or at least the judge went easy on you; the auditors didn’t notice that the decimal point was four places to the right; the bills were unmarked — and no one died! Or maybe it’s just the right day and the right time, and the right person is present with whom sharing a bottle of Champagne makes absolute sense. We enjoyed immensely the Duval-Leroy Brut, which I bought as the major ingredient in the French 75 cocktail, but after that purpose you can bet that we didn’t let the rest of the bottle go to waste.
The house of Duval-Leroy has been owned by the same family since 1859. The winery is in the village of Vertus, a Premier Cru village — according to Champagne’s official and somewhat abstruse rating system — located deep in the south of the chardonnay-dominated Cote des Blancs where pinot noir vineyards come back into play. For what might be called a “basic” product, the Duval-Leroy Brut, non-vintage, displays wonderful character and depth to bolster its immediate appeal. Tom Stevenson, in his World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine (Wine Appreciation Guild, revised edition, 2003), says that the blend is 75 percent chardonnay and 25 percent pinot noir. The color is pale blond-gold tremendously enlivened by a taut upward surge of frothing, glinting bubbles. The first aromas occur in the form of acacia, apple, cinnamon toast and chalky/limestone-like minerality; within a few moments notes of fresh biscuits, honeysuckle and ginger emerge. While exhibiting terrific substance and presence, the Duval-Leroy Brut is elegant and suave, yet surprisingly spicy for all its finesse; flavors of roasted lemon and baked pear are permeated by quince and ginger, a touch of toasted almond, a hint of candied grapefruit. The limestone element grows as moments elapse, and, of course, the effervescence and chiming acidity keep it invigorating and engaging. Works wonders with lightly salted popcorn (not buttered!) and a handful of cashews. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. Prices around the country range from about $28 to $40; I paid $35 in Memphis.