Sun 15 Jul 2012
Even though last night was Pizza-and-Movie Night and I had already selected an Italian wine for that occasion, we still needed to mark Bastille Day, if only with a toast — why do we Americans feel compelled to do this? — so I opened a bottle of J. Lassalle Premier Cru Brut and we downed a couple of glasses while nodding in the direction of La Belle France.
The small, family-owned house is named in honor of its founder, Jules Lassalle, who established the firm in 1942 in the village of Chigny-Les-Roses. The patriarch died in 1982, and his wife Olga and her daughter Chantal Decelle-Lassalle took the reins. Chantal Decelle-Lassalle and her daughter, Angeline Templier, now run the house, the latter joining the estate as winemaker in 2006, spanning three generations of mothers and daughters. J. Lassalle produces about 6,000 cases of Champagne annually from its own vineyards. The production is very traditional, all done by hand. Even the non-vintage Brut Champagnes age an extraordinary five years in bottle before release. The wines go through full malolactic fermentation, so they tend to be quite rich.
The non-vintage J. Lassalle Premier Cru Brut — which means a blend of several vintages — is a remarkably robust and fruity Champagne. The color is medium gold; tiny bubbles glint ever-upward in exuberant array. Pungent aromas of roasted lemons and pears open to back-notes of mango and walnuts, ginger and cinnamon toast. It’s a full-bodied, dense and chewy Champagne, very dry and quite earthy, fraught with bastions of limestone-like minerality and yet neither heavy nor obvious; crisp acidity provides a sense of fleetness and raciness to the effect, while the wine’s long-aging in bottle lends a touch of mature toffee-like and almond croissant character. The finish is spicy and stony and slightly austere. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. I paid about $55.
Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Ca.