Sun 3 Jan 2016
You know how it is. A wine of some type comes along and forces you — or encourages you or persuades you — to admit that it is an archetype, an avatar, a piece of wondrous architecture. Such a one for me recently was the Champagne Chartogne-Taillet “Heurtebise” Blanc de Blancs Brut, from the year 2008, though this fact is indicated only on the back label. The estate’s origins go back all the way to 1485, or at least to 1485, when records mention Fiacre Taillet as a grower in the village of Merfy, in Champagne’s Montagne de Reims area. Chartogne-Taillet’s 27 acres of vines, divided into 13 distinct parcels, are still scattered around the environs of Merfy, located just northwest of the ancient cathedral city of Reims, where once the kings of France were crowned. Now, Champagne is king.
The Chartogne-Taillet “Heurtebise” Blanc de Blancs Brut 2008 (an online purchase) was made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes from one of those particular parcels of vines, totally in stainless steel — the wine sees no oak — and fermented by native yeast. Disgorged in 2015, it spent some six years in the bottle on the yeast. Winemaker was Alexandre Chartogne. The color is a brilliant pure medium gold, energized by a surging spiral of tiny bubbles. It’s a fresh and bright Champagne that offers notes of brioche and lightly toasted bread, quince and baked apple, lime peel and lemongrass, all set into a scintillating background of limestone and chalk that broadens as the moments pass. It’s quite dry but enlivened by keenly-edged acidity that displays its own sense of generosity, so that the impression is of crystalline depths and an impeccable surface that embody the marriage between power and elegance. After, say, an hour, if you were sipping this Champagne while cooking dinner, it shades to darker matter, to heather, candied ginger and slightly honeyed grapefruit, to hints of toffee and pearly sea-salt, leading to a high-toned and fairly austere finish. By this time, it feels like a fathomless exploration of the transmogrified chardonnay grape in all its nuance and dimension. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 to 2022. Exceptional. Look for prices nationwide from about $65 to $80.
A Terry Theise Selection for Skurnik Wines, New York.