Thursday, 16 February 2012

Tasting vins clairs with Raphael Bereche in mid winter

tasting- reception room  Bereche et fils
Ludes, January 2012

Winter at last returned to Champagne on the 30th Jan as surely as it had done at the weekend in London, when I bought a wool-lined shooter's gilet to stave off the cold. Comic, really, as I'm not a chasseur but never have I made a better move, as the temperature was later to fall to minus 15 C in the Aube by February 3rd. First off, on  Monday (30/1) after a trencherman lunch at Le Theatre with Thibaut Le Mailloux, I set off to Ludes to visit the one grower I most regret not including in my last Champagne book - Raphael Bereche. I had tasted his wines in London several times, was captivated and saw him again with Christophe Constant and Amanda Regan during the 2011 harvest. Surely one of the most bizarre and topsy turvy weather sequences I can remember. For Raphael's honest admissions of the challenges of 2011, see my Sept. post in archive.

Now on my return to Ludes, I was anxious to know if the little magician had cast his spell on some very variable fruit. My first impressions were reassuring - the family is obviously investing heavily for the future: a big extension to the downstairs storage cellar, pride of place given to a new parked tool, the now famous PAI (presse automatique incline) the Rolls Royce of modern champagne presses; also I spied some fine larger barrels. I will let my tasting notes of the vins clairs and the currently evolving  Bereche champagnes do the talking. I think scoring very young wines with points is a mug's game - on my blog at least, I am going to rely  on star ratings, which are broader and more useful. Just as well, as I never could add up.

Vins Clairs Bereche et fils -2011
vinified and lodged in 350 litre oak foudres, first used in the 2007 harvest

Pinot Meunier - from the Marne valley, left bank west after Tarlant & Oeuilly .Vines planted in 1969, aspect north west. 9.6 % alcohol by volume (abv). Yellow/gold sheen, delicate, flowery fruit - a very light strengthening by the oak. Winemaking of feeling and flair in difficult circumstances. **(*)

Pinot Noir - from Ormes, Northern Petite Montagne - grip and substance but also upright, aromatic and elegantly ripe (10.2% abv) reflecting the sandstone soils. Perfect for the rose non-vintage - lovely crushed yellow stone-fruits (peach?) f and crunchy texture. Excellent. Bravo! ****

Chardonnay - from Mareuil le Port, classic Mid Marne valley. A rich wine of substance but the balance needs to work itself out - because of the clay a little difficult, the wood evident and cloaking the brooding fruit at the moment. Re-taste in April **  for now

Chardonnay - Le Clos de Beauregard Ludes, Montagne de Reims Ier Cru. True calcareous limestone. Much more pointu, energie (Raphael). Fine acidity and considerable richness in balance. Excellent maturity. 11.2% abv. A real success. ****

current champagne blends in the making

Assemblage 2010 - made and blended in 258 litre demi-muid casks. 30 % reserve wines from 09, 08, 07. The aerating effects of the cask is nicely realised with a gentle note of wood - but the blend is not upstaged; it's fresh, clean and pure, the reserve wines making up for the frailties of the 2010 harvest. A skilled effort in very trying conditions. ** (*)

Bereche Brut NV - the current blend. Base wine 2009 - majority Chardonnay/Meunier + 30% Pinot Noir. Dosage 8g/l. beautifully ripe but with athletic dash and vigour. The excellence of the base wine comes through. Good length. Highly recommended. ***(*)

Bereche Les Beauregards 2008 Brut - made from two thirds Ludes and one third Mareuil le Port grapes, cultivated by Selection Massal. Fine, classic, quite complex (already) aromatics; splendid creamy mousse thanks to being aged for the first time sous liege (under a clamped cork); lovely long multi- toned flavours; perfect texture,  at once caressing yet firm (excellent acidity). Potentially a great champagne from tthe best vintage since 2002. The first exceptional 08 I've tasted - will be terrific value when available from June 2012 - but if you've room, worth keeping in a cool dark place for another year or two. ****(*)

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