A week ago, Pascal Agrapart, probably the most incisive winemaker in Avize, was in town to show his repertoire of mainly grand cru chardonnay cuvees back to 2002. The venue was the bruit dans le couloir, the much acclaimed Quality Chop House in the Farrington road fringes of the City, handy for Sadler's Wells. Nine champagnes were shown, the perfect number for serious appraisal by Grands Fromages like say the Rouzauds & Billecarts or for toiling foot soldiers in the trenches, e.g your correspondent. Pascal has always been quite Burgundian in his respect for his privileged soils esp in Avize and Cramant but very Champenois in his winemaking: precise and supremely adaptive in his use of oak or tank, depending of the weight and character of individual wines and differently styled vintages. The 'malo' is always conducted at Agrapart, but it is a measure of Pascal's flair that perhaps the greatest wine on the day was a 2005, a difficult, largely too warm vintage prone to oxidation. Not 'Mineral' 05, which kept its driving mineral focus quite intact. Bravo.
Here is the race card of six front runners, using stars and the WOFW score scale out of 20 points.If the numbers and the words don't match, follow the words!
Les '7 Crus' NV Brut (90/10 Chard/PN , the first time Pascal has used a little Premier Cru PN Avenas (up from Mareuil sur Ay) in his blend. Initial elevage 25% in oak. 30 months aging under crown cap. Dosage 7g/l.) Very healthy and vibrant pale yellow, the vigour of seemingly 08 Chardonnay tempered by the gras Pinot ripeness in 09. Smart. *** 16 now
'Terroirs' Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut ( 2007 + 2008. grands crus of Avize, Cramant, Oger & Oiry. Initial elevage 25% in oak. 42 months aging under crown cap. Dosage 5g/l). Bright yellow, maturing hint of gold, dynamic quite punchy bubbles. Lively and energetic mouthfeel, still wound and tight, un peu serree but very promising. Drink at Christmas 2013. ***(*) 16.5
'Mineral' Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2005 Extra Brut (50:50 Avize & Cramant. Initial elevage 50% in oak. 6 yrs bottle aging under crown cap. Dosage 4g/l) Something of a miracle in testing conditions. Perfectly judged ripeness & acidity, pervaded with wonderful mineral flavours, the brisk impact of the chalk. Nothing overdone or out of balance. long and fine. Brilliant winemaking. Grand Vin ***** 18.5
L'Aviseoise Grand Cru Blanc de Blance 2005 Extra Brut (100% grand cru Avize. Initial elevage 100% in oak. 6 years bottle aging under clamped cork). Hedonism in the glass from first sip to last swallow. Richness, gras, heralded by the golden hue...one senses the beneficial, enhancing complexity of oxygenating oak. I do like the wine very much, but for the moment 'Mineral' seems finer- or rather it is to my taste. Re-taste in a years time **** 17.5
'Venus' Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2005 (100 % Avize. Initial elevage 100 % in oak; 6yrs bottle age under clamped cork). Golden dramatic hue - but the decision to make it without dosage in this hot harvest seems spot-on. It has all the elegance and depth of Avize yet is crystalline, incisive, very Pascal. But at the end of the day it's still the Mineral 05 that sings to me. And it's thirty pounds cheaper. One mustn't quibble though.**** 18
'Mineral, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2002 Extra Brut (50:50 Avize & Cramant, Initial elevage 50% in oak. 6 years bottle age under crown cap. Dosage 4 g/l) Very rich style just this side of a little corpulence, not yet sure where it's going but still remarkable now. **** 17
ends mfe 5.iii.2013