Friday, December 11, 2015

Best Bubbles ...


A frequent question I get this time of year, both in the dining room at Manresa and from friends outside of work is:  “What are the best bubbles to enjoy during the holiday season?”  Now, don’t get me started on every season being the ideal season for bubbles, but I do recognize that the holidays are the time of year when a greater-than-normal amount of sparkling wine is consumed!

One of the guiding trends of the last decade in Champagne is the emergence of grower-producers:  vintners who produce Champagne only from their estate-owned vineyards, without purchasing any grapes or wine.  Generally smaller wineries focused on vineyards in individual villages or regions rather than on region-wide blends, the quality and individuality of the wines produced has placed grower-producers at the top-of-the-list for wine buyers in both top retail shops and restaurants throughout the US and the world.

Larmandier-Bernier is one of my absolute favorite growers, and their wines have been available in the US for about 15 years.  They are in the Côte des Blancs, home of the best Chardonnay vineyards in Champagne, and thus the majority of their wines are Blanc de Blancs made exclusively from Chardonnay.  All of their vineyards are farmed biodynamically, and the grapes are harvested at full ripeness to best produce the drier style of Champagne the Larmandiers favor.  The wine I like to recommend to our guests in the dining room is the Larmandier-Bernier “Terre de Vertus – Brut Nature” 2009.   The grapes for this wine come from a single vineyard in Vertus from older vines, vinified in a mixture of large casks and stainless steel tanks, and bottled with no dosage at all, completely dry Champagne.  While truly dry Champagnes can be a bit austere and screechingly acidic, the maturity of the grapes at harvest matched with Pierre Larmandier’s skill in the vineyard and winery mean this wine has outstanding balance to drink as an aperitif or with a meal.

This wine is a perfect introduction to the concept of grower Champagne. You get a hand-crafted wine from a master artisan from a single location in the region highlighting the distinctive character of the place, at a price just above the cost of a top negoçiants non-vintage blend, but you avoid the excesses of many of the new wave growers: oxidized wines, unbalanced low dosage, and too high prices.

— Jim Rollston, Wine Director