Champagne $100 and under 2012

Boutique and larger players alike enthralled the panel, reports Ralph Kyte-Powell.

by Ralph Kyte-Powell | Cuisine issue #155 | Thursday, 29 November, 2012
Cuisine's annual Champagne tasting is always keenly anticipated by the wine panel as a rare chance to evaluate a line-up of the world's great sparkling wines. And little wonder, as each year the overall quality of the wines seems to be even higher. The nature of this blind tasting ensures that flash labels, esteemed reputations and hype have nothing to do with assessment. Judging what's in the bottle, rather than what's on the label, means that we often uncover wines of extraordinary value. This happened again this year with wines such as the excellent Beaumet Cuvee Brut NV (Top 10) and H Lanvin & Fils Brut NV impressing with their supreme quality at around the $40 mark and accordingly rated Best Buys.
Champagne Beaumet was established by the family of the same name in the late 19th century. Its market today revolves mainly around independent retailers and restaurants. London clubs, where a sharp eye is kept on
value for money, are also a good source of custom. It's typical of the lesser-known brands in that it generally flies under the radar of mainstream Champagne fans, but its quality is easily competitive with wines selling
for double the money and more.

The Tasting panel
Panel chair John Belsham, respected international judge and owner of Foxes Island Wines in Marlborough, was joined by Cuisine’s Australian wine judge and writer, Ralph Kyte-Powell, and Sarah-Kate Dineen, winemaker and co-owner of Maude Wines in Wanaka. The associate judge (non-scoring) was Andrew Parkinson, fine-wine and on-premise manager for Negociants NZ..

1. Perrier-JouŽt Grand Brut NV $100

The essence of top-notch non-vintage Champagne, Perrier-JouŽt NV is smooth and rich with an inviting balance of herby fruit, yeasty autolysis and vanilla cream notes giving a lovely feeling of harmony
to nose and palate. A zesty, clean finish carries the long lasting flavour with zest and focus. “Long, lean and lovely,” said Sarah-Kate Dineen. [H]

Perrier-JouŽt’s most famous Champagne is Belle Epoque, a prestige wine that’s a favourite of Hollywood movies, where its charming bottle, adorned with a beautiful enamelled flower motif, is often seen. Its other wines aren’t as well known, but they should be. Despite its contemporary fame, Perrier-JouŽt has a long history. Founded in 1811, the house still occupies the same premises in the key Champagne town of Epernay and, accordingly, tradition is never far away. Vineyard sources still include plots used 200 years ago, and even the current label designs are based on those from 1902. Perrier-JouŽt’s more modest NV exemplifies a house style that’s delicate and refined, pure and perfectly balanced. The heart of Perrier-JouŽt lies in chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier from the great vineyards of some of Champagne’s most treasured localities in Ay, Cramant, Avize, Dizy and Mailly. A delicious drop.

2. Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Brut NV $99
A classically styled Champagne with brioche, citrus and complex creamy notes leading the way. It has delicious flow in the mouth, seamless and persistent with notable liqueuring enhancing its sensual balance. The
finish is dry, lingering and moreish. [D]

3. MoŽt & Chandon Brut Imperial NV $75-$85
MoŽt NV’s fame means that some in the “too cool for school” crowd dismiss it, but its quality has never been better. Delicate, smooth and modern in style, this is beautifully made, creamy textured, light, balanced and finely structured. Nutty and toasty complexities add dimension to citrusy fruit, a whisper of sweetness fills it out, and it signs off lip-smacking and elegant. [F]

4. Beaumet Cuvee Brut NV $45
The quality and price of this wine from a little-known house made the panel sit up and take notice, awarding it five stars from the outset. Vanilla bean, white stonefruit, citrus and slaty aromas combine with classical charm, and the palate is subtle, sherbetty, long and refined. [A]

5. Ayala Brut Majeur NV $85
Ayala’s Champagnes are at the drier end of the spectrum. This “standard” NV wine is all harmony with slightly meaty pinot noir notes (no doubt derived from the black grapes – 75 per cent – in the blend) folded through Milk Arrowroot biscuit-like, yeast-derived elements. Deep and smooth, it’s a seductive wine, well concentrated and dry, with a crisp, savoury finish. [G]



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