Over the course of a week, I taste a bunch of wine, usually with friends, and almost always with my wife. Here are some of the wines we tasted over the past few weeks. These are wines that were not sent as samples—in most cases, I actually paid for these wines (although a few have been given as gifts).
NV Henri Abele Champagne Brut Rosé, France: Retail $45. 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Meunier. The last time I cracked a bottle of this wine, this was the situation:
It was but a Tuesday night, not a typical situation where I go searching for a bottle of bubbles to accentuate my early week, but this is basketball season, and I coach my son’s J.V. team that has won a grand total of three games over the last four years. Tonight, we played the #2 team in the state and they showed us no mercy. Less than no mercy, if that is even possible. Up 45 points late in the third quarter, they were still guarding us full-court. I asked the opposing coach: “How many points do you need to call off the press?” He ignored me. I persisted: “50? 60? What will it take?” I suggested that he would have more competition in lay-up drills, and even though this drew laughs from the officials, the leader of our opponent remained stoic. I guess he defined his own worth by how many points his team was able to hang on a group of hapless 15 year-olds. Eventually, he called off the press and was able to eke out a 68-8 victory. For me? Although I detest losing, I knew I had this bottle of champers waiting patiently in the fridge.
There were no such extenuating circumstances this go around (unless you want to count the fact that I have spent every waking hour for the last six months with my two sons, observing them perform some exceedingly idiotic acts, causing me to contemplate getting tested–as in paternal tests), but my last tasting note holds true: Dark, even for a still rosé, with oodles of strawberry, a bit of rhubarb, and just a hint of baked bread on the nose. Fruity and lovely on the palate with all those fruity flavors buoyed by bracing acidity and a lengthy finish. Wonderful. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
NV Ayala Champagne Brut Majeur, France: Retail $45. 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier. This is from one of the “smaller big houses” in France, and is located in prestigious Aÿ, what many consider the best town in Champagne for Pinot Noir (personally, I prefer Bouzy and Mailly, but I’m getting a bit into the weeds here). While far from an expert on the house, I have had a few wines from Ayala and I have found the previous iterations a tad sweet, and this is the case here as well (although at 7 grams, I would not think it this sweet). Good fruit, balanced acidity, but this just comes off as slightly sweet to me. Wilfred Wong, a person who I hold in the highest esteem, apparently liked this quite a bit more, giving it 92 points. Me? I find it Very Good. 87-89 Points.
NV Antoine Derigny Champagne Grand Cru Brut, France: Retail $50. Even though this is 100% Chardonnay, they curiously do not label it as a Blanc de Blancs, not sure why. Regardless, this is a lovely champagne with citrus and yeasty notes on the nose with tons of green apple on the palate. I have little doubt that this wine will continue to get better with some cellar time, as most BdBs do, but why wait? It is particularly tasty now. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
NV Deutz Champagne Brut Rosé, France: Retail $65. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay. I have always liked the Deutz that I have tried (as far as I can remember), but I honestly have not had all that much of it. In fact (again relying on a faulty memory), I believe this is the first Brut Rosé that I have tasted from the venerable house. Light salmon color with a fine, constant sparkle, more cherry than strawberry, with a bit of red currant as well. Tart on the palate with plenty of fruit and just a hint of yeastiness. A solid effort for sure, but there are better rosés out there at this price point. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
NV André Clouet Champagne Silver Brut Nature, France: Retail $50. 100% Bouzy Grand Cru Pinot Noir. Zero Dosage. Champagnes with no sugar added after disgorgement were once fairly rare, but today, while certainly not “common”, they are more readily available. It seems to be due to the ever-increasing sommelier-class who prefers the laser-sharp acidity that usually defines a zero dosage champagne. Slightly golden in the glass with a surprisingly shy nose; eventually, I was able to coax some pear, freshly baked croissant, and even green apple. The palate is, as anticipated, extremely dry, and begging for food. Nonetheless, there is really great fruit (imagine biting into an under-ripe Granny Smith apple), and, yes, a searing acidity. This style is not for everyone, but I find it particularly delightful. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
NV Champagne Collet Champagne Brut, France: Retail $42. 50% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir. Even though the winery is in Aÿ, the fruit for this wine comes from all over Champagne. Light in the glass with a fine sparkle, floral and yeast aromas dominate. The palate is tart with just a hint of sweetness with ripe pear and green apple. I picked this up for $28. That seems about right. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2002 Domaine Pavelot (Jean-Marc et Hugues) Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Peuillets, France: Retail $50? 100% Pinot Noir. I bought this wine way back in 2005 and, well, I have only consumed one of the four bottles until now. Upon opening, I was disappointed, to say the least. It was not “bad” per se, but it was a bit listless and came off as rather stewed. So I put a cork in it and opened something else. What a difference a day makes. While certainly short of opulent, this wine is on the fruity side with dark cherry, pomegranate, and even cranberry. The palate is delightful, impeccably balanced, with a lasting finish. Wonderful. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2005 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Artemis, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $75. (I could not find the exact varietal composition of this wine. Most years this is around 90% Cabernet Sauvignon with the remainder Merlot and occasional splashes of other Bordeaux varieties and/or Syrah). Wow. Scores for this on Cellar Tracker are all over the map, ranging from the 70s to the high 90s. I guess you could call it polarizing. Personally, I find it enchanting. Dark in the glass and on the nose with dark (slightly stewed) red and black fruit, a bit of mint, and cedar. The palate is tart, fruity, balanced, and frankly, delicious. I am not sure I can explain the detractors. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
WINE OF THE WEEK: Looking over the list of wines we consumed this week, it is exceedingly clear that we drink a boatload of bubbles. For that, I am unabashedly unapologetic–I am a firm believer that just about everyone could use more bubbles in their life, particularly now. As I think I have mentioned on this site at least a few times, my personal motto is “If it doesn’t sparkle, it doesn’t matter.” Thus, with all other variables constant, when given the choice, I will opt for the sparkling wine just about every time. Except for this week. While there were several fantastic bottles of Champagne consumed this week, I have opted for the 2002 Domaine Pavelot Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru Les Peuillets as this week’s Wine of the Week for no other reason than it is not all that frequent that we drink an 18-year-old wine and it turns out to be that good.
What was your Wine of the Week?