Monday, January 2, 2012

WINES of the WEEK, 2 January 2012

Three rare and distinctive champagnes that deserve to be savoured when there is plenty of time, rather than given to partying hordes over the festive season.

2001 and 2002 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses
Unusually, Clos des Goisses has released these two vintages at the same time. 2002 was a stellar vintage in Champagne and 2001 was a washout, but Clos des Goisses isn’t like other vintage champagnes. It comes from an 5.5-hectare grand cru vineyard overlooking the Marne – a steep, south-facing hillside, divided into walled plots that have an average temperature 1.5ºC warmer than the rest of Champagne. It’s the extra sun and warmth that encourage Philipponnat to make a vintage champagne from the Clos nearly every year, even after a wet summer like 2001.

Both 2001 and 2002 are 65% pinot noir and 35% chardonnay and were disgorged in June. There’s no doubt in my mind that the 2002 is the greater of the two – riper, more concentrated, yet steelier – but the 2001, which is drinking well now and will continue to do so for five years, has plenty of charm and finesse. The 2001 is lightly biscuity, creamy and smoky on the nose with honeyed fruit – a cross between slightly bruised pears and bletted medlars – and it has fine, citrusy acidity and a mineral, smoky note on the finish.
The 2002 is fresh and much more perfumed on the nose, with peach, brioche and exotic spice notes. The palate has a malty, creamy, milk-chocolate richness with touches of coffee bean, and tight, firm acidity and a mineral finish.
The rrp for the 2001 is £142.49, Bordeaux Index and Fine & Rare sell it. 
The rrp for the 2002 is £180.99, but Joseph Barnes Wine Direct, in Saffron Walden, has it at £135 per bottle, with free delivery when you spend £100 or more (according to the website);  Millésima has it at £880 for six.
Also available from the UK agent Les Caves de Pyrène.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois
This new cuvée is a blend of the three grape varieties, pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier (nothing unusual there), but vinified entirely in oak barrels – a return to the past. It’s pale in colour with a nose rich in fruit and honey and with the oak giving an underlying, subtle vanilla and almond sweetness. The palate is full and dry with intense, fresh, candied citrus-peel fruit, a crème caramel flavour and smoothness, a touch of almond and admirably insistent acidity.  
£50.95, We Love Champagne; £56, James Nicholson