Wine Blogging Wednesday is always a treat, but this month, our host Sam from Becks & Posh, have made it a special one. Sam wants us to focus on the dizzying amount of real Champagnes from France, with extra brownie points for small producers.
Well, I took this one step further, and got a tête du cuvée (top of the line) Champagne from a small organic producer that also a very active blogger and vlogger! Once again, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, Champagne Tarlant's owner Melanie Tarlant contacted me a few weeks ago and pointed me to her brother's blog and vlog and I was hooked. And that was before I tasted their beautiful Champagne.
You don't need to understand French to hear the sorrow and trepidation of Benoit Tarlant walking towards their vines after they have been pounded by hail in a vlog posted in May. (The leaves were pretty pummeled, but the baby grapes were OK) Or envy his morning ritual of picking blackberries for breakfast while looking at the sunrise over their grapes. You know this is a family that cares deeply for its vineyards, soil, and lifestyle.
Champagne Tarlant makes several wines, and has been doing so since 1687, just nineteen years after Dom Pérignon arrived at the abbey of Hautvillers, when Louis XIV was 49 years old. Louis XIV was the one who put Champagne on the map when he inisited on its wines being poured at his royal tables. Because all of France wanted to emulate his Royal excesses, Champagne was suddenly in demand. At this time, the wines of Champagne were probably all red, and they were fighting the natural bubbles that occur during fermentation in such a cold clime, not embracing them yet. Don and Petie Kladstup's book "Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times", debunks the myth of Dom Pérignon's "tasting the stars" story, his being blind, and having some secret recipe for Champagne. In fact, most of his life he spent trying to get rid of those bubbles. Nonetheless, the monk worked for 47 years to rebuild a dying vineyard and write on his radical ideas on making fine wine --like dropping fruit to reduce the yield, and ripping out lesser producing vines and replanting. This, not his "invention" of Champagne is what is behind the legend of Dom Pérignon.
Champagne Tarlant Cuvée Louis
a blend of 1996-1997
50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir
First of all, I was thirilled to find a big selection of Tarlant at K&L in San Francisco, they had the Brut Zéro, Tradition Brut, La Vigne d'Or, and the Cuvée Louis. I started at the top to see what they were capable of, and am planning my return to K&L to try the others, which are all in the $26 range.
The color is deep pale with furious bubbles. Considering that this wine was on the lees for 7 years and is made from 10 year old juice, it is just amazing how vibrant and alive the bubbles are.
It's almost more important to know what the nose and flavor doesn't have...it not toasty, nor creamy, nor oaked. What it reveals with time is a perfectly balanced austere wine of magical complexity. It's yeasty and lemony with both the scent of orange and the subtle taste of chocolate. Where the chocolate flavors come from is always an amazement to me. It reminds me a lot of Dom Pérignon in a slightly less dense form, but no less impressive.
For only a couple of dollars more than the venerable Veuve Cliquot and less than half the price of Dom Pérignon, it is an excellent value for a special-day kind of Champagne.