Chef de caves of one of Champagne’s most distinguished independent houses: “The best things in life stay the same”.
For the ninth in Le Figaro Vin’s series we take our second trip to Champagne to meet Denis Bunner, #42. His interview reveals a distinctive perspective on Champagne, one which combines respect for traditional values with his vision for the future.
A son of Alsace, oenologist Denis Bunner joined the Champagne house of Bollinger as deputy chef de caves in 2013. Ten years later he has replaced Gilles Descôtes as head winemaker, taking over the reins in a seamless transition. With a remarkable collection of over 700,000 reserve magnums, Bollinger enjoys its status as one of Champagne’s most iconic houses. It remains one of the pioneers of Coteaux Champenois with its renowned La Côte aux Enfants, while with every passing vintage it maintains the purity of an utterly inimitable style.
Le Figaro Vin: How does it feel to be crowned a winemaking champion?
Denis Bunner: It is a little disconcerting to be given that title because, as far as I am concerned, what matters most is team spirit. Although people tend to give all the credit to the chef de cave, the reality is that many separate elements combine to make a great champagne. My job is to bring out the power of the collective, to bring everyone together. I am also a musician and I love being the conductor. One should never forget that making champagne requires a great deal of time. Once you have finished with the composition there is a period when you have to let it rest, and then comes the disgorgement, another critical stage. It is important to recognise that we rely on expertise at every stage of vinification. Given that we carry out so much of the process by hand, the human contribution is crucial.
Have you been training for long?
From the cradle! My parents are winemakers in Alsace, and I have always been close to nature with an affinity for all living beings. I have been in Champagne for 20 years now, and I have been tasting two or three times a day since I was 20. I was fortunate to be a member of the Laboratory of Tasting and Sensory Analysis, and it is tasting that has mapped out my journey.
Who is your mentor?
It’s more a case of people who have inspired me. I have met a whole host of leading figures in Champagne who have enabled me to get where I am today. Among them was Gilles Descôtes, who has now left us (he died in January 2023, ed.). He is the person who really shaped me and showed me the way.
Is wine a team sport?
Yes, absolutely. With 4,000 barrels in our cellar we stick to very traditional working methods, which are highly dependent on human resources, and that’s what makes Bollinger a unique champagne.
What is the key to making a good wine? The terroir or the winemaker?
Both of them. To begin with we devote an enormous amount of care and attention to every stage, from the vineyard right through to the phases of fermentation. After the fermentations we are engaged in an exhaustive quest for perfection, with our decision to vinify in small containers. It has to be a co-operative effort between man and nature, and close observation is the key to everything.
To what do you owe your success?
My parents, who have passed on their predilection for a job well done. They are rigorous in their attention to detail, aesthetics, and craftsmanship. That’s the commitment you have to make, without knowing if and when you will reap the rewards. The best feeling is when a wine reaches the market, and you realise that all your hard work has paid off. Over and above the desire to achieve success, there is the prize for perseverance. All the more so in Champagne, which takes a long view of time in a world that moves much too fast.
Is your family proud of you?
My parents are too modest to say so. They are very pleased that I have chosen to stay in the sector, but they are souls of discretion and I think they prefer not to mention it.
Your favourite colour?
Blue in everyday life, the colour of the ocean and serenity. It’s a colour which grounds us and is important to me. As far as wine is concerned then it has to be white, because of my roots and my culture.
The king of grape varieties?
My favourite is Pinot Noir because it’s the predominant grape variety at Bollinger. I love its style and its personality. It is temperamental, and it’s a characteristic of ours to vinify it for whites in the same way as for reds. We still have a Côte aux Enfants 1934 in the cellar, a wine that has never been marketed, but which remains delicious. We are proud to have played an integral part in the culture of still wines in Champagne, and to have been followed by many other houses. Nowadays these wines have become more full-bodied, mature further, and make very fine reds. Which is paradoxical, since while we try to slow down climate change, we also get to benefit from some of its effects. Since 1999 we have also profited greatly from our technical collaboration with Domaine Chanson, and we maintain some very strong relationships with Burgundy.
Your favourite wine?
It’s a Pinot Noir, on a foundation of 2015, which is in our house’s DNA. It’s a wine from the heart which I made with Gilles before he left us: the PNVZ 2016.
Your favourite vintage?
1928, which is freighted with emotion, the greatest wine in our Wine Libraries, and, to my mind, the greatest Champagne vintage of all. It is packed with freshness and complexity. In 1938 Madame Bollinger wrote: “The 1928 is great and I predict a great future for it”. We found these words in the archives after tasting it, and we can say that history has proved her right. We have always used cork for this tirage. The easiest approach would have been to use a metal stopper, but sticking to the concept of using cork is a stamp of the house style.
If your wine was a person, who would it be?
Not necessarily a person. While I find it quite hard to pin down, I would compare it to the painting of a great master, to a landscape viewed from a passing train on which shifting planes are superimposed. Our champagne has a highly evolving style, you pass through successive stages of fresh, ripe, stewed, and dried fruits, before you enter the creamy dimension, followed by the salinity, the complexity…
What are the best circumstances in which to taste your wine?
My first answer is with friends. We remember some champagnes because we have shared them. In the first place, I love sharing. I was married last year and had a get-together with some childhood friends that I have known since I was four, where I was struck by something fundamental: the best things in life stay the same. My second answer, in my capacity as an oenologist, is in a blind tasting, for the fun of discovery and the experience of surprise.
Have you ever thought about chemically enhancing yourself, or your wine?
Not really, what would be the point? There is no call for it, it’s the direct opposite of what Bollinger is about. As Madame Bollinger already used to say, back in her day: “Less is more”.
Who is your strongest competition in Champagne?
As someone who cultivates a collaborative professional culture, I see the others as colleagues, not competitors, and there is strength in unity. If, on the other hand, I had to pick a role-model, I would choose winemakers who have been able to put love for the terroir back at the heart of things, the ones who have nurtured and reinvigorated the terroirs of Champagne. From our perspective, we are fully aligned with this approach to the terroir, and we are taking it forward, with the village-based expressions of PN, with the creation of La Côte aux Enfants in a champagne version, and with the whole range of our parcel-focused wines.
Who would be your ideal successor on the podium?
I think more in terms of taking a step forward than of taking one up or down. So I do not see myself as on a podium. And for the time being the question does not arise.
As the year draws to a close, Wine Lister has published its 2022 Wine Leagues – the third of our annual reports celebrating the top-performing wines and producers within several categories over the past year. The Leagues reveal exciting developments in the world of fine wine, shining a light on consumer trends and estates on the rise, informed by an in-depth trade survey with key industry figures.
Please see some of our key findings below, or click here to download the full study.
22 Champagnes for 2022
Considering the latest industry insights shared in our annual end of year study, Wine Lister explores an eclectic range of Champagne MUST BUYs worth celebrating. With an initial selection made by our proprietary recommendation algorithm, based on quality and value within the category, we have singled out some top picks to pop open as we ring in 2022.
Wine Lister Leagues 2021: New Year’s Eve Champagne MUST BUYs (p. 17)
With demand for Champagne reaching record heights this year, Wine Lister’s latest Leagues explore a selection of top bottles to take you into 2022, featuring a variety of styles and price points across four categories: Major Marques, Connoisseur’s Collection, Varietal Vins, and Captivating Cuvées.
What Champagne should I buy?
A selection of Champagne’s strongest brands, the list of Major Marques features Krug’s Grande Cuvée and Clos de Mesnil alongside Louis Roederer’s Cristal, Perrier-Jouët’s Belle Epoque, and Dom Pérignon’s P2. The latter is considered a top Investment Staple, receiving recognition from the global fine wine market as a relatively stable and liquid option (discover our list of 2021 Investment Staples on p. 16).
Favourites among the trade and fine wine lovers alike, these insider icons include Philipponnat’s Clos des Goisses, Pol Roger’s Sir Winston Churchill, Salon Le Mesnil, and Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne. Bollinger is featured twice in the line-up with its Grande Année and R.D. cuvées; with a distinguished history dating back to 1829, the estate has the only two vineyards in Champagne to remain phylloxera-free throughout the late 19th-century epidemic.
Our selection of Blanc de Blancs worth seeking out include Agrapart et Fils Minéral Extra-Brut, Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Fleuron Brut, and Charles Heidsick’s Blanc des Millénaires. Produced only in exceptional years, there have been four vintages of Blanc des Millénaires released since its inaugural 1983 vintage, with the cuvée spending a minimum of fifteen years maturing in the heart of Charles Heidsieck’s 2000-year-old underground chalk cellars (a UNESCO world heritage site) before release.
Made exclusively from Pinot Noir, Jacques Selosse’s La Cote Faro and Paul Bara’s Comtesse Marie de France also feature in the MUST BUY selection. A seventh-generation family business, Champagne Paul Bara is one of the few grower producers in Bouzy – a village widely regarded as amongst Champagne’s top sites for the production of Pinot Noir.
Sure to impress during the festive season, our list of Captivating Cuvées includes key grower producers Bruno Paillard, Bérêche et Fils, Vilmart et Cie, and Egly-Ouriet, whose featured wines each offer relative value within the selection of Champagne MUST BUYs. Henriot’s Cuvée des Enchanteleurs and Billecart-Salmon’s Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon complete the list – the latter being the only rosé Champagne featured, comprising a blend of around 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, of which 10% is vinified as red wine and incorporated into the final blend.
For further analysis on quality consistency, increased popularity, and a list of 2021s most compelling wines, download the Winer Lister Leagues 2021 here.
The insider’s guide to fine wine trends, and the most compelling wines to watch
Wine Lister has released its second annual Wine Leagues, celebrating some of the top-performing wines and producers in today’s new and much-diversified fine wine era. Informed by an in-depth trade survey with leading industry figures, the report provides a 360° view of those regions, producers, and wines that have seen strides in quality, popularity, economic promise, and more in 2021.
Wine Lister’s annual in-depth survey sees our expert panel of 47 CEOs, MDs, and wine department heads share their insight on some of the fine wines to have on your radar, as we ask them:
“What are the most compelling wines and producers in the market today?”
Respondents singled out 188 wines and producers collectively, that span no less than 20 major regions. Within the list, our team identifies Bibi Graetz, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Roberto Voerzio, Berthaut-Gerbet, and Fürst as wines to watch in the Old World, whilst calling out the New World wonders of Catena Zapata, Errazuriz, Pedro Parra, Rhys Vineyards, and Ridge Vineyards.
The report also includes rankings across:
- Biggest quality improvers, which show impressive movement from Italy (occupying five places in the list of the top 20 by Quality score progression), with Isole e Olena Chianti Classico leading the pack
- Best search rank movers, wherein Bordeaux represents eight of the top 20 wines whose popularity has increased most in terms of online searches (including Smith Haut Lafitte, Domaine de Chevalier, Figeac, and Léoville Poyferré)
- Burgundy superstars, focusing on popularity movements from the trade’s darling region – Arnoux-Lachaux features 10 times in the list of top 20 Burgundian wines whose online searches have increased the most over the last two years
- Wine Lister’s top-10 recommendations per Wine Lister Indicator; Hidden Gems, Value Picks, Buzz Brands, and Investment Staples in 2021
For the full analysis, download your free copy of Wine Lister’s 2021 Leagues here.
The end of 2020 is perhaps reason enough to pop open a bottle of champagne. With Christmas and New Year around the corner, Wine Lister has compiled a list of 21 Champagne MUST BUYs to enjoy over the last days of this year, and into 2021. Whether you have a penchant for discovering grower champagnes, or prefer to relish in those the top Grandes Maisons have to offer; whether you enjoy the purity of a Blanc de Blancs, the balance of an assemblage, or the opulence of a Blanc de Noirs, the selection of vintage champagnes below is sure to offer guidance for any preferred style.
Find out more about our 21 Champagne MUST BUYs for 2021 below.
Long-established house, Charles Heidsieck, is represented in our MUST BUY selection with two vintages of its Blanc des Millénaires – 1995 and 2004. The wine is so-named to reflect its high ageing potential, and is only created in vintages worthy of the label (since its inception, just five have been made). The 2004 achieves a WL score of 95, and is praised by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, as having “sheer confidence, appeal and completeness”. Earning one more WL point, the 1995 shows “just how compelling this often-overlooked vintage can be”, according to Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous). Both vintages can be bought by the case of six in-bond from Cru World Wine.
Also the crown jewel of its own house, Perrier-Jouët’s Belle Epoque carries its own portion of history within its name, referencing the Art Nouveau movement of the early 1900s. The prestige bottling can be appreciated on the inside and out, particularly in the spectacular 2008 vintage. Wine Lister tasted it recently, and found it to have a concentrated nose of white peaches, brioche, and a hint of honeysuckle, with brilliant tension on the palate. 2008 Belle Epoque is available to purchase by the bottle from Lay & Wheeler, for £129 (in-bond).
A further two MUST BUYs hail from the boutique house, Philipponnat Clos des Goisses. The 5.5-hectare Clos de Goisses parcel is the oldest and steepest “Clos” in champagne. The 2006 and 2008 vintages of this single-vineyard cuvée both receive a WL score of 96. Jancis Robinson praises both vintages, writing that the 2006 “positively screams for attention”, while the 2008 is “explosive… like a firework on the palate”. They can both be acquired in-bond from Bordeaux Index.
Included in our 21 MUST BUY champagnes are two grower offerings lying outside of champagne’s more widely-declared vintages. Notorious for its killer heatwave, 2003 is not well-appreciated among the champenois. Bruno Paillard’s 2003 N.P.U. challenges this perception, offering a “dancing” palette of “open and floral notes” according to Jancis Robinson. Acknowledging that the vintage was hugely criticised, Paillard says that for him, “it’s a great vintage”. Another elusive grower champagne rounds off our list. Jancis Robinson hailed the 2005 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvée as “a wine to wallow in”, praising its complexity and “refreshing finish”.
Also featured in the list of 21 Champagne MUST BUYs for 2021 are: 2006 Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon Rosé, 2008 Bollinger Grande Année, 2002 Bollinger Grande Année, 2002 Dom Pérignon P2, 1990 Krug Collection, 2004 Larmandier-Bernier Vieilles Vignes de Levant, 2000 Louis Roederer Cristal, 2009 Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Fleuron Brut Blanc de Blancs, 2006 Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, 2002 Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, 2006 Salon Le Mesnil, 2002 Salon Le Mesnil, 2004 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, and 2007 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 was released yesterday (1st October) at c.£89 (per bottle in-bond), marking one of the last 2008s from the “Grandes Maisons” to enter the market. The release has reignited discussion on the success of the vintage in Champagne, which has been declared one of the best of the decade along with 2002. Below we investigate top 2008s, and where the latest addition from Taittinger fits within them.
Characterised by a consistent, dry, and cool growing season, climatic conditions in 2008 encouraged slow veraison across Champagne, which enabled grapes to achieve their full phenolic maturity while retaining acidity. The combination of both gives the vintage considerable ageing potential, and unyielding structural integrity.
As illustrated above, the top 10 2008 champagnes by WL score exhibit impressive quality, with the top three wines gaining scores of 97 and above. This has not been achieved in the past four vintages, with Krug Brut Vintage 2003 being the most recent back vintage of a champagne to achieve a WL score of 97. Indeed, the top 10 champagnes gain an average WL score of 95.8 in 2008, compared to an average of 94.6 across the top 10 champagnes from the previous vintage.
The newest addition to the top 10 haul, Taittinger Comtes 2008 shows good value within the wider context of the vintage, despite entering the market at a 26% premium on the current market price of its 2007 vintage. While achieving the same WL score as MUST BUY Philipponat Clos des Goisses 2008 (96), Taittinger’s latest release is available for 34% less, (£89 vs. £135 per bottle in-bond). Similarly, it achieves one more WL point than Bollinger Grand Année 2008 (available for £85 per bottle in-bond), for a very slight premium.
Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni awards Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 98+ points, stating it “is simply breathtaking” and “represents the purest essence of the Côtes des Blancs in a great, historic vintage”. He concludes, “readers who can find the 2008 should not hesitate”.
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne is historically one of the top 10 most liquid champagne brands, giving it further investment appeal. Additionally, Taittinger announced that it has not produced any 2009, 2010, or 2011 Comtes de Champagne, due to poor weather conditions during these years – a fact that may well increase interest in this latest release.
Also featured in the list of top 10 2008 Champagnes by WL score are: Salon Le Mesnil, Cristal, Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut, Marc Hébrart Spécial Club Millésimé, Joseph Perrier Cuvée Josephine, De Sousa Cuvée des Caudalies, and Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
If 2020 has given any gift at all, it would be time at home, which many have used to read more, and learn new things on topics familiar and foreign. Today’s blog helps you discover the unique stories behind some of the world’s most recognisable wines. Read on below to discover beyond the label of these notable names.
Krug – Cracking the code
Beyond its reputation as one of the most admired Champagne brands, Krug has also pioneered an industry innovation: Krug iD. Since 2011, a six-digit “identification code” has been printed on the back label of every Krug bottle. Scanning the code with a smartphone gives drinkers access to the unique story of the individual bottle, including a vintage report, as well as offering food pairing suggestions, and recommendations for its storage and serving.
Photo credit: lvmh.com
Aside from its technical innovation, the quality of Krug is simply undeniable. The latest NV Krug Brut Grand Cuvée (168ème Édition) achieves MUST BUY status, and receives a score of 19/20 from Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson, who notes a “remarkable acidity underpinned by great depth of flavour and beautiful balance on the finish”. It is available to purchase by the bottle from Crump, Richmond & Shaw Fine Wines for £133 (in-bond).
Cheval Blanc – Cultivation experimentation
Saint-Emilion superstar, Cheval Blanc, has illustrated significant long-term investment in its viticulture in recent years. Initiated by Managing Director, Pierre Lurton, the estate has conducted countless soil analyses, viticultural experiments, and regular phenological surveys to establish the best grape variety for each of its three different terroirs (gravel over clay, deep gravel, and sand over clay). Experiments have tested each possible variation of soil type for the Bordeaux varietals used in Cheval Blanc – 52% Cabernet Franc, 43% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon – to establish which combination delivers the best quality of fruit. Indeed, the château found its plot of sandy terroir to be particularly well suited to Cabernet Franc, providing a reference point for the best that can be achieved with the grape in Bordeaux.
Released en primeur in July this year, the 2019 Cheval Blanc was awarded 18 points from Jancis Robinson, who describes it as “beautifully poised on the palate with a density of fruit and silky texture of finely matted tannins. Pure, seductive and persistent”. It can be bought by the case of six for £2,400 (in-bond) from Farr Vintners.
Bond – Truth in terroir
With grapes sourced from select hillside plots across Napa Valley, Bond’s portfolio of Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines aims to reflect each wine’s specific sense of place. The estate owns five sites featuring some of the region’s best terroirs, and has dedicated its viticultural practice to preserving the best expression of its individual plots; Melbury, Pluribus, Quella, St. Eden, and Vecina.
The fruit from each site is vinified separately, while winemaking procedures are kept the same across all of the Bond wines in order to honour terroir differences. The Vecina vineyard, for instance, sits on volcanic soil at between 221 and 330 feet above sea level, causing a thermal amplitude of cool nights and hot afternoons, which renders its wines complex and layered, with concentrated tannins. The 2015 Bond Vecina was awarded 97 points from Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni (Vinous), who indeed describes it as “super-expressive. A big, dense wine, the 2015 possesses stunning richness and dimension”. It is available by the bottle for £443 (in-bond) from Fine+Rare Wines.
A line-up of Bond wines, that communicate the differences in the estate’s Napa Valley sites.
Ornellaia – An artist’s interpretation
Outside its global renown as a reference for quality in Tuscany, Ornellaia also stands out for its own special label tradition. Established in 2006, the estate’s annual artist program, Vendemmia d’Artista, commissions a new artist each year for the creation of the limited-edition label, inspired by a single word chosen by winemaker, Axel Heinz, to capture the essence of the new vintage. The latest release (2017) was named “Solare” due to the especially hot growing season, in which both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes were harvested as early as August for the first time in history. This inspired contemporary artist, Tomás Saraceno’s label design (below).
Photo credit: ornellaia.com
Awarding the Ornellaia 2017 97 points, Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni describes it as “sumptuous and racy, as Ornellaias from warmer years tend to be, but it is not at all heavy or overdone. In a word: superb!”. The vintage can be bought by the case of six from Justerini & Brooks for £765 (in-bond).
The four above-mentioned wineries provide just a small handful of innovative and engaging examples of how to make a wine stand out from the crowd. Wine Lister has launched a dedicated PR and communications service in order to help more producers do the same on the UK market. To find out more, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With so many interesting offers coming in from different merchants, it can be tricky to keep track of what wine you have, let alone where it is, and when it should be drunk. To help you get the most out of your wine collection, Wine Lister has opened up its data analysis and fine wine expertise to private clients, who can now commission all kinds of portfolio analysis, from detailed geographical split and purchase advice, to investment forecasting and a fully-fledged “drink vs. sell” plan.
Wine Lister’s “fantasy cellar”
The current list of Wine Lister MUST BUYs – wines showing notable quality and value within their respective vintages and appellations, and wide praise from the international trade – is 1,728 picks strong. While the Wine Lister team would love to own (and enjoy) all of them, below is a short selection to be put away and enjoyed at their best in five, ten, and twenty years, respectively.
Riesling to reserve
With remarkable ageing potential, and good value across the board, Riesling constitutes a brilliant white addition to any wine collection. To be opened within ten years, the 2018 A. Christmann Idig Riesling Grosses Gewächs hails from Germany’s famed Mosel, and is described by Wine Lister partner critic, Jancis Robinson as “the thinking-person’s Riesling”. She notes the “understatement of individual components” in the wine, “which allows the taster to focus on balance and elegance”. Creeping over the border into the Alsace, where Riesling tends to be drier in style, Albert Mann’s 2008 Schlossberg l’Epicentre is ready but will improve – offering optimum enjoyment within the next five years. Another Alsatian, the 2010 Marcel Deiss Altenberg de Bergheim can endure another 20 years of ageing, also providing a reliable white to add to any cellar. Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni, describes its “perfumed aromas of nectarine, apple blossom, minerals and honey”, calling it “vibrant and penetrating”. With notable value for their quality, the three Rieslings achieve a shared WL score of 96, at £54, £98, and £59 per bottle (in bond), respectively. For something to stash away, the latter is available by the case of six from Millésima UK.
Burgundy on standby
Louis Jadot Corton Charlemagne 2012 is a similarly reliable white to be stored in the cellar, achieving a WL score of 95 at £126 per bottle (in-bond). Barrel-fermented and aged for a further eight to ten months in 100% new oak barrels, the wine has developed complexity and enhanced ageing potential. Production in 2012 was kept notably small – indeed winemaker Frédéric Barnier states, “it is critical to control the yields in Corton-Charlemagne to make a wine of real Grand Cru quality.” It can be purchased by the case of 12 from Fine+Rare Wines, and can be opened within five years. Burgundy also offers an abundance of reds with promising ageing potential, including the 2010 Sylvie Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jacques, and the 2012 Vougeraie Corton Clos Du Roi. Both wines achieve a WL score of 95, at £192 and £90 per bottle (in-bond), respectively.
Champagne to store
A sure pick to pop open within five years, the 2002 Louis Roederer Cristal was aged on lees for six years, before being matured for a further eight years in bottle after its disgorgement in 2009. Wine Lister partner critic, Jeannie Cho Lee notes that it is a “gorgeous Cristal with a fine line of acidity running through it – it vibrates on the palate”. With a WL score of 96, at £192 per bottle (in-bond), it is available in cases of three from Vinum Fine Wines. With an identical WL score of 96, the 2008 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses can be acquired by the case of six for £850 (in bond) from Justerini & Brooks, to be enjoyed within the next decade.
New World to wait for
For some New World picks that are worth putting away for the future, Napa Valley offerings include the 2005 Bond Vecina (owned by the famed Harlan family) and the 2010 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia. In regards to the former, Antonio Galloni stated that he would “prefer to cellar it, as the future for this wine is unquestionably very, very bright”. With a WL score of 97, at £347 per bottle (in-bond) it is an opulent option to be enjoyed within the next twenty years. Of the 2010 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia, Galloni states similarly that “the 2010 will enjoy a long drinking window once it softens”. Achieving a WL score of 96, at £158 per bottle (in-bond), it is available in cases of six from Goedhuis & Co.
Also featured in the above MUST BUY recommendations are: 2016 Cheval des Andes, 2016 La Conseillante, 2015 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve, 2015 Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage, 2012 Marc Sorrel Hermitage Le Gréal, 2009 Margaux, 2007 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio, 2006 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Unico, 2006 Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco, 2006 Gaja Barolo Sperss, and 1996 Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande.
For personalised, impartial fine wine purchase recommendations, as well as further wine collection analysis, get in touch with our team at email@example.com, or download the full Cellar Analysis information pack.
The global pandemic caused considerable losses to the Champagne industry, with estimations that its sales depleted by more than 75% at the height of lockdown. While we have lacked cause for celebration over the past quarter, parts of the world are now returning to a new normal, with restaurants and bars gradually reopening. It is time to raise a toast to our favourite fizz.
To guide those buying at every level, we have compiled a selection of Champagne MUST BUYs at five different price points.
Under £50 – 2009 Pierre Gimonnet et fils Fleuron Brut Blanc de Blancs
Pierre Gimonnet et Fils is an original member of the Club Trésors de Champagne, which, founded in 1971 by 12 longstanding producers, now includes 29 grower Champagne houses that produce, bottle, and age their wine on-site. Currently managed by third-generation vignerons, Didier and Olivier Gimonnet, the property owns 28 hectares of vineyards around the Côte des Blancs. Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, the estate’s “Fleuron” is produced solely in excellent years, from grapes selected in the best plots of each vineyard. At £30 per bottle (in-bond), the 2009 Pierre Gimonnet et fils Fleuron Brut Blanc de Blancs was described as “absolutely fabulous” by Wine Lister partner critic, Antonio Galloni. A “tropically-leaning expression of fruit marries with the classic Gimonnet emphasis on tension”, Galloni adds. The 2009 is available to purchase in magnum form from Armit Wines.
Under £75 – 2007 Bollinger Grande Année rosé
Added to the estate’s portfolio in 1976, then manager, Lily Bollinger, agreed to the production of a rosé under one condition – it had to be extraordinary. Only made in the best vintages, the 2007 Bollinger Grande Année Rosé comprises a blend of 72% Pinot Noir and 28% Chardonnay, was fermented entirely in barrels, and aged under natural cork. With a WL score of 93 at £65 per bottle (in-bond), it promises impressive ageing potential. Having tasted the 2007 in 2019, Tim Jackson for JancisRobinson.com notes its “chalky texture with red and black cherry, some orange-citrus and plenty of nutty lees”. The 2007 Bollinger Grande Année rosé is available to purchase by the case from Berry Bros & Rudd.
Under £150 – 2004 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses
At £99 per bottle (in-bond), the 2004 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses achieves a WL score of 96. Clos des Goisses is Philipponnat’s flagship cuvée, produced from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay grapes. Grapes are selected from Philipponnat’s walled Mareuil-sur-Ay vineyard, which, at a 45-degree slant, ensures the optimum ripening of Pinot Noir grapes in Champagne’s cool climate. Julia Harding for JancisRobinson.com notes that there is “a toasty richness on the palate, even a slight note of char and chamomile”, calling it a “complex and unfolding wine that cannot be rushed if you want to enjoy its multi-layered character”. The 2004 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses can be purchased by the case from Fine + Rare Wines.
Under £300 – NV Jacques Selosse Blanc de Noirs Le Côte Faron
Founded in 1949, Jacques Selosse is now run by Jacques’s son, Anselme who took over from his father in 1974. Anselme has been praised for instigating a welcomed change in Champagne, encouraging producers to embrace new ideas of low yields, chemical-free vineyards, and terroir-focussed wines. Having implemented a reduction of yields and organic farming within his own production, Jacques Selosse now produces some of the most sought-after wines from the region. Made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes grown in a single vineyard, La Côte Faron in the village of Aÿ, Jacques Selosse’s NV Blanc de Noirs costs £235 per bottle (in-bond). Antonio Galloni names it “a Champagne of total and pure sensuality”, with “tons of textural resonance”. It is available to purchase by the bottle (in-bond) from BI Fine Wines.
Over £400: 2002 Salon Le Mesnil
At £458 per bottle (in-bond), the 2002 from cult Champagne house Salon Le Mesnil was aged for 11 years on lees before being disgorged and released in 2013. Produced only in exceptional years, and as a quality benchmark for pure Chardonnay Champagnes, Salon Le Mesnil’s signature is making Blanc de Blancs with grapes of extremely high acidity, facilitating extended ageing and consequential complexity. The 2002 Salon Le Mesnil earned a rare 19.5 points from Jancis Robinson, who last tasted it in 2019. She describes it as “rich and nuanced on the palate”, featuring “tertiary notes underneath, with some hay and then real grip on the end. Very long with a fascinating narrative”. There appears to be some availability of the 2002 vintage at Goedhuis & Co.
French readers can find this blog in French translation on Le Figaro Vin’s website.
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In 2004, WL partner critic Jancis Robinson published an article, “Pink champagne – fashionable but too often dire”, whose title summarises the contemporaneous consensus surrounding rosé Champagne. Long-regarded by Champagne producers as a subsidiary wine – one without the required levels of attention placed on their primary project – its quality often fell short.
15 years later, in September 2019, Robinson conversely wrote a piece titled “Pink champagne – a serious wine now”, outlining the attentive methods of production, and the consequential calibre of rosé Champagne amongst its top producers.
This week’s blog post investigates the victorious return of rosé Champagne, as we examine the upward quality and price trends across 10 of its top brands when compared to their white counterparts.
The chart above shows the average WL Score and average price for “pairs” of wines from 10 top rosé Champagne producers whose range includes a rosé.
An initial look at the selected wines reveals the recurrent pattern of rosé Champagnes costing more than their white counterparts, with the exception of Krug Rosé, Bollinger Grande Année Rosé, and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé. The mean price difference between the two styles of the respective wines is substantial nonetheless, with rosé Champagne costing 46% more on average than its white equivalent (an average of £195 for rosé and £134 for white).
Excluding Pol Roger’s Rosé and Bollinger’s Grande Année Rosé (whose white equivalents supersede them by one WL point), the rosé Champagnes featured above achieve equivalent or higher WL Scores than their white counterparts.
Cristal Rosé is a blend of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay grapes. With a WL Score of 96, at an average price of £401 (per bottle in-bond), this wine is almost double the price of Cristal, which has a WL Score of 95 at £203. Consequential of the generally lower yields of Pinot Noir in continental conditions, Cristal Rosé is Louis Roederer’s rarest and thus most expensive wine, produced solely in years when the grapes have attained perfect maturity.
Similarly made in only exceptional vintages, Dom Pérignon Rosé is considered by its producer to characterise its growing year, hence the fluctuating ratio of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from vintage to vintage. With a WL Score of 96, at an average price of £277 (per bottle in-bond), Dom Pérignon Rosé is over double the price of its white counterpart. Dom Pérignon Vintage Brut has an average price of £131 and has one less WL Score point than its corresponding rosé wine.
As indicated by its Vintage Value Identifier chart, the 2002 Dom Perignon Rosé exhibits significant quality and value, with a WL Score of 98. Jancis Robinson awarded this wine 20/20 (a rare occurrence), describing it as “pungent and composed with massive energy” – a far cry from her 2004 article. Rosé Champagne has most definitely made a comeback.
The 2002 Dom Pérignon Rosé can be purchased from Berry Bros & Rudd, where a case of three starts at £1,200 (in-bond).