An interesting tasting last night. Champagne Jacquart winemaker Floriane Eznack brought over some vins clairs for a special tasting with a group of bloggers. The venue was the celebrated Soho haunt Kettners (where Oscar Wilde, no less, once drank).
Vins clairs are the base wines from which Champagne is made. Usually a number of different wines - often but not exclusively Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - from a number of different vintages are vinified on their own, blended together and then bottled with yeasts to produce the famous second fermentation (which makes the bubbles).
Usually the only people to taste vins clairs are winemakers. They are very acidic, raw wines and as Floriane said, 'not great fun to taste'. But they are very interesting - in the same way to see a painter mix paints or a songwriter mix different instruments as a prelude to creating a landscape or soundscape is interesting. We tasted 5 of them; here are my notes in brief:
Pinot Meunier 2011
Pinky hue. All vinified in stainless steel. Masses of plummy fruit. Lychee. From northern Montagne de Reims. Think biting into unripe plum skins? Will be kept for future years' reserve wines.
Pinot Noir from gr cru mailly 2011
Discernable pink to it. Much more restrained nose, much more classy. Really quite tasty despite the acidity. Smoky, flint chara. Mailly is one of the crus which goes into Brut de Nominée.
Chardonnay from avizes and oger
Typical green hints, cloudy. Ferociously acidic!
Chardonnay 2010 chouilly
Already easier to taste than the most recent vint.
Pinot meunier 2008.
Wacko nose - savoury almost like a twiglet. Nice development. Quite stately.
Floriane has just completed, with her team of winemakers at Jacquart, the blend of Brut Mosaique from last vintage - it took 4 months! Recipe is 40% Chardonnay 35% Pinot Noir 25% Pinot Meunier. About 20-30 percent of the finished wine was made up of reserve wines from 2010/09/08.
And so we began to understand the complex process that the winemaker goes through, calling on all the tools at their disposal to make the most consistent, high quality wine. Fascinating, but we were quite relieved to move onto a glass of the finished Mosaique afterwards!