Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV

Disgorged 04/2012.

A photograph of soil underpinned by chalk on this wine’s label certainly makes the point; Laherte Frères positions as a grower-maker wishing to express terroir in its Champagnes. As part of this, dosages are low and, in the case of this wine, zero. To compensate, fruit is allowed to ripen further than is customary.

This technique comes through clearly on the nose, which communicates an impression of slightly candied citrus one might mistake for added sugar. It’s certainly not a bone dry experience, all technicalities aside. On the nose, quite pretty and citrus-driven, with undercurrents of baked bread and overtones of florals. Moderately complex and willfully refreshing.

The palate is lively and fresh, showing a level of effervescence that, for my taste, is a little over the top. A strong line of grapefruit juice drives down the line and, as with the nose, it shows fruit sweetness that is both fun and a bit simple. Some savoury complexities edge in but this is a fruit-forward expression of Champagne. Acid is firm and zingy. As such, it’s a highly appropriate celebration style and one I’d be happy to serve to a mixed crowd looking for something a bit different. For my tastes, though, I’d like to see more finesse.

Laherte Frères
Price: $A60
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

J.L. Vergnon Brut Conversation NV

A blanc de blancs made from Grand Cru fruit, this is one of a series of reasonably priced grower Champagnes I’ve been having of late, and one of the tastiest, too. Fruit comes from three villages — Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger and Avize — and the wine spends three years on lees.

The mousse is quite coarse and dissipates quickly, leaving behind an enthusiastic bead. The aromas are very much in the yeast/bread/brioche spectrum, sweet and pungent, leading into soft, pastel fruit notes. Fruit is in the citrus spectrum, and is delicately pretty.

The palate shows a wonderfully soft, creamy mouthfeel, with fine acid and well damped spritz. Flavours are again in the citrus spectrum, grapefruit mostly, with mellow peel notes, quite rounded and soft. If I’ve a criticism, it’s that fruit becomes a little blunt here, losing its lightness of touch and showing too much relaxation. Some may find this broadness delicious. Dosage seems right to me, with some sweetness evident but nothing over the top. Flavours are persistent and complex enough, especially through the after palate, where there are hints of honey alongside fresher fruit notes. A delicate finish.

With the exception of slightly too broad a countenance through its mid-palate, this is a fine and delicious wine.

J.L. Vergnon
Price: $A50
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 1985

The bottle is indeed very pretty.

To the wine’s appearance first, there’s little mousse apparent on pouring and a reticent bead thereafter; this certainly looks an aged wine. Colour is honey-gold with a pleasing richness of hue. Immediately a range of tertiary notes emerge from the glass, including a prominent browned apple note that is the clearest sign of age. The influence of oxidation isn’t overwhelming, though, and beneath it there is a complex aroma profile of citrus, mushroom, bread and an attractive nuttiness. Certainly one to smell at length.

The palate is surprisingly fresh, with good spritz in evidence and a fascinating tension between still-firm acid and a decidedly tertiary flavour profile. Cut apple is less obvious in the mouth, and the wine’s butterscotch note takes centre stage from the middle palate onwards. It’s rich and unctuous, mouthcoating in intensity and impressive in length, all the while freshened and firmed by spritz and acid. The elegance of its finish is especially fine, and I love the way caramel lingers on the tongue, becoming softer and a mere echo of itself some time after swallowing.

A nice start to an evening’s entertainment.

Price: $N/A
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial NV

We’re celebrating tonight. Chris will know why. He will also, I hope, enjoy the fact that we’re using him as an excellent excuse to have some nice wines. The irony with wines such as this is that they are incredibly fun to drink but boring to write about, as the aim is consistency, year-on-year. I shall soldier on, though, no matter how arduous the task.

Lively mousse, moderately fine bead. A lovely, fresh aroma of mushroom, yeast, citrus and some rounder, strawberry-like notes. It’s all very refined and “just so”, but never difficult and certainly savoury enough to stimulate one’s appetite for more. Balance is the key word on the palate too, with a variety of dimensions showing just enough of themselves to add complexity without dominance. Flavour profile is refreshing, with citrus, some smokiness and an impression of clean, delicate fruit. Good complexity. Mouthfeel is clean and refreshing without undue coarseness or aggressive acidity. Certainly on the finer side, and appropriately so — it’s a wine clearly weighted for immediate, joyous consumption.