Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bulles Bio 2016 – Copenhagen Edition

A must for real Champagne lovers. 
 
Date: 29th of October 2016
Time: 11:00-17:00
Location: Kunsthal Charlottenborg. Nyhavn 2, 1051 Copenhagen K
Price: DKK 250,- (approx: €34)

Tickets:

Producers:  
 
Champagne Barbichon
Champagne Barrat-Masson
Champagne Bourgeois Diaz
Champagne Bruno Michel
Champagne Charles Dufour
Champagne David Léclapart
Champagne Durdon-Bouval
Champagne Fleury
Champagne Georges Laval
Champagne Lelarge Pugeot

Champagne Marguet
Champagne Pascal Doquet
Champagne Ruffin
Champagne Ruppert-Leroy
Champagne Thomas Perseval
Champagne Val'Frison
Champagne Vincent Couche
Champagne Vouette-et-Sorbée

See you there.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

2008 Jérôme Prévost “Les Béguines”

How do we inspire each other when it comes to wine?

There is the somewhat odd accountant exercise; we call the Tasting Note, where we put together the fragmented pieces into a final result. I hate it – yet I have done it thousand of times before and continue to do it. It’s the poor mans version of an individual emotional experience, which somehow only tells the story of what we can measure and weigh.

So I end up in the same blind alley as everyone else. Yet sometimes – like yesterday - I can’t hold back the experience I had. I want to share. I want to inspire.  Don’t we all? I think most of us know that fragmenting wine is ridiculous.  The real mojo of wine lies in the things we can’t explain. 

Before I take you into my Champagne experience, I should write a small disclaimer.

For some Champagne growers and I am no way neutral, when I share my opinion. Why should I? I am not your consumer guide, but merely a kind of diary storyteller on wine. I like to think of true wine lovers as constant subjective individuals, emotional effected by all the impressions they have obtained. When it comes wine, we should throw away reason and embrace chaos.

A glass of Champagne from Jérôme Prévost is not just a bubbly neutral thing, which I can compare neutrally with wine A to Z.  It’s the work of a dear friend. Jérôme have showed my so much kindness and made me understand how he thinks.
There is laugh, joy and inspiration stored in my memories and I constantly wish I could visit him more often. I want you all to know how gifted Jérôme are and how he like no other can tame the Pinot Meunier grape.

Just one thing more. I have often said, that I really don’t pay much attention to vintages. It’s not that I think it’s both important and educational to know as much as possible about each vintage. Vintages are fascinating in terms of how unforeseeable nature is and how dramatic each growing season can be. I am just saying, that sometimes we, as consumers, miss out on the smaller vintages because we are constantly trying to cherry pick. Small vintages are not to be missed, as they often just add to the diverse understanding of wine.

But here it’s the other way round. The glorified 2008 vintage in Champagne. So can it (and Jérôme) live up to the expectations or was it just another overhyping coincidence?


Recently I have become somewhat allergic to Champagne with some age. Allergic is a strong word. I know. But the more Champagne I drink, the more I see myself drawn to the youthful side of Champagne. I will hopefully come back to this in other thread, where I will illustrate my thoughts on; “Young”, “Mature” and “Old-Champagne”.

2008 Jérôme Prévost, La Closerie “Les Béguines”

Blend: 100% Pinot Meunier
Terroir: Sand & Calcareous elements
Vinification: Oak 450- to 600-liter barrels
Age of vines: 45 years old
Location: Village of Gueux – located west of Reims.
Dosage: 1-2 g/l.
Glass: Zalto “White Wine”

When I opened the 2008 "Les Béguines" I immediately detected some classic notes of mature Champagne. Some autolysis notes came forward, presenting themselves rather conservative with its notes of dark bread, touch of mild caramel and hazelnuts. The more Champagne I drink – the more tiresome I find these secondary notes, as they are rather monotone and overpowering both terroir, freshness and singularity.

But it took about 30 seconds before all of my reservations were proved wrong. Like the sun burned away the morning mist, the last drops of funky aromas were cleared. Underneath a landscape of beauty unfolded. Never ever have I smelled such sophistication from Pinot Meunier. We are again at a level, where it makes no sense to fragment the Champagne and list each note. Once again I am even sure I can get them right and I paid only attention to the superb balance of this Champagne. You had all imaginable things in play here. A super rich Champagne, filled to the brim with the most healthy fruit zest you can image. You feel these fruit driven notes all the way from nose – to the tip of the tongue  - to the finish line, were it delivers so much sizzling energy, clarity and acidity kick. 
They are all kinds of herbs and spices flying around and lots of them have Asian roots. The oak is present – but just filling in superb roundness and highlighting how complex it is. You sense it has some evolvement present, but just with small pockets of oxidation. No way near a nutty nightmare, but it felt more like the aromas from when you toss in freshly churned butter in a bowl of pasta.

But here comes the interesting part. I rested (or should I say, hid1/3 of the Champagne from my wife) and returned 2 hours later.  The Champagne has completely contracted. Where it before felt like a Champagne just entering a perfect maturity window, it now felt like a one year old Champagne. The deeper and rounder notes, where replaced by freshly squeezed green apple juice. The clarity was even higher, still so complex and constantly fired up with a frightfully high acidity.

Completely insane Champagne and by far the finest "Les Béguines" I have ever tasted.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

2010 Cédric Bouchard “Le Creux d’Enfer”

This Friday I hosted a Champagne tasting for my old wine club.

It’s always an extra treat to taste wine with these guys. Though we have our individual preferences we seemed to have joined forces in the appreciation of elegant and lighter wines. We all love to share our designated preferences, but none of us claim to know the true meaning of wine. I regard these rare tasting occasions as the perfect window to share -inspire and be inspired.

Fridays theme was Champagne + a few extras
  
2012 Benoît Déhu “La Rue des Noyers”
2010 Cédric Bouchard “La Bolorée”
2013 Vouette & Sorbeé “Textures”
2010 Cédric Bouchard “Le Creux d’Enfer”
2010 Jacques Lassaigne “Tirade Rosé”
2008 Agrapart “Venus”
2008 Georges Laval “Les Chênes”
2008 Cédric Bouchard “La Haute-Lemblé”
2011 Benoît Lahaye “Le Jardin de la grosse Pierre”
2010 Jacques Lassaigne “”Autour de Minuit”
1999 Jacques Selosse “Vintage”

Bonus

2001 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino “Case Basse”
2001 Poggio di Sotto “Il Decnnale


I want to focus on one Champagne in particular, which took us all into wonderland.


2010 Cédric Bouchard “Le Creux d’Enfer”

Blend: 100% Pinot Noir
Terroir: Argilo-Calcaire
Vineyard: 0,032ha  - Lieu-dit west-facing parcel planted in 1994.
Style: Crushed by foot – maceration “Saignée method”
Viciculture: Organic
Dosage: Zero
Production: approx. 550 bottles
Disgorgement: April-2014
Glass: Zalto White Wine

The Champagnes from Cédric Bouchard have never been about a check-box exercise, were you end up with a long list of aromatic notes. Fragmenting is in general irrelevant in my opinion and with Cédric’s Champagnes it’s completely pointless. They always play on a feeling were you focus much more of the overall personality of the Champagne. “Le Creux d’Enfer” is no exception. Sure you have notes of verbena, mild liquorice, roses and some boysenberry. However I am not really sure I got those notes right and it doesn’t really matter. Because the Champagne is the most fragile, complex and delicate Rosé I have ever tasted. “Le Creux d’Enfer” have that sublime perfumes of  “red” and a touch of saltiness, which makes it so appealing. Despite its insane seductive appeal it makes it’s impression with no noise at all. Its understated character signals so much class and fuels it’s graceful profile.
The balance….talk about balance. Never ever have I tasted a rosé with such harmony. The low pressure of Cédric Champages naturally suppresses the bubbles and it’s feeding an almost silky and luxurious mouth feel.

Probably the best rosé Champagne I have ever tasted.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Textures"

Few would argue, that Vouette & Sorbée have always been one of the most significant Producers in the Côte des Bars. In short Vouette & Sorbée are Bertrand Gautherot. I have met him a few times before – but I can’t say that I know him that well. I sensed, from my fist meeting in 2009, that he was a man with deep influence in heart and mind by the rhythm of nature. He is also an earlier mover towards biodynamic winegrowing. Nor is he afraid of speaking his mind and highlighting some of the obvious contrasts in Champagne.

In terms of the Champagnes from Vouette & Sorbée - their strength have always been a striking intensity. Vouette & Sorbée are right in your face Champagne.  V&S are one of the only producers I buy nowadays with a clear intend of actually cellaring. Cellaring brings out so many nuances in these Champagnes and tames the oak.

This especially goes for "Blanc d’Argile" (100% Chardonnay). A super intense Kimmeridgian soil Champagne, which I bought already from 2004 vintage. Back then the cellaring didn’t improve the wine, as the oak overpowered the fruit with age. Now (from 2006) it’s the other way round. 

The 100% Pinot Noir Carbonic maceration Rosé “Saignée de Sorbée” has always been a beast. A super structured Champagne, with notes iron and Campari. Born for food pairing and it  needs at least 4-5 years in the cellar for my palate.  

The entry-level Champagne; “Fidele" (100% Pinot Noir) might be more forward, but recent vintages have showed a more reserved wine when young.

So when you thought you had everything covered and has laid out the perfect profile on Vouette & Sorbée, Bertrand turns everything upside-down with “Textures”


2013 Vouette & Sorbée ”Textures”


Blend: 100% Pinot Blanc
Soil: I am guessing Portlandian and Kimmeridgian
Vineyard: Pinot Blanc planted in 2000
Viciculture: Bio (Demeter since 1998)
Vinification: 3months in Tonneaux and 6months in Georgian amphora
Dosage: Zero
Disgorged: 28th of October 2015
Glass: Zalto White Wine

I first tasted "Textures" at Bulles Bio in Reims and was blown away.  In July, I shared it with friends in the South of France under very relaxed conditions. The third time was about 3 weeks ago. Once again I was in the magic zone.  

To me this is greatest Champagne Bertrand have ever produced. Somehow it makes perfect sense that Bertrand should make this cuvée. Not because amphora is en vouge, nor because Pinot Blanc is exotic.

No! – Textures simply takes you directly into the Vouette & Sorbée engine room. It’s the purest juice I have ever encountered from Bertrand . It’s feels like drinking directly from the press and it’s as fresh as a Vin Clair. The amphora acts not only as a clarity guarantee, but also as an enhancer membrane, which spins the utterly pure juice into a sophisticated texture. The name is actually spot on. The aromatic notes goes into the direction of dried banana, candied citrus fruits, pear zest and lime. The taste is utterly divine, super precise and elegant. WOW!. 

I have no idea how long it can cellar – but who can resist it now?  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Benoît Déhu


I first discovered Benoît Déhu back in 2014. Déhu was (and still is) part of the “Origines” group, which are among many of the tastings you can visit, in what we now know as the Champagne week in April.


Origines are a group very friendly people, good intend, curiousness and the willingness to be inspired. However, back in 2014 I witness way too much Chaptalization. Of course I am rudely generalizing (forgive me), but on that day, the bone dry 2011 (1g/l dosage)“La Rue des Noyers” was easy to fall in love with.    

Dehu also served some still wines at Origines. They were pretty bold in character and might have had a bit too much wood infusion – yet quit intense for Coteaux Champenois. I will have to re-taste these wines someday.

Since then – I have tasted the 2011 “La Rue des Noyers” on several occasions and have always appreciated it. It’s a Champagne, which combines the sophisticated side of Pinot Meunier, which has its roots in high pitched energy and spices. It’s far from the heavy and baroque style of Meunier, which is really not my thing.  

“La Rue des Noyers” has a phenomenal linear energy, which is intensified by a singing clarity. In 2011 the Champagne is obviously greener and herbal – which is typical for the vintage. However somehow it works here, though I believe that the 2011 should be drunk young.

Almost since I first tasted the 2011 - I have been eager for the 2012 to be released. It happened earlier this year and a few days ago I tasted it. 



2012 Benoît Déhu “La Rue des Noyers”

Blend: 100% Pinot Meunier
Soil: Black limestone
Vineyard: 1,7ha in Fossoy (roughly 57 km west of Reims)
Vines: 40-45 years old
Viticulture: Bio
Vinification: Oak 228L (comes from local forrest in Fossoy). No Malo
Dosage: Zero
Production: 2.000 bottles
Disgorgement: 14 October 2015
Glass: Zalto White Wine.

The nose is really tense and packed with dynamite young juice.  The 2012 are a sizzling fruit sensation, which feels like small frozen crystallized particles waiting to defrost and explode. Normally you would rarely hear me say, that a Champagne is too young. There is always something to learn and explore from a youthful Champagne and in fact - 9 out of 10 times I prefer a young Champagne. 

But this is really youthful. But goddamn I would still recommend you take a dive here as it’s, filled with lime zest, flowers, apples and mint. In the background you have a slight smokey touch from the oak, which is in perfect harmony, as the fruit overload is so massive.  The taste is awesome, both in terms of purity, energy and a nerve-wrecking acidity.

Hunt it, if you can find it.

P.s. Dehu Also makes a cuvée called “Le Pythie”, which I have yet to taste.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Images from 2016 Terres et vins de Champagne


(Bottles from reception)
(Lahaye red)
(4 X Champagne)
(1975 Suenen)
(3 happy ladies)
(Pascal Agrapart)
(Olivier Paulet)
(Sebastien Crozatier)
(Benoît Tarlant)
(Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy)
(Restaurant Lallement)
(Zalto Champagne)
(Cristine)
(Mélanie Tarlant)
(Olivier Paulet)
(Emmanuel Brochet)
(Françoise Bedel)
(Aurélien Suenen)
(Raphaël Bérèche)
(Raphaël Bérèche)
(Tasters)
(Vincent Laval)
(Pascal Agrapart)
(Fabrice Pouillon)
(Alexandre Chartogne)
(Vincent Bedel)
(Notes)
(Zalto and lady)
(David Léclapart)
(Dominique Moreau)
(Franck Pascal)
(Françoise Bedel)

(Bottles)
(Barrel)
(Vincent Bérèche)
(Palais du Tau à Reims)
(Palais du Tau à Reims)
(Palais du Tau à Reims)
(Palais du Tau à Reims)
(Olivier Horiot - check out that T-shirt)
(Aurélien Laherte - "The Gladiator")
(Zalto "White Wine" glasses)
(Palais du Tau à Reims)
(Vicent Laval)
(Emmanuel Brochet)
(Alexandre Chartogne)
(Palais du Tau à Reims)
(Françoise Bedel)
(Aurélien Suenen)
(Aurélien Suenen)
(Vicent Laval)
(Vicent Laval)
(David Léclapart)
(Mélanie Tarlant)
(Pascal Agrapart)
(Pascal Agrapart)
((Pascal Agrapart))
(Vicent Laval)
(Alexandre Chartogne)
(Evelina)
(Raphaël Bérèche)
(Taster)
(Tasting room)
(Benoît Tarlant)
(Dominique Moreau)
(Etienne Goutorbe)
(Vicent Couche)
(Vicent Couche)
(Benoìt Lahaye)
(Marie-Noëlle Ledru)
(Tasting room)
(Zalto)
(Zalto)

(Pascal Doquet)
(Emmanuel Brochet)
(Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy with daughter)
(Delphine Boulard)
(David Léclapart)
(Benoìt Lahaye)
(Christine)
(Benoìt Lahaye)
(Cyril Jeaunaux)
(Chartogne bottles)
(Benoît Tarlant)
(Olivier Horiot)


They can also be found here: http://thomasiversenphotography.com

THANK YOU!!! to Terres et vins de Champagne for giving me the honor to be the official photographer.
Secondly for the “Terres et  vins special prize”. I still can’t believe I won it. I am humble and honored. Big hug from me to all of you.
Below are some technical comments on how the images came to life.
About the images.
Although there are a few pics from the pre-reception at L'Assiette Champenoise it’s more some detailed comments on the actual tasting on Monday the 18th of April I want to focus on.
Shooting the images for the 2016 Terres et vins de Champagne, was from technical point of view, my worst nightmare – and yet – also the most fascinating photography task, I have ever carried out.
I already knew from last year, where I also shot a few images, that the beautiful room at Palais de Tau á Reims was a challenge. It’s a big room with huge windows, but only at one side of the room. There is only ambient light, which I in general appreciate – but there is not enough of it. Had I done my research right, I could have had a few good hints. You see, the influence of the sun gets stronger and stronger as the day passes. At the end of the tasting you have the best light, as the sun is at a low positing and directly facing the building. However you can manage to shoot 450 images with 30minutes to go.
The biggest problem is the huge exposure to backlight, as almost half of the producers where facing their back to the windows. Backlit images with silhouettes can be really beautiful – especially if you can tell the shape of the person and in this case - knows the shape on the producer in the frame. But it requires that there is only one person in the frame. Last year this was much easier, as the producers where standing close to the windows without any people behind them. However this year, the setting of the tasting tables was different, so the produces facing their backs to windows had their backs to those producers facing their faces to the windows. With all the people present it I found it impossible to get an interesting silhouette shot. What to do? You use a flash. But I hate flash images and I am not good with it - plus it makes my camera even bulkier to carry around. You can also overexpose (which I have done on the image of Franck Pascal), but you invite a lot of ISO noise, which I don’t like. The other half of the producers was facing the windows, but there was another problem as they were surrounded by a lot of enthusiastic wine people, who sort of stole some of the light. What was sort of left to work with was a clear light shining on the producer’s faces, but fairly quickly faded behind and underneath them. This created a fantastic opportunity. You see if you just shot the images with a normal exposure you would burn out the highlights in their faces – so they ended up looking likes white ghosts. In theory you need to change the way the camera judges the light – from “evaluating” to “spot” or “partial”. But I am not so comfortable with these setting, so I chose another direction. Instead I had to underexpose and really use the maximum capacity of my lens. By doing this – their faces were balanced. Lowering the aperture has the advantage to set dynamic focus on the object (mainly the producers) and away from the crowd. The low aperture: f/1,6 <> f/1,2 plus underexposing by 2/3 <> 1 stop lowered the shutter speed and ISO noise. The result was a completely blurred dark background with an incredible soft light. Of course shooting at so low aperture will cost you a lot of images, which is not sharp. You will have to settle with 1 out of 5 will be fairly sharp. By having so much dark dynamic raw material to work with – especially in portraits you will have to do very little postproduction. Converting most of them to black & white created even more graphic and contrast.  
I also took the opportunity to shoot some of the producers outside, where there was a clear bright spring light. I used a small balcony, just outside the tasting room, which provides great shadow and contrast to work with. I tried not to disturb the producers needed break or lunch. But I reckon that at times I was like the annoying paparazzi. Forgive me. 
/Thomas