February’s 29 days of Chardonnay
a collaborative project
The purity, energy, pleasure and ecology of Champagne David Léclapart
Authored by Joseph R. Di Blasi a.k.a vinosseur
The Chardonnay grape evokes thoughts of Burgundy to many, the place in France where the grape feels right at home, producing wines that at the Grand Cru level are deep, mineral and complex. They have the ability to age like a red wine, and command high prices.
To others, thoughts of California come to mind. Here the grape has also made herself at home producing great wines with a little more butter and fat on the edges. These examples also have the ability to age and command high prices.
There is one thing that these two representative Chardonnay wine styles lack, and that is carbon dioxide. That’s right, they don’t sparkle. People often forget to think about the sparkling versions of the Chardonnay hailiing from it’s other home in Champagne, France. Some of the finest and most expensive examples of this grape come from Champagne, where a wine made with Chardonnay is called a Blanc de Blancs (white of white (grapes)). Top examples are extremely fresh, deep and
mineral and have the ability to age as long as it’s Burgudian counterparts, or even longer. And they have bubbles!
Here I will focus on a small Biodynamic Champagne producer called David Leclapart and his wine called L’Amateur, made entirely from the Chardonnay grape. I have tasted this wine on many occassions, but wrote up this post on March 25th, 2009. I hope you enjoy reading about one of my favorites.
David Léclapart is a biodynamic Champagne house located in Trépail in the Montagne de Reims. Montagne de Reims is the home of the Pinot Noir grape, but Trépail is an exception to this rule. Trépail is a Premier Cru village that grows Chardonnay in the heart of Pinot Noir land. David has farmed his 2.75 HA of vines biodynamically since 1998, producing a measly 7000 bottles per year in total, spread across 4 different wines. He uses minimal sulfur and doesn’t filter. This cuvée is called L’Amateur and from what I gather, it’s his “entry-level” Champagne. It’s a blend of Chardonnay grapes from within Trépail.
Although the vintage is not clearly marked on the front label, this IS a vintage Champagne.
On the back label in small writting you will find “L.V02″. I don’t know how long the wine has been on the lees (yeast), but I would estimate based on purchase date that it spends around 4 years on the lees. This is an Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of sugar per liter).
Appearance: Some development showing. Good bubble structure and fine mousse.
Nose: I have had this cuvée and vintage on at least 4 other ocassions and this Champagne has really developed in the last few years. Intoxicating flinty minerality dominates with pure green and yellow apples with some citrus overtones.
Some honey notes and mushrooms in the background as you might expect to find on a developed Chardonnay.
Palate: The best way I have come to describe this Champagne when I have tasted it in the past has been to describe it as a very well made, unoaked Chablis (another wine made with Chardonnay) with bubbles. Think Louis Michel or Daniel
Dampt and you’ll get it.
Ton’s of fresh minerals, yellow apples and hints of flint on the palate. Fine and elegant bubble structure. This is what I call a transparent wine. Everything is as it should be and easily understood. The fruit and structure are clean. It’s like cooking that fresh meal using the freshest of ingredients and being able to taste every single one of those ingredients. This is why I like naturally made wines. You can taste what should be in the bottle.
David respects four principles: purity, energy, pleasure and ecology.
And, this is evident.
Some say that Champagne doesn’t develop well when it’s given a low dosage (of sugar in the form of grape must) after dégorgement, but this Champagne with it’s very low dosage has developed marvelously and is simply put, is impressive.
I have always loved this Champagne and this experience was no exception. I did feel however, that it was at or very near it’s peak, so if you find a bottle of the 2002, buy it, drink it, enjoy it!
Vinosseur is the company name of sommelier Joseph R. Di Blasi. Vinosseur.com is his web page where he writes about wine, food, restaurants and other gastronomic experiences.
Joseph has a special place in his heart for quality wines from the old world, especially France & Italy, with a strong focus on Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines.
Joseph grew up in Italy and California, but left The States in 2002 and now resides in Norway.