Tag: Antonio Galloni

Oct 10 2011

Krug: The World’s Most Expensive Champagnes

Posted on October 10, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

When Krug released its single-vineyard Clos d’Ambonnay Champagne 1995 in 2008, it caused a sensation. The 100% blanc de noirs, made entirely from pinot noir grapes, became the world’s most expensive Champagne – retailing for around $US 3000 a bottle.

At the time Krug justified the whopping price tag by noting that in comparison with other prestige wines from top estates, the prices for the very best Champagnes were too cheap. Comparatively, the retail price of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s La Romanée-Conti, for example, was up to $US4,300. (Eric Asimov, Effervescent Prices, The New York Times 29 February 2008)

Rarity, perhaps more than quality and reputation, is the main influencer on price. The Clos D’Ambonnay is even rarer than Krug’s other single vineyard offering, the Clos du Mesnil Blanc des Blancs, which normally retails for around $US800, and is also among the world’s highest priced Champagnes.

Clos refers to the fact that the vineyard is entirely ‘closed’ or walled. The Clos du Mesnil is only 1.84 hectares with the Clos d’Ambonnay being less than a third of that size. In a cold region like Champagne, where hail and wind are common hazards, the walls help retain the heat and to some extent protect the vines from the elements. Within the walls, the vines are meticulously tended. The Clos du Mesnil, for example, is farmed and vinified in five or six separate parcels with only the best included in the final assemblage.

So what do these extraordinary wines taste like? Recently the Wine Advocate’s Antonio Galloni attended a complete vertical tasting of the Clos du Mesnil and the Clos d’Ambonnay. Certainly his notes reflect how vintage can affect the character of the wine. The Clos du Mesnil 1989, for example, was from a warmer vintage than the 1989 and  consequently … Read the rest

Aug 08 2011

Billecart-Salmon Champagne: All about “Finesse, balance and elegance”

Posted on August 08, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

According to the Wine Advocate’s Antonio Galloni, Billecart-Salmon makes Champagnes that are all about “timeless elegance,” “crystalline purity” and “supreme balance.”

“Finesse, balance and elegance” is in fact the tag line of Billecart-Salmon, an independent medium-sized Champagne house based in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ that is still run by the descendents of the original 1818 founders Nicolas Francois Billecart and his wife Elisabeth Salmon.

Champagne Billecarte-Salmon produces around 1.7 million bottles annually from fruit sourced from approximately 200 hectares of vineyards in Champagne. More than half the vineyards are in the hands of independent growers, with whom Billecart-Salmon has worked for several generations.

Their top cuvee, the vintage Blanc de Noirs Le Clos Saint-Hilaire is from a family-owned one hectare vineyard of pinot noir that was planted in 1964. Typically, the fruit is fermented at relatively low temperatures to preserve freshness and fruit identity – primary fermentation can take up to six weeks!  The wine may or may not undergo a malolactic fermentation depending on vintage, and in some years no dosage is added to the wine in order to preserve its acidity. Admired for the freshness of its fruit and its delicate, complex aromas, each bottle is numbered and usually no more than 7,000 are made in only top years.

The Cuvée Nicolas Francois Billecart, a blend of 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay, is a more exuberant wine than the Le Clos Saint-Hilaire. Depending on vintage a small percentage of the wine, typically around 20 percent, is aged in French oak barrels. In 1999, the Cuvée Nicolas-Francois Billecart 1959 was voted Champagne of the Millennium at a blind tasting of 150 of the finest 20th century champagnes.

The House’s non-vintage Champagnes, which make up about 60 percent of production, are also very highly regarded. British wine … Read the rest

Aug 08 2011

Dom Pérignon Champagne: The Wow Factor!

Posted on August 08, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If you’re a fan of 007 then odds are you remember James Bond sharing the screen with a very famous Champagne. Dom Pérignon, the prestige vintage cuvée of Moët & Chandon, made an appearance in the very first Bond movie, the 1962 Dr No. It has appeared in seven 007 movies since! You may recall the scene in Dr No when Bond (Sean Connery) grabs a bottle to bash a guard with: “That’s a Dom Pérignon ’55 – it would be a pity to break it,” says Dr. No, quietly. “I prefer the ’53 myself,” responds Bond.

Since the debut release of the 1921 vintage in 1936, Dom Pérignon – the world’s first prestige Champagne – has been the preferred Champagne of the rich and famous. Apparently Marilyn Munroe’s favourite vintage was also the 1953. Andy Warhol was a fan, and the Shah of Iran ordered several magnums of the Dom Pérignon Rosé for his wedding in 1959. Magnums of the 1961 vintage were served at the 1981 Royal wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer. (Some critics consider the 1961 vintage the best to date).

All this from a wine named in honour of a 17th century Benedictine monk! Of course, Dom Pérignon was no ordinary monk. He was cellar master at the Benedictine Abbey in Hautvillers, and responsible for introducing the cork to keep the wine fresh and sparkling. He also improved blending techniques and used a thicker glass so the bottle was less likely to explode!

According to Antonio Galloni of the Wine Advocate, upholding the remarkable legacy of Dom Pérignon has not stopped the current winemaker, Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy, from taking risks to improve the wine’s style and quality, especially with regards to the Dom Pérignon Rosé:

While the 2002 Dom Perignon and Read the rest