An unrepresentative sample of grower champagnes
tasted at the London International Wine Fair, 20-22 May 2008

Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz

Bourgeois-Diaz are a propriétaire-récoltant based in Crouttes sur Marne, about an hour’s drive west of Epernay.  They own around seven hectares of vineyards on clay soils.  As is often the case in the western reaches of the Champagne region, pinot meunier dominates the vineyards, with around 55% of the plantings, followed by pinot noir (30%) and chardonnay (15%).

NV Cuvée Distinguée brut, Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz
This is a blend of 40% pinot meunier, 40% pinot noir and 20% chardonnay.  It has a very nice black fruits nose with some blackberry leaf.  Very nice, fruity palate.  This is a very nice wine, and very wine-like for a Champagne.  90/100 

NV Cuvée Distinguée rosé, Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz
This cuvee is a blend of 40% pinot meunier, 40% chardonnay and 20% pinot noir, 18% of which is still red wine from Champagne.  It’s rather slighter on the nose than the white, with a hint of strawberry fruit.  This is really very full flavoured and just a touch coarse on the palate.  Still very good though.  87/100

2003 Millésime, Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz
This comes from a blend of 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir.  It has a pretty refined, delicate nose.  Really quite forward on the palate, but it also has an attractive cleanness all the way through.  There’s also a nice lightness and freshness on the finish.  They seem to have pretty much tamed 2003.  88/100

NV Cuvée du Fils, Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz
This is a blend of 40% pinot meunier, 30% pinot noir and 30% chardonnay; half of which is aged in oak.  The current release is mainly from the 2004 vintage.  The nose is quite gentle with a touch of strawberry fruit.  The oak is hardly detectable, other than through the roundness it provides on the palate.  89/100


Champagne RoberDelph

Champagne RoberDelph is based in Charly sur Marne in the south west of Champagne’s Marne Valley, about 70km from Epernay.  They have around 5.5 hectares of vineyards on 20 plots, with some vines up to 60 years old.  As is usual this far west, pinot meunier dominates, with around 64% of plantings, together with 25% chardonnay and 11% pinot noir.

NV Brut Tradition, Champagne RoberDelph, 12%
Roberdelph’s Brut Tradition is very high in pinot meunier (70%), with 15% chardonnay and 15% pinot noir, usually blending wines from three different years, in the case of this particular bottle from 2002, 2003 and 2004.  It has a crisp, minerally, black fruit nose.  Fairly light on the attack, but it opens up in the mouth and is quite biscuitty and full.  Yet it remains remarkably light on fruit and pinot meunier character, given the high meunier content.  87/100

NV Grande Réserve, Champagne RoberDelph, 12%
This, as the name suggests, is aged for three more years than the Brut Tradition: currently 61% of the base wines come from 2001, all pinot meunier, with the remainder coming from 1998, 1999 and 2000; overall the blend is 71% pinot meunier and 29% chardonnay.  This feels much better than the Brut Tradition, with a good round, open palate, with lots of interest.  There’s good minerality on the finish too.  91/100

2002 Cuvée Prestige, Champagne RoberDelph, 12%
Curiously, the label doesn’t mention the vintage on the bottles I saw of this blend of 61% pinot meunier, 14% pinot noir and 25% chardonnay from old vines.  It has a very clean, elegant nose.  Crisp and clean on the palate, this has a nice elegance, yet is also very rounded.  There are some good stone fruit flvours on the finish, especially after.  Huge length too.  91/100


Champagne Napoléon

The House of Ch. & A. Prieur was established in Vertus in 1825 by Jean-Louis Prieur and in 1907, on the advice of their Russian importers, they began selling their Champagne under the brand name Napoléon.  In 2005, the company was sold as, although there were four brothers with eighteen children between them, there was nobody from the family who was obviously going to take over.  The new buyers have guaranteed that nothing will change: the same cellars will still be used, the same staff and the wines will continue in the same style. 

NV Blanc de Blancs Brut, Champagne Napoléon
The base wine in this bottle is the 2003.  It has quite an evolved nose.  Good palate, showing a nice age.  There’s quite a winey feel to both the nose and the palate, but also a freshness and some elegance.  87/100

NV Tradition Brut, Champagne Napoléon
This is a blend of 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir, and the base wine in this bottle was the 2001.  It has a nice zesty nose with peach and nuts.  Feeling quite evolved on the palate, this is in a very relaxed style, with a lovely winey note.  90/100

1996 Grand Millésime Brut, Champagne Napoléon
Again, a blend of 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir.  This has a gorgeous nose with a nice nuttiness.  It’s a lovely, evolved palate, feeling nicely mature but still with a good fresh note.  Very long after with lovely fresh flavours.  This is less winey than the non-vintage wines, but it’s still got an obvious house style.  92-93/100

NV Rosé Brut, Champagne Napoléon
Made from 45% chardonnay and 55% pinot noir, this is a blended rosé (15% pinot noir red wine is added).  It is a bit muted on the nose – maybe there’s some soft red fruit.  Not as impressive as the other Napoleon champagnes: it doesn’t quite sit as well in itself.  84/100


Champagne Montaudon

Champagne Montaudon was established in 1891 and is still owned by the same family.  They have 45 hectares of vineyards, mainly in the south of the champagne region, and their own production facilities, including a 17th century ‘vendangeoir’ (pressing room).  Annual production is in the region of 30,000 bottles.

NV Réserve Première Brut, Champagne Montaudon
This is a blend of 50% pinot noir, 20% pinot meunier and 30% chardonnay.
On both nose and palate, this shows itself crisp, fresh, clean.  Very elegant.  Though, it also feels a touch anonymous.  87/100

NV Chardonnay Premier Cru Brut, Champagne Montaudon
The chardonnay grapes which make up this wine come from two grand cru vineyards and two premier cru in the Côte des Blancs.
It has some lovely stone fruit on the nose.  It has a very fine balance on the palate and a very nice character.  Very attractive.  Quite a winey champagne.  91/100

NV Classe M, Champagne Montaudon
This is a 50:50 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, presented in a bottle, unique to Montaudon, based on an early 19th century bottle, with a subtle fluting at the top (the unkind might call them stretch marks).  The Classe M was first produced for the millennium.  The fruit comes from a mix of grand cru and premier cru vineyards and the finished wine undergoes six years ageing before release.
It has a very elegant, refined nose with some peach and pear fruit.  Excellent palate.  It has huge balance with nice structure, nice fruit and a nice acidity.  Very long indeed.  93/100

2000 Brut Millésime, Champagne Montaudon
This is also a 50:50 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay.  It has a very slight nose, that’s quite minerally with slight citrus hints.  On the palate, it has a lovely fruit character, with some peach, but overall it feels a bit ordinary.  87/100

NV Grande Rosé Brut, Champagne Montaudon
Again, a blend of 50:50 pinot noir and chardonnay, this time with 15% of red wine from Bouzy.  It has a light crisp nose with a touch of red fruit.  Better on the palate than the nose.  Very balanced with some lovely gentle fruit flavours.  89/100


Champagne Jules Bonnet
Champagne Jules Bonnet has been in the same family for six generations.  All their wines are Premier Cru Chamey and cellared for a minimum of three years before release.

NV Brut, Champagne Jules Bonnet
A blackcurrant nose with a certain grapiness.  This has a nice style and has a definite fruit character on the palate.  It has quite a wine-y feel to it.  91/100

NV Brut Rosé, Champagne Jules Bonnet
There are nice gentle red fruits on the nose.  Good palate, though a bit straightforward and lacking the distinctiveness of the plain Brut.  But still very good.  86/100

2003 Blanc de Noirs Brut, Champagne Jules Bonnet
Pinot noir, fermented in barrel.  It has a very elegant, crisp nose with a little blackberry fruit.  Very nice on the palate, it is creamy and has a nice richness, alongside side a good firm flavour of black fruits and crisp apples.  91/100

2001 Cuvée Spéciale Brut, Champagne Jules Bonnet
90% chardonnay and 10% pinot noir, this spends six years in their cellars before release.  It has quite a rich nose – very elegant, and slightly peachy.  Lovely palate, and I think it’s starting to show some nice age, though they think it’s now too old.  93/100

2003 Cuvée Spéciale Brut, Champagne Jules Bonnet
A crisp, fresh nose with some elegant gentle fruit somewhere between black and stone fruit.  Very nice, clean palate with some nice blackberry fruit characters showing through.  This only had five years ageing, not the six that previous vintages underwent, because – I was told – of the need to meet demand for the wine.  89/100

And finally a couple of Fronton wines from the same family:

2006 Château Bonnet Tradition, AC Fronton, 12.5%
10% syrah, 60% negrette, 30% cabernet sauvignon.  It has bright, rich, black plummy fruit on the nose, with a hint of a floral character.  Very, very young in the mouth.  There are soft fruits, with quite a fresh feel.  There’s also, however, some astringency which resolves into a firm tannic structure towards the finish.  Pleasant.  85/100

2006 Château Bonnet Cuvée Confidentielle, AC Fronton, 13.5%
55% syrah and 45% old vine negrette. It has plummy black fruit on the nose with an elegant, slightly scented lift.  This has a rather tamer nose than the tradition, and the palate too is also much tamer.  This is rather more enjoyable and less challenging.  There’s good fruit and a nice acidity.  Very balanced.  It finishes with a fair tannic structure.  89/100



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Last updated: 27 April 2009