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Not your ordinary champers

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Something of a cult producer – they’re currently accepting no new clients – Vouette et Sorbée has been making idiosyncratic champagnes since 2001. The estate is located in the village of Buxières-sur-Arce, which is geographically, geologically and maybe even spiritually closer to Chablis than to the champagne capital of Épernay.

Champagne 2011, Cuvée Fidèle, Vouette et Sorbée ($76.73, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blanc de noirs. 100% Pinot Noir from organically and biodynamically farmed vines rooted in Kimmeridgian marl. The manually harvested grapes are gently pressed. The free-run juice is transferred to 400-litre oak casks for fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maturation. Undergoes malolactic fermentation. Indigenous yeasts are used for primary and secondary fermentation. The wine is aged on its lees on lattes (stacked in piles with small pieces of wood inserted between the bottles to prevent them from moving) and riddled on racks. This is nearly all 2011 except for a dollop of reserve wines. Sulphur dioxide is added to the incoming grapes but not at bottling. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Extremely complex nose: miso, black pepper, “apples on the floor of the orchard” (quoting another taster), roasted white meat, barley sugar and more as the wine breathes. Dry and intense on the palate. The effervescence is light and fine but also very insistent. The remarkably pure fruit tends to red berries and apples, is grounded in chalky minerals and coloured by spice and umami notes. Lively acidity adds tension that relaxes only on the long finish with its lingering spice and brioche flavours. Not so much a vin plaisir as a vin de contemplation and quite unlike any other champagne I’ve tasted. Next time I’ll carafe it a couple of hours before serving. (Buy again? Yes.)

Champagne 2012, Saignée de Sorbée, Vouette et Sorbée ($124.85, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A rosé champagne. 100% Pinot Noir from organically and biodyamically farmed vines averaging 22 years old. More than three-quarters of the vines are planted on Kimmeridgian hillsides, the remainder in fragmented Portlandian limestone. Manually harvested. Made using the saignée method with extended carbonic maceration. Vinified in 400-litre oak casks. Undergoes malolactic fermentation. Indigenous yeasts are used for primary and secondary fermentation. The wine is aged on its lees on lattes and riddled on racks. Sulphur dioxide is added only to the incoming grapes. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Strawberry carpels, miso, cooked rhubarb, pastry cream, apple peel and more. In the piehole, the wine is weighty but not heavy, textured by a fine, soft bead and mouth-watering acidity. Once again the fruit is as savoury as sweet and intertwined with minerals. Pink grapefruit, including the pith, is joined by spice and umami notes on the long finish. Continues evolving in the glass; I suspect this, too, would benefit from an hour or two in the carafe. Complex and fascinating, a rosé to contend with. (Buy again? When my boat comes in…)

These showed much better than the 2007s that the group tasted in December 2010. Or maybe our palates have evolved. In fact, at one point during the tasting, I found myself wondering whether the adage about vin jaune didn’t also apply here: you don’t appreciate it until your third encounter.

MWG March 12th tasting: flight 4 of 7

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Written by carswell

April 7, 2016 at 15:02

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