Before I launch into my top five Autumn champagnes, can someone explain how it is March already? I feel like I just finished sharing my New Year’s champs suggestions!
But there is no stopping the hands of time and just as some of us are rotating our wardrobes (reaching for the thicker duvet, dragging out our full length PJs and swapping our strappy sandals for our fave boots), the first thing I do on March 1 is reset my list of champagne ‘go to’ champagnes. (Unless you live in Queensland, like me, and then we don’t really need any of these till early July!)
For months now, you’ve heard me go on about the hot summer weather in Queensland and how it’s a perfect match for high chardie champs and blanc de blancs. My super summer long weekend champs list featured Taittinger, Brimoncourt, Palmer and Co, Pierre Gimmonet and Agrapart.
All fresh, crisp, bright and bubbly. And while I love summer, the thing that most excites me about Autumn is… Autumn champagnes!
Autumn is time to pinot-up and let reserve wines rule!
Just like cooler weather brings more red wine out of the cellar, cooler weather begs for warmer, redder champagnes [of course that is a thing… remember, there are three grapes used to make champagne – pinot noir and meunier (both red or black) and chardonnay (white)].
I make no secret of my love for pinot-heavy champs and now we can start to bust them out.
And so, here are my top five Autumn champagnes… perfect to bust out in the southern hemisphere from Mar – June.
My top five Autumn champagnes
This is a new one for my hit list. I fell in love with this wine in a tasting just last week with Constance Delaire, Brand Ambassador for Champagne Lallier (video to come very soon).
Technically this is an NV champagne … but tasting it, I could have sworn it was a vintage. Which is actually their intention. Lallier bucks the traditional champagne trend of wanting to make NV champagne taste the same every year (read up on non-vintage champagnes here and vintage champs here). Instead Lallier creates a champagne that will be different year to year – staying true to the conditions that year created. The R.013 (a reference to the base year, 2013) is a blend of 81% wines from 2013 – 56% pinot noir and 44% chardonnay (a little more chardie than they usually use because the chardonnay from 2013 was so good) – and just 19% reserve wines.
The result is plums and honey and creamy bubbles but still a freshness and lightness that is perfect for Autumn champagnes when we aren’t quite ready for super-heavy winter wines. Dosage is 7g/l and aged for 3-4 years.
Philipponnat has a very distinctive and individual style and is located in the heart of a region that arguably produces the best pinot noir grapes in all of Champagne.
The Royal Réserve Brut is a blend of 65% pinot noir, 30% chardonnay, 5% pinot meunier so it has the structure and body and full fruit flavours from the pinot noir, but the chardonnay brings some freshness and minerality. They use 25-35% reserve wines, which you’ll see is higher than the Lallier who keep their reserve wine blending low to keep the character of the base year. Philipponnat on the other hand use a lot more reserve wine to bring some age to the taste of the wine.
They also use the solera technique for their reserve wines. OK – we are getting pretty geeky here but stick with me, it isn’t a hard concept and has an important effect on the wine. What solera technique means is this… imagine a giant tank of reserve wine and every year you use some to blend into your NV champs. But also, each year/vintage after harvest you ADD new wine back into the same tank of reserve wines. So the tank is continuously re-freshed or replenished, giving the effect of aged wines but without any loss of freshness.
Which is why I think this is a perfect Autumn champagne… the balance of pinot and chardonnay is tipped just in favour of pinot and the reserve wine is high but the solera keeps it fresh… a happy medium between summer and winter, fresh and complex, minerality and fruit.
Emperor offers the Royal Réserve Brut NV for $89, which they describe like this… “Think spiced apple, lifted pineapple and some crème caramel notes coming from the some of the oak integration and the sugar addition.” YUM!
I love rosé champagne and characterise it as the perfect Spring champagne. So why do I have a rosé in my Autumn champagne list…???
Because this is no ordinary rosé. This is the rosé champagne I pour for red wine lovers who don’t think they like champagne and certainly not rosé.
The house of Laurent-Perrier is a BIG champagne brand (in fact the 5th highest selling house) but this is a rosé with a twist. It is 100% pinot noir, aged on lees for five years, and made with the maceration technique (Read more about the technique here) but the result is a stunning, fully developed champagne.
This wine can handle almost any food pairing – the house even suggests (or dares) you to serve it with spicy Asian or Indian – as well as the cooler Autumn temps if you are not quite ready for red wine but want to warm up with some devastatingly pretty and equally punchy pink bubbles. A great Autumn champagne that would hold its own in winter too for that matter.
The current vintage of this wine is actually a 2007, but you can still get the 2004 …. which is what I have enjoyed.
You will need to shop in a specialty wine shop in Australia to find Maison Charles de Cazanove but it is a long-standing house that produces three million bottles of wine per year. A little bit of controversy over at this house lately, which has led to my friends referring to it as “the porn star champagne” … but I’ll leave it to the Independent to tell you all the salacious, juicy details.
Porn stars aside, The Stradivarius, is the house’s cuvée de prestige. While I love this wine, I’ve served it a few times for friends (who are all big champagne fans) but most of them found it a bit ‘too much’. But that is probably exactly why I loved it! And long before porn stars entered the fray, I had called this one my ‘Mardi Gras champagne’. Powerfully bold and heavy on ripe fruit… there’s nothing understated about this champagne. It just made me think of Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade… fun, bold, bright, fruity and NOT for the traditionalists or conservatives!
So in honour of Sydney Mardi Gras this weekend, if you fancy a big, fruity, rich, bold champagne, you will fit right in with this baby. (But as an Autumn champagne, I would recommend serving it with food).
The blend is 60% pinot noir and 40% chardonnay and you can get it at The Wine Emporium for $140.
A change of pace from the bold Stradivarius to the generous elegance of La Grande Dame.
I picked the 2006 for this Autumn champagne list because it has higher chardonnay (53% pinot and 47% chardonnay) than the 2004 release (61% pinot, 39% chardonnay). You still get warm flavours like dried fruit, pastries and gingerbread, toast and honey from the pinot and the ageing, but this vintage has a little more citrus chalkiness than the 2004, which I think softens it a little for the change of season – save the 2004 for a winter feast!
The next La Grande Dame vintage (yet to be released) is said to be 95% pinot noir which will be an entirely different wine again.
2006 La Grande Dame is 53% Pinot Noir and 47% chardonnay, from eight Grand Cru villages (Madame Clicquot’s favourites…. Aÿ, Bouzy, Ambonnay, Verzy and Verzenay for the Pinot Noir; and Avize, Oger and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger for the Chardonnay), spends seven years on lees and has 8g/l dosage.
You can order the wine online from Champagne Gallery for $199 (that’s a cracking good price!)
If you do bring out any of these over the next few months, don’t forget to tag @bubbleandflute on Facebook or Instagram and use the hashtag #happychamper in your Autumn champagne shenanigans!
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