February 03, 2009

Champagne avec dosage

I don't drink much Champagne. It's often expensive, and somehow when I have a few extra bucks in my pocket, bubbly of any type isn't what I typically reach for.

That's changing, with sparkling wine in general and, even in these tough times, Champagne proper. Did I write up the absolutely killer NV Lassaigne Champagne Brut Blanc des Blancs I had some weeks back? When researching that post, I found out about importer Joe Dressner's conjoined brain twin and got a little sidetracked.

Nevertheless, Lassaigne makes exceptional grower Champagne, and even their Les Vignes des Montgueux bottling at the base level is startlingly good. Pure, clean, complex, full of spine-tingling acid nervosity, just delicious.

Which inevitably brings me to a topic that I've found tiresome, until now. Wine geeks tend to think grower Champagne kicks ass for many reasons. One big one seems to be that these small scale producers generally don't add too much dosage to their wines, dosage being the sweet wine slurry added to sparkling wine before release to round out flavors and convey some house style. Growers lean away from the heavy dosage that the big houses overload their flashy brand names, taking what might otherwise be acidic, boring mass production Champagne and turning it into overly sweet, boring mass production "dry" Champagne.

Yawn. Seriously, even I've been rolling my eyes at such a David vs. Golaith set up.

Then I try some big name Champagne and...well...it's true. Some of these "dry" wines are way too sweet without the redeeming balance of Loire or German whites.

Take the NV Drappier Carte d'Or Brut. Brut means dry, but if you look around the internet, you'll be hard pressed to find any notes that tell you just how sweet this wine is. Sure, you see "round" and "full bodied," often synonyms for "sweet" in all kinds of wines. One prominent magazine even suggests it's "firm and refined." Maybe if you serve very cold.

I suggest people start using the word "sweet" when describing this wine.

The good news about the Drappier? It smelled and tasted like Champagne. There's no mistaking the chalkiness in most Champagne. But that dosage! It's just too much, leaving me guzzling water to refresh my mouth. Or better yet, something from Lassaigne.


Steve M said...

Hi Vincent,

Today I emailed Michael Alberty asking for a recommendation for a good champagne for upcoming Valentine's Day -- he suggested the Lassaigne and referenced your notes here.

It's the first time I've read your blog and I just wanted to compliment you on a really nice approach to things. I like your writing style and I think you've got an interesting and refreshingly straightforward perspective on all things vinous.

Nice work - I'll look forward to reading more here.


Steve M (Mr Melissa)

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Steve, thanks for the comments. You won't be sorry with that Lassaigne. Glad you found your way here. I'm just trying to do something a little different. Glad it resonates. Just need to figure out how to promote it without being pushy or self important.

Marshall Manning said...

I'm wondering why you doubted the "David vs. Golaith" in the first place? It's almost always been my experience that the smaller, more hands-on producers do a better job than the larger ones, no matter what the region.

Would you rather drink Vieux Telegraphe CdP or Guigal? Clape Cornas or Jaboulet? Jobard Meursault Genevrieres or Bouchard? There's no contest in my mind with any of these, just as there isn't in Champagne.

For example, Dom Perignon 1999 is a woody, generic mess. For the same price you can get 3 bottles of the fantastic Veuve Fourny 2002 Blanc de Blancs.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

It's not that I doubted the argument was true. It's that the repetition has become insufferable. Every time I turn around, I hear "grower Champagne is great, low dosage, blah, blah, blah..." and "big houses use too much dosage." The point has been made. When was the last time you read wine geeks moaning that people should know about Vieux Telegraph and leave Guigal behind? It happens, but it's not the tired growers v. houses grudge match trend that too many people write about. I'm tired of reading about it and, yes, a little ashamed I wrote about it. But the point is that, yes, it's true, but let's move on. Capice?

林依晨Amber said...
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