When Eldad Levy started importing grower champagnes to Israel 13 years ago, I thought I'd buy a couple and check them out. I thought a person of culture should always have a couple of Champagnes in the fridge. I thought it would be a niche interest for me. I was honestly that naive. But here's what I turned into: if I could afford to drink a bottle of Champagne a day, I would. And I'd never, ever get bored. I'd settle for once a week. You know what I wish for you all? That someone in your life will look at you the way I look at the Champagne shelf in my fridge.
Eldad recently presided over a portfolio sampling at Wine and Flavors. I call it a sampling and not a tasting not because the pours weren't generous enough, but because eight Champagnes is just enough to whet a cultured person's appetite.
Pierre Péters, Cuvée de Reserve, Blanc de Blancs
Disgorged 7/19, 2016 based, a blend of Grand Cru holdings. Usually even an averagely good Champagne is great fun to sniff, but this is quite mute, despite being an excellent one. What it does have, though, is an impressive palate, where a clenched fistful of acidity, intertwined citrus fruit, yeast and minerals contains loads of energy waiting to be released in upcoming years.
Pierre Gimonnet, Champagne, Blanc de Blancs Brut, Premier Cru, Cuvée Gastronome, 2014
Throughout that long stretch that I've been buying Champagne from Eldad, Gimonnet has always been the easiest grower in the portfolio to enjoy and understand. This is especially true with this cuvée, which is designed for friendliness. It's much more opulent than the Péters with broader fruit and a forward nose.
Pierre Gimonnet,Oger Grand Cru, n.v. (2015)
For years, Gimonnet had produced solely blends comprised of crus from different villages until they finally produced their first single village wine, which is always a single vintage wine as well and usually aged long enough to qualify for the vintage label (but always sold as a non-vintage to allow Gimonnet to disgorge earlier when they feel less would be more). It's a much more challenging, indeed intriguing, wine, the minerals on display seemingly gouged from the depths of the fruit. A lively combination of deep fruit (baked apples) and sea salt.
Larmandier-Bernier, Rosé de Saignée, Premier Cru (2013)
Sourced from the last of the family's Pinot Noir's holding in Vertus (a Premier Cru village that plays like a Grand Cru in Larmandier's hands), it always shows so much Pinot character and chalky Vertus flavors that I always think of it as a Pinot and Vertus first and a rosé champagne second. The fruit is deep, with hints of baking spices and forest floor. It's not the freshest of
rosés, but then,its trump card is its depth anyway.
Larmandier-Bernier, Vieille Vigne du Levant, 2010
My close circle of wine buddies are practically a Larmandier cult. The wines are always gloriously ripe and deep without the slightest excess of sweetness, low dosage without a hint of evisceration. This is the flagship wine, all Cramant Grand Cru fruit, with an impressive nose and very complex and powerful flavors, sun drenched chalk over green and red apples.
Vilmart, Grand Cellier d’Or, Premier Cru, 2014
This is just my personal opinion, but I always feel that of all the growers that Eldad imports, Vilmart is the closest in character to the marquee style of the big houses. I'm not making a judgment call, and you might make the same claim about Gimonnet. The wines always feel... ritzier. This, for example, is full and fleshy, almost sweetish, although any sweetness is well balanced by acidity. The fruit is quite substantial, with the flavors still undeveloped and one dimensional, but for an echo of smoke on the finish.
Vilmart, Coeur de Cuvée, 2011
Eldad served it last, but this really should have been tasted side by side with the Grand Cellier d’Or, as they both show similar pre-adolescent fruit laced with smoke, while the differences make for an interesting study. The depth and fullness of the fruit here really will stop you in your tracks. Vilmart ages the Coeur de Cuvée in barrels, 30% new ones and you can get that on the nose, where it is well merged and shows as fine nuances of smoke and vanilla, same as you'd get in a top class Bourgogne Grand Cru (which I cite for just the sake of perspective).
No less embryonic than the other big stars of the tasting, it nonetheless displays more nuances and complexity, quite obviously so on the nose, although only hinted at on the palate. It was a magnificent raw and monolithic beast two years ago when I tasted it at the winery, it's almost tame enough to unbridle now if you don't have a shortage of bottles (but it's kind of expensive, so you probably shouldn't waste any bottles of your own).