Yesterday the annual technical seminar of the Cap Classique Producers Association. Having recently encountered significant bottle variation among a couple of high-end examples of Cap Classique while tasting for Platter’s , it was some sort of comfort that this is just as much of a problem for the Champenois.
How to explain this “heterogeneity” between bottles even in the same case? There’s gaseous exchange between bottle and environment while the wine is under crown cap (carbon dioxide escaping, oxygen entering) and then oxygen is also introduced when the crown cap is opened and wine is removed before dosage. Key to preventing oxidation therefore is to use the least permeable crown cap while some of the big Champagne houses are now using “jetting” prior to corking – the surface of the wine excited causing the foam to rise just enough to push any air out of the neck of the bottle before the cork is inserted.
How much oxidation to tolerate in any case? There is of course the famous contrast between goût français (fresh and elegant) and goût anglais (more secondary and teriary character) and I tend very much to the former.
In the afternoon, Francis Tribaut, owner of Champagne Lallier presented a tasting of his wines next to those of Gaston Chiquet, J de Telmont and Pierre Peters. The J. de Telmont Grande Reserve Brut was particularly oxidative with notes of biscuit, honey (my score: 15.5/20) and Tribaut explained that the house was inclined to use a low sulphur regime, an emerging style in Champagne.
I much preferred the extremely elegant Lallier Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Non-vintage. Citrus blossom on the nose and delicate, refined palate – pure fruit, fresh acidity and a fine mousse before a long, dry finish (score: 17/20). It will be interesting to see what style the judges favour when the results of the Amorim Cork Cap Classique Challenge are announced on 20 September.