J.M. Labruyère Champagne Grand Cru Prologue
This has been an outstanding year for us in Champagne finds, and here is our first of the season. And its fitting to have this be first, because Waterford was the first to bring these into the Wisconsin market last year – their first vintage of release. This year we worked hard to bring you near direct pricing, so you can see, we’ve slash last year’s pricing and have some amazing deals.
Now here’s the story:
Edouard Labruyère is a serious winemaker, a passionate oenophile, and very driven man. When I met him, it was evident he knew exactly what he was making and why he was making it, and was only going to settle for what he personally believed to be the best (evidenced here by his throwing out the entire 2011 vintage).
And that all makes sense, because he is also heir to a fine wine empire – his family traces its roots back to the top domaine in Moulin-a-Vent, the Clos du Moulin-a-Vent; they also have owned Domaine Jacques Prieur in the Cote d’Or for over 150 years. His family’s is one of the few domaines with holdings in 1/3 of all the Grands Crus; and finally, there’s the Pomerol chateau directly across from Petrus – Chateau Rouget. This is one busy man.
When he founded the eponymous Champagne house Labruyère, he was looking for a complete Burgundian approach to Champagne – Grand Cru land with Burgundy-styled plantings and Burgundy-styled vinifications.
These wines are 100% Grand Cru and 100% from Verzenay. Before he purchased them the fruit from these vines went into Dom Pérignon. The vine plantings are at the same density as his Le Montrachet. They prune as if it was Le Montrachet and they also harvest as if it was Le Montrachet. He will wait out the season to get the ripeness that he wants, so that he does not have to chaptalize ever. The results are simply fantastic. There are three wines:
The J.M. Labruyère Champagne Grand Cru Prologue is 100% Grand Cru Verzenay, 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. Those of you familiar with Verzenay Pinot (think Dom Perignon or Cristal) know that it is one of the most unique and dynamic expressions of Pinot in the world. At once intensely fruity and powerful, it is also somewhat smoky, and feral, and all of its own thing. In a line-up of Champagnes, Verzenay will always show its hand – it has incredibly strong DNA, as Edouard notes. To beautiful effect! This wine is 17 different plots in Verzenay fermented separately with 85% being from the outstanding 2012 vintage and 15% being from 2010. Technically this would make the Prologue a vintage Champagne in every way like Dom Pérignon, but Edouard said that he wants his start not to be in that category. The palate is of tensile strength, super attenuated, and precise. This is great Champagne.
The J.M. Labruyère Champagne Grand Cru Anthologie Rose is 100% Grand Cru but not all Verzenay. Edouard rents a tiny batch of Bouzy that he farms, harvests and vinifies into a still red. His Verzenay Pinot is all north facing, which makes it very difficult to handle as a still red wine (I believe he said that the wine develops too much texture). The Bouzy blended in gives the best of both worlds – a powerful red Bouzy to tame the lees of the Verzenay Pinot. The blend is the 65% Verzenay sparkling Pinot, 5% still Bouzy Pinot and the rest Verzenay Chardonnay. Its 6.0 grams per liter which he noted as “high” (although it isn’t) because it further enhances the texture of the Pinot. As to the taste? This Champagne is pale salmon with that fine filigree of chocolate, roses, cherry fruits, and orange zest on the nose. The midpalate is round, intense and powerful but the wine remains elegant. “A food wine,” Eduardo noted – but I’d drink it anytime.
The J.M. Labruyère Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Page Blanche is 100% Chardonnay from a single plot just below a windmill (I believe he called it Chantravesen). This tiny block is 65 years old – which is legendarily old in Champagne – and he postpones harvest until 11.5% natural alcohol is obtained. This disgorgement is 95% 2012, 5% 2010, and comes in at 3.2 grams per liter of dosage. He doesn’t want to go zero dosage because it makes the Champagne too harsh and it develops a “frenetic bead.” This stuff was simply amazing. Or here is another recommendation – this wine was poured at the French Laundry for more than a year.