A Decades-Old Champagne Style is Trending. Here’s Why.
By Kelly Magyarics
|BOTTLES OF OAKED CHAMPAGNE.
PHOTO BY: TOM ARENA
houses used to ferment their base wines in oak barrels, which enhanced age-ability and added richness, creaminess and notes of coconut and vanilla. This practice had all but ended by the 1950s, however. Most producers—with the exception of Krug and Bollinger—abandoned the practice in favor of stainless steel, a lower maintenance option that was easier to clean and decreased evaporation loss.
But just like splayed furniture legs, geometric patterns and other hallmarks of mid-century design, oak-fermented Champagne
is in style once again.
“The breath that oak provides leads to a more robust…finished product and contributes to better aging and less variation during reasonable cellar times,” says Amy Troutmiller, wine consultant and founder and CEO of Common Fuel Consulting.
She says if you relish well-aged Burgundy or Sauternes but tend to stick with youthful bubbly, popping open an oak-fermented bottle can be an eye-opening experience with hints of toasted brioche and lemon curd.
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO CHAMPAGNE
benefit from additional micro-oxidation that gives them additional richness and depth,” says Mathieu Roland-Billecart, CEO of Champagne Billecart-Salmon. Its Brut Sous Bois, entirely vinified in oak, was first released in 2011.
“They appeal to connoisseurs who seek a more gastronomic Champagne
to pair with poultry, cheese and mushroom dishes,” he says.
Indeed, the earthy depth and savory quality of these wines give them carte blanche at the table. Troutmiller enjoys sipping hers with smoked chicken, artichoke risotto with Époisses and fried oysters and clams.
As with any barrel-aged wine, this style craves breathing room; using a decanter will allow it to fully express its complexity.
HERE ARE SOME “WOOD-AGED” BUBBLY SUGGESTIONS:
Billecart Sous Bois Champagne
92 Pts WS – Fermented and matured in wood before bottling, this Champagne has an extra layer of complexity and richness. It still keeps the house’s dry and mineral character while adding riper spice and lime flavors.
En Tirage 2010 Blanc de Blanc
95 Pts: “The pale straw color and very subtle sparkling appearance of this wine, veil what lies beneath. Aromas of warm butter croissant, lemon curd, baked apple, and dried honeycomb give the impression you just walked into a French bakery. Toasty and doughy flavors paired with tart citrus fruit and subtle nuttiness convey the maturity and complexity of a wine developing though lees aging. On the palate, these rich flavors are layered upon each other in a savory mille-feuille of structured decadence. Silky effervescence provides the textural background for an elevated acidity to pierce through the gravity of this wine which perfectly expresses the ethos of En Tirage.”
– Desmond Echavarrie, Master Sommelier
Moussé Fils, Champagne Brut Blanc de Noirs Perpetuelle L’Or d’Eugéne (NV) France
Robert Parker 94 Points: “A blend of 80% Pinot Meunier and 20% Pinot Noir drawn from a solera established in 2003. Wafting from the glass with a deep and complex bouquet of golden orchard fruit, honeycomb, mirabelle plum, candied peel and fresh pastry, it’s medium to full-bodied, satiny and layered, with a rich and sapid core of fruit, lively acids and a delicate pinpoint mousse.”
The NV Brut Blanc de Noir L’Or d’Eugène Perpétuelle
is 80% Meunier and 20% Pinot Noir based on 2018, plus reserve wines. Sweet, perfumed aromatics immediately convey a feeling of sensuality and exoticism. Mirabelle plum, rose petal, spice and mint are all beautifully lifted. Soft, silky and open-knit, the L’Or d’Eugene is a fabulous choice for drinking now and over the next handful of years. The fruit profile of the red grapes is front and center. Dosage is 3.5 grams per liter.