Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Champagne Lamiable, Tours-sur-Marne

Back in Champagne now, I made a trip to Champagne Lamiable in Tours-sur-Marne yesterday. Lamiable is a small and excellent estate, and what’s even more interesting is that all of their 5.5 hectares of vines lie in Tours-sur-Marne, making them the only source I know of for tasting pure Tours-sur-Marne champagne. (They do have 10 ares just across the border in Bouzy, but that’s used to make Coteaux Champenois and red wine for rosé.)

Lamiable’s vines lie in just two parcels: 1.25 hectares in La Vigne Goësse, all planted with chardonnay; and 4.35 hectares in Les Meslaines, of which all but 65 ares are planted with pinot noir. The vineyards are on a little hill adjacent to Bouzy, but I find the gôut de terroir very different: the wines here feel more influenced by the Marne, with a broad, earthy richness, whereas the wines of Bouzy seem more “mountain” wines, firmer and more minerally than earthy in feel. I always find a spiciness in Lamiable’s wines that makes me think of oak, even though all of the wines are made in either stainless or enamel tanks. Ophélie Lamiable, who has been in charge of the cellars since 2004, notes that the pinot noir from Tours-sur-Marne “has much more freshness than the pinot from Bouzy,” while her father, Jean-Pierre Lamiable, says that the wines of Tours-sur-Marne have a little lower acidity and mature earlier than those of their more famous neighbor, adding that “the people in Bouzy don’t like my wine because they find it too light.”

I find their wines delicious. The Brut NV, made of 60 percent pinot noir and 40 percent chardonnay, is concentrated and rich, with a spicy earthiness and lively structure. There’s an extra brut version, which is the same wine with only five grams of dosage: it’s less complex but shows an even more prominent soil signature. For terroir geeks, there’s a single-vineyard, vintage-dated blanc de noirs from 40-year old vines in Les Meslaines, which is tremendously intriguing. It sells out very quickly: the 2003 is already gone, but Ophélie generously sold me a few bottles from a secret stash, and of course I had to open one as soon as I got home. It’s broad and intense, showing the dark, baritone girth that I associate with the village, and while there’s a lot of ripeness, it seems to translate into deeper intensity rather than excess fruitiness, with a pungent, powerful core of richness and spicy, exotic notes of sandalwood and cinnamon. I drank the 2000 Les Meslaines in Portland over the holidays: as with many 2000s it’s showing well now, with generous, expansive aromas and pleasantly biscuity undertones. Even more impressive, though, is the 2002. I missed out completely on purchasing this, as it sold out entirely too quickly, but Jean-Pierre shared a bottle with me last year – utterly profound in its expression of site, it shows a vinous, sappy depth and vivid, vibrant intensity. If you ever see it for sale, buy it without question.