Friday, April 25, 2008

Wine of the Week: Diebolt-Vallois Brut Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Prestige

While I love traveling, there's no denying that the first glass of champagne upon returning home again is extremely satisfying. Diebolt-Vallois is a producer that I am particularly fond of, and when I want to treat myself really well, it's often a Diebolt wine that I reach for in the cellar. This bottle of Cuvée Prestige is sheer joy, with rich aromas of ripe summer fruit and tropical citrus pinned down by the incisive chalkiness so typical of Cramant. It feels concentrated, harmonious and complete, its sense of minerality intensifying as it moves back on the palate. Although it's delicious now, I think I'll put away a few bottles of this tirage (LP05) to watch it develop more complexity and maturity—as the fruit settles down and the minerality emerges even more into the foreground, this should be very exciting.

The Cuvée Prestige is usually blended from three vintages, although very rarely it's two, and Diebolt has said that it can be up to four, although I don't ever remember a recent blend containing four years. (By the way, while this is a "non-vintage" wine, it shouldn't be mistaken for the basic brut sans année: the Cuvée Prestige is, along with the vintage-dated Fleur de Passion, one of the top wines of the cellar.) There is a lot number on the label indicating the mise en bouteille, so the current release, LP05, was bottled in 2005, meaning that it's based on the 2004 harvest, with reserves from 2003 and 2002. The base wine is fermented in cuve, while the reserve wines are aged in 40-hectoliter foudres: the proportion of reserve wine varies according to the base year, and can be anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of the blend.

Historically the Cuvée Prestige has been pure Cramant, and the heart of the blend is a selection of old vines in the lieu-dit of Les Pimonts, located in the sunny, east-facing amphitheater of prime vineyard land just south of the village itself. Future releases, however, will include a tiny drop of Chouilly (it's only a 20-are parcel just over the border), and, although I suppose this is still a secret and I shouldn't tell you, the LP07 will contain a splash of Le Mesnil for the first time ever. We won't see that for a couple more years, but I'm quite curious to taste it—the pairing of Jacques Diebolt and Le Mesnil sounds like a winner to me.

Diebolt-Vallois is imported into the United States by Martine's Wines, Novato, CA, and Petit Pois Corp./Sussex Wine Merchants, Moorestown, NJ. For the Cuvée Prestige, Martine's Wines suggests a retail price of $66.

5 comments:

Richard Peden said...

Your blog is one of my most refreshing tastes: it has revived my love of champagne. My wife is not happy but my cave attempts to change her mind.

Henri Vasnier said...

Peter, I would complain that you're giving away secrets that should be confined to Champagne aficionados, but of course Richard Juhlin spilled the beans about Diebolt-Vallois several years ago. Leaving aside Salon, is there a better producer on the Cote des Blancs? (OK, perhaps Selosse, if that much oak works for you, but his wines are awfully culty-spendy.) The LP03 in my basement is fabulous and, like you, I'm allowing a few bottles to get a few years older. The 2000 Fleur de Passion was head and shoulders the best wine at a tasting of something over a dozen champagnes a couple of years ago.

Peter Liem said...

Yes, unfortunately Diebolt has been firmly on the radar ever since La Revue du Vin de France got to him in the early '90s. The LP03 was indeed amazing -- unfortunately I drank all of mine, alas. The perils of having an itinerant lifestyle.

Richard,
Thanks for your comments. As you know, I adore champagne, and I'm happy to hear that I can encourage others to drink more of it. (But don't cut into my allocations...! Just kidding. There's plenty to go around.)

David McDuff said...

Peter, It was a pleasure to read this post, as I don't think there's a Champagne house I feel closer to or know so well as Diebolt-Vallois. Cumulatively, I've certainly drunk more of their wines than any other producer's over the years. And I enjoyed a visit with Jacques and three generations of his family back in '04. Definitely one of the highlights of our entire tour.

Peter Liem said...

Nice writeup on Diebolt, David. They're some of my favorite people too, and even though I see them quite regularly, I'm always eagerly anticipating the next visit -- I get giddy, like a little kid, at the thought of drinking more Diebolt-Vallois with Jacques and picking his brain.