Monday, January 26, 2009

Barrel Tasting the 2008 Fleur de Passion

Without fail, one of the highlights of my year is tasting Cramant in barrel with Jacques Diebolt of Champagne Diebolt-Vallois. At the risk of appearing gluttonous and over-privileged, I’ll admit that I’ve already been fortunate to do so twice with the 2008s, even though it’s still early in the vin clair season (they usually get bottled in early April). The majority of Diebolt’s wines are fermented in enameled or stainless steel tank, and naturally those are a joy to taste as well, but he also makes a selection from his finest parcels in the village of Cramant, planted with vines from 40 to 60 years old, to vinify in barrel for his prestige cuvée, the Fleur de Passion.

The Fleur de Passion is fermented in old, 205-liter pièces, without malolactic, and bottled without fining or filtration. In most cases (as with the 2008) it is also unchaptalized, and fermented with natural yeasts. Although the final wine is blended from several different parcels of Cramant, the various lots are kept separate throughout the fermentation and aging. They aren’t always exactly single-parcel selections, as some of the parcels are too small to fill up a standard 4,000-kilogram press, but each marc (the Champenois term for a pressing made from 4,000 kilograms of grapes) yields ten barrels of wine, which are all kept separated until the final blending, just before bottling. The result is that these selections from different marcs offer an extraordinary opportunity to taste across the Cramant hillside, comparing wine from some of the village’s top parcels, made exclusively from old vines by one of Champagne’s greatest grower-producers. For the terroir-obsessed, I do not believe that there is currently a finer method of studying the terroir of Cramant.

Although I’ve been doing this with Diebolt for a number of years, I’ve never really written about it, as the experience is largely valuable only in terms of personal edification—once you buy a bottle of the finished Fleur de Passion, all of the component parts have long since been amalgamated together, and are no longer worth talking about except as purely theoretical discourse. But I suppose that a discussion such as this serves to accentuate how different the various sectors of the village really are. In Champagne, most people tend to think in terms of village rather than of vineyard, but in truth, a village covers a relatively large area, and the terroir is rarely consistent from one side to the other. Certainly each of the component wines for the Fleur de Passion has its own personality and distinctiveness, even though they are all from the village of Cramant. These wines represent the very top lots of the vintage for Diebolt, and thus are always wonderful to taste every year, but the 2008s are exceptionally pure and finely expressive, demonstrating the outstanding potential of this vintage. Below are notes for each of the six wines that will be considered for the 2008 Fleur de Passion; in Diebolt’s cellar, the number of the marc is written on the barrel, and so that is how they are referred to.

#18: This combines the vineyards of Pimonts, Rouillées and Gros Monts in roughly equal proportions, although the percentage of Pimonts is slightly larger. Pimonts is located towards the western side of the village’s viticultural area, in the great amphitheater of vines below the village itself. Les Rouillées is also located in this sector, on an unusually steep, south-facing slope just under the village, while Gros Monts is on the eastern side, below the Butte de Saran. Of all of these marcs, this #18 seems to be the most classical in feel, contrasting the subtly rich depth of Gros Monts with sleekly citrusy acidity and a flowery, delicate length. “This is very typical of Fleur de Passion,” says Diebolt. “I think that the final blend will appear very close to this.”

#20: Diebolt experimented with putting Les Bauves into barrel for the first time in 2008. Bauves is a vineyard farther away from the village, in the direction of Oiry: “It’s not on the plain,” says Diebolt, “but it’s on the last coteau before the plain.” The chalk here is closer to the surface than in many other places, under only about 25 centimeters of topsoil, and you feel it in this wine, expressed as an austere, racy energy. It doesn’t have the gras or the expansiveness and complexity of aroma that some of the other lots show, but it’s very soil-driven and vivacious. Still, Diebolt doesn’t think it’s really what he’s looking for in this cuvée, and he’s unsure whether he’ll use it in the final blend. “At the moment,” he says, “I think it will go into the Cuvée Prestige, not the Fleur de Passion.”

#21: The south- to southeast-facing vineyard of Buzons, on the flanks of the Butte de Saran, is home to some of Diebolt’s most prized holdings, and together with Les Pimonts, it’s the inspiration for the creation of this special cuvée. Marc #21 is pure Buzons, from vines planted in 1951—as soon as you put your nose into the glass, you know you’re in the presence of something grand. Buzons is only about 200 meters away from Les Bauves, higher on the slope and closer to the Butte, but the topsoil here is deeper and the character of the wine more complete, with a resonant depth and a rich, sleekly muscular build. Tasting this in December, it seemed as if it was less overtly minerally than some of the other wines, due to it’s ample richness of fruit, but upon tasting it again last week, I noticed a pure, almost crystalline chalkiness emerging from underneath the fruity girth, anchoring the flavors and adding a greater sense of completeness and depth. The finish shows the multi-dimensional fragrance and regal bearing that I always associate with this site, persisting in finely detailed length—if this were bottled as Coteaux Champenois blanc, I would happily purchase it. It will undoubtedly make an even greater champagne, though.

#22: Three-quarters Buzons and one-quarter Gros Monts. This is highly instructive, as the majority of it is virtually the same wine as #21. The difference between the two wines is incredibly striking, however. The vineyards of Gros Monts and Buzons aren’t too far away from each other, but as I’ve come to acquaint myself with their respective personalities over the years, I’ve found them to make wines of markedly different characters. Buzons is rich, complex, but also very fine and detailed—when people talk about Cramant as being a rich terroir, it’s vineyards like Buzons that they’re thinking of. There’s a seamless combination of strength and finesse, and a sense of grand cru depth and expansiveness on the finish. Gros Monts has a richness of body typical for this side of the village, but within that context it emphasizes its sense of finesse, with a pronounced chalkiness and a lithe, airy raciness. Diebolt’s vines here are 40 years old, so there’s no lack of gravitas, but the overall impression is one of elegance rather than power. Here, you’d expect Buzons to dominate, but it’s actually the reverse—in both my December and January tastings, I felt that it was the racy, flowery character of Gros Monts that put itself into the foreground, and overall this feels more kinetic and less overtly rich than the pure Buzons.

#24: This is two-thirds Pimonts, which faces east-southeast, and one-third Fromattes, which is the vineyard on the hillside directly across from it—the soil is virtually identical in character, but Fromattes faces west. In contrast to the previous two wines, this is quiet up front, feeling deceptively delicate in body but building slowly on the palate towards an expansively aromatic, subtly complex and chalk-driven finish. The sense of verticality on the back end is tremendous, a poignant expression of a regal terroir.

#26: As a counterpart to #21, this is pure Pimonts, and Jacques Diebolt’s pick as his personal favorite of the 2008 wines. According to Diebolt, the name Pimonts is derived from “petits monts”, in reference to the gentle rise on which this site lies, and it’s one of the oldest-known terroirs in Cramant: “Vines have probably been planted here for over a thousand years,” he says. The character of the wine from Pimonts is quieter and more introspective than that of Buzons, and it seems to me to consistently be the most refined and most complete wine from year to year—if any of these were to be made as a separate, single vineyard champagne (a distinctly unlikely possibility, so don’t get your hopes up), I would imagine it to be Pimonts. Like the previous wine, from Pimonts and the neighboring Fromattes, this builds with a slow, unhurried grace and an aristocratic sense of elegance. It’s extremely minerally, almost steely in its chalky intensity, yet it doesn’t feel at all aggressive, its minerality deftly integrated into a larger array of components. On the superbly expressive finish it’s the longest of all of these, demonstrating a subtle, nuanced complexity and going on and on in airy, finely detailed fragrance.


werner.j said...


This is the kind of reading i would like to see a lot off in your future book. I can almost taste what you are writing about. I hope you could once find the time to write a topic or two about the plant and trimming methods,
the systems used with the different grape varieties. thanks a lot

Jeremy said...

Hi Peter,

I am hoping that we will get to do the same on Friday. If you will allow me a moment of retentiveness, those barrels are burgundian 228 liters rather than 205. This is good news as that means a little more Fleur de Passion than you might have thought. A demain!

Peter Liem said...

Hi Jeremy,

Leave it to a Burgundian winemaker to have a sharp eye for such details. You're right -- those in this photo are 228-liter barriques that he purchased recently. On the other wall (behind me when I took the photo) are some older, traditional Champenois 205-liter barrels. See you tomorrow morning in Craon de Ludes!

Brooklynguy said...

hi peter,

amazing write-up. i wish you had rated each marc using the 100 point scale, instead of writing all of these complicated tasting notes with all of those details.

bill said...


Loved the post as Diebolt is one of my favorite wine growers.

Brooklyn Wine Guy, You made me burst out laughing. Thanks.


Peter Liem said...

It made me bust out laughing as well. I knew there was a better way to do this. Sorry for wasting so much of your time!

Narender Godara said...

Packers and movers Panipat
Packers and movers Patiala
Packers and movers Patna
Packers and movers Pune

amine lahragui said...

Your work is very good and I appreciate you and hopping for some more informative posts. happy new year 2016 new year 2016
bonne année 2016 new year 2016 wishes imagenes de año nuevo 2016 feliz año nuevo 2016

Sajid Khan said...

Your Site Is Very Good and The Post is Well On Topic, Thanks for Sharing it with us.

New Sad Songs 2016
miley cyrus bonds with liam hemsworth
Latest Entertainment News 2016
Tennessee Titans don't renew GM Ruston Webster
apple iphone 7 deals
Islamabad United Pakistan Super League Matches Live 2016
best poetry in urdu 2016
New Songs 2016 Indian Music Videos
public domain music 2016

asds said...

Inspirational Love Quotes
Love Quotes
Inspirational Quotes

inspirational love quotes images
love quotes images
inspirational quotes images

asds said...

best love quotes
short love quotes
famous love quotes

inspirational quotes about love
inspiring love quotes
short quotes

short inspirational quotes
Uplifting Bible Verses
Bible Verses About Family

asds said...

Inspirational Bible Verses
Encouraging Bible Verses
Birthday Greetings For Husband

good night quotes
happy mothers day quotes
Inspirational Business Quotes

Life Changing Quotes
Short Life Quotes
Funny valentines day quotes
Happy Valentines Day Quotes

martin lee said...

Lyrics Punjabi Songs
Punjabi Song 2016 Lyrics
Songs Lyrics Pendu Tumblr
Hindi Songs Lyrics
Latest Songs Lyrics

asds said...

easter sunday 2016
easter quotes
Easter Wishes
Easter Greetings

BVS Neha said...

Great article thanks for awesome article from birthday status

Vikash Kumar said...

Funny Good Morning Images

Happy Fathers Day in Spanish

happy fathers day images

Kapil Sharma Show 4 episode

poker face said...

i am visiting first time to your blog awesome post you have written, thank for sharing
Happy Fathers Day Poems
Sultan Torrent
Fathers Day Poems
Happy Fathers Day 2016
Happy Fathers Day
Fathers Day 2016 Poems
Fathers Day 2016 Quotes
Sultan Torrent Download
Sultan Full Movie Download
Sultan movie Download
Fathers Day 2016 Images
Fathers Day 2016 SMS
Fathers Day 2016 Messages
Fathers Day 2016 Pictures
Fathers Day Poems From Son

Ramadan Mubarak 2016 Images said...

Independence Day Speech In Hindi

15 August 2016 Speech In Hindi

Independence Day Speech In Einglish

Independence Day Images Download

Independence Day Images Download

Ramadan Mubarak 2016 Images said...

Eid ul Fitr Images

Eid Mubarak Images Download

Eid Mubarak Quotes In English

Eid Mubarak Greetings

Eid Mubarak Wishes

Riya Negi said...

Very Nice Site and Thank you So Much.Don't Miss 15 August 2016 Related Stuff Here.
15 August 2016 Images
15 August 2016 Speech In Hindi
15 Aug Independence Day Images
15 August 2016 Speech
Upcoming Govt Bank Jobs

Suman Patel said...

the above content you are posted is very nice.
Happy 4th July 2016 Quotes
best profile pictures for whatsapp
best whatsapp dp
Sunny Leone HD Wallpapers
sunny leone desktop wallpaper images pictures
kapil sharma new show online
kapil sharma show hit
bigg boss latest news
bigg boss news

Chinto said...

Great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here.
happy FRIENDSHIP day
Happy New Year 2017 Images
Birthday Website
taylor swift instagram
merry christmas quotes
Darkness Quotes

Ritika Singh said...

Rakhi Images 2016

rakhi pics 2016

Raksha Bandhan 2016 Wallpapers
Raksha Bandhan 2016 Photos
Raksha Bandhan 2016 Images
Advance Raksha Bandhan 2016 Short Sms

JSSC Jharkhand Police Constable Mains Exam Answer Key 2016

Ishant Kumar said...

august 2016 speech

Sham Lal said...

portable wireless bluetooth speaker reviews
best sound quality portable speakers
best budget portable bluetooth speakers
wireless bluetooth speakers for cell phones
best low price bluetooth speakers
high quality portable bluetooth speakers
where to buy bluetooth speakers
review of portable bluetooth speakers
bluetooth speakers with audio output
the loudest portable bluetooth speaker
best sound quality portable speaker
best value portable bluetooth speaker
best wireless speakers with bass
top 3 best value portable bluetooth speaker

best portable speakers under 50
portable bluetooth speakers for car
bluetooth speaker with audio out
best bluetooth speakers under $100
best portable bluetooth speakers 2016
portable wireless bluetooth speaker reviews
bluetooth speakers with good bass
best bluetooth speakers with bass
best rated portable bluetooth speakers
best budget portable bluetooth speakers
top rated bluetooth portable speakers
best portable wireless bluetooth speakers under 200$

Ishant Kumar said...

15 august anchoring speech script
independence day 2016 speech

rymn said...

Friendship day 2016 Wallpapers
Friendship day 2016 Status
Friendship day 2016 Poems
Friendship day 2016 Greetings
Friendship day 2016 Messages
Diwali 2016
Diwali 2016 Quotes

namesay said...

Happy Friendship day Messages 2016
Happy Friendship day Quotes 2016
Happy Friendship day Status 2016
Happy Friendship day Images 2016
Happy Friendship day Wallpapers 2016
Happy Friendship day Profile picture 2016
Happy Friendship day Greetings 2016
Happy Friendship day Wishes 2016
Happy Friendship day Poems 2016