Vintage Non Vintage

Fabulous tasting today thrown by Maisons Marques & Domains, hosted by LIDO at Dolphin Bay in Shell beach overlooking the ocean on a PERFECT day, introducing the the new Collection 242, which replaces our beloved Brut Premiere–basically my house Champagne. There’s a plethora of big-house supermarket bubblies out there in the $50 range, but I DARE you to find a more consistent, readily-available, clean & bright sparkler than Louis Roerderer Brut Premiere. But it is no more. The new label looks nearly identical and when queried on price-point, was told “raised two or three dollars.”

The new wine is still NV, but assemblage is vastly different, with a solera system contributing components. Representatives claim “consistency in the face of global warming” as their raison d’être, as Champagne falls victim to *ripeness marches north*. The particular wine we were served contained only 56% 2017–its actual “vintage”–and the remainder made up of finished wines from 6 different years ranging back to 2009. And this brings up my favorite part of the new package: a QR code on the back label which documents every single nitty-gritty geeky detail about the contents of that particular bottle. I tried it, and it’s all there. Vineyard sources, varietal and vintage components, harvest dates, barrel programme, and of course disgorgement and dosage specifics. This transparency is BEYOND refreshing, as I have complained loudly of late how similar houses have systematically been REMOVING such info from public view.

Those in the back rows will immediately point out the ideological conflict of producing a NON-VINTAGE wine bearing a NUMBER indicating winery’s chronological production. Yes, these wines are Roederer’s 241st, 242nd, 245th and so on, harvests, with each wine quite different on paper (yes, I checked). So basically what you have is a NV wine you can track in your cellar. I always write the purchase date on the label of anything NV entering my cellar, and this eliminates that duty.

But how does it TASTE? Compared to Brut Premiere, I felt it looked deeper yellow in the glass and richer on the palate with more classic, toasty, vintage Champagne notes. Spritely bright citrus notes have been smoothed into more elegant shades of riper apricot and pear. Sharp and piercing–while still no malo–this wine carries perhaps just a touch more velvet. I am happy to report dosage is actually down substantially from the Brut Premiere, though–in another new twist in marketing–nowhere on the label is a classic indication of ‘dryness’.

Of course our hosts brought some cool Anderson Valley vintage sparklers–current releases both: the stellar l’Ermitage 2015 and even a 2013 Brut Rose (360 cases). Lots of lively chatter about wine marketing around the table for a few hours with a who’s-who of local slingers. And Lido’s food was amazing, as usual. Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon. Look for the new COLLECTION wines to start showing up in stores and clear out a spot where you KNOW that vertical is going to go! Non-vintage vertical, of course.

NV LOUIS ROEDERER ‘Collection 242’ CH/PN/PM 42/40/18 8g/l Champagne Reims France 12.0

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