Last week I attended a superb vintage Blanc de Blancs Champagne tasting at the Oyster Bar of Bibendum Restaurant, kindly hosted by LVMH and Ruinart Cellar Master, Frederic Panaiotis.
We kicked off with Ruinart’s classic NV Blanc de Blancs. I say NV, but as with many top cuvees, this is a blend of which 40% is made up of Chardonnay ‘reserves wines’ from the 2009, 2010 and 2012 vintages. It is an unmistakable style that Frederic has thrived to achieve over his 9 year tenure as Cellarmaster of this 280 year-old Champagne House, with immaculate precision I must add. Frederic was the first to say that his biggest challenges, and most satisfaction, come from creating the consistent style of the NV Blanc de Blancs year in year out. He said “non-vintage is what keeps me on my toes, vintage Champagne is easy!”.
Next up was a flight of three very distinct styles, Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2004, 1998 and 1988. The 2004 was unbelievably fresh, very precise, with crystalline fruit and superb balance – this will require patience but as Frederic said “in 10 years time you are in for a real treat”. I think this comment really set the tone for the next two wines, which were perfect examples of the reward you get for cellaring these wines over time. The 1988 was probably starting to get a bit tired in my view but gave you all the tertiary characters you expect; a yeasty almost sherry-like style. The 1998 was an absolute knock-out; perfectly ripe, fleshy, but with structure to repay cellaring. The 98 is one of those wines you could write an essay of a tasting note on as it just keeps giving in the glass – Notes of freshly cut bread and Spring flowers. On the palate, stone fruit is beautifully balanced by hints of honey. Finesse with quiet power, this is an archetype of Grand Cru Chardonnay from the very best vineyards of the Côte des Blancs.