Wine column for week of May 27

One glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. “The nerves are braced, the imagination is agreeably stirred; the wits become more nimble.” Thus wrote Winston Churchill, the great British prime minister, of his favourite wine.
These words came to mind after sampling Godme champagne from the village of Verzenay near the Montagne de Reims, the famous hills that house a collection of grand cru and premier cru vineyards in the Champagne region of France.
The influential American magazine Wine Spectator ranked Godme in its list of the world’s top 100 wines in 2010. The Godme family has owned the house for five generations.
The vineyards have not used artificial fertilizers for more than a decade. Grass is sown between rows to prevent erosion, and to retain moisture and provide natural fertilizers.
Other natural products such as herbal teas and essential oils are added, along with a mixture of shredded vine prunings to enhance nitrogen in the soil.
This emphasis on organic farming shows in the quality of the grapes, which produce excellent champagnes. The entry level brut reserve premier cru non vintage has an elegant nose of white flowers and mineral notes, plus a lively lemon zestiness in the mouth.
This brut is Godme’s best-selling champagne. Its annual production of 60,000 bottles sells quickly and represents about half of the company’s total output.
The brut blend is 50 per cent chardonnay, 15 per cent pinot noir and the balance pinot meunier. The chardonnay provides the finesse and elegance, the pinot noir supplies the structure and sense of fullness in the mouth and the pinot meunier enhances the sensation of freshness and fruitiness.
The 2004 Les Alouettes premier cru blanc de blancs comes from a specific vineyard, Les Alouettes, in the village of Villers Marmery. It spends five years in the cellar after fermentation in barrels and six months stored in oak.
A blanc de blancs is made only of chardonnay grapes. These are hand harvested late in the season so they have relatively high sugar levels (though very few grapes in the region could be said to be high in natural sugar because the region averages less than five hours of sunshine a day over a year).
This is a sophisticated champagne. On the palate it has a grapefruit zing and the flavours of spice and citrus hang around in one’s mouth for a long time. It is also a delight to observe in the glass, with its fine bead and shimmering appearance of pale gold.
In a good year perhaps 8,000 bottles are made. Godme exports to the United States, Europe and parts of Asia, and has an office in Shanghai in China.
The grand cru champagnes from Godme are high quality. The non-vintage brut blanc de noir, as the name implies, consists only of pinot noir grapes — the name literally means a white wine from black grapes. It offers an echo of gold in the glass and tastes of raspberries and other red fruits, and a touch of white pepper.
This is a wine to savour as an aperitif, or any part of a meal. It could even be served with a creamy dessert, because the high acidity would balance the richness of the food.
A tasting highlight was the 1998 grand cru, a blend of 40 per cent pinot noir and the rest chardonnay. Its body could best be described as voluptuous. It has an enticing aroma of freshly-sliced green apple, and tastes like fresh grapefruit with a hint of smokey tea.
The feeling of the wine in one’s mouth, known as the mousse, is like listening to fine opera as the star builds to a climax on stage. The flavour lingers in one’s mouth for what seems like an eternity. A wine that made me want to sing.
All Godme champagnes receive low dosage, the amount of sugar added to the wine to create the secondary fermentation. Typically the dosage is about 6 grammes per litre of liquid.
Debate continues in the Champagne region about the amount of sugar to use in the dosage. Some winemakers argue that the sugar is needed for long-term ageing. Generally the riper the grapes the less sugar needed in the dosage, and Godme even make a champagne without added sugar, known as a a brut nature, though I have not tried that wine.
After tasting the grand cru champagnes I bought some of these delights.
* Published 28 May 2013. Find a link here. And published 30 May 2013 in Taiwan here.

Categories: Not home, wine

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