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Champagne Pierre Peters & Guy Charlemagne

June 14, 2010

It’s probably irrelevant to ask what do rich Indonesian women know about wine, particularly if they declare quite nonchalantly that they “buy lots of wine from XXX (name of merchant/retailer) and ship them all back to Jakarta” (pronounced with that tell-tale gutteral “rrr”), something I realised when I found myself at a private wine dinner on 17 May 2010 (through Kieron…how else?) at Kome, along with 15 other high net-worth individuals and private bankers, organised by Mr Boon S Heng, an engineer by training who is better known as the founder of CEC Wine, an enthusiasts’ circle in London that went on to host several eclectic tastings attended by luminaries such as Michael Broadbent, Serena Sutcliffe and Jancis Robinson, no less.

The primary feature that evening was the champagne wines of Maison Pierre Peters, a family-owned estate situated in the Cote des Blancs since 1919, and one of several agency wines carried by Wein & Vin, a wholesaler set up by Boon. We began with a 2008 Donnhoff Riesling Trocken, a pale luminous glow with lifted aromas of citrus, honey, nectar, apricot and peach, suggesting wonderful depth. The floral fragrance carried well onto the palate with a sweet and intense expression without being overbearing, ending in a somewhat short, bitter-sweet pomelo finish, although it grew to become more persistent with time. Paired astutely with deep fried spicy mackerel, bringing out the wonderful freshness in the wine. Quite unique and delightful.

The Pierre Peters Perle du Mesnil LSNV followed next, paired with snow crab in a clear clam soup and sashimi. Pale, light-medium with less fizz but remarkably balanced with substantial wheat, yeast, toasty oak and a suggestion of depth. Not too dry on the finish. Excellent body. Expands further at the finish with biscuity, nutty flavours.

This was followed by Pierre Peters Cuvee de Reserve, Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs NV (en magnum), paired with sea perch and sea urchin, apparently opened and aired for 24 hours under temperature control. The results are telling. Light-golden, biscuity with deep, crispy notes of toasty walnut, creme de la creme and a substantial oily-texture on the mid-palate. It gradually morphed into a seamless whole, the vibrant acidity ensuring a certain lightness of touch. Quite a complete champagne, I’d say, if it weren’t for the following wine that upstaged it.

The 2000 Pierre Peters Cuvee de Reserve “Les Chetillons” Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs represented the first time I’ve had champagne served in a white wine glass, and what an educational experience it turned out to be. Supposedly made from old vines over 45 years of age from three plots in the Grand Cru village of Mesnil-sur-Oger that the owners declared as “one of the finest pieces of land in Champagne”, and it shows. Very open. Fantastic bouquet full of secondary aromatics. Lives up to lofty expectations on the palate. Deeply complex and layered, producing a kaleidoscope of flavours and colors, more of yeast, apples, pineapples and peach, smoky, broad, smooth and expansive. Ripe yet elgant, the rich minerality enhancing the purity of the fruit. It reminded me of a Philipponnat. Absolutely beautiful. We paid the ultimate compliment by purchasing a case on-the-spot.

From Pierre Peters, we moved on to another champagne house also located within the village of Mesnil-sur-Oger since 1892: Champagne Guy Charlemagne. We were presented with the Brut Rose NV, made from 100% pinot noir, paired with river eel and mushroom rice.  A lovely pinkish tint. Flavours of toasty oak and grapefruit producing that characteristic yeasty note, medium-bodied, the cutting acidity leading on to a dry finish. Developed some pungent barnyard as it sat in the glass, adding to a sense of depth. I’ve always enjoyed rose champagne and this example was without exception.

Next, a “mystery wine“. Powerful nose of petroleum character – reminding me instantly of turpentine as well as childhood days spent sniffing the fumes off the petrol cap of my father’s old Morris Minor. Highly addictive – the wine, I mean – with dense oily textures imbued with principal flavours of fig, nectar and apricot. Open and transparent without being heavy. It turned out to be the Guy Charlemagne Ratafia, made by fermenting the fresh must of pinot noir (from Champagne, of course) with a blend of liquor, 18% by alcohol and typically served as an aperitif in Champagne. Wow. I’m glad this came towards the end of dinner, but I’ll be happy to sip this quietly late at night on its own while watching a great movie.

And, finally, an 1989 Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Beerenauslese to round off the evening’s proceedings. Deep ash cherry. Heavy, almost smoky, of cooked apples. Slightly resinous, dense, almost medicinal in quality, the low acidity and dry stern finish an instant cue that this wine has spent considerable time well into its maturity. Not unlike an aged sauternes just past its prime but, nevertheless, still enjoyable. I must thank Boon, and Wein & Vin, for such a generous and informative lineup, and I’ll be sure to drink more of these fabulous wines in time to come.

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