Today I had the opportunity to taste through a number of Champagne being imported by Transatlantic Bubble with owner Mike Carleton. The focus of the portfolio is smaller grower producers (look for the RM sign on the bottles), who work smaller plots and usually will grow fruit to sell to larger firms and also to make their own wines. There are literally thousands of growers in the Chanpagne regions and many make small to midland amounts of wine. The disparity in the producers I tasted today in production size ran from Marguet at 80,000 bottles to Laval who makes about 7,000 bottles, total, that's it!
The wines all showed very well and I used a basic 3 point system to award points (I do this when tasting a number of wines as it allows me to return to my notes and quickly see what I liked). This is also a basic guide for finding your favorites.
Many of these wines - especially the mags - are imported in very small amounts and as such will be almost non-existant in the general market. Producers such as Laval make so little wine that many bottles simply will end up with collectors. If you can find these wines, buy them. They are fairly priced and exhibit great quality across the range.
Bereche et Fils Champagne Brut Reserve (Montagne de Reims) nv
(RM) Pale; tasty aromas with some hint of weight and red fruits in the nose; delicate and juicy onteh palate; soft flavors and a creamy mousse and light, delicate finish. 2+/3
Approx $45.00 retail
Marguet Pere & Fils Champagne Brut Reserve Grand Cru (Ambonnay/ Montagne de Reims) nv
(NM) 50Ch/50Pn – 100% Grand Cru fruit. Deeper nose with toast and apple; smooth on the palate with juicy fruit flavors, clean and just a touch of oxidation with some toast. 2/3
Approx $50.00 retail
Laherte Freres Champagne Brut Tradition (Chavot/Côte des Blancs and Vallée de la Marne) nv
(NM) 60PM/30Ch/10Pn. Ripe nose with deep apple and plum fruits, touch of oxygen ; crisp and snappy bubble, but clean and good chalky finish. 2+/3
Approx $50.00 retail
George Laval Champagne Brut Nature 1er Cru (Cumieres) nv
(RM) 50Ch/30Pn/20PM. This guys does it all Bio-D, with the horses tilling the land and everything. Consiered on of the top small, truly artisinal producers. The wine was toasty and rich with deep aromas on the nose with loads of earth and toast and yellow apple fruits ; great palate feel with a very soft and creamy texture ; finish is clean and fresh with more rich flavors, but no toast. 3/3
Approx $90.00 retail
Paul Clouet Champagne Brut Rose (Cramant/Bouzy/Essoyes/Chouilly) nv
(RM) 75Pn (12 vin rouge)/25Ch/20 reserve wine. Deep almost cranberry color; bright cherry fruit on the nose with some spice; loads of fruit on the palate with more red flavors; it can be either seen as delicate or falling a bit short on the finish depending on your mood and tastes; clean and chalky through the finish; dry. 1+/3
Approx $55.00 retail
George Laval Champagne Cumieres 1er Cru, 2004 (from magnum, 300 bottles produced)
(RM) 50Ch/50Pn. Toasty, smokey nose with fresh apricot and almost a honey nose (fresh spring honey); creamy palate with crisp snappy feel and great length. 2+/3
Approx $175.00 retail (if you can find it)
Bereche et Fils Champagne Extra Brut Crian de Ludes (Montagne de Reims) 2004 (from magnum)
(RM)(2g/L) 50Ch/50Pn-ish. Barrel fermented and aged; very delicate and bright on the nose with some great aromas of ginger and yellow apple and exotic spices; clean creamy bubble that creates a texture that is dry and layered with an almost chalky after-feel. Beauty of a wine with deep resonating feel and quality. Delicious. 3/3
Approx $250.00 retail (if you can find it)