July 13, 2009

Message in a Bottle

Or three bottles. To be more precise.

Regular Lab provider, K&L Wines, has an interesting palate training exercise on their shelves.

The biodynamic producer Champagne Fleury has released three versions of the same wine from the 1995 vintage and K&L has them in stock. These are identical wines, except that each has a different level of dosage: Extra Brut, Brut and Doux.
Dosage (n, doh-SAHJ; from wikipedia), immediately after disgorging but before corking, the liquid level is topped up with liqueur d’expédition. At this time, it is common to add a little sugar, a practice which is known as dosage.
Fleury's wines are outstanding. Dense, earthy, often with alluring red fruit flavors. So we jumped at the opportunity to taste these wines, with their different dosage levels, side by side.

These wines were exceptional. Rich and complex, but also open and approachable.

The Extra Brut was my favorite. A bright, energetic mandarin acidity dominated the palate. There is a strange and wonderfully unique minerality on the finish. Not chalk. Not limestone. Not sure what, but it's really good.

The Brut had similar orange-y acid, with jasmine and silver tarnish on the finish. The sweet is more pronounced but the overall balance of this wine is better than the Extra.

The Doux was also good, but showed a bit like a watered down version of the Brut. It had similar flavors but with less intensity. However, the fact that this has at least 42.5 grams/liter more residual sugar than the Extra Brut is remarkable. The wine is sweet, but the sugar is remarkably well integrated.

The most surprising observation of the evening (and thanks again Alicia!) was the nose on each wine was practically identical. If I were a fake journalist instead of a psuedo scientist, I would have tried to discover if Fleury used cane sugar or concentrated grape must (MCR), because the liqueur d’expédition seemed to have no effect on the olfactory character of the three wines.

Perhaps more controversially, I would also observe that the Extra Brut was the most expressive of site and vintage. The sugar in the Doux, while integrated, seems to obliterate any signs of the vineyard.


Brooklynguy said...

Very interesting stuff. So these wines are identical except for the dosage? Same base wine blends, only the sugar in the dosage differentiates them? Seems like a risky move for small house with a vintage wine. Very interesting indeed. Great post.


Director, Lab Outreach said...

Hi Neil,

I think it was something fun to do with a barrel or two's worth of '95 for a US importer you've had a long-standing and good relationship with.

I'm not sure the same fun would have been had with a barrel from '96.