Concerning Hubert Soreau, I can confirm that he is as meticulous as a goldsmith for the production of his champagne Clos l’Abbé. His Chardonnay grapes grow in three small lots of the historic Clos l’Abbé near Épernay (once the oldest walled or enclosed vineyards of Champagne, as old documents confirm that it was already planted with grape vines in the ninth century). Personally, I love Chardonnay. It always comes up with surprises, presenting unexpected tastes and fragrances to my palate. It can be subtle and discreet, thick and lazy, powerful or delicate, have aromas of butter, lemon, blossoms and vanille, be mineral or juicy… So maybe I’d better write in plural and say that « I like ChardonnayS ». Obviously there are also perfectly boring Chardonnay wines on the marked, as it’s not a MAGIC grape variety that automatically makes great wines. You have to treat it with a certain respect, so it gives us a wine well worthy of its name.
In Hubert’s vineyards and cellar this is indeed the case: « Chablis style » pruning, no herbicides, hand picked grapes, whole bunch pressing in vertical press, fermenting in oak barrels, bottle fermentation (prise de mousse) the traditional way with natural cork… And at least three years of bottle ripening before Hubert starts to think about bringing the wines back up from the cellar.
The last « tirage » of the Clos l’Abbé (the still, non sparkling wines of the last vintage are bottles for the second fermentation) took place in April. An excellent occasion to get an older bottle from the cellar and give it a taste!
It looks great in the glass: pale, shiny and golden colored, small bubbles regularly rising to the surface. Its almost ruminant… By the way, I poured it into a wine glass and not into a champagne flute. The latter is perfectly adapted to sparkling wines that want to emphasize the splendor of their bubbles. But its far to small and tight for wines with a complexe bouquet. Those wines deserve better, they need space!
The Clos l’Abbé gratefully fills the entire space I’ve offered to him with the smell of ripe peaches and pears, as well as with aromas of hazelnut and butter. After a little while the wine has opened up a little, adding white pepper and dried apricots to its bouquet. Despite the fact that my nose would love to hang on a little longer, my palate insists to taste and drink at last. The straight minerality of the wine surprises at first, but it rapidly melts away amongst the mellow and smooth mouthfeel. The fine bubbles are perfectly integrated, and delicate fragrances of almonds and blossoms enrich the aromatic final.
Tasting this Champagne, its easy to understand the meaning of the French dictum that « a Champagne can accompany a whole banquet, from the amuse bouche to dessert ». Let’s think about it: I would serve the Clos l’Abbé without anything for an aperitif and prepare a rabbit terrine with coriander and pistachio for a starter. For the main course I could imagine fish filet with white pepper and vanilla, served with some creamy polenta, followed by some young parmesan cheese. Finish on a « Paris-Brest », a traditional French choux pastry with praline flavoured cream.