Champagne: Greater than the sum of its parts

Where is Champagne? Assuming you know that it is in northern France, most fans of the world’s finest fizz would identify Epernay as the heart of the region. Journey south and any visitor would quickly find themselves in Chardonnay territory, the aptly named Cote des Blancs. Head west and Meunier production dominates in the Vallee de la Marne and if one were to look up in a northerly direction, the most famous hill for the growing of Pinot Noir outside of Burgundy, would frame one’s view; the ambitiously named Montagne de Reims. Yet in the same way that London exists beyond the streets painted on a Monopoly board, Champagne encompasses much more than the three ‘vineyards’ that envelop Epernay.

Some 130km further to the south, beyond the city of Troyes and closer to Burgundy than the rest of Champagne, lies the Cote des Bar. This is Pinot country and is as significant as the more famed Montagne de Reims producing as it does 50% of Champagne’s most coveted dark skinned variety. The Champagne house and bastion of the Cote des Bar, Devaux, were in Taipei last week represented by the excellent Jean-Noel Girard. Monsieur Girard managed to do what seems beyond the reach of many of the reps that reach these shores in that he both engaged and entertained the crowd. Jean-Noel’s party trick was really no trick at all, he just informed and educated those assembled through an excellently worked tasting. This included ten samples of vin clair, ‘raw’ Champagne, bereft of bubbles, age and the mollifying effect of sugar. You cannot buy this raw wine (believe me your teeth will thank you, so high was the level of acidity) but you can buy them in assembled form and it is these Devaux Champagnes that receive attention below.

Devaux, Ultra D, Extra Brut NV
Grapes: 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay
Wine-making: 2g/l dosage. A minimum of 35% reserve wines. A minimum of 5 years ageing.
Note: I’ve had too many lean and scrawny ‘ultra’ Champagnes but this is not one of those. Positively generous and vivid with great purity of fruit and a saline tang.
Price: 2,800NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: creationwine.com.tw

Devaux, 2006 Vintage D, Brut
Grapes: 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay
Wine-making: 6g/l dosage. A minimum of seven years ageing.
Note: Still young and relatively closed, this needs a little time for the fruit to reappear, but your patience will be rewarded with a Champagne of persistence and definition.
Price: 3,600NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: creationwine.com.tw 

Devaux, Cuvee D, Brut NV
Grapes: 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay
Wine-making: 7g/l dosage. A minimum of 35% of reserve wines. A minimum of 5 years ageing.
Note: Relatively inexpensive yet decidedly cheerful, by virtue of the costly and lengthy ageing. Good aperitif style sparkler, lighter and more featherweight than the rest.
Price: 2,550NT
Score: 15.5
Available from: creationwine.com.tw

 

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