The Successful Collector – By Julian Hitner ~ Blanc de Blancs – My favourite type of champagne ~ Saturday, November 26th, 2011
Chardonnay only: – Crafted solely from Chardonnay, Blanc de Blancs is my favourite type of champagne. Built around the well-established notion that Chardonnay contributes finesse, delicacy, freshness, texture, and style to the blend—remembering that most champagne is a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier—Blanc de Blancs, while perhaps not as richly structured or fruit-oriented as some might prefer, constitutes the greatest features I adore in champagne.
So how should top quality Blanc de Blancs taste, of which the best grapes hail from the Côte des Blancs, just south of Épernay? While generalizations are easier to summarize than specifics, most experienced champagne drinkers will often detect aromas of profound yeasty biscuits, or even French toast if they’re fortunate enough, at the outset. Typically, in Blanc de Blancs, this should gently subside to reveal a vast array of different notes related to green fruits, citrus elements, exotic spices, and delicate nuts, also sometimes truffles—all extremely pure yet agile at the same time. Indeed, the greatest examples of Blanc de Blancs should always be immensely complex, yet present themselves to the taster in such a way that makes their most important aromas, such as those previously mentioned, easily discernable. In my experience, such is the mark of a truly great Blanc de Blancs.
On the palate, these same aromas, like any other type of wine, should be clearly repeated in the form of detectable flavours. In the case of Blanc de Blancs, however, the main differences to watch out for, such as when comparing it any other type of champagne, are finesse, delicacy, freshness, texture, and style. Perhaps a comparison will add light to the issue: Salon versus Krug.
Compared to the Krug Grande Cuvée, which will often taste weightier, deeper, and ever-so slightly more fruit-driven (courtesy of the Chardonnay being typically outweighed by the two Pinots), and rounder—the result, among other things, of being a multi-grape blend—a glass of Salon will typically possess a greater degree of purity and expression from being crafted solely from Chardonnay. Such characteristics, I would submit, are best discovered when analysing the features previously mentioned.
As for aging potential, a bottle of premium Blanc de Blancs should have little trouble keeping for several decades, depending on the preference of the collector. Like other types of champagne, an old bottling of Blanc de Blancs will often remind one of an old white Burgundy, perhaps even (still) slightly effervescent. Seriously, what could be better?