This wine was a gift from my excellent friend Richard. (I think he gave it to me for surviving cancer – I am quite pleased I did too.) I am still trying to write up the reds we had at our last encounter – alas fibromyalgia keeps interfering with my output and I am terrible at the whole ‘taking breaks’-thing, so I end up feeling dreadful and totally unable to write. Therefore I have decided to cheat and jump ahead to this one single wine.
If I achieve one thing with this tasting note, I want to make at least one person understand that vintage Gratien Blanc des Blancs does not age. Considering the only occupations I have had have been academic pursuits or being disabled, you would not believe the amount of money I have pissed away trying to age these wines. Fine for a year or two, if you are very lucky three, but then no.
On release they are undoubtedly great wines, often spectacular in great vintages, but time after time I have wasted all that brilliance just by putting them in a good cellar for several years. I should have burned the money I spent on them instead, just to save on effort.
Therefore, The Editor and I decided to drink this within a week of being given it as a prelude to eating bacon sandwiches made with totally top bacon from Ambrose Sausages. That is bloody good bacon if you ever should be passing their stall at one of the Hampshire Farmers’ Markets they frequent.
Champagne Blanc des Blancs Grand Cru Vintage 2008, Alfred Gratien
This has the nose of a freshly pampered, primped and perfumed cherub – all tremendously pulchritudinous, spritely and with vivacious flowers and fruits. There are aromas of whitecurrants, apple and peach. Perhaps more surprisingly, considering it is all Chardonnay, there are redcurrants and blackcurrants too.
All of these fruity aromas are so intense that they, together with a strong, stoney undercurrent, give the nose a surprising degree of density and power. It is also thrillingly complex and as fresh and delightful as a sunny spring morning. Irresistible!
What neither The Editor nor I can detect is Gratien’s signature woody character. Normally when one is drinking Gratien one feels the need to pull oak splinters from one’s sinuses and palate – I rather like that. For this wine Gratien must have used casks so encrusted with tartrate that they did not impart any character, or possibly they eschewed all use of oak for this wine. Much as I like that character normally, I do not feel this wine suffers the smallest mote from its absence: it is totally tempting and distinctly attractive without that seasoning.
The palate is certainly jam-packed with vim and vigour – or as those of us who take Losec put it, “Hell’s bells! That is bloody acidic! Do we have any Gaviscon left?”. I do not mind my stomach getting scalded as a price for enjoying this fresh, vibrant, elegantly fruity palate.
It may be quite acidic, only a problem for those of us unlucky enough to be on Proton Pump Inhibitors, but the joyously fruity, floral flavours that cascade around your palate, powered by seriously fine mousse pleasured me intensely. This is seriously fun juice!
Again there is no oak character, and again the wine loses nothing because of this; indeed it may even be why the delicious flavours present in the wonderful wine are so lubriciously intense and extravagant.
It has a lovely, long finish with a fine limestone grip on it that adds to the complexity of the persistent fruitiness. It is a totally happy, fun and engaging drink, you cannot help but love it.
And if you age it, all that deliciousness will turn to rotten filth!