GRANDE CHAMPAGNE SESSION #1
Ragnaud Sabourin Florilège 46%
And we start with a 45yo Grande Champagne from Ragnaud Sabourin, in Ambleville. 46%. Made of Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard. What could possibly go wrong?
Colour: Old gold, orange lights. Regular medium tears.
Nose: Caramelized orchard at first. Poached pears, apple juice. Elegant flowery notes on lilac and rose. Nicely honeyed. It reminds me a lot of the fresh youngness of a Grosperrin Cépages, but you find a distinct rancio on nutty scents and tinned plums that remind you it’s not the same age at all. A tad of spices on white pepper and cardamom too.
Mouth: Sweet texture. Delicious apricot marmalade aromas at first. Candied citruses, mainly lemon and orange. Light freshness on eucalyptus surrounded by round notes of vanilla stick and buttery shades. Small oaky notes and light tobacco notes in the aftertaste. Strong citruses aromas in the mouth length, mainly pink grapefruit.
Last Notes: Full of raisins now. Still some vanilla tones, maybe more bourbon vanilla this time. Still a flowery nose. Still a nice freshness on peppermint. Back on the palate, you find young peaches notes underlined by a tad of acacia honey. A little lack of mouth length to be honest, even with 46%. Brand new oak notes and linseed oil too. It ends on walnut oil and dried apple.
Not my favorite G.C for sure. Something is missing or something vanished during the aging process. Too bad, because it has undeniable great potential of finesse and complexity.
Ragnaud Sabourin 1990 41%
We stay in Ambleville for this second Grande Champagne. This one is a “young” millesime bottled at 41% in August 2021.
Colour: Pale gold orange lights. Medium regular tears.
Nose: Fruits and creamy notes at first, something a bit like peach yogurt. Very flowery too on orange blossom and jasmine. Orchard peel. A tad on spices but reasonable wood influence in this « young » G.C. Definitely on the orchard, with few rustic notes like cider apple.
Mouth: Sweet texture with a bitter and dry aftertaste. Poached pears, calvados-y notes, confirming first impressions. Raisins and dried plums in the mouth length. Spicy aromas on cloves and black pepper. Not the most pleasant palate ever but I kinda like this rusticity. It ends on almond paste and young apricots.
Last Notes: A bit more on wood scents now. Pine sap, dry oak smells. It lost a little of its fruity side, even if you still get tinned peaches and tangerine. Hints of verbena infusion in the background. Dusty aftertaste and a full spoon of raisins as a probably-too-simple-au-revoir.
Very singular Grande Champagne. Rustic, in-between 2 septs of its aging. Vivid flavors of youngness and hints of noble rancio given by its 32yo.
Dudognon Heritage 41%
Dudognon. A lovely place located one kilometer away from Lignieres-Sonneville. One of the last cognac houses using coal and wood pot still heating instead of the common gas heating. Less precise, asking to look after very carefully but more traditional and probably giving different eaux-de-vie, especially with small pot stills (8 and 10 hectoliters here). They’re also making (for a small part) their very own casks. Needless to say, they’re quite like a unicorn in the cognac game.
And what about this Heritage in Dudognon’s range? It’s a 40yo+ Grande Champagne slowly reduced at 41% with an unknown part of Montils and Folle Blanche (separated distillation for the brouillis when the harvest is sufficient, and that wasn’t the case in 2021 for example).
Colour: Amber, gold lights. Irregular heavy tears.
Nose: Ample note caramelized notes of young bananas and pears. Obvious creaminess melted to roasted notes of ground coffee could let imagine a full tiramisu. Splendid nose. Light menthol notes are surrounded by resinous shades, mainly on cedarwood. Cooked grapes and violet scents remind me a bit of some bourbon noses. Lingering creaminess on fruits yogurt. A tad of tea shades and aniseed notes in the background.
Mouth: Oily texture with acidulous aftertaste on licorice sweets and bourbon vanilla. Trust me, that’s heavily rancioted! Old leather combined with ristretto aromas and its typical bitterness. Banana liquor. Very spicy at the top of the palate: stared anise, cardamom, and caramelized tarragon. Deep complexity but immediate pleasure. A tad of acidity in the aftertaste on young vine peach.
Last Notes: A bit more rancioted now. A heady perfume of potpourri. Still very spicy on coriander and cardamom. Light umami notes on cooked white mushrooms. Still, this previously perceived creaminess on fruity yogurt. Back on the palate, you find camphory and medical tones and a nice aftertaste on licorice sweets. A tad of dry oak notes but it remains a gentle wood influence here. Great citruses notes on orange peel and grapefruit juice surrounded by caramelized orchard notes. It ends on bitter chocolate and a tad of white truffle.
Stunning 40yo+ Grande Champagne, generously rancioted and nicely balanced between fruitiness and spiciness.
Navarre Vieille Reserve 45%
A few centimeters away from the Charente river, in Gondeville, you find the Renclos Estate. After the very convincing Cravache d’Or, it’s time to taste another one in Navarre’s core range. This Vieille Reserve is a 43yo++ G.C delivered at something like a cask strength ABV (45%).
Colour: Amber, gold lights. Heavy regular tears.
Nose: Strong heady perfume at first. Nice mix on fresh and rancioted notes. Thyme, basil, bay leaf fighting with goat milk (yes, no joke) scents. Lingering herbs notes. It goes on honeyed nutty notes, like nougat and walnut sweets. “Sunny” shades on melon and turmeric. Poached pears in the background and still heady perfume, this time on orange zest peel.
Mouth: Acidulous texture on red berries and quite rancioted aftertaste on nutmeg and goat milk (again). Nutty notes on walnut oil and hazelnut shell. Still a great dash of herbs, mainly on honeysuckle and bay leaf. Rancio goes wild on burnt wood and meat juice. Plums eau-de-vie and a tad of green Charteuse aftertaste. Strange, brutal and a little imprecise. But a what an aromatic bomb. Humid cellars you said?
Last Notes: Musk and herbal scents with more air. You find back these sunny notes on overripe melon and some rancioted shades, this time on rancid butter. Hints of wet undergrowth too. Roasted notes on cocoa powder. Waves of balsamic notes. Back on the palate, strong dried prune aromas and acidulous notes of various red and black berries. Blackcurrant juice, blackberry syrup, raspberry syrup. It ends on walnut oil and some umami shades you find in old P.X. (God Bless you Luke).
Very Grande Champagne but very uncommon in terms of style. Rancio monster, quite unbalanced. But undisputed quality. Speaking here about the price would lead me to prison, so I’ll remain silent.
Navarre Souvenir Imperial 40%
Another path in Navarre’s range. This Souvenir Imperial is a 50yo+ G.C bottled at 40%, which is supposed to be cask strength, but there is probably a slight reduction before bottling here.
Colour: Dark amber, orange lights. Medium regular tears.
Nose: Deep flowery nose on violet blossom and rosewater. You find back this very specific rancio delivered in the Vieille Reserve, but more polite this time. “May I bother your nose with my rancio?” or something like that. So rancioted creamy notes on creme brulee and candied fruits cake. Great scents of gingerbread too. Waves of freshness on mint leaves, anise, and fennel. Delicious fruitiness on tinned peaches and marasquin cherry.
Mouth: Oily/acidulous texture on peach/grenadine syrup and tobacco leaves. Full of old leather notes. Strong rancio with a little astringence in the aftertaste. Heavy cigar aromas melted to braised chicken and caramelized tarragon notes. More refined than the wild and barking Vieille Reserve, but still a strong rancioted and revolted G.C. Not punk, just a 50yo old man with Sex Pistols vinyl at his side but now prefer to play Kind of Blue or So What on his turntable. A tad briny on green olives tapenade by the way.
Last Notes: Ample creamy notes, mainly on hazelnut cream. Full of herbs like thyme and rosemary. Still some spicy/herbal notes on bay leaf and cloves. Delicious caramelized apple scents. It reminds me a bit of some old white Burgundy wines that are about to pass away with their typical honeyed and oxidated notes.
Back on the palate, it reminds some Tawny port wines, still with this very « oxidated » tone. Ample rancio on walnut oil, licorice syrup, and blackberry juice. Incredible mouth length regarding the ABV. Still, some meat juice aromas melted to various cooked herbs (tarragon, parsley, thyme). The very end calls me back a few memories of some old pineaux and their thick rancio (like the Grosperrin MMC3 first batch or some other very old ones that you’ll see on Hors d’Age in 2022).
Splendid Grande Champagne in Navarre’s very own style. More refined than the Vieille Reserve but you still get a fantastic funky cognac. If only it could be bottled at 41 or 42%, it would be like a Platini free-kick, a kind of soft killing shot in the top corner.