Champagne, ‘Cuvee Laetitia’, Henri Billiot
cépage 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir
assemblage 60% 2013, 40% 2010-2012
info/source Ambonnay Grand Cru
élevage Stainless Steel
Montagne de Reims
The back-story: This was always a profound, sometimes inscrutable but reliably significant Champagne, a tête-de-cuvée consisting of the best lots from every vintage. There were two of these “soleras,” the first one started in 1967, and when that one was gone, another one that began in 1983. It was a leviathan of Champagne when it was on form, as it was for many years. Then about 3-4 years ago it started to show a weird cidery or pear-drop flavor that annoyed me, yet wasn’t annoying (or perhaps even discernible) to other tasters. Still, I fussed at Laetitia, and learned that the cuvée had historically been aged in many small tanks, but for some reason her father—on the eve of his retiring—decided to blend them into two large tanks. Alas, one of the component tanks was the source of the flaw, and now it was there to stay. Laetitia set about to be rid of this wine, and to create a renewed and “fresher” version of her namesake wine, “without this apple taste.” Now the youngest vintage is 2013; the oldest is still 1983. Deg 12/2015. Still majority Chardonnay, unusual for Ambonnay. This is potentially hugely exciting, because it seems to be returning to its old form, great and inscrutable, a leviathan of vinosity and chalkiness.
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