THE SIGHT and sound of a bottle of Champagne is usually enough to turn the head of just about any wine fan in need of a refreshment (and an excuse for a celebration) but there's something next level about a chilled glass of pure, pristine blanc de blancs. We blind-tasted 18 examples predominantly (but not exclusively) from the chalk-derived soils of the Côtes des Blancs; here's our top 12.
NV Étienne Calsac L'Échappée Belle, A$100
One of the Côtes des Blancs' most exciting producers, Étienne Calsac started vinifying his family's 2.8 hectares of Avize vines in 2010. This stunning wine is fleshy and complex with citrus rind, florals and wholewheat toast offset by fine mineral acidity. Incredible balance.
NV Palmer & Co Blanc de Blancs, A$130
A Champagne of serious class crafted from pristine Montagne de Reims fruit, bolstered by grapes from the Côte de Sezanne. Full-bodied and rich with oyster shell, autolytic notes, citrus fruit and tight, chalky acidity. Five years on lees. A high water mark for blanc de blancs.
2012 Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs, A$199
From the Grand Cru Côtes des Blancs villages of Oger and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and one of the region’s most renowned producers, this extra brut (3g/l) was aged for eight years before disgorgement. Wet pebbles and sea spray notes lead to a rich, broad palate framed by a super fine bead and laser-like acidity. Lemon, almond, pepper and length for days.
2014 Ayala Le Blanc de Blancs, A$130
Aged on lees for an average of six years, this is remarkably fresh and tightly coiled. Linear in its approach, it shows citrus blossom, yuzu, green apple skin and chalk. Pair with kingfish ceviche or caviar for a profound experience.
NV Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs, A$150
Always an elegant classic, this is complex with its toasted rye, lemon rind and fresh green herbal notes. An energetic bead and lime juice acidity frame a fine-boned palate with crisp mille feuille texture and a mineral-laced finish.
2013 Pol Roger Brut Blanc de Blancs, A$210
Made exclusively from Grand Cru Côtes des Blancs chardonnay (Oiry, Chouilly, Cramant, Avize, Oger and Les-Mesnil-sur-Oger), this stunning rendition exhibits attractive torch ginger lily and spice aromas. A bright citrus core radiates with laser beam acidity, reigned in by a super fine and textural mousse and blossom notes.
NV Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes de Montgueux, A$120
The 2018 vintage comprises almost 50% of this zero dosage Champagne, with 2017 and 2016 making up the balance. A very dominant sour cherry character, with marsala and clove-poached figs making for a fascinating aromatic profile. The texture is complex and leesy, with chewy tannins and a super dry finish. It’s fascinating and a very unique take on blanc de blancs.
NV Frerejean Frères Blanc de Blancs, A$142
Thirst-quenching, complex, serious sparkling chardonnay here sourced from the Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards of Cramant, Avize and Grauves. Very slight reduction and lightly bruised apple notes are encompassed by dominant citrus characters, with salted cucumber, fresh leesy texture and a tightrope of searing acidity. One bottle won’t last long.
NV Pommery Blanc de Blancs, A$109
A blend of fruit from the Côtes des Blancs, Montagne de Reims and Nogent l’Abbesse results in a very attractive, flinty chardonnay spectrum type-Champagne. Alpine herbs and fresh grassy notes simply add to the palate’s freshness, which is characterised by crisp green apple, candied lemon peel, lime juice and a long, mineral finish.
NV Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Blancs, A$140
Engine oil green in the glass with dark golden hues, this shows off its varietal signs immediately with white florals and fresh stone fruit. There’s a touch of fleshy vinous flavours, with poached quince and roasted nuts, but ultimately it’s the richness that dominates, without forsaking balance. It’s not quite as linear as textbook blanc de blancs, but in line with the House style, it’s at once taut, crisp and powerful with remarkable intensity.
2015 Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Fleuron, A$115
Champions of the Côtes des Blancs and masters of assemblage, Pierre Gimonnet & Fils rely on multiple Grand Crus (Chouilly, Cramant, Oger), as well as Premier Cru fruit from Cuis for freshness, to strike the remarkable tension and purity they are so renowned for. Drinking this wine is only about one-third of the actual experience – citrus florals, white grapes, chalk and charred lemon dominate the nose. Spice, citrus and toast form the palate core, with squeaky clean minerality and a dry finish with and incredible length. An amazing wine.
2008 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs, A$400
Broad, deep and brooding, almost hedonistic take on blanc de blancs Champagne – it all made sense once the label was revealed. This wine saw 12 years on lees. There’s lemon/lime Schweppes cordial flavours with green olive brine, candied lemon, pear, white pepper and a touch of iodine. The finish is tight and powerful – priming for a second glass. A wine to savour, if you have the willpower.