Cuisine Wine

Champagne $100 & Under Tasting results

21 October 2019 (Cuisine magazine Issue 197)

John Belsham explains the appeal of Grower Champagnes in this year’s tasting.

In this year’s $100 and under category we reveal several smaller, family-owned houses among the Champagne’s giants, with some of our higher pointed wines being Grower Champagnes. Grower or Récoltant manipulant (RM) wines are produced from grapes grown exclusively from the producer’s estates, unlike the more well-known houses that may source fruit from the entire region of Champagne.

The popularity of Grower Champagne is a reasonably recent phenomenon due in part to their individuality which enthuses the more knowledgeable and adventurous consumers. Another appeal is that these wines are typically more affordable than the Grandes Marques, given that the owners are not supporting the eye-watering marketing budgets of the internationally famous brands. The flip side is that quality is often variable, and unless the Grower is renowned, the experience can be disappointing. You can rest assured that this Top 10 selection is remarkable across a range of labels and price points.

TASTING PANEL The sparkling wine tasting panel also tasted the Champagnes $100 and under.

top Champagne $100 & Under

Lilbert-Fils Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut NV

Champagne Lilbert-Fils is one of the most consistent and highly respected Grower Champagnes. The Lilbert family have been grape growers since 1746, however it was not until 1907 that the family began bottling their wines. Now, 112 years on, fifth-generation winemaker Bertrand Lilbert is at the helm. Their wines are produced from 3.5 hectares which are exclusively planted to chardonnay vines deeply rooted in the chalk soils of the Côtes de Blancs . The vineyards are situated across three Grand Crus: Cramant, Chouilly and Oiry and are divided into 15 parcels which yield a maximum of 30,000 bottles per year across three wine styles. To put this into perspective, even the smaller of the Grande Marque houses produce over 1.5 million bottles per year.

Upholding traditional techniques
The non-vintage brut in this tasting has an impressive 50% reserve wine and 50% wine from vintage 2013 in the blend. It was hand riddled and disgorged in the spring of 2016 using the traditional ‘à la volée’ technique of holding the bottle upside down then quickly righting it while manually removing the tirage seal with sediment attached. Served in restaurants such as George V in Paris, it is definitely a wine to seek out now, before it is sold out. This wine is exceptionally fresh, elegant and beautifully structured. The delicious creamy mousse and fine bead highlight the aromas of ripe apples and fresh citrus. Savoury, complex flavours of toasty brioche, nuts and meal provide tension, harmony and superb length.

| $69.99
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  • Outstanding 11
  • Excellent 5
  • Very Good 14
  • Good 5
  • No Award 4
  • Total Entries 39