Known for extensive lees ageing to achieve a full and textural style, Champagne de Castelnau has announced the release this month of its Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2003. Aged on the lees for 11 years and recently disgorged, this limited release of 11,000 bottles offers the opportunity to experience premium quality vintage Champagne from a controversial year.
Only very few champagne houses produced a vintage champagne in 2003 as, due to the extreme summer heatwave, the average acidity of most base wines was very low. At Castelnau however, chef de cave Elisabeth Sarcelet felt that she had enough premium quality still wines to be able to make a small quantity of blanc de blancs vintage champagne which would aptly demonstrate the house style of opulence and texture, while maintaining a superb freshness.
As well extensive lees ageing, Sarcelet also points to site selection as an important determinant of style. The majority of the fruit for de Castelnau’s Blanc de Blancs is grown on soils in the Montagne de Reims crus more usually associated with Pinot Noir production, giving richer, nuttier and more complex flavours to Chardonnay. Trépail, Ludes, Villers-Marmery, Verzy, Tauxieres and Rilly provide 80% of the grapes for the blend. The remaining 20% comes from Chouilly and le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the Côte de Blancs, plus the very specific crus of Nogent l’Abbesse and Bassuet.
Sarcelet describes the wine as having “faint tobacco, spice and a touch of mint followed by crystallised orange on the nose and a lemon-zesty freshness plus richer creamy caramelised exotic fruits on the palate, leading to a toasty and elegant finish”.
Champagne de Castelnau has identified the Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2003 as one of its best, reserving supply for important export markets, especially the UK.
Keith Isaac MW, who is head of Castelnau Wine Agencies in the UK, says: “We are excited about the release of the Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2003 and I’m happy to say that most of its rather limited supply will reach the UK, offering our customers the rare opportunity to experience a superb example of vintage champagne from 2003. Champagne de Castelnau’s characterful style has found favour with a growing number of discerning consumers of premium champagnes and the 2003 is expected to build on the track record of success of the Blanc de Blancs 2002 Vintage which has now sold out.”
The release comes at the beginning of a year in which Champagne de Castelnau will celebrate its centenary. Founded in 1916 in memory of one of France’s First World War heroes, General Edouard de Castelnau, it has long been known as “the Champagne for those in the know”.
Champagne de Castelnau Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2003 is available to the independent trade and has an RRP of £43.00.
21 March 2016 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor