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Antonio Galloni in 'Robert Parker Wine Advocate Nov 2011' on the following Champagnes from Vine Trail

2005 Agrapart & Fils Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru l'Avizoise (96)

The 2005 Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru L'Avizoise shows the more powerful, rich side of Avize, largely owing to the heavy presence of clay in these sites. This is one of the richer, rounder wines readers will taste from Agrapart. The fruit possesses gorgeous texture and depth, while warm, spiced notes add creaminess to the finish. Today the Avizoise looks like it will be faster to mature than the Mineral, but I doubt too many bottles will be around when that ultimately becomes an issue. The Avizoise is made from parcels in Les Robards and la Voie d'Epernay, two clay-rich vineyards. The Avizoise was aged in 600-liter barrels. Dosage was 4 grams per liter. Disgorged July 2011. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2020.

I realize I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but these are once again the finest wines I have tasted from Agrapart. From top to bottom, these Champagnes are simply stunning. All of the wines are 100% Chardonnay and see full malolactic fermentation.

2005 Agrapart & Fils Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Venus (96)

The 2005 Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Venus is breathtaking in this vintage. It shows stunning depth, power and richness, all while retaining tons of freshness and minerality. Layers of flavor saturate the palate in this moving, vivid Champagne. The 2005 Venus may be the very best Champagne I have ever tasted from Agrapart. Venus is made from a tiny 0.3 hectare parcel in La Fosse originally planted in 1959. This vineyard has never been worked mechanically. Today it is farmed by hand and with the help of Venus, the horse for which the wine is named. The 2005 was fermented in 600-liter barrels and bottled with no dosage. Disgorged July 2011. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2025.

2008 Domaine Vouette et Sorbee Blanc d'Argile (95)

The 2008 Blanc d'Argile (Chardonnay) is stunningly beautiful. It possesses fabulous energy from start to finish. Pears, peaches, white flowers and crushed rocks are all woven into a rich tapestry loaded with personality and sheer class. Sweet, perfumed notes linger on the finish. The Blanc d'Argille is an intensely mineral wine that needs quite a bit of air to show at its best. This is Lot 5-11-10 R 08. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018.

I was thrilled with the wines I tasted from Vouette et Sorbee this year. The wines have often been great, but the estate's Achilles heel has been consistency. I hope these wines signal a level the estate will be able to maintain, because the world needs these wines, and needs them to be truly great. Like many artisan Champagnes, the Vouette et Sorbee are wines first and foremost. They should be opened in advance, given some air and served in regular white wine glasses, never flutes. All of the wines are fermented in barrel, using only indigenous yeasts. There is no cold stabilization, fining or filtering and the wines are bottled with no dosage. When the wines are on, they are among the most exciting wines being made in Champagne.

2008 Domaine Vouette et Sorbee Fidele (94)

The 2008 Fidele emerges from the glass with sweet red berries, flowers and mint. It reveals gorgeous transparency through to the crystalline finish. White flowers and minerals are nicely layered on the nose. The Fidele is round, pretty and just dazzling in every way. Fidele is 100% Pinot Noir. This is Lot 4-10-10 R 08. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018.

2005 Agrapart & Fils Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Mineral (94)

The 2005 Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Mineral is breathtaking. The wine emerges from parcels in Avize (Les Champboutons) and Cramant (Les Bionnes) and is fermented in 600-liter barrels. The 2005 Mineral bursts from the glass with racy Chardonnay fruit that covers every inch of the palate. The aromas and flavors remain clean, crisp and beautifully articulated from start to finish. This is a broad-shouldered wine that nevertheless keeps its focus. The balance of ripeness from the year and the inherent minerality of these limestone-rich, old-vine parcels is terrific. This is a stunning wine in every way. Dosage was 4 grams per liter. Disgorged July 2011. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2025.

NV Ulysse Collin Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs (94)

The NV (2007) Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs rocks. It is a big, mouth-filling wine loaded with extravagant Chardonnay fruit. This is a decidedly extroverted, powerful vintage of the Blanc de Blancs, but I am quite confident the wine will settle down with further time in the bottle. Juicy peaches, mango, passion fruit and French oak wrap around the sensual, enticing finish. This is a dazzling showing from Collin. The 2007 includes 35% 2006 reserve wine. This bottle was disgorged March 1, 2011. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2017.

I visited Olivier Collin in early April, in the middle of what turned out be a very early bud break. The pristine, immaculately tended vineyards point to a grower absolutely obsessed with quality, which comes through in the wines as well. I tasted a number of Champagnes, including three stunning 2008s that have not yet been released. Collin is another of my very favorite growers. I never miss a chance to drink these wines.

NV La Closerie (Jerome Prevost) Extra Brut Les Beguines (94)

The NV (2008) Extra Brut Les Beguines might very well be the best wine I have ever tasted from Jerome Prevost. The 2008 is a stunningly beautiful Champagne that impresses for its superb length and precision. Layers of vibrant, perfumed fruit flow across the palate in this chiseled, beautifully articulated wine. Floral notes round out the sublime, eternal finish. This bottle was disgorged in October 2010. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2018.

This tiny domaine is tucked away in Gueux, a sleepy village outside Reims. I tasted a number of memorable wines with proprietor Jerome Prevost earlier this year. Prevost farms just over two hectares of vineyards planted almost exclusively to Pinot Meunier. Meticulous farming and non-interventionist winemaking are at the heart of an approach that seeks to capture the essence of each vintage. Ideally, new releases are best cellared for a few years to allow the full range of aromas and flavors to develop in bottle. These are special wines that will thrill readers seeking the very finest in artisan Champagne.

NV La Closerie (Jerome Prevost) Extra Brut fac simile (93)

The NV (2008) Extra Brut fac-simile is flat-out beautiful. Crushed flowers, red berries, minerals and spices meld together beautifully in this striking, utterly pure rose Champagne. The flavors build effortlessly towards a rich, textured finish that is simply compelling for its sheer harmony. Incidentally, a recent bottle of the 2007 was absolutely delicious. This bottle was disgorged in October 2010. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2018.

2008 Domaine Vouette et Sorbee Saignee de Sorbee (93)

The 2008 Saignee de Sorbee is a huge, explosive wine. There is tons of intensity and power in the glass. This is not a shy wine, and will appeal most to readers who appreciate a full-bodied, vinous style of Rose. This year the estate's Rose seems to lack a little of the balance of the best versions, or maybe it's just that the other wines are a bit more polished. Either way, this is a serious, intense Rose meant for the dinner table. This is Lot 6-01-11. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018.

NV Cedric Bouchard Inflorescence Blanc de Noirs Val Vilaine (93+)

The NV (2009) Blanc de Noirs Inflorescence Val Vilaine possesses breathtaking textural elegance and fabulous balance. Green apples, pears, spices, ash and flowers are some of the nuances that flow from this seductive Champagne. In many years Val Vilaine can be piercing in its youth, but in 2009 the warmth of the year has given the wine an extra level of richness that is very welcome. Val Vilaine is made from 35 year-old Pinot Noir vines in the Cote de Val Vilaine lieu-dit. Disgorged April 2011. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2017.

Cedric Bouchard remains at the forefront of innovation in Champagne. Yields are minuscule, even by the most exacting definition. The wines are fermented with indigenous yeasts and are bottled unfined and unfiltered with no dosage. Bouchard is adamant that he wants to stay at a size where he alone can do all of the work, so readers should not expect production to increase in a meaningful way, at least not any time soon. There is a new Champagne in the works, though, a 100% Pinot Noir from La Proele, a tiny parcel of just 0.025 hectares (15 rows) planted with 10 different Pinot rootstocks. This is the same parcel Bouchard had used for his Coteaux Champenois Pinots, a project he has since abandoned, as he wasn't happy with the quality of the wines. The 2007 and 2008 Coteaux Champenois Chardonnays are still in the cellar, but here, too, it appears the still-wine experiment was short-lived. I am not sure anyone will mind too much given the quality of Bouchard's Champagnes. Bouchard plans to phase out the Infloresence brand by 2013/2014, once the ownership of the respective vineyards passes into his direct ownership. At that point, all of the wines will be sold under the Roses de Jeanne brand. Unfortunately the already tiny production is down by as much as 50% for the 2007 La Boloree, Haute-Lemblee and Creux d'Enfer because of hail damage, so the wines will be harder to find than usual. Furthermore, I was not able to taste the 2009 Les Ursules, but will report on that wine as soon as I can. Incidentally, 2010 is the last year Les Ursules will be released as a non-vintage wine. These remain some of the most spectacular wines being made anywhere in the world, and are well worth the effort of finding them. Frankly, I can't think of too many wines I would rather drink.

NV Larmandier-Bernier Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru Nature Terre de Vertus (93)

The NV (2007) Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru Nature Terre de Vertus is another fabulous wine loaded with impeccable pedigree and sheer class. It is a rich, vinous Champagne that completely covers the palate with layers of intense fruit. This is a more linear, focused style than the NV Premier Cru. White peaches, flowers and chalk are some of the notes that wrap around the finish. The Terre de Vertus is 10% Chardonnay from Les Barillers and Les Faucherets, both naturally in Vertus. The wine was vinified and aged in neutral oak, and bottled with no dosage. This is Lot # LTDV71210. Disgorged December 2010. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2017.

NV Larmandier-Bernier Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru (92)

The NV Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru is a huge wine. It boasts serious depth and textural richness for an entry-level NV bottling. Juicy peaches, apricots, flowers and mint are all woven together beautifully in this dramatic, sweeping wine. Flinty notes frame the finish. The Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay predominantly from Vertus, a Premier Cru village, although 30% of the juice is from the Grand Cru villages of Cramant, Avize and Oger. This year's version is 60% 2008 and 40% reserve wines from 2007 and 2006. Dosage was 4 grams per liter. This is Lot # LBB80211. Disgorged February 2011. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018.

NV Agrapart & Fils Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Terroirs (92)

The NV Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Terroirs emerges from the glass effortlessly with layers of fruit. This is an especially large scaled, generous Terroirs that impresses for its sheer depth and body. Clean mineral notes frame the striking finish. This, too, is a breathtaking expression of pure Chardonnay fruit. The Terroirs is equal parts 2006 and 2007 juice from the Grand Cru villages of Avize, Oger, Cramant and Oiry. Disgorged July 2011. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2015.

2004 Chartogne-Taillet Brut (92)

The 2004 Brut Millesime (from Chemin de Reims, a clay-rich vineyard in Merfy) is a rich, creamy wine endowed with considerable depth and richness. It possesses fabulous depth in its succulent pears, hazelnuts, almonds and spices. The aromas and flavors build effortlessly towards the rich, expansive finish. Dosage is 6 grams per liter. Disgorged August 2011. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2019.

NV Agrapart & Fils Brut Blanc de Blancs les 7 Crus (91)

The NV Brut Blanc de Blancs 7 Crus shows lively freshness and in its lemon, spices and flowers. This mid-weight, focused Champagne is all elegance and class. I especially like the cut and pure vibrancy of the finish. The 7 Crus is a fabulous introduction to the Agrapart house style. This version is 50% 2007 and 50% 2008 juice, and it is the younger vintage that truly seems to drive the wine's personality. As the name suggest, the 7 Crus is made from seven villages: Avize, Oger, Oiry, Cramant, Avenay Val d'Or, Bergeres les Vertus & Mardeuil (70% Grand Cru, 30% Premier Cru). Dosage was 7 grams per liter. Disgorged July, 2011. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2016.

Lilbert-Fils (91)

Unfortunately I was only able to taste one wine from Lilbert this year. The 2005 Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru flows from the glass with layers of crisp, well-articulated fruit. Lemon peel, apricots and dried flowers are some of the nuances that emerge from this beautifully delineated wine. Ash, slate and all things mineral linger on the finish of a wine that captures the essence of Chardonnay from Cramant. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2022.

NV Chartogne-Taillet Brut Cuvee St Anne (90)

The NV Brut Cuvee St. Anne bristles with considerable energy for the year. It shows lovely balance in a fairly approachable style best suited to near-term drinking. The St. Anne is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, based on the 2007 vintage with 20% reserve wines from 2006 and 2005. In 2007 Chartogne was not happy with his Meunier, so it was left out of the blend. Dosage is 4.5 grams per liter. Disgorged June 2011. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2015.

Alexandre Chartogne is one of Champagne's up and coming growers. Chartogne took over the family domaine in 2006. These wines were all made by Chartogne's parents, although he naturally finished their elevage, including the disgorgements. Chartogne's approach to viticulture and winemaking remains deeply influenced by the time he spent working under Anselme Selosse. Starting with 2007 there will be three Blanc de Blancs from separate single parcels in Merfy, a clear sign of the direction Chartogne is taking for the future.

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