Stick to the Brut

No, I’m not talking about the classic men’s fragrance from Fabergé.


I’m talking about the Brut Premier from Champagne Louis Roederer, a wine I’ve enjoyed a few times over the past year. The wine you see to your left is part of Roderer’s Carte Blanche line, all of which are dosed (i.e. sugar added) sweeter than the Brut. They make an extra-dry (which you see  and are going to read about), a sec and demi-sec, all with the same white label.

The NV Louis Roederer Champagne Carte Blance Extra-Dry is a blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Meunier. It is dosed at 18 g/L, which technically puts it in the Sec range. I’m assuming this wine was disgorged and dosed before the 2009 changes in labeling were put into effect, which lowered the top level of the extra-dry range from 20 g/L to 17, moving this up a notch. 5% of the wine is matured in oak casks with weekly batonnage (a fancy word for stirring) and 10% of the reserve wines which go into the blend are matured in oak casks. This doesn’t add any flavor, but does add a roundness or creamier texture to the wine, which I did detect. It weighs in at the usual 12% ABV.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This wine was received as a review sample.

This bubbly was paired with hard shell tacos, which wasn’t a very good match. While I believe you can pair sparkling wine (even Champagne) with everyday foods like tacos, it just didn’t work here. I’m not sure if the acidity in the tomatoes or the sharpness of the cheddar did in the wine, but it was better on its own than it was with the food.

For me, it wasn’t a bad wine, just not one I’d choose to drink again even if someone else was buying.

The opening revealed a touch of sulfur, but that did blow off after about 5 minutes. Once the skunk wandered off, I was left with a fruity tasting bubbly that just didn’t speak Champagne to me. I didn’t get any chalk, very little toastiness and no real sense of place. Contrary to other reviewers, I also didn’t get enough acidity to balance out the sweetness. Though it was far from cloying, it felt more like drinking ripe California than leaner Champagne, almost as if the base were from the scorching hot 2003 vintage.

While I believe folks who drink Moet’s Imperial (formerly known as White Star) would find this pleasant (and a step up in quality), it just wasn’t for me. If I had to do it over again, I’d have tried this with something sweet, but not overly so. I could see a pear or apple baked brie vastly improving the experience, but that is just conjecture at this point.

For those who like sweeter sparklers, I think you can do better or at least the same at lower price points. If you really want a sweeter styled Champagne, try to find Jean Milan’s Tendresse, a grower Champagne made with 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay. It is still the best example of a sweet Champagne I’ve ever tasted. An even better value, but hard to find, is Graham Beck’s Bliss, a demi-sec that has loads of palate balancing acid to keep the wine vivid, fresh and alluring.

Generally speaking, the professional critics seem to like this wine more than I do, with scores ranging from 88 to 90, though those were primarily from 2009 or 2008. The only 2010 score I could access gave the wine a solid 89. Vive la différence.

Until next time…live well, love much and drink great wine.

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