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Champagne tasting notes

text and photographs © 2007 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on Vintage Champagne.

ROGER COULON

Eric and Isabelle Coulon run a successful and sizeable business. Their annual production of 90,000 bottles compares to an annual production at a house like Pol Roger of 1.5 million bottles. At their immaculate cellars in the village of Vrigny, Rogers shows me a map of his vineyards, with nine hectares spread across five different villages. Around 40% of his plantings are of Pinot Meunier and he is fiercely ready to defend this variety, which he says is more than capable of the highest quality, especially with his old vines (average age of 38 years). His is a massal selection, with no 'clones' used, which he insists preserves a character for these wines that his been in his family for eight generations.

Like Claude Giraud, the Coulon's practice Lutte Raisonée, 'reasoned agriculture', where minimal herbicides and pesticides are used, and instead techniques like 'sexual confusion' are employed to limit the breeding of pests. Eric Coulon also uses only wild yeasts in fermentation, which he says "bring to the wine all their subtlety, allowing the soil to 'express' itself." Wooden barrels are also used to age some of reserve wines.

Coulon's wines are very much like the man: he is an exuberant and passionate character, who opens each bottle with a ferocious pop, and pours each glass with gusto. The wines are vivacious and lively.
  

Champagne Grande Reserve
This is a fine NV, somewhat in the rich, brioche style of Gosset's Grand Reserve, though sharing the fruity and direct character of the vintage wines, it lacks the quite steely character at their core.

Roger Coulon Champagne Vintage 2002
At time of writing it is the 2000 that is on sale. This wine will be shipped in Spring 2008, and is not yet disgorged. It is a blanc de noirs, made with 50% each of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, the Pinot Meunier almost 60 years old. Exuberantly bubbly, with a powerful stream of tiny bubbles streaming through a light golden wine, flecked with emerald green. Fine vinous nose, with lemony notes and a small biscuity background. Some spice and herbal nuances add interest. On the palate it is very fruity, with small nuances of luscious, almost tropical pineapple fruit playing against a lemony, firm, pithy acidity. This is a hugely vivacious wine, with plenty of racy elegance. 91.

Roger Coulon Champagne Vintage 2000
80% Chardonnay with 20% Pinot Meunier. Bold golden yellow colour. As always with this house, exuberantly bubbly. He chardonnay performed very well this year, whilst the Pinot Meunier was unexceptional. A touch of buttery vegetal quality on the nose here, with really quite lush fruit. There's a touch of rotted orange and rancid butter that gives quite complex notes to this wine. In the mouth it is quite rich and full, still with a very lively, racy mousse, but with that slightly sour apple and sour orangy fruit quality. This is a less linear, focused style perhaps, but has plenty of mouthfilling fruit and good balance. 90.

Roger Coulon Champagne Vintage 1999
80% Chardonnay with 20% Pinot Meunier. Very pale lemony gold colour - paler than the 2000 at this stage. Very appealing, vinous nose, with a vanilla and ripe orchard fruit character, and no sign of any oxidation or yeasty notes. A very clean style of wine, which at this stage is tight and a touch closed. On the palate the mousse is quite crisp and a touch aggressive (but this was served slightly too cold). Fine, tight, very steely character to this wine, with plenty of lemony fruit. There's a sherbetty brightness to this wine, and the acidity is terrifically vibrant, but I feel the too cold serving temperature is making it feel rather too aggressive in this tasting.

Roger Coulon Champagne Vintage 1990
Pale to medium gold colour. Lovely nose, with gentle yeastiness and notes of spices and coffee coming through. Biscuity, with some vanilla and little floral scents. Plenty of fruit, with peach down and still some lemony freshness. On the palate the generosity fills out, with a very racy, steely character. Crisp mousse, terrific fruit here, and the maturity really allows charm and fullness to come through that for me complements the firm structured, very steely character. Served from Magnum. 90.

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