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Larmandier-Bernier, Premier Cru Tradition, Extra brut

By covering a selection of sparkling wines from Germany and England during the last year or so, we have learned much and have opened up a whole new category of wine for ourselves, but in a way, we also got ahead of ourselves. We could look at sparklers with a fresh and innocent eye by simply ignoring the international benchmark for this whole type of wine, but it was at times also so much dancing around the elephant in the room, namely our utter ignorance of Champagne. On new year's eve of 2010, the Munich branch of the wine rambler manned (and ladied) up and confronted their insecurity. After all, let's face it, when expectation and curiosity are high, the potential for disappointment is also immense. But sometimes, just sometimes, you hit if off immediately. That night, I fell for grower champagne hook, line and sinker, and it's all thanks to Pierre and Sophie Larmandier from Vertus, Champagne.

Their first-growth Champagne, he of the dark straw colour and the very fine bubbles, smells - ironically, for such a night-time drink - like the nicest sunday morning ever: Freshly baked brioche, butter, finest hints of apple and pear peel wafting over a yeasty core. On the palate it is, more than anything, utterly bone dry. This sounds off-putting in a sparkling, but this one pulls it off spectacularly with nutty and creamy flavours, mineral bite and an elegant hint of bitterness in the finish.

A piece of Wine Rambler advice: Look out for this label
A piece of Wine Rambler advice: Look out for this label
The Larmandiers use natural yeasts for fermentation, and I like to think that actually shows in the lack of any superficial fruit flavours. To sum up, a real wine revelation, serious and seductive at the same time. Worth every euro, of course.
The Cote de Blancs, (c) Champagne Larmandier-Bernier
The Cote de Blancs, (c) Champagne Larmandier-Bernier
If this is a very wide-eyed review, given my complete lack of expertise or working knowledge of Champagne, so be it. But I'll say this: If this, in hindsight, will turn out to be a run-of-the-mill champagne, then I really really need to taste great champagne. Finally, forgive me the overly predictable choice of music, but this one really was. A champagne supernova.

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