But even if you do choose to serve Pascal Lallement’s densely concentrated Brut Premier Cru as a meal- and/or conversation-starter, you’ll be handsomely rewarded. You’ll remember it, because you’ll really feel it. Like so many hand-crafted, grower-produced Champagnes, this bears the indelible imprint of its place, with texture to spare and a mineral underpinning as pronounced as any wine’s from anywhere. And yes, the price—especially given the extra labor, equipment, and time a wine like this requires to produce—represents unparalleled value. This is “house Champagne” material for those of you who (like me) believe in having such a thing in one’s house. It’s delicious, and we have a good supply, so feel free to stock up.
The Lallement family gives their home village, Chamery, nearly equal billing to their surname on the wine’s label. Located in the northwest corner of Champagne’s Montagne de Reims sub-zone, Chamery is designated Premier Cru, with vineyards occupying a bowl-like amphitheater that faces south. Montagne de Reims, of course, is dominated by the “black” grapes, and Pinot Noir in particular, as is Lallement’s non-vintage Brut: It is comprised of 75% Pinots Noir and Meunier grown in Chamery, with the smaller percentage of Chardonnay coming from the nearby villages of Eceuil and Sermier. That small percentage of Chardonnay lends freshness and lift to an otherwise rich and round style of Champagne.
Pascal Lallement farms his vineyards organically, and, like so many of his récoltant-manipulant (grower-producer) colleagues, subjects his wines to extra-long periods of lees aging before disgorgement and release. This non-vintage brut spends nearly five years on its lees—well above the minimum requirement—and it shows in the creamy texture and complexity of the wine. Based on the 2007, ’08, and ’09 vintages, it received a modest (but not insignificant) dosage of 12 grams/liter, which also contributes to the palate weight and persistence of the wine.
In the glass, Lallement’s Premier Cru Brut displays a light golden core with slight gold and green reflections at the rim, with a fine ‘bead’ (string of bubbles) rising through the clearly viscous wine. The intense and creamy nose charms with aromas of rising brioche, baked apple croissant, lemon curd, honeysuckle, crushed hazelnut, a bouquet of white flowers, crushed chalk and an underlying hint of redcurrant. It is full-bodied by Champagne standards and coats the palate with creamy, round notes of hazelnut purée, spun honey, rising bread dough, and crushed chalk. The dense richness and slightly oily texture is exquisitely checked by fresh acidity, fine bubbles and terroir-driven minerality. It is as alluring as it sounds right now, but could easily age another 5-10 years if kept well. For instant gratification, simply pull from the fridge, pop the cork and wait 10 minutes prior to serving. Do not pour this wine into tall, thin flutes or the aromatics will be subdued and the experience will be akin to going to the opera with a set of earplugs. Opt instead for all-purpose stems or open-mouthed Champagne glasses for optimal results. As many of you know, my favorite pairing with full-bodied Champagne is a brined, buttermilk-fried chicken. This wine is the perfect candidate for such treatment, and there’s no better guy to look to for guidance than the chef known in these parts simply as “T.K.” If you haven’t yet tried the Champagne/Fried Chicken combo, now’s the time. Cheers!