P. Lancelot-Royer, Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, “Cuvée Dualissime”
Hold on to your hats, Champagne aficionados, because this may be the most profound blanc de blancs of your life—and it’s not going to cost you nearly as much as you might think. Since we’ve featured Lancelot-Royer many times, this is a name that rings out with our subscribers: It’s one of the smallest domaines in Champagne, whose winemaker, Michel Chauvet, has dedicated himself to the manual labor of wine: from harvest to riddling to disgorgement to bottling, Chauvet literally has his hands on everything. “Cuvée Dualissime,” which showcases Grand Cru Chardonnay from mature single vineyards in Avize and Chouilly, is the kind of wine that typically disappears into restaurants upon landing in the US—but we were not about to let that happen after trying this edition, which is based mostly on the 2015 vintage. All the crystalline precision you expect from blanc de blancs is there, along with a serious amount of power, and while it drinks like a tête de cuvée, it isn’t priced like one. We didn’t get much, so secure some for yourself before it’s gone!
Lancelot-Royer is right in the heart of Champagne’s Côte de Blancs, in the Grand Cru village of Cramant, where Chardonnay is king. They farm 12 hectares of vineyards here, all of it Chardonnay and 100% Grand Cru, whether it’s in Cramant or, in the case of this wine, two villages that bookend Cramant. Founded in 1960 by Pierre Lancelot, the tiny property was turned over to Pierre’s daughter, Sylvie, and her husband, Michel Chauvet, in 1996. Working in their rustic, hand-excavated caves, their only allowance to modernity are stainless steel fermentation vessels, which line the damp, chisel-marked walls. The hand-harvested fruit is pressed by hand in an upright, wooden press, then fermented using only indigenous yeasts.
“Cuvée Dualissime” is a perfect wine to illustrate the difference between “cheap” and “value.” This bottle is by no means cheap, but within the world of fine wine, it is a remarkable value. Just 2,000 cases were made for the entire world. It is sourced from two small parcels of vines averaging 40 years of age. Grapes are hand-pressed and the finished wine is aged for a whopping five years on its lees in the bottle—and it’s “riddled” (rotated) by hand the entire time. This bottling is based primarily on the generous 2015 vintage, with just 15% reserve wine rounding it out, and it displays exceptional depth and persistence on the palate. It makes the kind of impact you expect from Burgundian Chardonnay from a top village like Meursault or Puligny-Montrachet, while also delivering the kind of electric charge of acidity/minerality you expect from a blanc de blancs style. The dosage (the corrective dose of sugar added at final bottling) is kept very low (four grams/liter), giving the wine a sizzling, bone-dry finish.
In the glass, “Cuvée Dualissime” is a deep yellow-gold extending to the rim, with heady aromas of green apple, lemon curd, peach, citrus pith, cream, brioche dough, honeysuckle, and a pile of crushed stones. It has the creaminess you’d expect from such long lees aging, but also a very full-fruited personality and a strong, balancing mineral component. It’s one of the more mouth-filling blanc de blancs Champagnes you’ll ever taste, with a beautifully refreshing blast of ripe citrus fruit on the palate. It has plenty of backbone and heft for extended aging, but whenever you choose to pull a cork, serve it in large Burgundy stems at 50-55 degrees and pair it with a rich broiled oyster preparation as in the attached recipe. It will be so, so good. I can’t wait to try it myself. Cheers!