2012 J.L. Vergnon, Champagne Extra-Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru "MSNL"
2012 J.L. Vergnon, Champagne Extra-Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru "MSNL"

2012 J.L. Vergnon, Champagne Extra-Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru "MSNL"

Champagne, France 2012 (750mL)
Regular price$125.00

2012 J.L. Vergnon, Champagne Extra-Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru "MSNL"

Just when we think that the glorious 2012 vintage in Champagne is gone for good, we discover a tiny treasure trove of what is easily the most pedigreed bottle of sparkling nirvana we’ve offered all year. J.L. Vergnon’s “MSNL” doesn’t really need superlatives, though, just cold hard facts: 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay from the best Cru in the Còtes de Blancs, Mesnil-sur-Oger; 72 months of aging on the lees; the aforementioned brilliance of 2012; and on top of all that it isn’t just “Mesnil” but it is primarily sourced from the most famed parcel in said Grand Cru, “Chétillons.” Just that name alone has connoisseurs of Blanc de Blancs swooning, and then you learn that grower-producer extraordinaire Clément Vergnon is the talent behind the label. Champagne expert Peter Liem says of Vergnon, “This is one of the top estates in the Côte de Blancs today.” Got it? Now don’t delay, we only have a few cases!

When thinking about the tangle of geography, geology, and land ownership history that makes up the French Appellation system of wine classification it’s helpful to envision a series of circles within circles (of course these borders are much messier than spheres). The big circle is Champagne; the next circle is the Côte de Blancs, where chalky limestone provides the perfect soil for exquisite Chardonnay; the third circle is the Grand Cru village of Mesnil-sur-Oger, widely considered the most exceptional terroir in the region; and the fourth, now very small, circle is the parcel of vines known as “Les Chétillons.” So, in a nutshell, Vergnon’s special cuvée “MSNL” is sourced from the best micro-parcel of vines, in the best Grand Cru vineyard, in the best sub-region for blanc de blancs, in the undisputed holy land of sparkling wine: Champagne.

Clément Vergnon doesn’t just know this, he feels it in his bones. As the fifth-generation winemaker at his family’s boutique estate in Mesnil, he has grown up in the vines and the cellar, and that generational knowledge of his terroir is an unquantifiable asset. The estate was founded in 1950, and over several decades the family slowly acquired small, choice plots in and around Mesnil, including in the famed heart of “Les Chétillons.” In the 1980s Clément’s grandfather Jean-Louis began bottling Champagne under his own label, instead of selling all the fruit to negociants, and thus the grower-producer J.L. Vergnon was officially born.

Today, Clément and his father, Didier, produce a wide range of cuvées that focus on the prime terroirs of Mesnil and the Côte des Blancs. Of those, “MSNL” is one of the most limited and special. It is made in only exceptional vintages (2012 is a blockbuster) and the fruit is sourced primarily from the eponymous “Les Chétillons,” with about 30% coming from “Mussettes,” the parcel just below Chétillons. Clément wants the pure, chalky terroir of the vines to shine and so he ferments and ages this wine entirely in steel tanks, but in order to tame the explosive energy of said terroir he then allows the wine to age for at least seven years in the bottle, on the lees, before disgorgement. A small dosage of three grams is added, and after a few more years of cellar aging the “MSNL” is finally ready to go.

This is extraordinarily complex and elegant Champagne, and as such it needs to be served at around 50 degrees (not right out of the fridge!) in your best all-purpose or even Burgundy stems. The reward is an exquisitely luxurious texture, and a super fine mousse that is both persistent and delicate. Aromas of lemon curd, white flowers, citrus blossom, raw honey, toasted almonds, and puff pastry foreshadow a palate of crisp orchard fruit, citrus peel, melted butter, oyster shells, and a long, saline and mineral finish. A simple plate of raw shellfish, cold lobster or crab, and perhaps some caviar too, will make for a truly regal gastronomic experience.

Go ahead, you deserve this Champagne!

2012 J.L. Vergnon, Champagne Extra-Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru "MSNL"

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