Champagne Pierre Péters
All wines are Blanc de Blancs
Pierre Péters Cuvée de Réserve Grand Cru, Brut N.V. + Deg. 11/2020, diamant cork.
As always, this is (typically) 50% of the “current” vintage and 50% of a perpetual reserve started in 1988. Based on the disgorgement date I’m inferring the guide-vintage is 2017, because otherwise it would be 2016 and this doesn’t taste like 2016. (2018 isn’t out of the question, that vintage’s fruit is amply present, but it would entail a somewhat abbreviated tirage.)
I could just call Rodolphe Péters and ask him, but this is much more fun!
The wine is a knockout. It’s a master class in harmony of elements, played on several stages at once. There’s quite a mass of fruit poised against an almost tactile starchiness. There’s force poised against delicacy. There’s a cultured-butter richness poised against a spine of steel. There’s generosity poised against an incipient explosiveness. And even with a year on the cork, there’s unfolding yet to take place.
Finally, considering its intricacies of fruit and its Mesnil-influenced muscularity, there’s an authority that makes it an icon of NV Blanc de Blancs, and a paragon of Champagne with vinosity.
After a day, as the fruit unfurled, an apricot flavor emerged. It’s quite a mélange of nuances; bee-balm, tree fruit, chalk, lemon blossom, jasmine…..apart from the (fervent) chalkiness it could almost be a half-sibling to an Austrian Riesling. But Péters has always had the talent of shape-shifting, being at once both quintessentially Champagne and yet also fundamentally liberated from the norm.
Nor do I know of many Champagnes this cerebrally fascinating, and also this original, and also this rapturously beautiful.
Pierre Péters Réserve Oubliée, Grand Cru Brut N.V. (++)
No disg. Date, but lot # 808062. Based on the state of the cork, it’s been in the bottle perhaps six months longer than the above.
It has the aromas people call “yeasty,” and it’s a little attenuated compared to the basic NV. I wonder if TCA is to blame…..the wine isn’t obviously corked, but there’s an explosive entry of magnificently salty flavors that is then abruptly clipped, but then comes back in a tertiary finish that’s complex, clean and seductive. So, hmmmm.
I have an image of a bread baked from teff flour, served with a compound-butter of allspice and coriander. This bottle is seriously exotic Champagne. I’ve had renditions that were fluffier and “sweeter” but this one’s all business. Yet I’m not convinced it’s a typical showing. First there’s that stealthy TCA, and then there’s a flavor of accelerated age, such as is typical for bottles stored too warm. Please understand, neither of these things may be true; I’m just trying to infer causes for some of the effects I’m perceiving.
The base wine is aged an extra year in tank before tirage, to create a “mature but not oxidative” Champagne, which is also on its lees agrafé. The base vintage isn’t obvious, but my bet’s on 2014, since there’s neither the ’15 pyrazine nor the ’16 mirabelles.
As it sits in the glass the “sense” of cork is fading, and an eruption of minerality appears, alongside iron and herbs. Please understand, I have placed my “score” in parentheses – the first time I have done this since these tastings began – in case this is not a “proper” bottle. As it is, it’s a stunning glass of Champagne, but something tells me the wine has (even) more to say.
Pierre Péters Les Montjolys 2013 +++
Pierre Péters Les Chetillons 2013 +++
I’m tasting these side by side; Montjolys has more clay than Chetillons, which is chalk chalk chalk. Montjolys is finished with a regular cork.
Chetillons, of course, has become an icon thanks to the many vintages of masterpieces from Péters, and now other growers are doing their own bottlings, which is probably for the good if viewed broadly.
On first sniff Chetillons is more temperamental, turbulent, and a little bit reduced. Montjolys is hale and ready to party.
On the palate Montjolys is just a gorgeous Champagne. It glows in an incandescent whiteness, like jasmine rice that’s been blessed by the Dalai Lama. It has an achingly poignant sweetness having nothing to do with “sugar” but only with a sort of inexhaustible good will.
In the time it took to write these words the Chetillons has emerged, and is showing its true self. It is more chewy and savory, more solid-feeling, more pedagogical. It’s a regal creature, mighty and dignified. You want to study it with complete absorption, tracing its arteries of greatness.
I’ve had Chetillons in every vintage from which it was made, dating back to 1989, and I can’t remember one better than this. 2013 was superb across the board at Péters, yet even so it’s hard to fathom a wine so poised between delicacy, lucidity and intensity. There is a genius to it.
But you can’t study Montjolys, you’re in a pitiably helpless thrall to it. It’s like limerence, addiction, it takes you over, you’re strapped to the mast while the sirens torment you. Chetillons grants you a semblance of self possession, you can ponder its serene greatness, your access is encouraged, you are invited to share in its lovely dignity. But what can you bring to Montjolys? Your heart is wrecked and haunted, and nothing ever prepared you to fathom its beauty. Chetillons will absorb you; Montjolys will preoccupy you.
Twenty five years ago in 1997 I wrote my first tasting note on the then-current 1990 vintage of Chetillons, comparing it even then to Grand Cru Chablis. Today I don’t think it needs to refer to any other wine any more. Indeed, Chablis (which I love deeply) could easily refer to Chetillons as a marker for wine with every element of fascination except seductiveness. It’s a monument to the possibilities of Champagne, to take its place as a full citizen in the world of profound wines.
But profundity wears more than one costume. Montjolys is profound in the poetic sense, elliptical, opiate, musical. Chetillons is a cliff-face of gorgeousness, and Monyjolys is the gurgling little stream running in the shade below it. Staring at the cliff, you feel the superb-ness of the world; sitting by the water, you feel yourself dissolve.
Chetillons shines; Montjolys twinkles.
I often walk in the Arnold Arboretum, as I think you know. A little stream runs through it, called Bussey Brook. It’s very much a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately stream. If it doesn’t rain for ten days or so, the stream gets really mingy. Last year we still wore our masks walking there – even outside – and it was strange to walk among the trees with one sense blocked. But down by the stream there were fewer people, and if we were alone we would remove our masks, and suddenly the entire world of smells rushed in; the trees, the leaves on the ground, the smells of water and shade, it was like absolution, you wanted to cry with relief, with gratitude.
That’s my feeling drinking Montjolys. It brings me to the inexplicable graces of love. With Chetillons I am also profoundly stirred, but I am equal to that moment.
The wines are equivalently great if viewed professionally. I receive them differently according to where my “buttons” are located and how they are pressed. But if you were tasting with me and you said you responded more powerfully to Chetillons, I would love you for it. And we could clink our glasses and toast – “not a bad world, once in a while! To friendship and beauty.”