Champagne Philippe Glavier - Cramant
This estate entered my portfolio too late to have found a following, or even to have obtained a reputation. My last catalogue said everything I knew at the time about this tiny gem, but I’ll summarize it here.
To the extent I wanted new agencies in the Côte des Blancs, I didn’t need styles that repeated what I already had. There’s a really superb small grower in Cramant whose wines are worthy of their many accolades, but even if I had wanted to pry them from their existing importer – behavior I find offensive, by the way – the wines were great in a way that was stylistically similar to an agency I already had. To me this made no sense.
With Glavier I found – and still find – a style expressive of the outstanding land from which it hails, but rendered in a more analogue tone. I also liked the family, with whom we had friends in common, and I was attracted to the idea of working with a small grower who was excellent and occasionally superb, but not in the “usual” ways.
But first I had to have the a-ha moment. I buy a lot of wines from growers I don’t know or whom I knew but didn’t represent, and Glavier was part of this random gang. As soon as I opened that first bottle I was captivated. This was repeated with each subsequent bottle. Which brings us here.
La Grâce d’Alphaël Brut Nature, N.V. ++
(This is the basic “NV Brut” of the estate, now based 60% on 2017; disgorged 9/2020)
Exceptionally refined aroma of Côte des Blancs Champagne; sweet lees, Asian pear; it’s tempting to suppose this is from the north of the Côte as the estate is in Cramant, but in fact this is 63% Mesnil and Oger, with the Oger’s Puligny notes really in the foreground. Even more focused in the sleeker flûte, it’s the best edition of this wine I’ve ever had. A crackly-crusty flavor enters in the minerally mid palate as the fragrance grows even more generous, touching now on osmanthus and jasmine.
These aren’t terribly original associations! And that’s because this wine is a classic, for which we have a “standard” vocabulary. I’m struck by its generosity and class, and if this level can be maintained it could place this grower near the forefront in the Côte d.B.
Apropos 2017, Peter Liem writes that the Chardonnays largely escaped the widespread botrytis that afflicted the red grapes, and if this beauty is anything to go by….!
Genesis extra Brut, N.V.
(2015 base , deg. 9/2020, very little Cramant here but more Avize)
This is usually the more muscular of the NVs – it was the first wine I ever had from this grower, and the one that prodded me to look closer. But we have 2015 with which to contend. If you’ve forgotten, the vintage tasted atypically grassy, and this time we can’t blame the ladybugs. Liem has the most plausible theory; the Champenoise pick for sugar, with only a few of them attending to physiological ripeness, and he posits that many of the ‘15s were sugar-ripe but still green. Yet they had to be picked or else the sugars may have gotten too high, and no one wants Champagne with 13.5% alcohol. (Or with three atmospheres of pressure.)
There’s a good Champagne squirming to emerge here, and I really wanted to like it, but in the end – and despite its many virtues – the grassiness was simply too obtrusive for me.
24 hours later: It starts to seem like 2015 is going to be one of those vintages we have to withstand as long as it’s in the blends, but while it’s less feral and vegetal than 2011 (nor as annoyingly raspy in texture) it’s still not something I want to taste in Champagne.
La Grâce d’Hakamiah extra Brut, N.V.
(2014 base, deg. 8/2019, dominated by Mesnil/Oger at 80%)
Please note: there is a constant re-evaluation of this wine as the tasting note continues, so do read to the end.
Named for Madame Glavier’s guardian angel, the wine benefits from the extra year on the cork, showing more tertiary aromas and beginning to taste, if not “mature,” at least adult. Compared to the suavity of the Alphaël, this is a wine for extreme chalk-heads, leading with Belemite juju, and while it’s balanced in its no-nonsense frequency, another gram of RS would have broadened the interplay of flavors and mitigated a certain asperity.
But here is where you “use me.” My sense of sugar-balance may be higher than yours. I look for a mosaic of elements, which I seldom find in (what I feel are) overly dry wines, and here, while I repeat that THE WINE IS NOT UNBALANCED, I find its overall profile to tilt toward rusticity. That missing gram of RS would have transported the finish from its current asperity into something lovely. If you disagreed, you wouldn’t be wrong; you’d just have your own cravings, different from mine.
It is much better from the (wider) Juhlin stem.
A day later any initial reduction has vanished. I’m also testing the MacNeil “crisp and fresh” which is also intended for sparkling wines. It certainly works here, and flatters the wine much as the Philip Jamasse stems do. Juhlin’s for the tasting room, and the MacNeil is for the restaurant, as it has altered this wine entirely, pushing the mid-palate forward, emphasizing the classic straw-&-hay without suppressing minerality.
And what of my cavils about RS? It is one of the two driest wines in the range, though they are all very close together. I do think this would have been even better with a gram more – even half a gram – but today I think the wine succeeds as it is.
2013 Mesnil Emotion
(All Mesnil of course. First bottle with a regular cork. In my last catalogue I detail the parcels Glaviers have in the various communes, and if you have Liem’s book you can find them on the map. Remember, the parcels on the plain are often the chalkiest. Deg 7/2019)
Initial aroma is pure vetiver (and a little reduction), and that leesy reduction needs a few minutes to disperse.
If Peters was anything to go by, 2013 was a great vintage in Les Mesnil.
We have some reduction to deal with. Not unusual in Champagne. But here, at least at first, some fine flavors are speaking but the reduction is shouting over them. And then on the finish the true flavors come out, and they are excellent, but how many dragons must we slay in order to reach them? What’s waiting on the other side is a fine, serious Mesnil, balanced on the dry side, not hedonistic but not austere.
I hope the reduction is fleeting like a German sponti, but I’ve been at it for thirteen minutes and it’s still fussing at me. I’ll retaste over the coming days, and see what happens in the Jancis glass.
It’s a day later. Encouraged by the MacNeil “crisp and fresh” stem, I’m using it again here. The reduction is present in a more discreet form; from the Juhlin there’s a swollen mineral density that emerges – just- from the clamor. Yet the reduction is more prominent from the “crisp and fresh,” to my surprise. There are things to like here, but considering the nobility of the terroir, I have to wonder whether this is a misfire.
2013 Cramant Emotion +
(deg. 7/2019, 100% Cramant)
A fragrance you want to study. A little turbulent right out of the bottle, but you know what I mean – it’s a wine of consequence and you know it immediately.
Cramant is for lovers of Riesling. Whereas Mesnil is for lovers of Chassagne, and Avize for lovers of Chablis, and lucky you if (like me) you love them all.
We are not without a bit of reduction here, but it’s shouted down by the rampantly excellent Cramant flavors. I’ma go all synesthesiac on you now, but Cramant is all green and silver to me. What elevates this wine is its density, and just to reassure you I’m not helplessly lysergic, “green” in this case means everything I taste in the wine that is ALSO GREEN. So, herbs, plants, (anise hyssop especially) teas, not so strange after all. “Silver” is a way of describing a refined minerality, not the “rock-dust” kind but rather a mineral flavor that’s pounded itself into a jewel.
Yet for all that density there’s also something limpid here. It’s speaking to my introversion. It engages the solitary mind. You could say that Mesnil is sun-power while Cramant is shade-power. I also find Cramant more emotive, but that’s just how it touches me.
2012 Emotion ++
(deg 9/2020, a mélange consisting mostly of Mesnil and Oger, and obviously a best-of-the-best from this outstanding vintage.)
Aromatically this shows smoke, graphite, Douglas-fir and Sencha. On the palate it shows why you should be glad to be alive! I’m consumed with wondering how it would fit within Gimonnet’s amazing collection of 2012 Special Clubs.
On the palate it’s just fantastic Blanc de Blancs, ripe, perfectly balanced, on the threshold of a long loving life, and you’ll find yourself floating in a creamy lucid pool of every green that has ever been. I’m starting to grope for associations but I really ought to stop…but OK, here’s two batshit ones: sea-lettuce, and Wheat-Thins. I really should have quit while I was ahead.
It was the last of the day’s samples, so I took a furtive schluck. I have a pot of Alishan oolong ready to carry me back to sobriety.