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Champagne Varnier-Fannière

NEW CHAMPAGNE GLASSES: Laurent Champs knows I like tasting from different glasses, and among the various stems he pulled from his cupboard was one particularly fetching object, which might or might not have functioned very well but which certainly looked lovely. “I think this is the only one I have,” he said. “Do you want to try it?”

I did, and to my surprise, I loved it; indeed it was the best glass for each of Vilmart’s wines (in my opinion at least), and when I got home I hurried to score a half-dozen stems. I learned there seemed to be a “story” surrounding this glass. It was the second design created and commissioned by the Swedish Champagne author and demi-god of fizz, Richard Juhlin, whose expertise is formidable and whose self-regard is, let’s say, unassailable. The hoary old witticism applies: If you want to know how great Richard Juhlin is, just ask him.

But I liked his first glass and I like this one too. Evidently when it was introduced – with all the fanfare attendant to all activities undertaken by this deity-o-mousse – it landed with a thud. In the interim between Juhlin’s first glass and this one, other artisans entered the fray, and today we have a lot of excellent Champagne glasses from which to choose. But despite my schadenfreude over the takedown of someone with such an unseemly level of conceit, I really did like the glass – and for whatever reason, the price was right. It’s the glass on the left in the photo, sleeker and longer-stemmed than its forbear, and more comely to boot. They say if you hold the glass to your ear you can hear Richard flattering himself, but I haven’t proven this yet.

IN OTHER NEWS I tasted a random few 2021s recently. As you may know, it’s taking an egregiously long time for samples to reach me (for a host of reasons too distressing to repeat) and I hadn’t tasted a single Austrian wine from the new vintage. Nor did I see anything of special note this time; just a few basic-level wines all of which were good but none of which justified the early praise for the vintage. Hans Setzer’s Grüner Veltliner “Ausstich” (his mid-level bottling) was excellent, but no better than the 2020. I saw a couple Rieslings with celeriac underflavors suggesting incomplete ripeness. I saw a sensational Rosé from Georg Prieler,hardly a surprise but wow, that wine is superb. (His new vintage of St. Laurent is also extra fine, avoiding the bretty notes by which that wine has sometimes been marred.) The LITER Zweigelt from Hofer was another wine that did-the-job, assuming the “job” is to be addictive and fetching.

Though I didn’t prioritize tasting anything I’d tasted already, I had to glimpse at Strub’s Silvaner just to see if was ready as good as it seemed to be at the winery last month. It is all that and then some; if I were still writing catalogues it would have been high-spotted as a “wine you’d probably miss but absolutely shoudn’t.” With all the respect Sebastian Strub’s Rieslings deserve, this Silvaner may be his most compelling wine at the moment.

I spent all of last week tasting a case of Varnier-Fannière that materialized out of the ether (sent, then lost, then finally, and randomly found again) and which I think were the disgorgemnts before the ones I tasted with Valérie Varnier in Avize in May. Those sketchy notes are appended at the end of the tasting report. It’s a truly happy story though it emerged from great sorrow and loss; the wines are as fine as ever and even better, as distinctive and particular as ever, a little jewel in the middle of the Côte des Blancs.

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Before starting in on the samples, I had a quick look at a few 2023’s last week, not enough to offer a judgment but enough to offer a speculation. In Germany, based on samples from Dönnhoff and Selbac


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