1995 Le Brun de Neuville "Grand Vintage" —Aged to Perfection

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Earlier this week, our northern California heatwave started to break, and Cinnamon and I decided to celebrate with a bottle of 1995 Le Brun de Neuville "Grand Vintage" Brut Champagne on our patio. Cinnamon made a simple summer meal of olive oil marinated halibut on the grill and some pesto pasta with sundried tomatoes and asparagus. I love aged vintage Champagne as a dinner wine; they have the complexity that makes for a special occasion, but sill have the refreshment to be served on a hot summer night. It was a success, and I woke up excited to share the experience.

We received a very nice allocation of 180 bottles of this Champagne from Le Brun de Neuville, and I have to say that I am impressed that they had the patience and the space to hold back a good amount of this wine to offer a recently disgorged (RD) release now. This wine has had twenty-two years of ageing on the lees and was bottled way back in June of 1996. When I opened this up for the staff next to the 2008, it was clear from looking at the corks that this is an even more recent disgorgement than the current vintage! All the other RD releases that we have are much more expensive than this one and most, like the 1996 Dom Perignon P2 that we have right now are five times the price. While $99 dollars is not a low price for a bottle of Champagne, I think it is a great value for a perfectly stored one at twenty-four years old!

This wine is composed of 95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir, making it almost a blanc de blancs. It is quite dry at just 3 grams per liter of dosage, and this in combination with the age make it ideal for food. The wine has a polished brass color and a delicate, minuscule bead from the extraordinary time on the lees. The nose has not only the wonderful buttery brioche character that one would expect from an RD of this age, but also a touch of Meyer lemon and white flowers. In the mouth, I love the balance of savory, chanterelle mushroom complexity and still vibrant and crisp acidity.

At first, I was unsure of the pairing with the pesto, but it turned out fabulous, even better than with the much more traditional olive oil marinated halibut. The folks at Le Brun de Neuville recommend complex spice, like curry with this wine, and the pesto worked fabulously, mirroring the nutty depth of the wine. If you love the taste of old Champagne, or would like to experiment with your first, this is not to be missed.

A toast to you!

Gary Westby

Gary Westby