NV Chartogne-Taillet Champagne Brut “Cuvee St. Anne”

Hello friends. As the calendar ticks over to December, it’s time for panic to seep in.

Look at the length of that holiday shopping list! How are you supposed to get that done while still finding time for holiday parties and eggnog swilling and scraping the frost off the car and awkward office secret santa and dammit what about the blowup-snowman/blinking-light-reindeer that look so cute together and STILL AREN’T OUT ON THE LAWN and when does the new Hobbit movie come out?

December presents a lot of challenges, and for most of them, you’re on your own. But cast your mind forward, to the final evening of the month. You’re going to be exhausted, and you’re going to want Champagne.

Are you going to be the person running off to the grocery store at 4pm on December 31 to grab some mass-produced, over-rated, over-priced Champlonk? Or are you going to be the person who smiles, opens the fridge, and pulls out a killer bottle of well-priced grower Champagne?

For my palate, this is the best bottle on the market of a vanishing breed: the sub-$40 Champagne.

I met Alexander Chartogne more than a year ago. He was in Seattle for a tasting put on by his importer, and he didn’t look a day over 30. But between his (pretty good) English and my (marginal) French, he conveyed an incredible passion for farming and for his terroir. And the wines were thrilling: taut, nervy, energetic.

Alexander is perhaps the most exciting young producer in Champagne. He apprenticed with the famous Anselme Selosse and is putting into practice many of the biodynamic principles learned there. Since that first meeting, I’m not sure a day has gone by when there wasn’t at least one bottle of Chartogne-Taillet Champagne sitting somewhere in our house. At that point, we were still northwest-only, so I couldn’t sell the wine. But I could certainly drink it. And I did.

This latest Cuvee Ste-Anne, disgorged Jan-Feb 2012, contains 72% ’08 vintage and 28% ’07. It is a blend of 47% Pinot Noir, 39% Chardonnay, and 14% Pinot Meunier.

Terry Theise Estate Selections (Terry Theise): “It’s salty and slinky and iodé, less chalk-dusty than last year, more angular and piquant, but complex and expressive, and a peony note arrives into the lingering finish. If you haven’t tasted this wine in three or more years – it has changed 180º. And is now one of the more thrilling NVs in all of Champagne.”

Terry Theise Estate Selections (Gabe Clary): “Red apple flesh and blackberries, that aroma that Terry describes as ‘Marine memory’ or what the sea smells like after it recedes. This is not as plump and giving as the last disgorgement, and feels more serious. It is sharper focused, more acidic, but the acids are ripe. It is powerful and serious for an NV, or for any wine for that matter.”

Those are solid tasting notes, and they reflect my own. It’s a salty, racy, minerally glass of farmer fizz, with lovely leesy subtleties of baking bread. A fine introduction to the complex glories of grower Champagne. First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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