Champagne is an iconic beverage filled with flavour and history. It is the world’s ultimate celebratory bubble, a playfully teasing sparkling wine, meant to be enjoyed rather than analysed.
As the late Lily Bollinger said, “I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and I drink it when I am. Obviously, I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty”.
To quote from ‘The World Atlas of Wine’ by Hugh Johnson & Jancis Robinson, “To be champagne, a wine must do more than sparkle. It must come from the Champagne region of France”. It must be made in accordance with C.I.V.C (Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne).
Outside of this region, the French sparkling wines are referred to as Crémant or Mousseux. So not every sparkling wine, even from France can be called champagne, a common mistake made by a lot of people.
With so many champagne brands available in the market ranging from entry-level to money-no-object premium vintage and good quality non-vintage labels from Maisons (large champagne houses), Cooperatives (co-op champagne facilities), and Vignerons (grower champagne), the plethora of options can be a bit overwhelming.
An exceptional champagne that I was recently introduced to was Champagne Delamotte from Maison Delamotte, one of the oldest wineries in Champagne founded way back in 1760. It was established in the famed Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, a 100 per cent grand cru village, located in Côte des Blancs, a 20km stretch south of Epernay and home to the most elegant Chardonnay-based wines.
It will not be wrong to say that the greatest expression of Chardonnay comes from Le Mesnil, one of the most famed vineyards in the world.
What makes Champagne Delamotte so special is the fact that it is the sister house of the legendary Champagne Salon, one of the rarest and greatest champagnes in the world, sold only as a vintage.
Champagne Salon is only released under the Salon name during exceptional years. So strict is the quality control that approximately four vintages are declared per decade. And in each vintage, no more than 60,000 bottles are produced. Undeclared vintages are used for Delamotte.
Since the grapes for Delamotte are sourced from the same place as Salon, the champagne is of exceptional quality. Which in essence means that highest quality Chardonnay grapes, from the best terroir, go into the making of Delamotte.
And terroir is not the only thing that Delamotte and Salon have in common. They even share the same viticultural, enological and managerial teams.
Another commonality is that they both focus on Blanc de Blancs. So despite their different origins, the two houses share a philosophy, which is to produce wines of great purity.
The two renowned sister Champagne Houses now fall under the umbrella of the Laurent-Perrier Group, who purchased them in 1988. They are both led by Didier Depond.
Delamotte makes five cuvées Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Blancs Vintage, Rosé and Blanc de Blancs Collection, and in four of these, Chardonnay is the predominant grape. Thus one can say their style is Chardonnay-based.
Delamotte Brut (NV) is a blend of approximately 55% Chardonnay from Côte des Blancs, 35% Pinot Noir from south-facing slopes of Montagne de Reims and 10% Pinot Meunier from Valle de la Marne. It is balanced, subtle and elegant with a precise fresh fruit finish. An excellent food-friendly champagne that you can pop anytime.
Delamotte Blanc de Blancs (NV) is 100% Chardonnay for which the grapes come from the three grand crus: Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger and Avize, some of the greatest vineyards in Champagne. The palate is dry and a fine mineral tension runs through the champagne. With much more complexity than a regular Brut, you get a taste of the chalk soil vineyards of Mesnil-sur-Oger.
For the Vintage Blanc de Blancs, the same three villages are used along with a fourth grand cru, Cramant, for about 5-10% of the blend. Since long ageing is the key to a great champagne, this one is aged for 7 years. It is a captivating great value vintage champagne since it offers superb quality at a reasonable price. It is creamy, chalky and fruit-driven with an intensity and complexity that is not overwhelming.
Champagne Delamotte Rosé is an assemblage of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. It is aged for a maximum of 20 months. With a floral nose and notes of raspberry and strawberry with a hint of soft spice, it is a delicious bubbly rosé.
All these are world-class wines with a fresh effervescence and distinct personality. They show incredible range and tension. Best of all they are ready to drink wines meant for immediate consumption or ageing in one’s cellar.
In the words of Didier Depond, President of Champagne Houses Salon and Delamotte, “Champagne Delamotte is one for the connoisseurs. It is easily drinkable. Even though there has been a substantial increase in the quantity, this has not been at the expense of quality. And this great quality comes at a very affordable price”.
Wine critic Robert M.Parker Jr, in his publication, The Wine Advocate. has called Delamotte “one of the best buys in exquisitely crafted champagne”.
Champagne Delamotte is imported into India by A.R Exports, a New Delhi based company founded by wine aficionado Rajiv Kehr, who focuses on importing premium wines that have the ability to give immediate pleasure. His portfolio comprises of Rieslings, Pinot Noirs from Burgundy and varietals from Rhone and Bordeaux.
For me personally, it was a real pleasure to drink Delamotte because it combines excellence of terroir with artisanal winemaking. It has the stylistic elegance of a grande marque Champagne and an affordable price tag. Indeed a champagne of great value.
With a motto like “Vive et Ma Ama” (Live and Love Me), it is impossible not to love the quality of its fine bubbles, which give a hint of Salon in every sip.
By: Lavina Kharkwal