J Lassalle is a rather unheralded Grower from Chigny Les Roses. Their range embraces all things harmony, delicacy and perfume. Family owned and run since being founded in 1942 its home in Chigny Les Roses of the Montagne du Reims proves this grower-producer with the quality raw materials to craft these wines. The entry-level J Lassalle Brut Preference is a wine to behold on its own but moving through the range they just get better.
Brut Preference is approximately an equal blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier which shows in its balance, roundness and complexity. It has lovely characters from stone fruits and chalk, through to darker fruits and a hint of undergrowth. A very impressive and elusive wine that requires a second or third glass because it is so pleasing.
A wine region of France approximately 160km East of Paris. It is also the name of the wines produced from the area. Most famously it is a sparkling wine that undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle and is aged on lees. Although there is the occasional still wine you can find around particularly Pinot Noir. The fantastically named Bouzy Rouge is one such example. There are very few single vintage, single vineyard, single variety Champagnes (I can only name one and it was produced only 47 times between 1900 and 1999). Why? Due to the large area the region covers and the challenging weather the houses blended wines to produce a consistent and reliable product every year. This is where the growers come in. They relish the chance to show off vintage variation and small plot wines.
This is the most elusive grape. It is relatively early ripening and extremely sensitive to terroir. Its perfect place on earth is the Cote d’Or in Burgundy. So haunting are great red Burgundy’s charms that growers everywhere try to emulate them. Pinot Noir is not just a one-trick pony, it can make great reds, rosé, sparkling and even sweet wines, whites on occasion and I’ve tasted a decent fortified Pinot Noir too. Adding body, perfume and richness to Champagne it also adds red berry and floral/rose petal notes along with spice and subtle layers.
The grape that you can plant anywhere, in any climate and do anything to and it will still taste like an OK wine. When people hit the sweet spot of site, climate, cropping and winemaking, Chardonnay becomes a magical wine that will age gracefully but charm you at any age. Chardonnays can range from cool climate lean and citrusy to warmer climate tropical and overt. Oak and lees can add flavouring as can malolactic fermentation. In a Champagne context, Chard can add mineral flavours, stone fruits and acidity along with some weight of fruit.
Meunier is most famous for adding body and richness to the wines of Champagne. The trade-off is it tends to make the Champagnes age quicker and is therefore often left out of Prestige Cuvées. Not often found in still table wine production.