The distinctive freshness captured in Champagne Gosset’s wines provide pairings for a whole host of dishes, as Peter Ranscombe reports.
CHAMPAGNE is a fascinating subject – even after you’ve stripped away all the branding and the marketing and the other ephemera that surrounds France’s flagship fizzy wine, there are still almost as many ways to make sparklers as there are producers.
They can vary the proportion of the three star grapes – chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir – or the supporting cast of lesser-known varieties used to make up the blend.
They can pick and choose from which area within the Champagne region those grapes are supplied, with different soils and slopes providing different flavours, even from the same varietals.
They can chop and change variables in the cellar, including how many months or years the liquid is left in contact with its lees – the dead yeast cells left over from the fermentation – or how much wine or sugar is added in the dosage to determine the sweetness or dryness of the finished wine.
With so many choices to be made, it’s little wonder that each Champagne house has its own distinctive style – and few are as distinctive as Champagne Gosset, as I was reminded at yesterday’s tasting hosted by Bertrand Verduzier, the company’s international business director, and wine merchant Great Grog at The Fat Pony wine bar in Edinburgh.
One of the decisions Gosset makes in the cellar is not to put its wines through malolactic conversion, the process that turns fresh apple-like acids into softer milk-like acids.
The result is a tell-tale freshness in the final wine, which was on show throughout its range of Champagnes.
Freshness at its core
Gosset adopts different techniques in different wines to balance that crisp acidity.
In its Grande Reserve Brut (£48.19, Great Grog, special order), 10% pinot meunier is added to the equal mix of chardonnay and pinot noir, bringing fruiter flavours to the blend, which is made up of grapes from 20 villages, 90% of which have the highest “grand cru” classification, with the remainder coming from “premier cru” sites.
The base wine for the non-vintage Grande Reserve comes from 2013, with the liquid spending four years in contact with its lees and a dosage of seven grams of sugar per litre of wine being added.
The result is apple puree, cinnamon and apricot jam on the nose, leading into tarter strawberry and apricot on the palate, with more savoury lemon rind.
For balance in its Grand Rosé Brut (£56.69), the house blends-in a higher proportion of reserve wines – liquid made during previous vintages and held back in big vats in its cellars – exceeding the 15% used in the Grande Reserve.
A low percentage of reserve wines in the finished blend is another defining characteristic at Gosset; Verduzier explained that each reserve wine is kept in a vat according to the site from which the grapes came, with different years blended together in the same vat.
Based again on the 2013 vintage and using grapes from 15 villages with 8g/l dosage, the rosé offered ripe aromas of strawberry, raspberry and spun sugar, before expressing sharper cranberry, redcurrant and raspberry on the tongue.
Three grapes, three expressions
Stepping up a gear, Gosset’s range of Blanc de Blanc, Blanc de Noirs and Blanc de Meunier wines highlight the character of each grape.
The Grand Blanc de Blanc Brut (£62.49) uses chardonnay from different sites to balance the acidity, with some of the grapes grown on warmer slopes normally used to farm pinot noir, adding extra ripeness to the blend.
I found the Blanc de Blanc to be the softest of the wines, with red and green apple flavours to balance the acidity, and a warmth to its nose, featuring white flowers and red apples.
It would make a delicious match for seafood and paired superbly well with softer goats’ cheese on oatcakes at The Fat Pony.
The special edition Grand Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut (£73.49), uses only pinot noir grapes and has been aged for nine years on its lees, with only 5g/l dosage, delivering red apple, cinnamon, croissant and brown sugar on the nose and palate.
Verduzier suggested the Blanc de Noir would pair with autumnal dishes – and I could certainly imagine sipping a glass with chicken casserole or pork chops – but it also brought out smokier notes when paired with harder cheeses on oatcakes.
The most intriguing wine of the day was the Grand Blanc de Meunier Extra Brut (£89.15, special order), which Verduzier introduced as a great match for Asian-fusion dishes; it’s so unusual for pinot meunier to be made into a wine on its own and I loved its mix of warm and sweet red apple, apricot and brown sugar on the nose, leading into tingly redcurrant and blackcurrant on the palate.
Single years, singular character
While most houses will make their vintage Champagnes in years that demonstrate their typical style, Gosset is more interested in capturing the essence of seasons that show distinctive character, Verduzier explained.
The incoming Celebris Vintage 2007 Extra Brut (£132.65, special order) was certainly full of character, with red apple, cinnamon and apple puree aromas and then more savoury dried apple skin and apricot flavours.
What surprised me most about the 2007 vintage – and the 2004 and 2002 wines that Verduzier brought from Gosset’s library – was how fresh it still was, nearly 12 years after the grape were picked.
For me, the Celebris Vintage 2004 Extra Brut showed how well the crisp acidity can integrate into the wine over time, allowing the savoury lemon rind and apricot flavours to shine.
What was missing for me in the fresher wines were more obvious autolytic characteristics – the delicious bready, toasty and even nutty notes that come with development.
Those flavours came to the fore in the Celebris Vintage 2004 Extra Brut, with pronounced smells of toasted brown bread and dried apple skins paving the way for lemon rind, toasted almond, wholemeal bread and delicious smoky notes.
With the crispness to cut through rich sauces and the savoury notes to match foods from seafood to cheese, it’s easy to see why Gosset’s Champagnes are so popular with sommeliers in restaurants – and why that acidity gives them such great potential to age.