Whenever I have to describe a wine, I have an inner block. I know that most oenological experiences are unable to be communicated or translated into words. Different languages exist in the world of sommeliers but they are all false and staggered. Instead of bringing people together, they push them away. Repeated and useless words that try to describe the sense of smell and palate through mechanical systems, orders of meaning that do not belong to the senses.
So, instead, I decided to tell stories. Some out of place, others too long, some badly told. But all, I would say, heartfelt.
So my advice to you before opening this bottle, is to read these lines. Then, prepare the stage, made of two beautiful elegant glasses (I recommend the Zalto Universal shown here), an evocative atmosphere, a suitable background music, and the company you prefer. Then, sip after sip, tell your story in your own way (or you can copy mine pretending that it is yours, no worries - wine tasting is all about that: pretending), with anecdotes, some technical information (for this, short and concise). Try to dilute the story, glass after glass, without presumption or arrogance. Without appearing too academic and geeky. You don't want to bore your guests but to decorate the environment with narrations. Because without stories to live and tell we are just an empty bottle without a label.
Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Clos Cazals 2008, Claude Cazals
(special disgorgement Pas Dosè no Sulfites exclusively for Roscioli), served it chilled at 10C ° possibly with universal Zalto Glasses.
Drink it slowly, pair it nearly anything (no lemon, artichokes, sweets, barbeque sauce, or junk food). My favorite pairing: sea scallops with Bordier butter from Normandy and orange peel.
It is difficult to explain the history and present of Champagne in a few lines. Especially considering that, I myself, after 27 years of tasting, still have unclear ideas about it.
More than 19,000 producers, 319 villages, thousands of acres, and 300 million+ bottles.
There are those who divide Champagne into large and small fashion properties (Maisons), who according to the grape variety (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, etc), according to the macro zone: Cotes de Blancs, Montaigne de Reims, Aube, Vallé de la Marne, etc ...according to the villages (the Grand Cru, the premier cru etc ...) and according to the producers, the sparkling and winemaking technique, the quantity of sulphites, the type of soil, the sympathy of the vigneron (wine-maker in French) ...
I personally choose my Champagne based on all these parameters and many others.
It took me years to understand and memorize the whole complex legislature, orography and geography of Champagne, and as many years to understand that notions alone do not serve much to understand and appreciate Champagne.
So the more I drink, the less I know. But the more I drink, the more I appreciate, and that's what counts.
So if you are new to Champagne and all this information is already spinning in your head like millions of bubbles and you are already feeling disoriented in an attempt to grasp a sense, here it is that you are well under way.
It is not necessary, at least for the moment, to memorize which are the 17 villages that can call their wine Grand Cru (I don't even know them, at the moment, I remember having to memorize them when I was studying, but after a recent back-up of my memories, some useless information has been lost).
But I can say one thing almost with certainty: most of the wine information, the laws and the rules that establish geography and production of a given wine often go against what the reality of a given region really is.
You know how to say it, don't you?
There is only one category of people more dishonest than wine journalists and sommeliers: wine-makers.
In short, all I will tell you is that it’s not true.
Which, theoretically, would also invalidate this claim.
So you have to trust me - that’s your only option.
I don't promise to tell you the truth. We leave that to priests, fundamentalists, reductionist scientists and corrupt journalists.
We remain indeterminate. The world of things in the making. Overlapping realities and narratives.
The world of travel and stories, which in the end does not matter if they are true, because only the experience, the memory, and the taste remain true.
So sit comfortably. Put the bottle in an ice basket, prepare two glasses (I say two because I'm romantic and it's the perfect number of people to fully enjoy a Champagne) and follow me.
We are in Mesnil-sur-Oger. If that means nothing to you, I'll explain that it is a village south of Epernay, which is south of Reims. And if you still don't know what I'm talking about, it is a city, a town and a country that represent the heart of Champagne.
In Reims, go to the cathedral, perhaps even more beautiful than Notre Dame, where for centuries the kings of France have been crowned as such.
Then from there you rent a car and within a maximum of 25 minutes you can reach the thousand vineyards, villages and winemakers of this beautiful region.
So starting from Reims you cross the Reims Mountains Natural Park, which more than mountains are miserable hills. We arrive after about 25 minutes in Epernay and here the perception of being in Champagne is evident. On the main road you will see beautiful neo-classical villas with evocative names such as Pol Roger, Moet-Chandon, Bollinger.
In short, those names that from James Bond onwards have made Champagne the iconic wine.
You can book guided tours. In some cases it will seem to you to be in an effervescent version of Disney World, in others, like by Michel Gonet, for example, you will seem to go back in time. Furnishings, colonnades, characters in all respects Fin de Siecle (the other one).
But we pass Epernay and turn South.
After another 10 minutes we arrive in Mesnil-sur-Oger - a small village with no tourist attractions, a couple of bars and little else.
However, here, there are some of the most important vineyards in the world.
I’m talking about 'Le Mesnil' of Salon and Clos du Mesnil of Krug. Two bottles that represent the icon of the expensive and exclusive bubble more than any other.
Today a bottle of Clos du Mesnil is hard to find for less than $1,500.
I was lucky enough (unfortunately for my wallet) to try it several times. I don't know if a bottle could ever be worth the $1500 dollars, but if it ever was, that's the case.
We are in the realm of mythology. A unique soil of pure chalk, a grape variety that expresses itself at its highest level in the world, Chardonnay, and a few centuries of tradition.
Right next to the Clos di Mesnil there is another vineyard called Les Clos, or Clos Cazals. Maybe it lives in the shadow of the Krug house, but somehow I would say in the shadow and indifferent. I don't know why and how a vineyard becomes sensationally famous. Krug bought the Clos du Mensil in the early 70s, but only in 1979 he made it a single Cru wine, partly contradicting the tradition of the maison who wanted the Champagne Cuvèe of different vineyards, vines, territories and vintages. So much so that in short, for mysterious and inscrutable reasons, the Clos du Mensil has become an absolute myth. A bottle that year after year increases in price and allure.
The first time I tasted it which I remember was 2006. The vintage was 1990. Immediately after the first sip, that experience became part of the cheek of my oenological memories.
Then the following year I find myself taking a trip to Champagne with my two mentors Dario and Maurizio and here, in a bad restaurant, we order a bottle of Claude Cazals. I immediately find a balance, a salty sweetness, a sense of envelopment and citrus freshness. In short, all those descriptions that make a wine (and especially its taster) the most snobbish of drinks.
I could also continue to tell about aromatic descriptors, but adjective after adjective the only result I would get would be to appear tragically unpleasant.
In short, I liked it very much, so I proposed to my mentors to visit Delphine Cazals the next day.
Delphine was and is a typical distinguished French lady. She’s part of a small group of Champagne women: Julie Cavile (Krug), Vitalie Taittinger, Logette Jardin (Duval-Leroy), Angelique Templier (Lassale) and many others.
'We are not feminists and we like men,' says Delphine.
I don't know why she says it, maybe she doesn't want to be framed. She wants us to understand that the spirit of this group of women only is an esprit that does not have a specific goal. They only try to defend a gender identity, to explain (and in fact they are right) that Champagne is female.
So she has us taste a bottle of Clos Cazals 2008 (now we are in 2019). Year of the century, ca va sans dire.
'This bottle (she explains), still has to make the second disgorgement, it has no added sulphites or yeasts'.
An exceptional bottle. Soft and fresh, as I said before, with this note of mineral salt. Vibrates on the palate, powerful and elegant. Feminine in the broadest and most decisive sense of the term.
So I ask Delphine: But why do you do the second disgorgement? Why add sulfites and yeasts...can't you leave it like this?
Delphine looks at me, thinks about it and as seen in the video she takes us to the cellar, where they are making the disgorgement. He asks the cellarman: could you keep some Pas Dosè bottles for Alessandro? How many? he says. Then I say, ‘Let's say 48.’
Thus was born the Clos Cazals 2008 Pas Dosé, exclusively for us.
Those are the moments when I feel at the center of the world. I have a clear feeling that this job makes absolute sense. Being able to create a bottle together with the vigneron. Make this a personal, unique, nowhere to be found icon. A gustatory character born from my experience being able to give this experience to you and to the lucky people who will be close to you when you open this bottle and with elegant nonchalance, between a sip and the other, you will tell these stories.