This month was my 26th wedding anniversary. And every year I must bring my wife a bottle of Taittinger Comte de Champagne Blanc de Blanc..her favorite. It is delicious and will set you back around $150 a bottle. But to steal a line from David Feherty, “When the one who must be obeyed” requests Taittinger, she gets Taittinger. Coincidentally, I had just purchased a Blanc de Blanc from a small Champagne House, Voirin-Jumel. Getting a chance to drink them side by side was a real eye opener. Yes the Taittinger was stunning, but so was the Voirin-Jumel, at ¼ the price! The first comparison that came to mind was this tastes like sparkling Puligny Montrachet! Remember, drinking Champagne is not just for special occasions, it makes any occasion special. And at this price and quality level, everyday can be special.
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The Champagne region, like that of Burgundy, has many producers with double-barreled names. These names usually occur when the offspring of one producer marries another, creating a new identity for certain parcels of vines passed on by the parents. Voirin-Jumel, a récoltant manipulant located in the grand cru village Cramant, is an example of this. Jean Voirin, who owned some vines and sold all of his grapes in bulk, decided to begin bottling his own Champagne at the end of World War II. The Jumel family started producing Champagne around the same time. René Jumel had a transport business and his wife’s family had some vines that they cultivated. As the Champagne market grew, René began selling some of his trucks and buying vineyards around the Côte des Blancs in which his wife, Paulette Richomme, worked and oversaw. Between 1950 and 1970, all of the grapes were sold in bulk. In the 1990s, Francoise’s children, Patrick and Alice, along with Patrick’s wife Valerie, began running the domaine. Today they own 11 hectares of vines in 11 different villages, broken down to approximately 10% Cramant, 20% Chouilly, 10% Avize, 5% Oiry, 10% Oger, 10% Mareuil-sur-Ay, 10% Vertus, 15% Verneuil and the remaining 10% in three other villages. Each lot of grapes is vinified separately and each tank goes through malolactic fermentation. In January, the wines are stabilized. Shortly thereafter, the vins clairs (still wines) are tasted and it is determined which lots will be used for each specific release. All of their production is bottled and sold at the domaine.
*NV Voirin-Jumel Blanc de Blanc
1er Cru Brut
$35.99btl/$215.94 per six pack
(Jim Sirna 96)
I usually don’t gush over wines like this but in this case I will make an exception. The nose is filled with aromas that are normally reserved for White Burgundy. Lemon zest, green apples, white peaches and flowers surrounded by a complex minerality. In the mouth that Puligny character I mentioned above comes to the fore with clean and vibrant acidity, ripe fruits, lemon curd and just a hint of brioche at the end. The finish is sensual, elegant and long with ocean scents and flavors that beg you to find a dozen oysters.
My new favorite Champagne!