Legras & Haas Champagne Lunch @ China Tang - 24/04/14

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"I drink Champagne when I win, to celebrate…And I drink Champagne when I lose, to console myself" Napoleon Bonaparte claimed. No wonder he was such an impressive leader! If I could afford to drink Champagne every day, I definitely would. I’m certainly working on it!

Yesterday was a great push in the right direction to this life long ambition when Prowine and Jérôme Legras, the youngest of 3 sons running Legras & Haas Champagne, hosted an 8-course Champagne lunch at China Tang to which I was very happily invited.

Proceedings started with a glass of the Legras & Haas Cuvée Brut Tradition NV which is a blend of all three Champagne grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It has lovely lifted lemon and green apple notes on the nose with hints of brioche and a floral touch. Smooth in the mouth with a medium body, high acidity, lovely balance and a long, elegant finish. A very nice house style. 17

Next up, served with a delicately flavoured selection of Dim Sum was the Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV. Fresh lemon and Granny Smith apple character dominate on the nose. Very zippy and vibrant on the palate. A slightly lighter, fresher style than the Brut Tradition, smooth with lively acidity and a well balanced finish. 17

Next followed a truly spoiling line up of 4 Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Millésimes all poured from Magnums. Not something one gets to taste everyday I can assure you, although I’m of course aspiring to these heights!

What was a great reminder to me as we sipped our way through the 2004, the 2002, the 1996 and the 1995 vintages, was that when matched to the right food, as it was here, expertly paired to a whole array of traditional Cantonese dishes, Champagne can be one of the nicest wines to enjoy over the course of a whole lunch, not just when served as an aperitif. Naturally this is what they are used to doing in Champagne but for some reason, it’s done very rarely in other parts of the world, even when the food type, as with Chinese, is crying out for these kinds of fresh, dry, high acid wines. If you have the opportunity to give this sort of food and wine pairing a go, I would highly recommend it as it throws up some really wonderful results.

The Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2004 Magnum was all fresh lemon and green apple on the nose. Fuller mouth feel and more complexity on palate than the NV with a lovely texture. Ripe lemon citrus with touches of honey and white flower blossom alongside a hint of brioche. Medium bodied and highly elegant. A lovely wine. 17.5+

The Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2002 Magnum was a deeper golden colour with lovely depth of aromas, a touch of honey with ripe lemon and minerality. Much bigger and richer on the palate than the 2004 due to the quality of the 2002 vintage. Honeyed lemon mineral complexity with a smooth freshness on the finish and a lovely balance. 18.5+

The Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 1996 Magnum had a wonderful lemon freshness on the nose, with salty mineral notes, a white flower blossom hint and touches of savoury brioche. A fresher, leaner style than the 2002, with very high acidity and good mineral complexity. A wonderful match with the slight oiliness of the baked crab. 18.5

The Blanc de Blancs 1995 Magnum was a lot more evolved on the nose, so much so that Jérôme removed the bottle saying it was not as he expected so we were to enjoy more of the 1996 instead! The wine was a lot richer and smoother on the palate than the 1996 and certainly a lot more oxidised with honeyed floral notes and plenty of savoury complexity. Perhaps a bit flat on the finish but a nice wine nonetheless. 17.5

Despite Jérome not thinking it was acceptable, many round the table believed it to be a good wine and in fact enjoyed the slightly more evolved style it was giving. Jérome however insists it was not in keeping with other bottles he’s tasted recently so he invited us to share a Magnum of 1995 with him when we are next in Champagne. An offer we won’t be refusing!

The final wine we tasted was the brand new vintage of the Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2008. Fresh mineral lemon with a fennel note on the nose. Highly elegant and complex aromas. Rich, fairly full bodied, high acidity and very well balanced. Huge concentration with a touch of sweetness balancing the savoury character of the wine. Really delicious. Huge potential. 18+

All in all it was a really excellent tasting demonstrating the sheer depth, complexity and concentration which one can get from top quality vintage Champagnes such as these.

The Legras & Haas Champagnes are available to buy in HK from top quality importer Prowine.

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