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The first three bottlings released under the special Thiénot x Penfolds label are made with wines produced from the outstanding 2012 vintage. The range includes a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as two single-vineyard wines from grand cru villages: a Blanc de Blancs from Avize, and a Blanc de Noirs from Aÿ
Nicolas Uriel, Thiénot’s chef de cave, collaborated closely with Gago to create Champagnes expressing, in the words of Gago, ‘their differences while sharing the collective interpretation by Thiénot and Penfolds.’
The trio has slightly lower levels of dosage than those usually chosen by Maison Thiénot and, to strengthen the cross-hemisphere tie, they use a liqueur d’expédition elaborated in barriques initially used for Penfolds’ flagship Yattarna Chardonnay.
Malolactic fermentation is deliberately avoided to retain freshness, and Uriel explains that they ‘chose to lower the amount of dosage and not use barrel-ageing so as to enhance the terroir transparency of these Champagnes, while benefitting from Peter Gago’s blending expertise for fine-tuning the style we wanted.’
These Champagnes will be distributed by Penfolds around the world except for France, where it will be in the hands of the Thiénot group.
Two familial chardonnay prompts immediately unleashed:
• Lemon citrus (front-palate). Lemon ice-cream with cream (mid-palate). Lemon pie, with a honey,
almond accompaniment (back-palate). What ... no lemon sorbet? Anywhere?!
• Sea-spray, saline and brine elements – prompting textural and symbolic inclusion of the seaside
vegetable plant, samphire.
Stepping back with the glass wanting allows the measure of this Avize Blanc de Blancs to be revealed – rich and pure with power, energy and liveliness.
Whilst spawn from only handfuls of rows off a single-vineyard, great length and dimension prevail. Certainly, whilst clean/precise also exotic/tempting.
In short, a rather cold and snowy winter followed by a cool and cloudy spring. 2013 was a late growing season (between two and three weeks later than the ten-year average). Paradoxically, there was no frost damage – although temperatures were lower than usual, they were never extreme in winter or in spring. Gloomy conditions prevailed until June. Summer finally arrived in July and rewarded Champagne with two months of sunny and warm weather. Rainfall and cool temperature returned in September and harvest across the region took place under autumnal conditions from end-September to mid-October. Apart from a few isolated hailstorms, there were no worrying weather incidents leading into this 2013 harvest. Despite high disease pressure due to wet conditions during the first part of the season, vines remained very safe throughout.