Larmandier-Bernier, “Longitude,” NV Blanc de Blancs, Premier Cru Extra Brut, $56
The Larmandier and Bernier families both have long histories in the Champagne region, dating back to the time of the French Revolution. The estate of Larmandier-Bernier was established in 1971 with the marriage of Philippe Larmandier and Elisabeth Bernier. Today the estate has holdings in some of the top villages in the Côtes des Blancs: Cramant, Chouilly, Oger, and Avize (all Grand Cru) and in the Premier Cru village of Vertus. Their son Pierre took over the estate in 1988 and by 1999 he had converted all of their vineyards to biodynamic viticulture. In order to produce the most natural and terroir-specific wines possible, Pierre uses only indigenous yeasts. He also feels that terroir is best expressed with lower levels of dosage and never adds more than four grams per liter to any of his wines (brut level Champagnes can be up to 15 grams). This puts all of his wines in the Extra Brut category, although because he ages them up to a year on their lees, with gentle bâtonnage (or stirring), his wines are not austere, and are known for their balance, texture, and breadth of flavor.
His “Longitude” is a new cuvée, replacing what he used to label Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 1er Cru. It is so named because the four vineyards from which this wine is sourced (Cramant, Avize, Oger, and Vertus) form a line close to the fourth meridian. About 60% is fermented in stainless steel tanks, and the rest in a combination of large oak foudres and neutral Burgundian barrels. The dosage is a mere 4 grams per liter, and while this wine definitely expresses the intense minerality of the chalky limestone soils, there is surprising depth and complexity of flavors and a long, evolving finish. It is ready to enjoy anytime over the next several years, on its own or with food.