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January 08, 2010

NV Gruet, Methode Champenoise Blanc de Noirs

I'm not one for causes. Confusing what I do here with tertiary things like politics or economics. I might care about biodynamic, organic, sulfite-free wine. I might not. Maybe immigrant vineyard workers should be paid more. Has anyone looked into who is really making the new wines from India? I don't know. That's not what drives 750 mL. But today, we officially adopt a cause. A mission, if we may be so bold, to buy Laurent and Nathalie Gruet, children of the Bethon, France-born Gilbert Gruet, some plot of land near Ay, Champagne. Because we're not going to start another argument about whether America makes real "Champagne"... Yes, this wine is from America. New Mexico. Albuquerque, actually. Right off the interstate. There's a Whataburger down the street from here. ...It doesn't. OK, glad that's over. Now, we can get to what's important. Which is that there is tremendous spirit to this wine, easily the boldest, most educated of all American sparkling wines. Let's first get past the flaws. For those of you who don't care what "methode Champenoise" means. Who think "Ay" is a typo. God bless you. Because you're not tortured by the horribly expensive pursuit of the perfect wine (all roads lead to some--though no one knows which--Champagne). And for you, this Gruet blanc de noirs is--by far--America's best sparkling wine. With the slight, powdered sugary sweetness of Moet's White Star, it's at once terribly complex and terribly pedestrian. It's either a good domestic wine or a bad prosecco. But we can quickly look past that. Because I actually think there's a lot more going on here than an odd level of sugar. It's not really sugar. What's happening to this Gruet is that it's found and preserved some remarkably precious, ripe pinot noir. There is no traditional sparkling wine in the world that tastes more purely of the pinot noir grape than non-vintage Gruet, Blanc de Noirs. It's completely filled--bubbling over--with a direct, linear flavor of wild raspberry and Meyer lemon peel, screaming for the sweet savory of sashimi salmon. The kind of flavor in a Champagn... sparkling wine that flat-out catches you offguard. It makes you forget what you were thinking. That's what Gruet does. Yes, there are better pinot-based sparklers in the world. More than a dozen, at least, as a matter of fact. But the way these complex flavors finish, from the fruit to a dense, eggy vanilla custard and frothy zabaglione, and hit you over the head--I just have to see what these folks can do outside this dessert climate, actually not unlike the high-elevation plots of southern France famous for its sparkling Mauzac. Let's do something that really matters. Let's get them there.


Anonymous Sandeep said...

Isnt he still working with G Gruet et Fils and Paul Laurent, and more so since his dad passed?

3:00 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

That's what I was trying to track down. Are you saying the us winemakers are working in champagne? How close is their involvement besides the business aspect?

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Sandeep said...

I'll ask the distributor/supplier as they may know better than I, but my understanding was that LG was very closely consulting on at least the Paul Laurent wines I know its held by his sister and her husband. though this may be a misunderstanding reinforced in my head by the fact that the D. St Vincent is distributed by the same people who distribute PL.

12:29 AM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Thanks, Deep. Let me know. I'll update the post if needed. Actually, would love to talk to Laurent and Nathalie if I can for 750 mL and a couple other pubs... Maybe Peter Liem's written about this?

11:13 AM  
Blogger Jinxica said...

I had this wine several years ago at a wine festival in NM...people thought I was crazy to like it. I bought several bottles, but have since consumed them. I can't seem to find it out here in Baltimore, but I'm glad you enjoyed it!

10:46 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Jin, I used to see Gruet mostly at boutique shops. But now it's everywhere, so you shouldn't have much trouble tracking it down. Ask your local independent retailer, but otherwise, just head over to a Whole Foods or chain liquor store. If they don't have Gruet, they can get it with little difficulty (though I realize some of the laws are weird in MD). It's the only wine I see regularly (specifically the chardonnay-based blanc de blancs, which I'll write about in the next few weeks) in big box stores and chic haute restaurants at the same time.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Not to shill, but Bin 604 in Harbor East regularly carries Gruet Blanc de Noir.

You may have over-romanticized (or under, depending on your love of What-A-Burger) the grape growing location. A very small percentage of the Gruet Pinot is grown in Albuquerque. It's my understanding they have a very large vineyard in southern New Mexico, near the interestingly named town of Truth or Consequences (I'm not kidding about that).

And while I can't speak to Laurent and Nathalie's business involvement in Champagne, I do know they have family who are growers in Champagne. If I remember the story correctly, they may even be growers for Moet. So your comparisson doesn't surprise me.

Lastly, as a New Mexican expatriate now in Baltimore who is proud of what the Gruet's have built, I have to shill for another wonderful New Mexico wine. You should check out Milagro Winery, and specifically the 2007 Zinfandel.

4:45 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

All the more, Matthew, that such a clime would produce such well balanced sparkling wine, considering what thin-skinned pinot has a tendency to in heat.

4:57 PM  
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7:14 AM  

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