Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Diebolt-Vallois Rosé

It's been the better part of two decades now since the Champagnes of Diebolt-Vallois initially grabbed my attention, and they've not let go since. They were the first wines to really open my eyes to the possibilities of great Champagne from small growers, the first to turn my head away from the usual grand marque suspects. There was a time when a bottle (or a magnum) of Jacques Diebolt's non-vintage Blanc de Blancs graced my table for just about any special occasion, whether a major holiday or Tuesday night sushi takeout. Nearly six years ago now, I had the opportunity to visit the Diebolt family in situ at their estate in Cramant, on an afternoon that remains etched in my mind as one of the most memorable of many, many winery visits.

Yet in all those years, at home and even at the winery, I'd never tasted a rosé Champagne from Diebolt-Vallois. When I learned just a few months back that a small shipment of Diebolt rosé was scheduled for arrival in the States, I wondered how and why I'd never crossed paths with it before. The answer, as it turns out, is quite simple. Jacques Diebolt last made a rosé in 1985. If any of it found its way to the US market, it came and went before my Diebolt awakening. And in the unlikely event that there was any of that 1985 rosé remaining at the winery during our 2004 visit, it wasn't something Jacques chose to include in our tasting lineup. So yes, in spite of consuming far more than my share of Diebolt's wines over the years, never had a drop of his rosé crossed my lips... until now.

Champagne Brut Rosé, Diebolt-Vallois NV
$55. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
As a result of my self-imposed ban on the primary blogging activities of writing and photography over the holiday weekend, you'll have to use your imagination to picture the lovely hue that once filled Diebolt's clear glass bottle. Thinking back to the heart of summer might help. Take a generous slice of drippingly juicy, ripe watermelon, then eat about half-way down toward the rind and you've got it. Like its color, the wine is beckoning and forward, brimming with clear, light raspberry and strawberry fruit. The yeast influence is present but delicate, somewhere near the fresh white bread end of the autolytic spectrum. Finely balanced, gracious and delicately dosed, at least to my palate, the wine may not be the most complex of rosés but it's a real pleasure to drink.

Produced entirely from fruit grown in 2006 though labeled sans année, the wine is a blend of 63% Pinot Noir, 27% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier grown primarily in Jacques Diebolt's holdings in "Les Toulettes" in Epernay; the Chardonnay comes from Cuis. It is a rosé d'assemblage, made pink by the addition of Bouzy Rouge (still, red Pinot Noir) that Diebolt purchased from Bernard Tornay, and is finished with a modest seven grams/liter dosage.

As you'll see in the picture at right, Diebolt has recently begun to include lot numbers on most of his bottlings. When I first glanced at the number stamped into this bottle's label, my aging eyes saw "06," which I took to be a reference to the fact that the wine was made entirely from 2006 fruit. At second glance, though, and with the help of digital magnification, it's clearly "08," which I in turn assume to be a reference to the Champagne's disgorgement date. If that's indeed the case, it's definitely a piece of information I'm happy to see shared; down the road, I'd love to see Jacques add the month as well.

Though I referred to Diebolt as a grower-producer in the opening of this post, the pictures above will reveal to the hawk-eyed among you that Diebolt is in fact a Négociant-Manipulant producer. Jacques first made the switch from RM to NM status in 2004, at least partially in response to the dangerously meager yields of the hot, dry 2003 growing season. Hardly making him a coopted member of the evil corporate empire, Diebolt's négoce license has simply allowed him to purhase fruit from other growers, something he's done primarily with his own father-in-law, Guy Vallois. And something he's done, for the first time in over twenty years and with a little help from Bouzy's Monsieur Tornay in this case, to again make Diebolt-Vallois rosé a possibility.


TWG said...

You should post before it's sold out.

TomHudson said...

I hope the importer/distributor sames some for on-premise folks like me.

David McDuff said...

Sorry to disappoint you both, Toms, but, as Mr. Hudson seems to have guessed, Diebolt's importer in the NY/NJ/PA/DE market brought in only a paltry amount. I've saved you each a bottle if that's any consolation. Hopefully there will be a second shipment sometime early in the new year....

The Wine Mule said...

You do have some 2000 Fleur de Passion in your cellar, I hope. Absolutely phenomenal.

TomHudson said...

David - thanks.

I'll bring you some Edwin Charley "Virtue" rum from Jamaica. Single barrel, rarest stuff here in Jamaica. 2 barrels/year.

Don't even think of mixing anything with it. Neat only, mon.

Hopefully the fancy bottle will survive the overhead bin on Air Jamaica back to PHL next week.

TWG said...


You don't have to check it?

David McDuff said...

Tom H.,
I was about to ask the same thing but Tom G. beat me to it.... And I'd never dream of making cocktails with Diebolt rosé!

Mr. Mule,
Sadly, there's nary a bottle of '00 FdP in the cellar. I'll have to settle for a little '97 and set my sights on the 2002.

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