Two from Champagne Penet-Chardonnet

Penet-Chardonnet is an independent, traditional Champagne house that produces wines from exclusively Grand Cru vineyards. After 400 years of supplying the French market, current owner Alexandre Penet has crossed the Channel to enter the UK market for the first time. Five generations of the Penet family have farmed six-hectares of vineyard around Verzy and Verzenay in the Montagne de Reims, but in the 1930s the family started vinifying Champagne for the first time. They took over Mumm’s 19th century cellars in Verzy in 1951, and expansion came in 1967 when Marie-Louise Chardonnet married Christian Penet, bringing with her more vineyards in Verzenay, and creating Champagne Penet-Chardonnet. Estate-grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are used in all cuvées, with no malolactic fermentation. All wines are aged for a minium of four years. These are very traditional Champagnes. The two top cuvées which I tasted – the Grand Reserve Extra Brut and the Cuvée Diane Claire – share a family resemblence of tight, quite steely acidity and great length and precision. Their intensity and concentration also suggests significant ageing potential.

The wines

xChampagne Penet-Chardonnet, Grand Reserve NV
This is a ‘zero dosage’ wine, aged seven years on the lees and including 15% of reserve wine that had been kept in barrels. It has a bold lemon yellow colour and small bubbles that disippate quite quickly. On the nose, a big, bold rush of sour apple and nettle fruit with plenty of citrus too. On the palate this wine is racy and crisp, the mousse like little pin pricks on the tongue rather than anything creamier, and the fruit as clean as a whistle, the crunchy green apple and lemon pith character streaking through to the finish. A decisive and confident wine. 91/100. £45.89

Champagne Penet-Chardonnet, Cuvée Diane Claire NV
This range-topping wine is a selection of the best parcels, aged for nine years on its lees before release. The colour is quite deep and the bubbles small and gentle. The nose has a flood of crisp, lemony fruit, but there’s a big core of bruised apple and a touch of honey or toffee too in a quite complex picture. The palate is racy, steely and very “proper” Champagne, with a fairly uncompromising backbone of acidity and a crisp, fresh mousse that races across the tongue. There’s more of that sour green apple bite, and a little hint of orange zest, before that decisive lemony acidity pushes through. A beautifully balanced, concentrated wine. 91/100. £80.10

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