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Outstanding New Champagne Find - A K&L Exclusive - 03/14/2017 - Champagne

Hello Champagne Fans,

For more than a decade, I had my eyes open for a good producer from the Sézanne in Champagne, but had no luck in finding one. This sub-region of Champagne is an isolated valley on chalk soil cut out of a plain in the middle of nowhere. Although just thirty miles south of Epernay, the empty, even desolate land between the two places makes it seem like another planet. I never suspected that I would eventually strike gold with a cooperative in the Sézanne (or for that matter anywhere). I am a partisan for independent grower producers, and wrongly thought that all co-ops only produced basic to low-quality wine in order to hit a low price point. Le Brun de Neuville disproved my prejudice with their obsession for quality, especially with their “Authentique”.

Le Brun de Neuville is located in Bethon, right in the heart of the Sézanne. They have 370 acres total from the 168 members of the cooperative, but they only make Champagne from the best third of that land. Although their vineyard spreads across seven villages, the Authentique is only made from the best plots in Bethon. The wines are pressed in a combination of computer controlled, modern coquard diagonal presses and Pera bladder presses. When I visited, Amandine Vouhleur wowed me with their capacity—they have room for ten years of stocks, allowing for very long ageing of the wines. The “Authentique” profits from that capacity as it's aged for five years on the lees on a cork rather than a cap (so the cork in the bottle is its second).

Aging on a cork like this is a pain—none of the disgorgement lines will accommodate bottles like this, and they must all be disgorged by hand. The benefit is a better exchange with, and a bit of immunization from, oxygen. The five years on the lees give this wine a nutty creaminess, while the pure chalk soil gives the wine zip and minerality. The bead on this wine is tiny and shows the long time on the lees. I love the Le Brun de Neuville "Authentique Assemblage" on its own as an aperitif, and I have also had great luck pairing it with oysters. I think it might be the best bottle we have in the store for pairing with caviar, which is saying something given the great direct import price. This producer is a star in the Sézanne and a new star in our direct import program. I hope that you'll give the wine a try.

Le Brun de Neuville

Le Brun de Neuville "Authentique Assemblage" Brut Champagne ($34.99)

90 points Wine Enthusiast: "From a blend that is primarily Chardonnay, this is soft and full in the mouth, with a creamy texture. Touches of apples and pears are integrated by the acidity and zesty citrus. The aftertaste is ripe, hinting at tropical fruits. (RV)" (12/2016)

90 points Wine Spectator: "This bright version is well-balanced and creamy, with a pleasing mix of toasted hazelnut, baked white peach, spring blossom and spice. (AN)" (12/2016)

K&L Notes: Le Brun was named Champagne Producer of the Year, 2015 International Wine & Spirit Competition. This Champagne is made in the Seazanne, a terroir within Champagne whose product is rarely seen in the U.S. It is composed of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir and is aged for five years on the lees. This sur-lee aging is done on a cork rather that a crown cap, a process usually reserved for much more expensive wines, most famously Bollinger vintage.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 23, 2017

I just can't believe Gary keeps pulling these magical DI Champagnes out of god knows where! He's a magician after all. This is ultra complex for the price, savory with out being stinky or funky. A beautiful bouquet of orange marmalade, quince, slightest hint of fresh mushroom, and a touch of brioche. Wonderfully rich on the palate with a pointed structure and a beautiful long soft finish. The total PACKAGE.

Rachel Vogel | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 14, 2017

The Chardonnay dominant champagne has the perfect amount of Pinot Noir to give weight, texture and depth of fruit to the zesty acidity. It is aged on the cork for five years which adds a creamy complexity and a long, spiced filled finish.

Joe Manekin | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 06, 2017

Located in the Seazanne, an area that apparently is geologically similar to the much more expensive Cote de Blancs, I suppose I am not surprised at how serious and convincing a Champagne this is! Unique aromas, with tangerines and a bracing, salty quality to them, lead to a dry and laser focused palate. Seriously delicious or deliciously serious, take your pick! Either way, this is one of my favorite new direct import Champagnes - I will certainly be buying some.

Alex Schroeder | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 01, 2017

In a direct import program that boasts hundreds of stunning grower-producer Champagnes at incredible values, the Authentic Assemblage from Le Brun de Neuville belongs near the top of the list not just in terms of value for the price but in overall quality. It boasts a rich, decadent style that comes from aging on its lees for five years under cork instead of bottle cap, a practice still used by only a tiny percentage of producers in Champagne. This allows for micro-oxygenation, which gives the wine a rich, rounded texture that perfectly balances out the crisp chalky minerals and the rich flavors of nectarine, honeysuckle, brioche and clove. The fact that it is available under $35 is a Champagne miracle.

Diana Turk | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 28, 2017

Bright but also mushroomy, earthy and slightly oxidative thanks to aging five years on the cork an intensive process normally reserved for Tête de Cuvées of big houses (Bollinger Grande Année comes to mind) this is an incredible value that encompasses (seemingly) conflicting qualities, all in the same glass. Creamy but lively with elegant acid, rounded yet crisp fruit, plus chalky undertones and a subtle nuttiness, the Authentique Assemblage nevertheless drinks cleanly through to the finish. This multifaceted Direct Import is a high-quality Champagne from a talented winemaker: Le Brun de Neuville was one of the biggest hits at our Los Angeles Champagne Tent Event, and after taking home a bottle, its easy to see why.

Jeff Garneau | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 25, 2017

La Maison Le Brun de Neuville is one of the top producers in the Côte de Sézanne. This lesser known region of Champagne is sometimes dismissed as merely a southward extension of the Côte des Blancs, but to do so is to ignore the unique character and exceptional quality of these wines. The Le Brun de Neuville Authentique Assemblage is aged under cork for five years, a practice that requires manual disgorgement using a centuries old technique. The result is Champagne that is rich in style with an ultra-fine bead, opulent yet focused, creamy in texture yet very fresh and lively. Rarely available in the US. Dont miss your chance to sample the best of this remarkable region.

Muriel Sarik | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 24, 2017

We have so many wonderful Champagnes to choose from, that when one stands out I just have to tell everyone about it. The first word that comes to mind when I think of this Champagne is "balance," where all the components are in the right places. This is evolution in a flute. On the nose, the freshness is bright and lovely. It gains some weight after the second sip and becomes creamy on the mid-palate, due to 5 years aging on the lees. Then it has an extra long, intense finish, with a slightly tart aftertasteas one gets from eating tropical fruit.

Stephanie Vidales | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 24, 2017

The Authentique Assemblage from Le Brun De Neuville definitely drinks well above its price. Aged 5 years on the lees, this wine expresses baked apple spice and nutty flavors with fresh acidity resulting in a very well-balanced, delicious bottle of bubbles. For champagne that is made with all estate fruit and lees aging, you can't go wrong for 35 bucks.

Scott Beckerley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 24, 2017

Lovely lemon meringue nose with baked apples and caramel. Initially, a note of bright acidity in the mouth that segues into toasted nuts, ripe apples, yellow pears and butterscotch. The initial acidity brightens things up a bit and it finishes fleshy and rich and creamy. A great bargain at 35 dollars! Stand well alone or will work well with many main course dishes.

David Driscoll | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 23, 2017

This a fantastic new entry to our DI Champagne program that offers fresh and clean flavors balanced and buoyed by riper apple notes. It's both refreshing as an aperitif and satisfyingly full on the palate like I would expect from a fine cuvee. What's most important to note, however, is that the Neuville "Authentique" stands out from the pack of K&L selections I've grown accustomed to drinking over the years. It's snappier than the Aspasie Carte Blanche, fruitier than the Bonville Blanc de Blanc, and more complex than the Baron Fuente Grand Reserve; generally my three go-to bottles. I'm now adding the Neuville into that line-up as the fourth horseman as it's just so versatile. Also intriguing is the wine's origin from Sezanne; a part of Champagne I know nothing about, so it scratches an intellectual itch as well. A great find by Gary.

Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 23, 2017

Another stunner in the Champagne Direct Import quiver here at K&L. This blend of 60% Chardonnay/40% Pinot Noir shows the best of both varietals. The zip and freshness of the Chard shows beautiful crisp apples and some lovely and delicate floral notes while the Pinot Noir adds red fruited notes of cranberry and wild cherries. The really remarkable this about this bottle though is that it has been aged for 5 years on the lees - under a cork. This adds richness, a slightly nutty oxidative note, and typically a substantial amount to the price (compare to the also fabulous cork aged bottle of 2005 Bollinger "Grande Année" Brut Champagne for $100). At way less than half of that price this is a magnificent bottle with a unique story to tell.

Cindy Westby | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 23, 2017

Sometimes it is impossible to separate an outstanding wine from an outstanding setting! I recently enjoyed this champagne in Point Reyes, under a huge umbrella in the pouring rain. And while slurping down the freshest oysters in the land, this champagne seemed to have as much complexity, as much vibrancy and as much freshness as my glorious surroundings.

Gary Westby | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 16, 2015

This past week we ordered some paddlefish caviar from Kellys Katch in Tennessee. Clyde had recommended Kellys years ago to us, and we have enjoyed their stuff immensely. We treated ourselves to a two ounce can and paired it with this great bottle, which worked out very well indeed. I prepared some buckwheat blini in our trusty skillet and brought home a small container of crème fraiche to complete the caviar kit. This Champagne comes from Bethon, in the middle of the Sezanne department, a chalk outcrop about 30 miles south of Epernay. It is aged for five years on the lees on a cork rather than a cap, so the cork we pulled out before serving it was the 2nd that had been in the bottle. Ageing on a cork like this is a pain- none of the disgorgement lines will accommodate bottles like this, and they must all be disgorged by hand. The benefit is a better exchange with, and a bit of immunization from oxygen.The five years on the lees gave this wine a nutty creaminess that mirrored the caviar, while the pure chalk soil gave the wine the zip and minerality needed to cut the richness. It was a great way to spend a Monday night!