Reports out of Champagne suggest that 2018 has the potential to be a very generous harvest. It’s too soon to lift a glass to more bottles of French bubbly flooding the market (which just can’t seem to get enough these days), because—as they are wont to do—regulators in the region will decide the year’s production levels. But U.S. devotees of the world’s bar-setting sparkling wine are in luck anyway, as one Champagne producer is about to become much more available on this side of the pond.
The house is not a new one. Champagne Palmer & Co. began some 70 years ago as a band of seven growers with Premier and Grand Cru vineyards in Montagne de Reims. The idea, according to current Palmer director, Rémi Vervier, was to make a grand blend of their terrific terroirs that would become the Champagne Palmer brand. In describing the signature character of that brand, then as now, Vervier speaks of the experience he’s after: “a moment of celebration associated with elegance.”
In pursuit of that elegance, Palmer takes its time. Its Brut Reserve spends three to four years in bottle on the lees, to balance richness and structure with freshness and delicacy, its vintage wines obviously much longer. Time, Vervier points out, is a tool unique to Champagne makers. “For most wines,” he says, “consumers have to do the aging. But for Champagne, we do the aging.” And in the decisions about precisely when their bottles are ready to be disgorged and enjoyed, in large part, lies the wines’ balance.
The Champagne Palmer & Co. 2009 Brut Reserve (in the $110 range), in the U.S. market this fall courtesy of a new partnership with Constellation Brands’ TRU Fine Wine Division, nails the challenging balance of power and finesse, palate weight and freshness. The blend of 50 percent Chardonnay and 50 percent Pinot Noir yields a savory edge on the nose, with complex brioche aromas, giving way to beautiful citrus and delicate red berries lingering on an indulgently long finish.
Chardonnay has always starred at Champagne Palmer, with more than 50 percent of their Premier and Grand Cru vineyards given over to the variety. And the Blanc de Blancs coming our way now ($85 to $90) is a must-try for lovers of fresh and delicate all-Chardonnay blends. Fresh and delicate is not to say simple. This is a wine that conjures the chalky soil of the region with its minerality and ocean-breeze salinity, but offers layers of charming citrus and tropical fruits, with floral notes and nuttiness carried by a silky mousse.
Unique in the Palmer lineup is the Rosé Réserve ($70 to $75), a wine that will challenge the reference points of pink-bubbly fans. Its fascinating character derives from a solera system the winery uses to vinify red wine, bits of which are used in the rosé. As Vervier describes it, the result is two ranges of aromas—fresh red and black fruit from the newer wine in the solera; vanilla, spice, and cinnamon from the past. It’s a complex rosé sparkler, alive with strawberry and black cherry flavors.