Jacques Selosse Lieux Dits Mesnil-Sur-Oger 'Les Carelles' Grand Cru Extra Brut.

Wine tasting is often laden with expectation. Experience does little to assuage this, though it probably should. It's a double-edged sword: experience can enforce pre-conceptions whilst also exposing the taster to more and more peculiarities that don't fit that palate's world-view.

I approached this wine with a degree of expectation. Selosse and his wines are legendary in Champagne circles, both for their quality and their divisiveness. His vinification techniques seem more at home further south, on the Cote d'Or. Devotion to detail in both the vines and the winery is his hallmark.

Information on this cuvée is few and far between. Selosse's Lieux Dits are small parcels of superb vineyards in various Grand Cru villages, parcels he took control of at the beginning of the last decade. Initially released as vintage wines, as reserves have built up he has started using the solera system favoured in Jerez (and that he uses for his 'Substance' cuvée). I couldn't find production numbers, but from what I understand the bottling is infinitesimal and strictly allocated. This particular wine is 100% Chardonnay.

We served this a bit differently. Kept in the fridge for only 15 minutes, the wine was cool, but not chilled, when first poured. We then put it in an ice bucket and it got colder as we topped up. The effect was interesting.

As far as my expectations go, I thought it would be bracing and grippy. Selosse is known to keep dosage to a minimum. So as we were examining the bottle and peeling the foil off, I prepared myself for cerebral, piercing bubbly.

Quite rich and golden colour, medium bubbles with excitement.

Nose is farmyardy in a pleasant way. Mushrooms, strawberries, salt caramel, prickly quince and herbal honey.

Full, broad, rich, toasty palate with bubbles forming the impression of a honeycomb lattice. Roast apricots. Brioche with light butter. Very soft and silky. There's almost a maltiness to it. Strikingly low acidity- luscious, giving and very much a 'now' wine. Foie gras please? My expectations are confounded. Instead of a 'thinking' wine, this is every bit a 'feeling' wine. As it gets colder, it gets racier but far less expressive. There's also a peculiar powdered sugar finish that comes in with the cold. Much of what makes this wine is lost with the chill, and I would say it should be drunk no colder than cellar temperature.


Tasted somewhere in Fulham, 29 February 2012