Le Black Label by Champagne Lanson – Be My Valentine?
Are you celebrating Valentine’s Day? Then drink Champagne with someone special. Try Le Black Label Brut NV from Champagne Lanson. It’s a classic and a personal favourite, made by one of the largest Champagne houses.
Lanson is also the third-oldest Champagne house, founded in 1760 by François Delamotte. Well-worth a visit, it’s the only Champagne house in the city of Reims to have a vineyard, a one-hectare plot of Biodynamic Chardonnay opposite the beautiful Cathedral. Since 2006, Lanson has been part of the Lanson-BCC Group headed by Bruno Paillard (of Champagne Paillard fame).
Lanson owns 65 hectares of vineyards. Additional grapes are from long-term growers in the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Bars. Some 16 ha of their vineyards are biodynamic, while all the growers work to Lanson’s certified sustainability protocols. A distinctive hallmark of the Lanson house style is crisp fresh acidity. The base wines don’t undergo secondary, malolactic fermentation. Hence they retain a higher proportion of sharper malic acid.
Le Black Label Brut NV, 12.5%
Like most Champagne, Le Black Label is a blend; of vintages, vineyards and grape varieties. It’s also improved in quality since current cellarmaster Hervé Dantan took over the role in 2013. This wine now has a more significant proportion of Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines (50%), includes more reserve wines and has much longer ageing on the lees. Black Label comprises 50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier, unchanged proportions.
The final wine combines 100 base wines, using 35% reserve wines from twenty previous vintages. Then the sparkle is produced by the second fermentation in the bottle. Four years later (far more than the 15-month legal minimum), the bottles are disgorged, with 8g/l of sugar added for balance. On release, it’s ready to drink. However, it will improve over another couple of years and hold for a decade. Preventing malolactic fermentation brings longevity, even for non-vintage wines. Those willing to keep it will find extra richness, with nuts and marzipan flavours gradually developing.
The result is a very pale fine wine, diamond-bright, and excellent lively mousse and streaming bubbles. The fresh, crisp acidity is perhaps not quite as bracing as it once was in yesteryear, but these days there’s more subtlety and elegance. Gentle toast and hints of lemon enhance flavours of ripe apple and pear. This Brut style goes for freshness, lightness and persistence rather than imparting big yeasty flavours.
Black Label is a big seller, widely available and of exceptional value. All the major supermarkets, Majestic, and plenty of independent merchants stock it. Expect to pay £25-£35, depending on seasonal promotions.
If you like Le Black Label, explore Lanson’s wide range. For example, there’s now a Reservé version of Le Black Label (with more ageing and reserve wines). Their Green Label is a recent introduction, made with Demeter-certified biodynamic grapes – how apt.
Those particularly keen to impress on Valentine’s Day might trade up to Lanson Le Clos. It’s the ultra-rare vintage wine from their single-vineyard in Reims. It’s all Chardonnay, an Extra-brut, vinified in oak barrels and aged for 12 years. The current 2007 will set you back around £200.00.
Meanwhile, Le Black Label is a perfect apéritif, and a brilliant match with Oysters should an additional aphrodisiac prove necessary on Valentine’s Day!
66 Rue de Courlancy
Fact: In 1798, Lanson ownership passed to François Delamotte’s son Nicolas-Louis. He was a Knight of the Order of Malta, which is why you still find the Maltese Cross on the Lanson label.