We tasted over 250 Champagnes while preparing Report # 34: Champagne Revisited. But it wasn’t possible to taste everything, and we keep discovering excellent wines we’ve not yet tasted. That’s true of the grower Champagne Bonnaire and the family Champagne house Legras & Haas. Thanks to their importer, Exclusive Wine Imports of Alexandria VA, we recently had the opportunity to taste these wines. Our notes follow below.
Bonnaire. The Grower-Champagne (Récoltant-Manipulant) Bonnaire was founded in 1932 in the Grand Cru village of Cramant in the world-famous Côte des Blancs. Today it has 22 hectares of mostly Chardonnay vines, about half located in Cramant. The current winemaker is Jean-Etiene Bonnaire, while his father Jean-Louis is director, and brother Jean-Emmanuel is in charge of marketing.
Bonnaire NV Rosé Champagne ($64) 91 This 60/40 blend of Chardonnay/Pinot Noir spends 36 moths on the lees. It reveals extravagant scents of red berries and cranberry and a creamy, lush palate of rich, ripe berry fruit. The dosage is 8 g/l. Bonnaire NV Tradition Champagne ($57) 91 Tradition is a delicious, assertive Champagne showing butterscotch and oxidative notes on the nose and a full, ripe and rich palate. Needs food to show its best. A 40/30/30 blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier that spends a minimum of 2 years on the lees and receives a dosage of 9 g/l. Bonnaire NV Cuvée Prestige Champagne ($80) 92 The 100% Chardonnay Cuvée Prestige spends 60 month on the lees. A delicate nose with hints of flint and sherry gives way to a full palate firmly flavored of lees, brioche, and minerals. It has a long, assertive finish. 6 g/l dosage. Bonnaire Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV Champagne ($65) 90+ Orchard fruit and yeast notes show on the nose of this very good Champagne. Green apple and creamy yeast also show on the palate, finishing dry with bright apple acidity. Spends a minmum of 36 months on the lees.
Legras & Haas. Descendants of Champagne families, Brigitte Haas and François Legras founded the family Champagne house Legras & Haas in 1991. Their sons Rémi and Olivier Legras now continue the pioneering work of their parents, making Champagne from the fruit they grow on 27 hectares of vines in Chouilly and Aÿ. In addition, they purchase fruit from long-term grower-partners. All fruit is hand-picked, and all Champagnes have at least three years’ bottle aging prior to disgorgement.
Legras & Haas NV Rosé Champagne ($60) 92 This is a beautifully made rosé showing dried red cherry with red raspberry and hints of yeast and earth. The palate shows lovely fruit, a moderately lush texture, and a solid finish. A blend of 50% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier with 7 g/l sugar. Legras & Haas NV Tradition Champagne ($54) 91 With a lovely equilibrium of rich fruit and crisp acidity, the Tradition is both flavorful and creamy. It shows aromas and flavors of orchard fruit and fresh baguette finishing long and satisfying. The blend of grapes is the same as the Rosé. Legras & Haas NV Cuvée Prestige Champagne ($83) 93 An exceptionally good Champagne revealing autolytic notes on a fine, rich and large-volumed palate. It has a creamy texture and a bright, uplifting note on the finish. A 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with 7 g/l dosage. Legras & Haas 2006 Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs ($75) 93 This Blanc de Blancs is fresh and refined, revealing citrus and freshly baked bread on the nose. The palate is creamy, elegant and shows a crisp edgy of chalky minerals and very fine effervescence. Superb.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler