The only thing more impressive than the champagnes on offer at a tasting with Hervé Dantan is the service provided by the man himself. Champagne Lanson’s head winemaker is a one-man hospitality team: expertly fetching, serving, pouring and presenting his wines alone. It was a testament to his generosity that he met with us on the morning of August 28th, the day his team had commenced picking in the Aube and the day before they were scheduled to pick the unique single-walled plot Clos Lanson.
Dantan began with an overview of the 2017 season. “The climate between March and August was very strange, ” he told us. Explaining that 2017 has seen the highest acidity levels since 1996 and 2008, he observed that the “Chardonnay seems better than the Pinot Noir” at this early stage. Although other producers had spoken of issues with botrytis, Dantan said it wasn’t a concern for Lanson vineyards. Acknowledging with a smile the winemakers’ tendency to “always say this vintage is very different”, he assured us that 2017 is in fact “very different.”
Our visit to Lanson however, was an exploration of the past, not the future. Whilst the primary focus was research for our upcoming Prestige Cuvée vs Vintage tasting with Jancis Robinson MW, Dantan had prepared a time-machine tasting that took us from the vins clairs of the previous year to a non-vintage from the 50s!
Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs
First up was a vertical tasting of the all-Chardonnay prestige cuvée Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs. The concept is to blend only Grand Crus – Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and Oger – and to produce a wine that will age for a very long time. The current vintage is 2002 and the first was 1989, both of which Dantan kindly shared with us.
Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2002
100% CH | Ageing: 13 years on the lees | Disgorged: June 2016 | Dosage: 6 g/l | Jancis Score: 16.5++/20
Lots of bright apple and lemons on the nose. Great freshness, light dosage and citrus sherbet flavours. Some tropical notes like pineapple.
Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 1997
100% CH | Ageing: 14 years on the lees | Disgorged: May 2012 | Dosage: 7 g/l | Jancis Score: 16.5+/20
A lot of acidity. A quiet nose, with hints of coffee and dried fruit on the palate.
Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 1994
100% CH | Ageing: 13 years on the lees | Disgorged: April 2008 | Dosage: 8 g/l | Jancis Score: 16/20
Lots of creaminess, roundness and loads of acidity. Seems rich and full. Slight banana and apple flavours on the finish.
Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 1990
100% CH | Ageing: 12 years on the lees | Disgorged: March 2003 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Jancis Score: 17/20
Lovely richness of fruit. Layers of citrus and lemon, perfumed with chalkiness. Vanilla and cream notes come through – at 27 years old this seems ready now.
Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 1989
100% CH | Ageing: 11 years on the lees | Disgorged: January 2001 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Jancis Score: 17/20
Gone all creamy and vanilla. Loads of acidity and freshness with pear and apple notes.
Noble Cuvée Brut
The concept for Noble Cuvée Brut is only subtly different from the Blanc de Blancs. A 70:30 Chardonnay:Pinot Noir mix, the Chardonnay profile is simply the Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs blend, to which Dantan adds Pinot Noir from Grand Cru-rated Aÿ, Bouzy and Verzenay. Again, we tasted the first ever vintage, in this case 1978.
Asked if it works commercially to produce a longer ageing range such as Noble Cuvée (indeed we reported in February 2017 that Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2002 was the last prestige cuvée ’02 to hit the market – some eight years after the first), Dantan responded positively. “When you have a Grand Cru profile like this, it takes a long time post-disgorgement to develop. There is a market for this.”
Lanson Noble Cuvée Brut 2002
70% CH, 30% PN | Ageing: 13 years on the lees | Disgorged: June 2016 | Dosage: 6 g/l | Jancis Score: 17/20
Quite different nose to 2002 BdB. Less aromatic but more richness on the palate. Like a fruit salad with a lovely mouth-feel. This is very good – go back and some red fruits open up on the nose.
Lanson Noble Cuvée Brut 1998
70% CH, 30% PN | Ageing: 11 years on the lees | Disgorged: April 2010 | Dosage: 7 g/l | Jancis Score: 16.5++/20
Rich and creamy, with an underlying mushroom texture. Great balance; dosage is 7g but doesn’t seem that light. Bright acidity – still seems very youthful.
Lanson Noble Cuvée Brut 1995
70% CH, 30% PN | Ageing: 11 years on the lees | Disgorged: October 2007 | Dosage: 8 g/l | Jancis Score: ??/20
Spoilt by TCA unfortunately.
Lanson Noble Cuvée Brut 1988
70% CH, 30% PN | Ageing: 11 years on the lees | Disgorged: June 2000 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Jancis Score: 17.5/20
lots of mushroom hints and earthiness and wow really comes together on the palate. Great length fabulous structure
Lanson Noble Cuvée Brut 1981
70% CH, 30% PN | Ageing: 10 years on the lees | Disgorged: January 1992 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Jancis Score: 17.5/20
Lovely mushroom and tertiary notes. Quite meaty on the palate and really bright acidity still punches through. Seems to have a hint of sweetness on the end.
Lanson Noble Cuvée Brut 1978
70% CH, 30% PN | Ageing: 11 years on the lees | Disgorged: January 1990 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Jancis Score: 17/20
Rich and voluptuous nose. Great mouth-feel and perfect acidity. Lots of extract. Packed full of lime, lemon and mushroom. Great length.
Black Label NV
We started our non-vintage journey with a look at vins clairs blends with the previous three harvests as a base vintage: 2016, 2015, 2014. We tasted the finished blend of Black Label NV with 2016 as a base year back in March and were struck then by its roundness and complexity – no doubt a consequence of Dantan’s introduction of malolactic fermentation – qualities that have developed nicely over the last six months. The 2015 blend was a powerhouse as could be expected, while the 2014 was packed with acidity but a little subdued.
Moving onto the bubbly blends, Dantan explained that Black Label is a multi-vintage champagne containing wine from over 100 different villages and reserve wine from up to ten different vintages. Asked how much experience it takes to make decent champagne-blending decisions, Dantan responded humbly: “10 years is a good start.” The blend currently sold on the market is Black Label NV based on 2013.
Lanson Black Label NV – Based on 2013
50% PN, 35% CH, 15% PM | Ageing: 3 years on the lees | Disgorged: January 2017 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Jancis Score: 16.5/20
Big breadth of fruit and loads of apple aromas. Some richness on the palate with red fruits coming through. Nice balance.
Lanson Black Label NV – Based on 2009
Ageing: 3 years on the lees | Disgorged: June 2013 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Jancis Score: 16-/20
Old mushroom nose and bright acidity. Loads of apple flavour and a zingy finish. Very apple fresh.
Lanson Black Label NV – Based on 1999
Ageing: 3 years on the lees | Disgorged: May 2003 | Dosage: 10 g/l | Jancis Score: 16.5/20
Slight hints of tropical fruit like guava, pineapple and banana. Bright acidity; seems ready for drinking now. Seems very young still.
Lanson Black Label NV – Based on 1989
Ageing: 3 years on the lees | Disgorged: October 1993 | Dosage: 10 g/l | Jancis Score: 16-/20
More brown apple character here. Some mushroom and great freshness and acidity. A little short. Zingy but ready.
Lanson Black Label NV – Based on 1979
Ageing: 3 years on the lees | Disgorged: February 1983 | Dosage: 11 g/l | Jancis Score: 15.5/20
Really pulls you in. Lots of allure – lime flavour and bright freshness. Seems very well balanced today. Yeasty finish with raisons and French patisserie notes.
Lanson Black Label NV – Based on 1969
Ageing: 3 years on the lees | Disgorged: May 1973 | Dosage: 11 g/l | Jancis Score: 15.5/20
Has gone a bit tired and menthol but still has okay mouth-feel. Just a hint of pine resin and loads of tropical fruit. Quite sweet on the finish.
Lanson Black Label NV – Based on 1959
Ageing: 3 years on the lees | Disgorged: September 1963 | Dosage: 11 g/l | Jancis Score: 16.5/20
Amazingly vanilla nose and great complexity. Freshness and power are still there. A real fruitiness with lovely acidity and impressive length.
Gold Label vs Clos Lanson – Vintage vs Prestige Cuvée
Finally we reached our research project – a comparison of the House ‘standard’ brut vintage champagne and the top-of-the-shelf prestige cuvée, Clos Lanson. As a brand new champagne released just last year, there is currently only one vintage of Lanson’s ultimate prestige cuvée released – Clos Lanson 2006. Thus, we could only conduct one comparison, which we did with the current magnum release of their brut vintage, Gold Label 2005. Commenting on the recent introduction of malolactic at Champagne Lanson, Dantan explained: “If we have a vintage, we know it is well-balanced, so there is no need for malolactic. We only do it on non-vintage.”
Lanson Gold Label Brut Vintage 2005 Magnum
53% PN, 47% CH | Ageing: At least 5 years on the lees | Dosage: 8 g/l | Jancis Score: 16.5/20
Nice creamy character on the nose. So young on the palate with lots of plum and pineapple richness. Great power of fruit, lovely length and acidity.
Clos Lanson 2006
100% CH | Ageing: At least 7 years on the lees | Dosage: 3 g/l | Jancis Score: 16.5/20
Bright fruit and lush apple creaminess. Loads of acidity and freshness. Some toastiness from barrel. Very fresh right now, nice saline finish.