On the shelves, Champagne Lallier looks bigger than it really is; its polished brand sits comfortably alongside more recognised contemporaries. But Lallier is comparatively small, producing only 400,000 bottles a year. Their range, however, is quite diverse; and there is a twist here and there. Eleven champagnes comprise Lallier’s portfolio and, surprisingly, most are available in Australia.
There are blanc de blancs, a brut nature, an extra dosage, a rosé, single parcel cuvées, ones aged on cork, multi-vintages and two vintages. Non-vintage blends, of various kinds, are the heart and soul of Lallier’s champagnes, making for a fresh and youthful House style.
Winemaker and brand ambassador, Constance Delaire, who was recently in Australia, says the House offers several points of difference.
“We only use chardonnay and pinot noir from grand cru and premier cru villages,” she says, referring to Lallier’s 15 hectares of vineyards.
“For us, these are the two best grapes. In Champagne, you have to be a little different and it’s uncommon for a producer not to have meunier.”
Delaire says that meunier is a little too fruity for their cuvées when every effort is made to keep wines fresh, pure and precise. In 2012, Lallier opened the doors on a shiny new cuverie in Oger (in the Côte des Blancs) for this very reason.
“We have 55 vats so we can keep every plot separately. We use stainless steel but we also have some old barrels to bring out a roundness in some of our wines, but nothing oakey,” she says.
They also take a more natural and indigenous approach to yeast selection in order to impart flavour unique to their wines and appeal to more sensitive customers.
In 2007, in what was a fortuitous oversight, yeast wasn’t added to one of their vats. As it turned out, alcoholic fermentation transpired nicely and the flavour was also good.
“We select our yeast from one of our parcels in Aÿ,” she says. “It’s very interesting and important because it produces natural sulphur. More and more people are sensitive to sulphur so we don’t add any. Whatever is produced naturally gets into the blend. Because the yeast is from our terroir, it’s unique to our wine.”
Lallier also minimises malolactic fermentation to preserve freshness. “We do partial malolactic. If the acidity is too aggressive, we’ll do it. If not, we won’t,” says Delaire. “From the 2018 harvest, we did no malolactic on chardonnay and only partial on pinot noir.”
Helpfully, Lallier discloses disgorgement dates on the back of every label. So, if you like young wines, you know how fresh your bottle is. Or you can keep it another year or two if you prefer something with more maturity.
Here are some notes from our tasting.
44% chardonnay and 56% pinot noir from Aÿ, Verzenay, Bouzy, Ambonnay, Avize, Cramant, and Oger. Partial malolactic fermentation. 84% from 2014 and 16% from 2005, 2008 and 2012 reserves. 6g/L dosage.
“The ‘Série R’ is a deep reflection on one year’s harvest. It’s a non-vintage but it constitutes a majority from a single vintage. Our philosophy is to work with this as a wine. It started as a concept in 2010, now you can do a vertical – like you can with a vintage,” says Delaire. “But it’s the same style; aromatic and fresh. It’s interesting for us to show people the difference between aromas in each vintage. With this one, you can see that it’s aged a long time on lees and the dosage is always low. For 2014, it’s just 6g/L.”
The R.014 is available now with R.015 following later this year.
Lovely flinty mineral nose with the depth and richness of blackcurrant. On the palate, it is lifted and lively with the energy of lemon/orange zest. A focused wine with good intensity of fruit and structure. Finishes long and dry.
35% chardonnay and 65% pinot noir from Oger, Cramant, Aÿ and Verzenay. Co-maceration of chardonnay and pinot noir. Juices are then bled off and co-fermented before partial malolactic fermentation. 8% reserve wine is added prior to three years aging on lees. 8g/L dosage.
“We call this one our mille-feuille,” laughs Delaire. “We crush the grapes and place them in vats in a layered way; pinot noir then chardonnay, pinot noir then chardonnay. This way, they have contact. We then wait two or three days using warm temperatures to extract fruit. But we don’t press, instead we bleed and then ferment. It’s a lot of work.”
Lallier’s tricky and labour intensive method for rosé production imparts freshness and heightens acidity, but keeps it balanced with fruit from pinot noir.
“We don’t want it to be too tannic,” says Delaire. “We want it to be easy to drink. It’s all about the pink fruit.”
Pale salmon to the eye, the nose is fresh with pink grapefruit, strawberry and light smoke. On the palate, expect a light touch. Its super-fresh citrus and strawberry notes accentuate the fine, tactile tannins and chalk minerality. Finishes ultra-dry with good length.
Blanc de Blancs
100% chardonnay from Aÿ, Avize, Cramant and Oger.12% reserves, 36 months aging on lees. 9g/L dosage.
“We do something different here too,” says Delaire. “Normally, a producer will use chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, but in our case, 60% comes from Aÿ and 40% from the Côte des Blancs. It brings more richness to our wines but it’s nice and fresh as well.”
“If you want something more cheesy – more mature – then keep this one for another two years,” she advises. “But for freshness, drink it now.”
Lovely warm aromas of brioche and cream as well as light citrus. On the palate, it offers a ripe, round and creamy profile. This is a medium-bodied style blanc de blancs without the pervading tension that would normally come from a chardonnay sourced exclusively from the Côte des Blancs.
WHERE TO BUY LALLIER
The Wine Emporium
Old Bridge Cellars
Liquor Barons Mosman Park
Steves Fine Wine Store
Liquor Barons Marmion
Mrs Brown’s Wine Bar
Bottle shop & Cellar at The River
Swiss Club Melb
Lulo Bar @ Tapas
Valley Cellar Door
Melbourne Cellar Door
Mr West Bar & Bottleshop