We just got in a couple cases of Palmer & Co. Champagne. Since I have never sold this one before, I thought some homework might help with my sales pitch, hence, this post.
Montagne de Reims is one of the five wine districts in the Champagne region. It is located in Champagne's northwestern quadrant. Seven grape growers in that region united to form Palmer in 1947. While Montagne de Reims is known for its Pinot Noir, these growers owned Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chardonnay vineyards, which is wonderful in itself, if a little peculiar considering where they were.
Pinot Noir is recognized as the great grape of Champagne. It is what gives Champagne its character. Montagne de Reims Champagne is especially well known for its heady bouquet, structure and acidity.
The Champagne district is situated ninety miles northeast of Paris. That latitude is the highest of vineyard holdings in the world except for Argentina. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the third grape of Champagne, are among the few types capable of producing quality fruit at that latitude.
In a way what the founders of Palmer accomplished in 1947 parallels what is happening today in Champagne - growers are making their own instead of selling their harvest to the maisons, the huge international companies. Estate-bottled wines are always better than what the big guys can do and the Grower Champagne movement is a microcosm of that larger truth.
The reputation of a Champagne house, however, is built by its non-vintage bottlings where the house cuvee establishes the public's perception of the company. Most Champagne lovers are introduced to a a new sparkler by trying the non-vintage version first if for no other reason than the price. Palmer, being a seventy year old company, long ago outgrew its estate wine bonafides. Those Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chardonnay Vineyards now supply higher tier Palmer labels while the non-vintage product is made largely from purchased juice. The great brands of Champagne consistently purchase ninety percent of their non-vintage Champagne juice.
While almost all big Champagne houses reside in the cities of Reims or Epernay, one large company calls the town of Ay in Montagne de Reims home. That would be Bollinger whose big, yeasty, masculine style is indelibly etched into every Champagne lover's memory. Palmer, by contrast, self-describes as "a moment of celebration associated with elegance." They claim they get minerality from the chalky soil and salinity from the ocean breezes. Moreover their wine style displays citrus and tropical fruit, floral notes, nuttiness and a silky mousse.
The best Champagnes show some combination of freshness, richness and delicacy, breed and raciness, and a stimulating strength. Let's hope Palmer displays all of that. And more!
Please join us this Thursday at the weekly tasting. We start at 5 and go till 7pm.