2005 Diebolt Vallois Blanc de Blanc Fleur de Passion

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Average Score 90.0

Sourced from older vines in several lieux-dits of Cramant and picked relatively late, the Diebolt-Vallois 2005 Brut Fleur de Passion fermented in barriques first used by the Chateau de Meursault; did not, unlike their other cuvees, undergo malo-lactic transformation; and was not filtered or cold-stabilized. These factors certainly add up to a difference from this estate's other cuvees, but I am also struck by the common feature of lusciously forward pear and apple fruit backed by in this instance (at 5 grams) slightly less residual sugar than found in the other Diebolt-Vallois bottlings. The hints of spice and resin from barrel seem to accentuate this wine's nuttiness - though in that trait it resembles the Diebolt's "regular" vintage bottling. The richness here - again, as with other of this estate's wines tasted alongside - does not, fortunately, come at the expense of buoyancy. What I fear, though, is that the wood may have robbed this of some finishing juiciness and salinity; and while there is certainly still an attractively fruity impression and rich nuttiness, I'd be happy for a bit more lasting savor and sheer refreshment.||Jacque Diebolt represents the third generation of this family of Alsacienne origin to estate-bottle, a lineage that goes all the way back to the turn of the dawn of the 20th century. He and his wife Nadia nee Vallois have established an enviable reputation and been highly influential in inspiring others to estate-bottle and consumers to appreciate Champagne as a great wine. Well-sited vineyards and a predominance of old vines and selections massales in Cramant, Chouilly, Cuis and Epernay are certainly instrumental in those achievements. Vinification here is typically at low temperature in jacketed stainless steel - which the Diebolts believe conduces to "the expression of minerality" - though certain wines see time in foudres or barriques; and with one exception they routinely undergo malo-lactic transformation. Although most of the wines I tasted had seven grams of residual sugar in common, Madame Vallois-Diebolt sought to assure me that they conduct bench trials in one-gram increments. She added that they bottle a non-dose version of their "tradition" but only at the request of an insistent Belgian client, and I wasn't able to encourage her sufficiently to let me taste it. (This is, incidentally, one of an increasing number of top estates to officially become negociants - trading the little letters "RM" on their labels for "NM" - as a means of expanding their production, but without sacrificing one iota of viticultural control: they merely purchase the fruit from vineyards they now farm that are in the extended family, in this case Nadia Vallois' paternal estate.)||Imported by Martine's Wines, Inc., Novato, CA; tel. (415) 883-0400; Sussex Wine Merchants, Moorestown, NJ; tel. (856) 608-9644; and Vintage 59 Imports, Washington, DC; tel. (202) 966-9218 eRobertParker.com.November, 2013

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