Wine vs Wine – June 2024



    NV André Clouet Grande Reserve Brut 12%, Champagne, France RRP $90 

    Although many countries and areas make fizz, only sparkling wine from Champagne can be called ‘Champagne.’ It’s a high intervention style with many technical steps and finesses. 

    Decent Champagne spends extended time on ‘lees’ which can contribute finer bubbles and a bready, yeasty character. Vintage Champagne is from a single year, while the (usually) more affordable ‘non-vintage’ may be composed of numerous parcels artfully blended to be consistent across releases. 

    Champagne is often described as a luxury, celebratory drink, and my infrequent indulgences favour Louis Roederer, Bollinger, Billecart or Pol Roger. But I just added André Clouet to my watchlist as this sparkler was a complete, thrilling surprise. 

    The wine boasts persistent fine bubbles, red fruits, citrus, spices, stonefruit with a whisper of nuts and plenty of muscle to maintain interest over several glasses (family permitting). For Champagne it’s (unusually) 100% Pinot Noir, with a decent whack of complexing ‘reserve’ (older) wines. Its style, and ultra-high quality was obvious. Not for every day, but it outshines most at the price. 

    Food? Champagne is amazingly versatile through a complete meal. Try smoked salmon as a starter, roast chicken, or duck as a main, and hard cheeses later. And Google some arresting Champagne quotes (Napoleon, Churchill, the ‘widow’ and many more) … 


    Juniper ‘Cornerstone’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 Wilyabrup RRP $80, ABV 14% 

    Wilyabrup is a highly sought after sub-region of Margaret River that every producer seeks their grapes from. Its aspect and soils ensure premium fruit year on year. The best being chardonnay and, of course, Cabernet Sauvignon. 

    Juniper Estate rightly stakes its claim as one of the elite wineries amongst a plethora of equally impressive wineries in this world class region. Proof of this? In 2023 it made it into James Halliday’s ‘Top 100’ list. This specific wine picked up 96 points in the Wine Companion and I firmly believe it deserved every one of those points. 

    The ‘Cornerstone’ from 2017 holds everything one should look for in a Margs Cab; power, finesse, tension and generosity. The nose displays lashings of ripe blackcurrant framed by savoury hints of salted chocolate, bay leaf and pencil shavings thanks to 20 months in 50% new French oak barriques. 

    Technically, this vintage was a blend, with small percentages of Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot making the cut so as to provide a broader palate, deeper colour and more pronounced aromatics. The more you sip and smell this wine, the more you get out of it. Pop it in a decanter for a good hour before consumption to allow it to fully express its wonderfully complex personality. 

    Pair with: Lamb Shank soup with pearl barley, split peas, and shaved zucchini (secret ingredient? 1 x tablespoon vegemite) and crunchy fresh baked damper. 

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