Grand Cru Ambonnay "Without Makeup"
2002 Ledru Brut Nature
A Model Non-Dosage: Purity, Elegance, Clarity
"Marie-Noëlle Ledru's tiny, perfectionist grower-estate is known only to a handful of Champagne connoisseurs, yet today she is making some of the best wines in Ambonnay." - Peter Liem
Ambonnay - name ring a bell? Yes, that Ambonnay.
The same village Krug selected when they decided to offer an all-Pinot Champagne. The same village that's widely considered to be one of the top five Grand Crus in all of Champagne (the others being Aÿ, Verzenay, Cramant and Mesnil). So Liem's statement - "some of the best wines in Ambonnay" - is no small one.
Marie-Noëlle Ledru's production, however, is very much a small one. Once she's sold half of her production to large Champagne houses, a scant three hectares of mostly Ambonnay and a touch of Chardonnay from the Grand Cru of Bouzy remain to be estate-bottled.
While the grape provenance and her tiny quantities certainly account for Ledru's under-the-radar status, these factors also allow her to produce some of the most lovingly made and terroir-expressive Champagnes around. Ledru handles every aspect of production on her own, from the vineyards, to the cellar - every bottle is hand-disgorged - to the paperwork.
One might infer from such careful attention and Ambonnay's status among Champagne lovers that the wines wouldn't come cheap. Thankfully, Ledru prices her wines gently.When you consider Ledru's artisanal approach, the outrageous quality of the wines and the sheer greatness of the 02 vintage, it becomes clear that this is one of the sharpest Champagne deals around.
Let's begin with the superb 2002 vintage: now acknowledged by most to be one of the best in the past 20 years, characterized by exquisitely ripe grapes of great concentration bolstered by plenty of lively elegance. These qualities also happen to make it an ideal vintage for making non-dosage Champagne.
Enter Ledru's Brut Nature. Ledru's overall style is one of serious structure, elegance, vivid purity and an unobstructed expression of the vineyard. To achieve this, she prefers to vinify in stainless steel and enameled steel tanks, and she bottles her Brut Nature without dosage. When it comes to rendering Champagnes of absolute purity, wines "without makeup" to borrow wine writer Michael Edwards' description, Ledru's vintage dated Brut Nature may be the pinnacle of the estate.
Working without a dosage is no small feat in Champagne's northern precincts. The results, when not expertly handled, can be a tooth-chattering austerity. Ledru absolutely nails the category, delivering something pristine with a resonating medley of red fruits and textured and refined minerals. As Peter Liem writes on the wine, "the entire package exudes a sense of harmony and completeness. This is really a model of how brut nature should be made".
The minerality present - a pristine expression that's perhaps rivaled only by top Chablis and dry Riesling - is of a finely detailed, textured chalkiness that's perfectly integrated with the wine's red berry and currant fruit as well as the fascinating herbal notes. Phenomenal now, this wine will certainly benefit from at least three to five years in the cellar.
Ledru's hands-on, natural approach in the vineyards and cellar and her resultant style of pure, terroir-expressive wines is commendable, and Ledru's wines are close to my heart. Those interested in transparent and lovingly crafted Champagnes are encouraged to place your order by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the store at (212) 980-9463.
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