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Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2006 vs 2007

Caroline Fiot at Ruinart HQ in Reims, one of Ruinart's team of three winemakers

The text of this article was first published in The World of Fine Wine issue 63

It was Caroline Fiot, one of Champagne’s brightest young winemakers, who was

dispatched to London recently to introduce the latest release of Dom Ruinart

Blanc de Blancs alongside its predecessor: thus 2007, the 25th vintage since the

debut 1959, and 2006. Neither year is regarded as anywhere near a five-star

vintage for the region as a whole, but, as always in Champagne’s defining

marginal climate, the higher up the quality echelons you go, the more variations

and exceptions can be expected – and as we tasted and discussed, it emerged

that these two are not the only recent deviations from the region’s vintage

norms. There will be no Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2008. Shock horror? The

reason, Caroline Fiot explains, is that: “It was more of a Pinot Noir vintage. The

Chardonnays were quite austere.” As Dom Ruinart contains a varying but always

pivotal proportion of Chardonnay from the Montagne de Reims, the potential for

austerity is likely to have been greater.

So, no 2008 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, but there will be some 2010. Shock

horror again: this was a promising vintage famously savaged by August rains.

But crucially it was the thin-skinned Pinot Noir grapes that succumbed far more

readily to rot. On to 2012: like 2008, an outstanding vintage, but there will be no

Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. Sho... No, I shan’t say it again.

Back to 2006 and 2007 and a quick resumé of the two contrasting growing

seasons. Despite several spring frosts and a cold, wet August, 2006 was a warm

year with a notable heatwave in July and a hot, sunny opening fortnight to

September. The harvest officially started on September 7 and was prolonged;

sugar levels were high, acidities a little low. The following year, after a far from

promising summer, the harvest start-date was 23 August, at the time the second

earliest after 2003. Spring had been sunny and very warm, leading to an early

flowering, but June, July and most of August were gloomy and rainy. Nonetheless,

grapes that resisted rot ripened to respectable sugar levels with good acidities.

Among the key non-variables for Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs are 100% Grands

Crus and a significant proportion of Montagne de Reims Chardonnay – an

average of a third but varying from 25 percent (2007) to 37 percent (2006).

Other fixed features are reductive winemaking in stainless steel and no oak,

keeping the house’s focus on aromatic purity; full malolactic fermentation to give

roundness but emphatically not buttery flavors; nine to ten years on lees; and

low dosage (precise figures given with the tasting notes below). One change

coming with the 2010 vintage onwards is ageing on cork (and disgorgement, of

necessity, à la volée). After trials, Ruinart has concluded that, while crown cap is

better for its non-vintage, cork is better for Dom Ruinart.

Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2006

63% Côtes des Blancs (predominantly Chouilly, Le Mesnil and Avize), 37% from

the northern slopes of the Montagne de Reims (predominantly Sillery and

Puisieulx). Potential degree 10.2º; total acidity 6.9g; dosage 4.5g/l; disgorged

July 2015

A more toasted nose than a bottle tasted only six and a half months earlier. After

the waft of toasted wheat and nuts, there’s crème brûlée and lively ginger, citrus

and ripe apricot. The palate is ample – opulent even – and silky in texture, with

toasty richness, a savory, almost meaty note entwined with sweet peach and

pear fruit followed by lingering orange-zest freshness and chalkiness. The toasty

evolution is part of Dom Ruinart’s DNA and unoaked beauty, and I like this 2006,

but its weight and toastiness, and the difference from the bottle last tasted,

surprise me. It is, I’m sure, a reflection of the high sugar and lowish acidity of the



Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2007

75% Côtes des Blancs (Chouilly, Le Mesnil, Oger and Avize), 25% from the

northern slopes of the Montagne de Reims (predominantly Sillery and

Verzenay). Potential degree 9.3º; total acidity 8.6g; dosage 5g/l; disgorged

September 2017

The Ruinart team is “not at ease talking about bubbles because it’s so complex”,

but I can’t resist mentioning their finesse and persistence (also in the 2006). The

colour here is pale but marginally deeper (perhaps reflecting the longer time on

lees?) and the nose is very different – penetratingly steely, flinty, ocean spray

and lime zest aromas softened by delicate leafiness and white flowers. The

palate, crystalline, taut and intense, has oystershell savory notes, citrus intensity,

a chalk-dust fine texture and incisive, rapier-like acidity. Left in the glass, a little

peach, sweet pear and clotted cream emerge. A Champagne of great purity

assured of a long and distinguished life.


Photographs by Joanna Simon


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