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Tonight I’m going to drink a 70’s bottle from one of my absolute favorites among the standard champagnes, R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs.
And it was precisely here that my train of success began to roll. I quickly discovered during my passionate journey into the world of Champagne that the Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs of the top growers were the most mispriced wines in the region. There was a purity and floral citrus subtlety here that beat the big dragons flagship standard champagnes with horse-lengths at a dime. That has evened out a bit over time, but is still true in many cases.
I dreamed early on of storing the standard champagnes for 3-4 years, which at the time felt like an eternity. Today, when time accelerates unreal fast, I have the patience to wait for the right moment and in the meantime drink something else. I could have written about Pierre Peter’s Cuvée Réserve, non-vintage Blanc de Blancs from Guy Charlemagne, Gimonnet, Vergnon, Launois, Bonnaire, Diebolt-Vallois or Larmandier-Bernier, but there is probably no champagne that better illustrates what I want to say about these shy long-lived beauties.
You can find Legras mainly in the top restaurants in France thanks to Monsieur Barbier the elder’s gastronomic interest and knowledge. Wherever he went, emptying his wallet and filling his already impressively bulky stomach, he also got to show off his aristocratically delicious non-vintage Blanc de Blancs. The love was always reciprocated regardless of whether the chef’s name was George Blanc, Allain Ducasse, Robuchon or Alain Passard.
No, as you can see in the compilation below, the increasingly warmer climate has meant that some of the elegance has had to give way to more pear and butter caramel dripping features and the development curve has become more unpredictable. Feel free to follow my example and buy yourself a box and follow the development of the different vintage bases. I’d be lying if I said it will be the only champagne we drink at our New Year’s party at home tonight, but a part of my heart will always beat for Non-vintage Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs in its purest form.
Cheers and best wishes for a wonderfully bubbly 2024!
R. & L. Legras
Domain status was obtained in 1973. This impeccably run firm now owns twenty-one hectares of Chouilly’s finest vineyards. Monsieur Barbier, who was a big man in more ways than one, runed the company. Today his son Julien runs this model company with a successful mixture of modern and traditional vinification methods. Even though the wines go through malolactic fermentation, they retain a very high degree of life-giving acidity for decades. Legras is the house Champagne at many of France’s three-star restaurants, and this must be counted among the top producers in the whole of Champagne. The 2008 is fantastically enjoyable right from the start. However it is significantly better to keep ones impulses under control and to wait for the profound loveliness that greying temples will give this strong personality.
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2020-base)
82 (dec-23) 86
‘The last two editions are of course good, but not quite in the style that gave them their distinguished reputation. In these vintages, the new organic stars shine brighter with their bombastic oak-spiced and fruit-pumped mature style. A fierce and buttery wine this is for sure, but some of the minerality that has made the wine classic over the years is toned down in favor of a pear-scented richness.’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2019-base)
81 (dec-23) 86
‘Here too, a fierce and buttery wine for sure, but some of the minerality that has made the wine classic over the years is toned down in favor of a pear-scented richness. Uncertain development.’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2018-base)
85 (dec-22) 90
‘Much sleeker and more classic than the 2019 base. Here we are back in the promised land of the chalk, dancing a swirling, light-footed dance.’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2017-base)
80 (dec-22) 85
‘Pure and nice in spite of the vintage, but a bit thin and watered down compared to the average wine from R & L Legras.’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2016-base)
82 (jan-20) 86
‘The style of R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs in its youth is always a battle between pear and lemon and between chalk and butteriness. There should be a bit of both, but they always become more long-lived and beautiful if chalk from Chouilly and lemon notes dominate. Here we are right in the middle.’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2015-base)
82 (jan-20) 86
‘R & L Legras Blanc de Blanc’s style in its youth is, as I said, always a battle between pear and lemon and between chalk and butteriness. There should be a bit of both, but they always become more long-lived and beautiful if chalk from Chouilly and lemon notes dominate. Here we are completely on the richer and butterier side with more pear and apple dominating. Good, but by no means classic.’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2014-base)
84 (feb-21) 89
‘A lightweight with a nice chalky slightly powdery character. Here we have the eternal struggle between pear and lemon and between chalk and butteriness. There should be a bit of both, but they always become more long-lived and beautiful if chalk from Chouilly and lemon notes dominate. Here the prettier sides dominate, but the wine is a little thin to impress greatly.’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2013-base)
87 (feb-20) 90
‘I would love to try this edition again soon as the style was so vintage clean and chalky potent. It has been shown that 2013 went from being a weak 3-star vintage to a safe 4-star in just the past year. With extremely nice development. Here we have a classic build that may be even better than I predicted.’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2012-base)
87 (dec-23) 88
‘Almost fully ripe and filled with butterscotch and nougat-like flavors. Fat and buttery, but almost tropical in its fruit with more pineapple and mango than expected. A delicious piece!’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2008-base)
87 (mar-13) 91
‘I only tasted this beautiful and promising edition in its youth. However, from the start I was impressed by the acidity, the minerality and its citrus-floral aroma spectrum. One of the main ones.’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2007-base)
80 (mar-13) 84
A clean and impeccably vinified, but at the same time boringly neutral edition. Short and snipingly stingy when it went. Of course, time can change the wine’s journey.
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2004-base)
87 (mar-13) 87
‘Unexpectedly quickly matured with fine purity preserved. Powdery chalky aroma and smooth buttery delicious taste with tangerine and orange as the leading features this time.’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (2002-base)
90 (dec-22) 90
‘Actually the only version I stored myself for fifteen years. Just as I believed in my crystal ball, a perfect wine in its category. Of course, not quite as big as the company’s vintage wine, but almost identical to its aroma profile and structure. A perfectly resilient middle-aged beauty with everything from coffee to passion fruit in the flavor profile.’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (90´s)
89 (mar-13) 89
‘The wine was magical throughout the last century. Wonderfully mineral-tinged to drink young and beautiful Burgundian with maturity. I guess the lucky one who saved this wine can have a great experience even today. This is still the most common house champagne in the country’s three-star Michelin restaurants, thanks to Monsieur Barbier’s good network of contacts with France’s top chefs. He traveled the country and kingdom and drank and ate copiously from their menus and wine lists. A true gourmand!’
R & L Legras Blanc de Blancs (80´s)
90 (jan-05) 90
‘These beauties are surely still beautiful and long-lived. I will never forget my first glass of this super elegant standard champagne with vintage depth. It was 1990 in Paris at the Tour d’Argent restaurant. Even today, this is the most common house champagne in the country’s three-star Michelin restaurants, thanks to Monsieur Barbier’s good network of contacts with France’s top chefs. He traveled the country and kingdom and drank and ate copiously from their menus and wine lists. A true gourmand and a good friend!’