Many years ago at a time when I hadn't been in the wine trade for very long, I was running a wine shop in South Kensington and if ever there was a better place for a wine shop, I'd like to know about it.
The head of operations of a large US bank put in a regular appearance at the weekend (if in summer, clad in the most enormous pair of shorts I had ever seen), requesting some of that '85 Sheeval Blank for his daily drinking (back then (around 1994) a mere £85 a bottle). The global chairman of GSK was, if anything, even more of a regular, strolling the aisles of the shop with his standard poodle. It was all rather fun.
What wasn't especially fun was our long-standing house champagne. Don't get me wrong; we sold a great deal of it. And blended with suitable measures of cassis/peach pulp it was entirely drinkable.
And that was it. When I left the company I never again gave a thought to that wine. And I certainly never imagined that I would end up offering the outpourings of that house to my own clients.
Roll the clock on 20-some vintages and it was just the other day that I tasted through the "proper" range from the same champagne house i.e. those wines from their own vineyard, made with a care that was entirely evident in the liquid under the corks.
I have to say that I have never tasted anything like this wine. In fact, all their wines were utterly extraordinary. And I love that: unexpected wines from left field that shock and surprise - in an entirely good way - with their distinct personalities.
Here's the gen:
2009 Blanc de Blancs, Champagne J. de Telmont
£165 in bond per 6 Drink 2016-21
I have never before encountered such a singular champagne. Aromas are superbly dense, of dried fruits: apple skins and pear slices. There's real presence to the aromas. It's the palate that is so arresting. This is muscular wine: a champagne for the table, to be drunk with fine food: even belly pork or dim sum would work beautifully with this superb wine. A great density of spicy fruit, the bubble fine, but ultimately supportive. Wow. Serious stuff.