2005 Diebolt-Vallois Fleur de Passion a Cramant Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut
Expert Ratings
ST 93 points
WS 93 points
(Read the full reviews below)
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Four Seasons Hotel George V George V's "La Fleur de Passion"

It's not so much a hotel as a palace. The George V sits just off the Champs-Elysées. The Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde and the Eiffel Tower are just a short walk away. We admit to being a bit uncomfortable when we saw the matching black S-Class Mercedes parked out front, each sporting diplomatic tags from African nations. As the people starve, their "leaders" are swirling Lafite!

Once inside, we were greeted by two demurely clad mannequins who led us to the hotel's breathtaking 3-star Michelin dining room. The George V is owned by Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud of Saudi Arabia and Harvard University's richest and most famous dropout, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, and managed by the Four Seasons Hotel.

But we hadn't come to George V for the glitter. Our wardrobes really didn't fit into the scenery. We came to meet Jacques and Nadia Diebolt and "Meilleur Sommelier d'Europe," Eric Beaumard, one of the world's most talented sommeliers of the last 30 years. Before we left for Paris, we asked to have our Christmas bonus in advance. Why? For once, lunch was on us.

We first met Jacques Diebolt in the summer of 1983, after discovering his Blanc de Blancs at Marc Meneau's L'Espérance in Vézelay. Diebolt was as effervescent as his wines, speaking of the priceless, chalk-strewn hillsides of Cramant, Mesnil and Avize, and how the soil's composition accounts for the chiseled precision of Champagne's greatest bottles. After three hours 50 feet beneath #84 Rue Neuve, Jacques led us to the back corner of the cellar where a crusty cache of old bottles had been resting quietly since the mid-'50s. All had been crafted by his grandfather, using techniques that modern winemakers deemed too risky. After Diebolt disgorged and poured his granddad's 1953 — a Champagne of exquisite richness and elegance — he told us, "If I can find the courage, one day I'll make a wine like this!"

Ten years later, a young sommelier knocked on Diebolt's cellar door. While still in his 20s, Eric Beaumard, born to an agricultural family, had a razor-sharp palate. As we would learn over lunch, Beaumard was just as mesmerized by the "bitter tension" of Diebolt's wines, how the gentle persistence of these Blanc de Blancs was more reminiscent of bubbly Meursault than standard Champagne. At the end of that afternoon tasting in 1992, Jacques again disgorged a bottle of his granddad's 1953, a bottle the brilliant Beaumard would never forget.

Beaumard's NoteIn 1994, Beaumard claimed top honors as the "Best Sommelier in Europe." It wouldn't be long before the George V tracked the sommelier down and handed over the keys to one of the most carefully maintained cellars in the world. Last week, 21 years after Eric met Jacques, and 30 years after we first made the pilgrimage to #84 Rue Neuve in Cramant, we took our seats at the big round table in the center of the lavish dining room of Le Cinq. Eric Beaumard already had what many believe to be the greatest Champagne in the world — Diebolt-Vallois Fleur de Passion — on ice.

Paired with seared foie gras and Coquilles St. Jacques, Jacques Diebolt explained why his tiny-production (just 833 cases of the 2005) Fleur de Passion now stands side by side with Krug Clos du Mesnil and Salon as the most sought-after and refined Blanc de Blancs in Champagne.

"When I was still a teenager, I made Champagne with my grandfather a l'ancienne. All the wines were barrel-fermented. We did nothing to encourage malolactic fermentation, as we had neither the equipment or the desire to do so. If the wine went through ML, so be it. If not, we bottled without. There was no fining. No filtration. Certain vintages, as you and Eric know, are still fresh 60 years after bottling! Fleur de Passion is a homage a mon grand pere."

Drawn entirely from 45-60-year-old vines in the center cut of the southeast facing slopes of Grand Cru Cramant, the 2005 Diebolt-Vallois Fleur de Passion is brilliant golden to the rim. The bubbles are tiny, providing the lightest touch of effervescence to what is otherwise an incredibly serious, terrifically complex Chardonnay. That warm summer provided unusual richness, beautifully braced and toned by what Beaumard so eloquently describes as "une fermete amere" ("bitter tension").

Two hours after the bottle was uncorked, now paired with a veal cheek ragout, our Fleur de Passion — like the best 1er Cru Meursault and that unforgettable 1953 — was still coming on.

The Four Seasons George V purportedly has top-line revenue of $150m. Beaumard is said to sell 70,000 bottles of wine per year, 24,000 of which are Champagne. On a wine list that weighs every bit of 10 pounds (the Parisien gastronomes called it "The Bible"), there are pages and pages of vintage Champagne, including multiple vintages of Roederer Cristal, Dom Pérignon, Salon, Krug Clos du Mesnil and Bollinger. Still, Beaumard confided, Jacques and Nadia Diebolt's tiny estate at #84 Rue Neuve in Cramant is the George V's calling card. Of the 24,000 bottles sold each year, 4,000 are made by the inimitable Jacques Diebolt!

Tasting Notes

2005 Diebolt-Vallois Fleur de Passion a Cramant Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut
"Light yellow-gold. Highly fragrant, mineral-accented bouquet offers fresh pear, honeysuckle and honey aromas with enlivening notes of ginger and chalky minerals. Spicy orchard and pit fruit, floral and lemon curd flavors are given lift and focus by tangy minerality. This sappy, penetrating Champagne finishes with resonating spiciness, impressive cling and excellent length."
93 points -- Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar

"Fresh and floral, with a fine knit and notes of white peach, quince, mandarin orange, pastry, grated ginger and meringue. Offers a smoky, mineral-driven undertow and a long and focused finish of ground spice. Drink now through 2025. 833 cases made."
93 points -- Wine Spectator

Beaumard's Note
Commentaire de la Cuvée Fleur de Passion 2005: dégustée le 24 septembre 2013 au George V

La robe or pâle souligne une belle richesse et une grande densité. La bulle est discrète. Le nez est miellé et riche, des notes de fruits blancs confits, de frangipane sont perceptibles. L'ensemble est mûr.

La bouche est large et puissante, généreuse. La bulle apporte un soutien avec une légère fermeté. La finale de bouche est généreuse et légèrement amère. Il peut être dégusté dès aujourd'hui avec plaisir. de préférence avec un repas composé d'un poisson noble ou d'une viande blanche.

En conclusion, Fleur de Passion 2005 traduit toute la puissance des meilleurs coteaux de Cramant dans un millésime solaire. Servir entre 9 et 10°C

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