I know we’re moving into the holiday seasons and these occasions call for bubbly, especially Champagne. I always have a bottle of Champagne in my fridge ready for any special event, a welcome visitor or just because. Champagne has so long linked itself to celebratory events such as weddings and sports championships that people tend to forget that Champagne can be opened and served for any event, from the profound to the profane. Maison Lanson was one of the early Champagne houses and was founded in 1760. Today it is celebrating 260 years of uninterrupted sparkling production and remains one of those Champagne houses dedicated to production, purity and pricing that works.
In 1984, I served Lanson Black Label Brut at my wedding. Perfect August day, beautiful outdoor ceremony, capped and accented by the giddy pop of Lanson Champagne. It ushered in toasts, food, hugs and kisses, friends and family and dancing and then more Lanson bubbles. I think it was the fresh, fruity and refreshing Lanson Champagne that fueled the revelry until the wee hours.
I recently had the great honor of receiving three different labels of Lanson to participate in a Zoom presentation hosted by Jennifer O’Flanagan, founder of Feast public relations firm, and Hervé Dantan, chef de cave, or head winemaker, at Maison Lanson. Hervé is the son of a grape grower and winemaker in the Champagne region. He grew up in the local vineyards and witnessed, and then participated in, all aspects of Champagne production, from vine to wine glass. Taking winemaking to the next plateau, he was schooled and employed in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace and, eventually, California where he learned and traded stories and secrets with winemakers and growers of various regions and different grapes. Hervé then returned to Champagne where he took a position at another Champagne production house for a couple decades. Then Lanson came calling and he accepted the challenge.
Maison Lanson is revolutionizing its operation while remaining loyal to the purity of mission that made it. The house’s belief that “Everything comes from the soil” has served it well. Lanson owns 57 hectares (140 acres) of planted vines and has contracts to purchase grapes from many grand cru and premier cru growers. In Champagne, by decree, vineyard rows need to be spaced appropriately, vine yields are carefully restricted and all harvesting is done by hand. Lanson has just completed a sparkling visitors’ center where wine lovers are welcomed, educated and entertained with a vineyard, a winery and a cellar tour. It is the only Champagne house with views across its vineyards to the famous cathedral in Reims that inspired artists like Claude Monet.
Lanson is also moving toward organic, biodynamic and sustainable viticulture in general and in particular with the Lanson Green Label, made exclusively with organic grapes. French winemakers historically have given little information on their labels. Producer, region and vintage typically have been all they give you. Lanson gives much info on the back label to help consumers, including grape types by percentage, number of individual wines in the blend, amount of grand and premier crus (high quality wines) in the blend, oak aging times, amount of sugar added prior to bottling, harvest dates and disgorgement date. All of this will give knowledgeable consumers a better fit for their desires.
Lanson has 10 labels in its repertoire, and they produce three million bottles each year. We first tasted the Lanson Black Label Champagne, and it is still lovely, showing gorgeous citrus, vibrant freshness and light toast with a pleasant, gripping acidity holding it all together. We then tasted the pink-labeled Rosé, using Pinot Noir dominance, with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. It was fruity, refreshing and smooth, showing strawberry and tart tangerine without tannic interference. And lastly we tasted the newly released Green Label, Lanson’s first organic wine. Showing pure flavors of citrusy grapes, pear and peach balanced with a stony minerality, it was balanced, beautiful and environmentally friendly.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is known for saying “The only thing that is constant is change.” Well, over the years my marriage changed, as each of us began pursuing disparate interests, hers in academia and mine in my work and athletics. But one thing I learned this past weekend: My love of Lanson is eternal. Find some Lanson for any event. Have it on hand. It’s appropriate for anything.
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