Le Mesnil, more accurately Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, is a village in the Cote de Blancs which many believe grows the best Chardonnay in Champagne, hence the best Blanc de blancs Champagnes (pure Chardonnay Champagnes) are from Le Mesnil. This may be debatable (I won't debate it though!), but Le Mesnil Champagnes are simply sublime.
Most Champagne, whether Blanc de blancs or not, are made by blending grapes from multiple locations, but Le Mesnil is not. There is only a tiny amount of Le Mesnil Champagne produced, most of it ultra expensive, but the Rare Wine Company has come up with their own Le Mesnil Champagne at a very reasonable price - this bottle was about US$30. Count me as a Rare Wine Company fan and customer.
Many of Le Mesnil's growers work under the auspices of the Union des Propriétaires-Récoltants or UPR, and have a great reputation for quality. The Rare Wine Company visited twice to assess quality and was very pleased, choosing wines from plots they particularly liked. The UPR only deals with Le Mesnil grapes and is proud of their quality and techniques, such as green harvesting (the pruning of extra grapes from the vines) which reduces yields and increases concentration and ripeness, and "lutte raisonée" which can be considered as between organic farming and conventional farming - chemicals are applied only as needed instead of on a standard schedule. Wines are also aged 3-4 years on their lees before disgorgement, just as most vintage wines are, and then aged 6 more months in the bottle before being released.
Besides the Rare Wine Version, the best known are Salon and Krug Clos du Mesnil, These are both made in miniscule quantities, expensive, and hard to find. Salon is an anomaly among major Champagne houses as they only make a Blanc de blancs, only vintage, and only in the best years. Other years their grapes go to Delamotte, who makes superb Blanc de blancs, although they are not made exclusively from Le Mesnil fruit. Salon's Champagnes need 15 plus years before being ready to drink, and even though their 96 is 15 years old as of this writing, I'm not considering attacking the few bottles in my cellar nearly yet. Long lived is an understatement. Krug Clos du Mesnil, which I've only had the pleasure to drink once so far, borders on horrifically expensive and is similarly long lived. Krug Clos du Mesnil is more "Blanc de blancs" in nature, crisp, fresh, etc., than monster Vintage Krug style. Krug Clos du Mesnil is also interesting as it is one of very few single vineyard Champagnes produced. There are also a few Grower Producer bottlings, but they seem to be snapped up immediately and I've never seen one.
Tasting Note: Rare Wine Company Champagne Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Cuvee Sans Malo 2002 from Magnum - May 2013, only bottled in magnum, rated B+
The nose has light minerality, clean light apple, chalk, and floral tones with a touch of sourdough.
The taste is apple with nice minerals rolling underneath. Not the most complex wine but clearly of high pedigree. Insanely fresh. Touch of orange with air.
A steal at US$125, but after opening a bottle with friends they cleaned out the very few cases the Rare Wine Company immediately. I like this wine a lot, but my friends almost universally liked it better!
Tasting Note: Rare Wine Company Champagne Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru
A very light yellow straw color with lots of tiny bubbles, reminding me of Cristal
Nose: yeast, minerals, chalk
Taste: green apples, loads of minerals. Plenty of balancing acidity.
As it warmed and got plenty of air, it opened up and I got more ripe Delicious and Macintosh apples and it drank even better.
Let's cut to the chase. This stuff is young! I received my bottle less than two weeks ago from the Rare Wine Company. At this stage it needs food in my opinion, and some Parmesan cheese did the trick, although it'll handle much more hardy fare (I must try this with a spicy Chinese seafood dish someday - plenty of acidity in this wine to handle some heat).
If I open another bottle within the next few months, I will decant it. Some Champagnes can handle and improve with decanting - really.
Quality is very high, and I suggest aging a few years for maximum enjoyment. Le Mesnil is known for it's ageability, and also for needing age. Although much more forthcoming than let's say fresh Salon, I'll be sitting on a few bottles happily for several years!
Tasting Note: Rare Wine Company Champagne Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 1982 - Dec, 2011
The Rare Wine Company surprised many of us by coming up with vintage bottlings as well, 1982 and 1985, after they first released their NV variety. I was able to score some 1982 and my notes follow.
I'm going to claim this will appeal to those of us who prefer their Champagne with some age on it (which means experienced Champagne drinkers in general), but surprisingly, my non-Champagne drinking friend The Shagster (he thought he didn't like Champagne but it turns out he never had any decent Champagne before) loved this, preferring it even to the blockbuster Andre Beaufort 2004! Speaking of which, I probably should have served this first . . .
My short tasting notes follow. I was having fun and not concentrating on the notes:
It is an amber/yellow color with a moderate amount of bubbles.
The nose shows honey and is quite regal.
The taste has candied orange peel with green apple in the background. Very aristocratic and showing its age in a good way, like a classy older woman who despite no longer possessing youthful sex appeal has a warm inner glow and clearly still has it.
This is a very good wine and showed well. Do not expect it to up to other Le Mesnils from the same year that cost an order of magnitude more, such as a Salon 82, but it is good! Glad I have more.