The Old Student House is anything but the way it sounds. The building, which used to be the party place for university students, screams pomp and ceremony with its arches and corniced pillars. What could be more appropriate than a Grand Champagne celebration in these glorious surroundings?
Amongst the 50 champagne houses represented, are some new names that stand out and one of these is Christophe Constant from J. L. Vergnon. Besides the tastings and Master Classes at Vanha, as we refer to the venue, there are other occasions to extend the pleasure of drinking this ‘king of wines and wine of kings’. In the fitting environment of one of Helsinki’s top restaurants Olo Garden, brunch is served accompanied by a tasting of four of the J.L. Vergnon range.
The titles of each one in themselves are points of discussion. We start with Conversation, what else? It’s a Blanc de Blanc which breaks the ice and oils the wheels of a good chat with your table companions whether you know them or not. It’s crisp, very dry and the fine mousse rises rapidly to the rim. Made from 25% of 2006 reserve wine with grapes from the Grand Cru region of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, it has a classic nose of biscuit and citrus. Apricots, lemon and again that cake and biscuit flavour plays around on your palate with a finish of slight saltiness. A cabbage/kale dish for breakfast could be a conversation stopper but with this sparkling mouthful of acidity, words start flowing and chatter becomes easy, even for the Finns.
Eloquence is next, or is it? If you couldn’t find the words in Conversation, you’ll never find them in Eloquence. The excellence of language usage comes into play with this tight, flinty champagne. Christophe Constant does it again in his inimitable style of creating a racy, tense wine that brings you brioche, pear and lemon zest with a finish of lingering marzipan. A deep structure keeps you coming back for more and every sip reveals another secret. The slightly sweet pickled cucumber delicately laced with dill on a bed of shrimps brings out notes of grapefruit and melon. The elegance of Eloquence is hard to resist.
Renowned for Blanc de Blanc, Christophe has gone out on a limb creating the Rosémotion, a blend of Chardonnay and Grand Cru Pinot Noir wine. Tart strawberry and yeast on the nose is followed through on the palate with minerality, some lingonberry and grapefruit. This is not a candy-style rosé, it’s far more serious and displays dense structure which would go well with Steak Tartare, unfortunately not on the menu at this brunch. However, the crisp little Madeleine’s sweet, almondy flavours, makes the wine sing.
A deep Résonance is sadly, our final mouthful of this exceptional flight. The 2008 vintage blanc de blanc champagne digs deep into your thoughts with its complex structure. It brings that ever-present grapefruit and almond to the fore with elements of vanilla and honey. On the second drop the creaminess of a long time spent on the lees reveals itself while the third taste makes talk unnecessary and you settle in to a cosy, satisfying warmth. Rich is an understatement without ever losing elegance and minerality. This one will resonate for a time to come.