Join "The Special Club" (an explanation of Special Club Champagne)

If you are looking for an extraordinary bottle of Champagne for tonight (or for any occasion), I would highly recommend trying a "Special Club". I'm sure some or most of you have heard of Special Club Champagne but for those of you who have not, here is a rundown on what it is (I just posted most of this same info in a thread on a bottle of Launois Special Club that I had last weekend).

The Special Club was started in 1971 and is a currently a group of 26 grower producers in the Champagne region. The purpose of the group is to promote terroir in Champagne production (an idea that is all too neglected by the bigger houses). To become a member a producer must grow their own grapes and be designated as RM's (an explanation of what RM means is here). They all use the same style bottle but have individual labels. These wines represent the top offerings from each producer. The wines must go through a tasting by club members before it can be approved as a Special Club. After initial approval, the wine then undergoes a second fermentation and 3 more years of aging before a final round of tasting by members for approval and bottling. Special Clubs are always vintage wines but are not put out every year (there were no 2003's).

These wines vary in price but are normally in the $50-80 range. They represent a far better value than most Champagne that sell for $100. For example, last weekend the Launois Special club that was opened at an offline was superior to the 1998 Veuve La Grande Dame and 2002 Bollinger Champagne La Grande Année in my opinion (each sells for about double the Launois price).

VM
Original Post
quote:
Originally posted by Vino Me:
If you are looking for an extraordinary bottle of Champagne for tonight (or for any occasion), I would highly recommend trying a "Special Club". I'm sure some or most of you have heard of Special Club Champagne but for those of you who have not, here is a rundown on what it is (I just posted most of this same info in a thread on a bottle of Launois Special Club that I had last weekend).

The Special Club was started in 1971 and is a currently a group of 26 grower producers in the Champagne region. The purpose of the group is to promote terroir in Champagne production (an idea that is all too neglected by the bigger houses). To become a member a producer must grow their own grapes and be designated as RM's (an explanation of what RM means is here). They all use the same style bottle but have individual labels. These wines represent the top offerings from each producer. The wines must go through a tasting by club members before it can be approved as a Special Club. After initial approval, the wine then undergoes a second fermentation and 3 more years of aging before a final round of tasting by members for approval and bottling. Special Clubs are always vintage wines but are not put out every year (there were no 2003's).

These wines vary in price but are normally in the $50-80 range. They represent a far better value than most Champagne that sell for $100. For example, last weekend the Launois Special club that was opened at an offline was superior to the 1998 Veuve La Grande Dame and 2002 Bollinger Champagne La Grande Année in my opinion (each sells for about double the Launois price).

VM


As the one who brought the Grande Annee and the Grande Dame, this one hurts, especially in the pocketbook. Although, I readily agree as the Launois was my WOTN. I will be seeking these out going forward.
I don't drink a lot of champagne (I know, blasphemy on these boards), but quite a bit of what I drink is Special Club. I've enjoyed most I've had and they fit my budget nicely. In fact, one of the wines I will be bringing to a dinner tonight is a 2000 Gaston Chiquet Special Club.
quote:
Originally posted by eyesintime:
I don't drink a lot of champagne (I know, blasphemy on these boards), but quite a bit of what I drink is Special Club. I've enjoyed most I've had and they fit my budget nicely. In fact, one of the wines I will be bringing to a dinner tonight is a 2000 Gaston Chiquet Special Club.


Ohhhh I am madly in love with Gaston Chiquet. Had not come across their Special Club bottling, however. What a find!
quote:
Originally posted by Vino Me:
If you are looking for an extraordinary bottle of Champagne for tonight (or for any occasion), I would highly recommend trying a "Special Club". I'm sure some or most of you have heard of Special Club Champagne but for those of you who have not, here is a rundown on what it is (I just posted most of this same info in a thread on a bottle of Launois Special Club that I had last weekend).

The Special Club was started in 1971 and is a currently a group of 26 grower producers in the Champagne region. The purpose of the group is to promote terroir in Champagne production (an idea that is all too neglected by the bigger houses). To become a member a producer must grow their own grapes and be designated as RM's (an explanation of what RM means is here). They all use the same style bottle but have individual labels. These wines represent the top offerings from each producer. The wines must go through a tasting by club members before it can be approved as a Special Club. After initial approval, the wine then undergoes a second fermentation and 3 more years of aging before a final round of tasting by members for approval and bottling. Special Clubs are always vintage wines but are not put out every year (there were no 2003's).

These wines vary in price but are normally in the $50-80 range. They represent a far better value than most Champagne that sell for $100. For example, last weekend the Launois Special club that was opened at an offline was superior to the 1998 Veuve La Grande Dame and 2002 Bollinger Champagne La Grande Année in my opinion (each sells for about double the Launois price).

VM

Is this how you did research papers in high school and college? Wink Razz
quote:
Originally posted by EB Wine:
Picked up from Wine Discount Center today -

'04 Gaston Chique "Special Club"
'04 Henri Goutorbe "Special Club"

Thanks for the tip!

You're welcome. Excellent buys.

The Special Club I would like to try most is the Mousse & Fils Cuvee Special Club Blanc de Noirs Brut. 100% Pinot Meunier. Might not be the best Special Club made but it is the only 100% PM which makes it unique.

VM
Drank the following 2 wines last weekend:

2005 Pierre Gimonnet Champagne Special Club Grands Terriors de Chardonnay
2006 A. Margaine Champagne Blanc de Blancs Special Club

Also bought the the following wine yesterday:

2004 Gaston Chiquet Champagne Spécial Club 1er Cru (2 bottles left at the WDC)

VM
I really like the metal label that Gimonnet puts on their special club.

In anticipation of a visit to Champagne this Fall, I investigated to see which members of this group do not export their wines to the US and found the following 8 members:

Charlier et Fils
Fresnet-Juillet
Vincent Joudart
Juillet-Lallement
Joseph Loriot-Pagel
Nomine-Renard
Salmon (not Billecart Salmon)
Remy Massin et Fils

Hopefully I can arrange a visit to some of these.

VM
I haven't had the 2005 but have always been impressed by the wines from this producer. Excellent prices for a Cote des Blancs producer (even for their Special Club which is their top wine- usually in the $55 range). I would rather buy the 2004 than the 2005 if they had it but this is a perennial buy.

VM
quote:
Originally posted by Danyull:
Any thoughts on the 2005 Launois Special Club?

Considering going to pick up a few this weekend.

Leave some for me will ya? Wink

Thanks for the heads up on these types of champers. Unfortunately for me, the NJ distributors don't have a lot of these at the same prices as CA.
quote:
Originally posted by Vino Me:
I haven't had the 2005 but have always been impressed by the wines from this producer. Excellent prices for a Cote des Blancs producer (even for their Special Club which is their top wine- usually in the $55 range). I would rather buy the 2004 than the 2005 if they had it but this is a perennial buy.

VM


I haven't had the '05 yet either, but I do have mags of the '02 and the '04, which are both excellent. If you can find the '02, I'd buy that over the '04 based upon the ones I've had. That being said, I will buy the '05 when I see it.
An updated list of Special Clubs currently in my cellar:

2 x 1996 Juillet-Lallement Champagne Special Club Brut Grand Cru (both mags) (VM96)
1 x 2006 Juillet-Lallement Champagne Special Club Brut Grand Cru
1 x 1998 J. Lassalle Champagne Special Club (VM94)
1 x 2002 Launois Pere et Fils Champagne Special Club (mag) (VM95)
1 x 2004 Launois Pere et Fils Champagne Special Club
1 x 2005 José Michel & Fils Champagne Special Club (mag)
2 x 2006 José Michel & Fils Champagne Special Club
1 x 2008 Moussé Fils Champagne Special Club Cuisles (VM94)

VM
quote:
Originally posted by DoubleD:
quote:
Originally posted by Danyull:
Any thoughts on the 2005 Launois Special Club?

Considering going to pick up a few this weekend.

Leave some for me will ya? Wink

Thanks for the heads up on these types of champers. Unfortunately for me, the NJ distributors don't have a lot of these at the same prices as CA.


Come out to visit! It's 65 degrees and sunny right now. Banana

I'll be in NYC in April, May be able to bring one of these out.
quote:
Originally posted by Danyull:
Come out to visit! It's 65 degrees and sunny right now. Banana

I'll be in NYC in April, May be able to bring one of these out.

Hey Dan,
Yeah, definitely let me know when you finalize the dates. I think you have my email.

I might be in the SF Bay Area in May. I was going to post something as soon as I finalize my dates.
quote:
Originally posted by DoubleD:
quote:
Originally posted by Danyull:
Come out to visit! It's 65 degrees and sunny right now. Banana

I'll be in NYC in April, May be able to bring one of these out.

Hey Dan,
Yeah, definitely let me know when you finalize the dates. I think you have my email.

I might be in the SF Bay Area in May. I was going to post something as soon as I finalize my dates.


Looks like it'll be first week of April but will post something when I get my flight dates down.

Any chance it'll be week of May 17th? It's my 30th so wanted to plan an offline! Hehehe... hopefully the Boston crew will be able to come out too.

2002 Bollinger RD offered at JJB for $230. Lowest WS Pro is $350. Should I buy???
quote:
Originally posted by Danyull:


2002 Bollinger RD offered at JJB for $230. Lowest WS Pro is $350. Should I buy???


I would jump all over that!

Speaking of R.D., just had their 1990 recently and it was very special.

The 2002 is their 50th anniversary for this wine.
quote:
Originally posted by Priyavrat:
Vino ME, I see that you have one bottle of Mousse 2008. Have you had a chance to drink this and what would you say for its ageing potential. Everything I read about Pinot Meunier tells me not good for ageing.

I tried a bottle last September while visiting the winery. My note is At this link. This will age. Based on what I tried and the opinion of the winemaker, I would say this could be held until 2020 without a problem.

VM
quote:
Originally posted by Vino Me:
quote:
Originally posted by Danyull:
2002 Bollinger RD offered at JJB for $230. Lowest WS Pro is $350. Should I buy???

This would be an easy pass for me.

VM


dont worry danyull, I got 2 bottles.

and it's my 35th on may 6th

so we can celebrate our bday sif you are aroudn ny then also
quote:
Originally posted by Vino Me:
An updated list of Special Clubs currently in my cellar:

2 x 1996 Juillet-Lallement Champagne Special Club Brut Grand Cru (both mags) (VM96)
1 x 2006 Juillet-Lallement Champagne Special Club Brut Grand Cru
1 x 1998 J. Lassalle Champagne Special Club (VM94)
1 x 2002 Launois Pere et Fils Champagne Special Club (mag) (VM95)
1 x 2004 Launois Pere et Fils Champagne Special Club
1 x 2005 José Michel & Fils Champagne Special Club (mag)
2 x 2006 José Michel & Fils Champagne Special Club
1 x 2008 Moussé Fils Champagne Special Club Cuisles (VM94)

VM


That J. Lassalle is one of my favs!
quote:
Originally posted by g-man:
quote:
Originally posted by Vino Me:
quote:
Originally posted by Danyull:
2002 Bollinger RD offered at JJB for $230. Lowest WS Pro is $350. Should I buy???

This would be an easy pass for me.

VM


dont worry danyull, I got 2 bottles.

and it's my 35th on may 6th

so we can celebrate our bday sif you are aroudn ny then also


Oh I will make sure it's so. My 30th coming up on may 17th. Gotta round the SF gang up to make it a party!
I have a question for all the Special Club experts here that I was asked recently and didn't have an answer for. As per below the panel tastes the base wine to check if it is of a sufficient quality for the SC designation and to receive "initial approval." Vino Me's explanation below states that it then undergoes secondary fermentation and upon approval it is bottled, but wouldn't it already be bottled at this point having already undergone secondary fermentation? Wouldn't the wine's fate already be set at this point as it would already be in a Special Club bottle? Is it just that this stage being denied Special Club status is particularly rare?

In general can you get a strong enough sense of a Champagne's potential from base wine alone?

quote:
Originally posted by Vino Me:
They all use the same style bottle but have individual labels. These wines represent the top offerings from each producer. The wines must go through a tasting by club members before it can be approved as a Special Club. After initial approval, the wine then undergoes a second fermentation and 3 more years of aging before a final round of tasting by members for approval and bottling. Special Clubs are always vintage wines but are not put out every year (there were no 2003's).
quote:
Originally posted by wine+art:
quote:
Originally posted by Danyull:


2002 Bollinger RD offered at JJB for $230. Lowest WS Pro is $350. Should I buy???


I would jump all over that!

Speaking of R.D., just had their 1990 recently and it was very special.

The 2002 is their 50th anniversary for this wine.


+48

That's a lot of wine for that price. R.D. is really fantastic wine.
quote:
Originally posted by Wine Canuck:
I have a question for all the Special Club experts here that I was asked recently and didn't have an answer for. As per below the panel tastes the base wine to check if it is of a sufficient quality for the SC designation and to receive "initial approval." Vino Me's explanation below states that it then undergoes secondary fermentation and upon approval it is bottled, but wouldn't it already be bottled at this point having already undergone secondary fermentation? Wouldn't the wine's fate already be set at this point as it would already be in a Special Club bottle? Is it just that this stage being denied Special Club status is particularly rare?

In general can you get a strong enough sense of a Champagne's potential from base wine alone?

The first tasting is done when the wines are in tank. If the wine fails this tasting, it is not put in a Special Club bottle and the member may use it in one of his other bottlings. It is not uncommon for a wine in tank to fail this tasting.

However, if a wine passes the first tasting it is put in the Special Club bottle as you mention. If a wine fails the second tasting, the bottles must be opened, emptied and used as reserve wine. As you suspected, this is very rare and to my knowledge a member has only been asked to empty all of his bottles once. Not sure who that was.

With respect to your question about getting an idea of a wines quality from tasting the vin clair (wine in tank), I couldn't. However, I'm sure the grower/producers who do this for a living could.

VM
Wow. Very comprehensive response, thank you Vino Me.

It all makes sense though I had never imagined it would be possible to empty 1000's of bottles into a tank without fairly severe oxidation. Also what would come of the bubbles? I suppose the wine would lose it's carbonation and would just need to be blended back into a NV as reserve wine along with a large proportion of still wine for a second, secondary fermentation in a new bottle.

Anyways I suppose it's so rare that it's a moot point anyways.

It really does make sense that if you do this for a living that you would have a very clear idea of how the champagne will taste based on the base wine. Secondary fermentation and lees aging seems to provide fairly predictable results.
Here is a description of the SC requirements on the Mousse website:
Special Club Rules :
All 25 members of the Club use the same shaped bottle but the champagne is their own. To qualify for the Special Club the champagne must be a vintage from a very good year. The still wines from the harvest are submitted to a jury of 5 people, including 3 oenologists, for a blind tasting. Before being allowed to proceed to blending and bottling, the wines must be awarded a score of at least 15 out of 25 and must also have the approval of 4 out of the 5 jury members. Then 3 years later, when the champagne has been made, it has to be tasted and tested again by the same jury using the same selection criteria. Any champagne that doesn’t pass this second hurdle cannot be sold as a Special Club champagne and must be used for other labels.

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