Claude Thibaut, the man who helped legitimize Virginia wine for restaurant sommeliers, today released a new cuvée called Thibaut-Janisson Xtra Brut. Like his popular Blanc de Chardonnay, the Xtra Brut is 100 percent Chardonnay grown in the Monticello AVA near Charlottesville. But this new wine is one-third oak aged Chardonnay, compared to 10 percent of the Blanc de Chardonnay. And it has only 4 grams of residual sugar per liter, compared to 8g/l for the other. Therefore it is drier, more full-bodied and oaky. And as you might expect from Thibaut, it’s delicious. It should appeal to fans of a classical, dry Champagne style.
You’d better hurry if you want to taste it, however. Thibaut made only 100 cases.
I tasted the Xtra Brut at Cork & Fork in Washington’s Logan Circle neighborhood Saturday afternoon, where Thibaut and his business partner, Manuel Janisson, were pouring for about 40 customers of Cork & Fork owner Dominique Landragin. It was almost like being in a small wine shop in Champagne, as Landragin and Thibaut grew up in the same village there. Janisson flew to DC for the weekend from his home where he makes his Janisson & Fils line of grower Champagnes.
Claude told me he will be able to release about 200 cases next year, but he has a dilemma – the same one faced by many Virginia winemakers. There simply aren’t enough grapes. “There are too many wineries and not enough vineyards,” he said.
“The more I make of this,” he explained, pointing to the Xtra Brut, “the less I can make of the Brut,” meaning the Blanc de Chardonnay. Thibaut makes about 3,000 cases of sparkling wine a year, of which 2,000 are the Blanc de Chardonnay about 600 are FIZZ, a softer, Prosecco-style bubbly. The remainder are for vintage cuvées and experiments such as the Xtra Brut.
Thibaut does not own any vineyards. That appears to be somewhere on the list after getting his own wineries. For now, he said, he will try to increase production slowly as he competes with other winemakers for quality grapes.
That competition is a main factor in the common complaint that Virginia wines are too expensive. Cork & Fork was selling the FIZZ for $30, the Blanc de Chardonnay for $37, and the Xtra Brut for $50. Yes, you can get Champagne for these prices (well, not Janisson’s, which were $70 each for a Grand Cru Brut and Grand Cru Brut Rosé), but these are Champagne-quality wines, their French accent softened by the Virginia sunshine.
And of course, this being DC’s trendiest neighborhood, the wine quickly picked up a new moniker: TJXB.