Bubbles All Around!
Historically in Northeastern France, the cold weather would halt fermentation during the winter months, leaving it to restart in the As a result, we have today’s delicious and wonderful sparkling white wine, Champagne.
The region of Champagne is dominated by many of the big brands we know today, such as Möet & Chandon or Veuve Clicquot. These negociants and cooperatives produce more than 85% of the production in Champagne, yet they own less than 15% of the vineyards. These mass produced sparkling wines are made in a highly interventionist and formulaic way with extensive use of a combination of chaptlization (the adding of sugar to grape juice before or after fermentation), acidification, inoculate enzymes and commercial yeast. Because of the mass production, these cooperatives are producing millions of cases per year.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have smaller growers (RM “Récoltant Manipulant”) who handcraft each bottle by growing minimum 95% of their own grapes by law, producing high quality and terroir driven Champagne from their limited quantities of vineyards in their individual villages and parcels. These inherent vineyards are cared by detailed vine, canopy and soil management to control quality and yields. These winemakers are producing some of the finest Champagnes on the market.
When you look for Grower Champagnes, it is important to know the difference in style between the regions. This will give you a comprehensive idea of the wine, the winemaker and their domaine, which have their own distinct identity added to the regional style. Designations are also important: 42 Premier Crus and 17 Grand Cru villages are reassurances of the quality in a Of course, many experts believe that there are several “autre” crus (other crus) equally worthy, but if you have a wine with one of these classifications listed, you are on the right track.
The following regions are just a few of the important areas in Champagne with their focus on varietals and style:
Côte des Blancs – Chardonnay
This region is the crème de la crème of Blanc de Blancs. 6 of the 17 Grand Cru villages in Champagne are located in Côte des Blancs. The villages are Crémant, Avize, Oger, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Chouilly and Oiry.
Since the 19th century, Chardonnay is widely planted on the chalky soils in this region. This high, acid grape often contributes most to the minerality in a blend. This means there is a combination of good concentration without over-ripeness or there is too much of an impression of “sweetness of fruit”, with a high acidity contributing to freshness and firmness, and lastly a prominent mineral character. Chardonnay finds its best expression in the Côte des Blancs.
From our portfolio
Champagne Guy Charlemagne | Le Mesnil-sur-Oger
Brut Classic, 2009 Cuvée Charlemagne Blanc, 2010 Cuvée Charlemagne Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs
2005 & 2008 Mesnillésime Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs
Vallée de la Marne – Meunier
For centuries, man has shaped the landscape of Vallée de la Marne. It is characterized by marl, clay and sand soils on good terrain and water drainage. As a rule, vineyards on the left bank of the river are north facing and the right bank facing south. Aÿ is the crown jewel Grand Cru village along with eight Premier C Meunier may be the underrated varietal in Champagne, but it is the star of this region; late bud break and early ripening makes it perfect for the frost prone vineyard of the Vallée de la Marne. The style of the Champagnes from this area is typically rich and powerful with more smoky and mushroom flavours laced with red fruits.
From our portfolio
Champagne Gatinois | Aÿ
Tradition Brut Grand Cru , Réserve Brut Grand Cru, Rosé Brut Grand Cru , 2009 Millésimé Grand Cru
Champagne René Geoffroy | Cumières
Expression Brut 1er Cru, 2009 Cuvée Empreinte Brut 1er Cru, Cuvée Rosé de Saignée Brut 1er Cru,
2005 Millésimé Extra Brut 1er Cru, Les Houtrants Complantes Brut Nature 1er Cru
Montagne & Val de Reims – Pinot Noir
The Montagne de Reims is shaped like a horseshoe that opens to the west. Most of the vineyards are south or southeast facing to achieve optimal ripeness. A majority of the finest Champagne comes from this region. Home of ten Grand Cru villages: Ambonnay, Beaumont sur Vesle, Bouzy, Louvois, Mailly-Champagne, Puisieux, Sillery, Tours-sur-Marne, Verzy, and Verzenay. The focus in this region is Pinot Noir, even thought it is not the most widely planted grape but turns out to be the best varietal to produce Blanc de Noir and a blended style Champagne with long aging ability.
From our portfolio
Champagne Vilmart & Cie | Rilly-la-Montagne
Grand Réserve Brut 1er Cru, Grand Cellier Brut 1er Cru, 2010 & 2012 Grand Cellier D’Or Brut 1er Cru
2008 & 2009 Coeur de Cuvée Brut 1er Cru
Champagne Egly-Ouriet | Ambonnay
Grand Cru Brut Tradition, Grand Cru Brut Rosé, 2006 Grand Cru Brut Millésimé,
Blanc de Noirs Vieilles Vignes
Champagne Eric Rodez | Ambonnay
Cuvée des Crayères, Blanc de Blancs, Dosage Zéro, Cuvée des Grands Vintage
Champagne Hubert Paulet | Rilly-La-Montagne
Tradition Brut 1er Cru, 2006 Rosé Brut 1er Cru, 2002 Cuvée Risléus Brut 1er Cru
Côte des Bars – Pinot Noir
The new hip region of Champagne is located in the southernmost reaches on the border between Champagne and Burgundy. It is much closer to Côte d’Or then you would think.
This area is mostly planted with Pinot Noir on Kimmeridgian soil and produces a very elegant style of Champagne, driven with red and stone fruit, harmonized with a ton of minerality. Côte des Bar is a great place to look for exceptional value.
From our portfolio
Champagne Marie Demets | Gyé sur Seine
Réserve Extra Brut
If you are a fan of Champagne then you’re already on the fast track to happiness! If you have yet to find one that you like, the key is to keep on tasting. Choose wisely, try many, and you will find that perfect champagne for you!