2016 PRINTEMPS DES CHAMPAGNES TASTING
Every two years, the winegrowers of Trait-d-union organize a tasting to explain their unique approach. Champagne Larmandier-Bernier, Jacques Selosse, Jacquesson, Egly-Ouriet, Roger Coulon and Jérôme Prévost, all those champagne and terroir artisans grouped together the 18th April under the same roof to present their work and their passion. A unique opportunity for wine professionals to discover their world.
Literally meaning hyphen, this group of unconventional winegrowers links together distinct personalities through a common vision. Each of the six has their own individuality but they all share the same respect for their land.
Indeed, the members of this association focus on quality and uniqueness of the champagnes : having healthy and living soil with autonomous ecosystem in the vineyard is essential for them. Quality and respect of their terroir is what’s driving those winegrowers. They all use a minimal intervention wine making process in the vineyard and in the winery for a maximum respect of the authenticity of the soil and the grapes.
For the 5th year, those winemakers, who share the same passion and respect of their terroir, organized a professional wine tasting where each of them presented their terroir, their soil and their style.
“Sapidity and minerality” – The Gourmet approach
The event started in the garden of the Domaine Jacquesson in Dizy, where M. David Lefebvre and M. Jacky Rigaud – terroir and minerality specialists – made a conference about “Sapidity and minerality”.
So what is exactly the terroir and what is its influence on the wines ?
The two experts explained that the terroir is the place that guides the spirit of the winegrower to create fine wines from the fruit of the soil. During the tasting, a connoisseur is guided by his knowledge of the locality of the vines. That is what Trait-d-union tasting was all about : using a different approach to taste the wines by focusing on the sense of touch of the palate : consistency, suppleness, viscosity, vivacity, acidity… i.e by feeling the texture of the wines. A way to get the gourmet knowledge back and learn the art to appreciate wines, to recognize and feel the message of the vineyard. A geosensorial tasting to feel the message of the place.
Indeed, gourmets used to appreciate the wines by feeling them with a technique called grumer* in french. Thanks to that method, they had the capacity to recognize the place of origin of the tasted wines. They were able to appreciate the mineral complexity of the wines and feel the diversity of the terroirs. For the members of Trait-d-union, the meaning of the work of the winegrower is to farm the land in order to highlight the minerality of the terroir.
By using the gourmets technique to taste the wines, it allows to create a consensus unlike the olfactive and gustative technique. A unique experience that continued in the cellar of the House Jacquesson.
6 winegrowers, 6 distinct styles
Our first stop is with Jérôme Prévost from Gueux who established his estate in 1987 : La Closerie. For him, a winegrower should give way to the expression of the nature, the soil and the climate to create great wines.
No chemical pesticides or herbicides, no chaptalization, fermentation and aging done in barrels, indigenous yeasts used for fermentation, minimum amount of sulfur, no fining, filtering or cold-stabilization, low dosage … Jérôme is focusing on a natural approach and is using a minimal intervention wine making process.
One terroir – Gueux -, one grape variety – Pinot Meunier -, one parcel – Les Béguines -, one style – the burgundy style – and one year harvest for almost only one cuvée ; a rarity in the Champagne area for wines that impress with their personality. A nice way to discover or rediscover the terroir of the Petite Montage de Reims and the Pinot Meunier variety.
The soil of the vineyard is essentially made of chalk covered with a clay-limestone layer – gravel, sands and particles of clays – for a wonderful feeling during the tasting of supple texture and densely-knit richness on the palate combined with a saline minerality. The champagnes are tasty, complex and generous with mature spicy and floral aromas. The palate is rich, ample with a delicate acidity and fat texture with a creamy airy effervescence. The attack is supple, vinous and well-balanced whereas the finish is long and tight on acidity, power and corpulence.
Jérôme was presenting three cuvées : Les Béguines 2012, Les Béguines 2009 and the Rosé Fac Similé 2013. Les Béguines offered a texture with a remarkable precision and a salivating succulence whereas the Rosé Fac Similé was subtle, rich and delicate with a surprising amplitude and a tense but creamy texture at the same time.
From Vrigny in the Montagne de Reims, Eric is the 8th generation of winegrowers on the Roger Coulon estate. He combines perfectly his passion and the tradition for an approach that helps the terroir to express itself. For him, to understand and take in consideration the past and the history of his vines is essential.
His vineyard is spread out over 10 hectares in 5 villages and 100 plots with a South-East exposure and the subsoil is essentially made of soft chalk and clay.
Fostering exchange between the roots and the soil, sexual confusion, natural weed cover, use of a plough, conservation of natural elements, low yield politics, struggle against erosion,… Eric is committed to respect his soil and the environment : he adapts to the nature and not the contrary for an ecosystem as autonomous as possible. In the vineyard as in the cellar, balance and harmony are essential for Roger. During the champagne making process he uses only indigenous yeasts, each grape variety and plot are separately vinified in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks – depending on the characteristic of the harvest – , the sulfure is restricted to its minimum… techniques that allow the champagne to perfectly express their terroir for authentic, elegant and pure cuvées within two different collection : Collection Reference and Collection Mark.
The Collection Reference offers wines that are the expression of the winemaker with vivacity and exuberance whereas the Collection Empreinte offers mineral wines with a great tension on the palate – pure expression of the terroir and the essence of a place, a year and an history.
Eric was presenting three cuvées : the authentic Réserve de l’Hommée of the Collection Reference – a well-balanced and elegant cuvée, pure expression of the terroir of Vrigny – , Millésime 2009 – round and powerful, it is the authentic reflect of the 2009 harvest – and finally Esprit de Vrigny – creamy and mineral, this cuvée is the mark of the chalk soil of the Chardonnay, clay soil of the Pinot Noir and sandy soil of the Meunier.
Francis Ouriet from Ambonnay was presenting the House Egly Ouriet with its vineyard approaching 40 years old. The vineyard is spread out over nearly 10 hectares in Bouzy, Verzenay and Ambonnay in Grand Cru and 2 hectares in Premier Cru for Vrigny with soils principally made of belemnite and micraster chalk.
Massal selection for a rare savor in the grapes and champagnes, late harvest for a perfect maturation of the grapes, low yield, indiginous yeasts, low-sulfur regime, no malolactic fermentation since 1999 to keep full freshness in the wines, vinification in old oak barrels since 1995, no clarification, 4 years of maturation for non-vintage and beyond six years for vintages, low dosage,… Francis do not follow any recipe, he prefers to focus on highlighting the terroir and the grapes. He has his own and recognizable style : complex, fresh and refined wines with a balance between the maturity of the fruit and the minerality from the soil. All the champagnes are the perfect blend between terroirs and grape varieties : full-bodied, elegant, precise champagnes with volume and density but remaining delicate with a long finish. Thanks to a non-interventionist approach, the wines are nicely tense with vinous and racy character from the terroir.
During the tasting, Francis was presenting 4 different cuvées : Brut tradition – a perfect introduction of the Egly Ouriet style – , Blanc de Noirs Vieilles vignes – vinous and powerful, this cuvée is elegant, vinous, ripe but dry and with a nice tension and complexity -, as well as two vintages : Millésime 2006 and Millésime 2009 – the expression of the terroir from one year to another.
For the Jacquesson estate in Dizy, Jean-Herve and Laurent Chiquet are taking great care of a vineyard of 30 hectares with vines in Aÿ, Avize and Oiry in Grand Cru, in Dizy and Hautvillers both Premiers Crus. The estates includes also 4 different Lieu-dit with chalky soil. The parcels of the House Jacquesson have chalky and moderately clayey soils .
The two brothers cultivate their land as an healthy ecosystem with minimal intervention in the vineyard but also during the wine making process. For them, a great terroir express itself properly the winegrowers take care of it carefully. Traditional growing techniques, little or no soil enrichment, organic treatments, plow of the soil, short prune, reasonable yield, no filtration, the vigor of the vines is held back to reveal the diversity of the terroir and the mineral influence of the soil in the fruit, vinification in old oak barrels, long aging, no racking…. all those methods have as only purpose to let the Champagne grand terroir express itself for champagnes that are “the essence of terroir in the glass”.
Jean-Herve and Laurent were presenting 3 vintage of their cuvée Aÿ Vauzelle Terme : 2009, 2004 and 2002 – a single plot champagne with a strong character. The parcel Vauzelle Terme is located in Aÿ and with South exposure and is planted with 30 years old Pinot Noirs vines. The palate is elegant, fine and vinous with an ample volume and the texture is silky and creamy with a noble and permanent minerality. The champagnes Jacquesson are opulent and complex with a great freshness, deep aromas and silky touch.
For Anselme Selosse and his son Guillaume, the labels have no importance simply because their approach does not fit any existing one. They work their vineyard and their champagnes in the most respectful and non-interventionist way possible. Both the son and the father are taking care of the vineyard located in the Côte des Blancs in Avize and some in the Pinot Noir area with a steep slope exposed east with a soil composed essentially of calcareous and porous chalk.
Charismatic, enigmatic and passionate, the two men are perfectionists and work hand in hand in the respect of the nature in the vineyard and as well as in the cellar. For Anselm and Guillaume, being present at the right time and knowing when to pull back to let the nature be, is essential. They respect the soil to make sure that the vines feed naturally for a perfect harmony within the ecosystem and a pure expression of the unique flavors inherent to the terroir. As part of their approach they do not hesitate to push boundaries and reduce intervention to a minimum : no settling of the musts, no grape sediment removing, all the wine defects are used as assets, use of indigenous yeasts, aging in wooden barrels, each plot harvested and vinified separately in old barrels… The philosophy of Anselm and Guillaume aim to highlight the mineral expression and therefore let the nature express itself.
The style of the House is champagnes with saline and little oxidative character with rich mouthfeel and texture from the chalky soil. The wines are intense with a nice saliva flocculation effect and a feeling of minerality on the tongue.
Jacques and Guillaume were presenting three cuvées : Initial – a 100% Chardonnay and a blend of three vintages -, Les Carelles – One of the six lieu-dit cuvées of the House, a vigorous, elegant and harmonious wine – and finally a vintage 2009 – a round but mineral champagne.
To finish we met Pierre and Sophie from the House Larmandier-Bernier in Vertus who chose a biodynamic and natural approach to capture the authentic taste of the grapes and the terroir.
No herbicide or chemicals, plowing of the soil, biodynamic farming, moderate yields, old vines… the two winegrowers use different methods in order to have a balanced and healthy ecosystem. For them the creation a of great wine begins in the vineyard and this is the reason why they cultivate their vines with respect for the terroir and the balance of the plant. But they go even further in their approach : indigenous yeasts, natural wine making techniques, aging in small or big Austrian oak barrels, light stirring, a maturation on lees, a discreet dosage chosen depending on the cuvées… their method in the winery allows to underline the authenticity and the character of the quality grapes for fresh, pure and saline wines.
Sophie and Pierre were presenting their single vineyard cuvée Vieille Vignes du Levant 2009, produced from 48 to more than 75 year-old vines located in Cramant on chalk and belemnite soil. The diversity and the deep rooting bring complexity to the wine. A wine of great intensity and with creamy texture. Besides this 2009 cuvée, the visitors had the opportunity to taste a 1999 and a 1989 vintage. The youngest offered an elegant and lively palate with an ample finish whereas the 1989 was round and smooth. And as a surprise : a 1989 in Magnum, a great year in Champagne in the best size of bottle.
Before leaving, David Lefebvre and Jacky Rigaud presented the 2015 still wines of each of the winegrower. Two workshops to understand and be able to recognize the influence of each terroir as well as the minerality in the champagnes. Jérôme Prévost, Roger Coulon, Egly Ouriet, Jacquesson, Selosse and Larmandier-Bernier; different terroirs for different sensations on the palate… A perfect end to this unique tasting event…
* Grumer: a technique used in wine tasting. It consists in drawing in some air while tasting a wine in a sort of reverse whistle, so that you can get the full flavour of the wine. It creates small bubbles that burst and highlight the aromatic notes