2016 PRINTEMPS DES CHAMPAGNES TASTING
In the city center of Reims, right in the middle of the most prestigious Champagne Houses, at the exceptional Domaine des Crayères, took place the 19th April, an outstanding tasting : the 7th Tasting of Artisans du Champagne, an association bringing together 17 winegrowers.
Les Artisans du Champagne
Gather around common values, the Artisans du Champagne is a group of 17 winegrowers, 17 vineyards of the most beautiful terroirs of Champagne. United by “sharing, passion, respect, rigor, freedom and a common vision of their profession and the responsibilities that it implies”, they get together once a year for an exceptional tasting. The perfect opportunity to share their work and their passion with worldwide wine professionals but also to present their single vineyard vins clairs of the harvest 2015 as well as the champagnes of each estate; cuvées with strong and distinct personalities, reflecting the demand and commitment of the winegrowers who themselves qualifie their wines as “authentic, thoroughly truthful and free of artifice”.
A unique authors’ wines tasting
The rendez-vous with the 17 winegrowers for this unique tasting was at the Château des Crayères in Reims in a refined and friendly atmosphere. The former Castle of Louise Pommery hosted the event and welcomed the wine professional visitors in search of new treasures of Champagne. In order to complete this epicurean event, Christophe Charlet from La Cave aux Fromages was on the terrace to offer cheese and delicatessen pairings with the champagne of the Artisans. A real pleasure for the visitors who got the opportunity to sunbathe in the beautiful garden of the estate with a glass of champagne.
Artisans’ Champagnes full of personality
In the house that was once the de Polignac family’s home, the 17 winegrowers shared with the visitors the passion that drives them. Common values but each with unique know-how and stories…
For Jérôme, from the House Dehours & Fils of Cerseuil, being an Artisan du champagne means staying out of its zone of comfort and being personally involved in the creating process. Founding president of the association, Jérôme presented high expressive terroir wines : Grande Réserve Brut – a majority Meunier cuvée, reflecting the Champagne Dehours 42-plots terroir -, Trio S – a complex and expressive Solera wine – and Lieu-dit “Brisefer” Mareuil le Port harvest 2007 – a champagne made from old vines of Chardonnay (1966 and 1992); a single plot cuvée with a concentration of tannin form the Chardonnay.
From the Côte des Blancs, Charles Doyard works hand-in-hand with his father, Yannick, to create authentic and refined champagnes revealing the terroir personality. Charles and Yannick innovate, experiment, imagine and create elegant wines that are the quintessence of their terroir and the expression of what nature offers them. Charles was presenting the cuvée Vendémiaire Brut – a 100% Chardonnay with strong personality -, the Blancs de Blancs Grand Cru – a mineral and elegant brut nature 2009 vintage – and Oeil de Perdrix – a light rosé and complex 2011 vintage; an elegant, vinous champagne with a nice and long finish.
The Fleury brothers, Jean-Sébastien et Benoît, use their globe-trotter experience to create authentic champagnes in respect of nature. They use their creative and fun spirit to make wines as sincerely as possible. During the event they offered for tasting their Blanc de Noirs – a round and supple Pinot Noir from a perpetual reserve started 2006 in foudres -, Sonate N°9 Op.10 – a pure Pinot Noir with no added sulphur with great texture and intense flavors – and Robert Fleury 2005 – made from the oldest vines of the estates, this cuvée is harmonious with an intense gustative expression.
For Pascal and Aurélien of the House Pierre Gerbais everything is about passion and history respect; like the fact that they use the Pinot Blanc vrai – an old grape variety of Champagne. Harmony and balance are essential for those two winegrowers who are always in search for perfection. Three cuvées were presented : Grains de Celles – a fruity, delicate extra-brut with a nice balance between the acidity and the roundness -, L’Originale – a pure Pinot Blanc cuvée with a nice balance between the freshness and fruitiness – and Audace – a brut nature 100% Pinot Noir well-balanced between the richness and the fruity of the Pinot Noir.
Julie et Xavier Gonet-Médeville managed to synthesize the quintessence of the terroir and nature to offer cuvées with strong character. Their vinifications are precise and seductive for elegant and refined cuvées. The couple offered their Tradition Premier Cru – a mineral and well-balanced champagne -, their Blanc de Noirs Premier Cru – a complex and fleshy 100% Pinot Noir with a low dosage allowing to highlight in a beautiful way the minerality of the terroir on the finish – and finally the Théophile 2006 Grand Cru Extra-Brut cuvée – a mature and well-structured wine.
On the other side of the room, Nicolas Jaeger from the estate Alfred Gratien is a real nature composer; Fourth generation to preserve the uniqueness of the champagne on the estate, he does not make but creates tailor-made cuvées in the pure champagne tradition. For him “Champagne must be for wine what Haute-couture is for Fashion”. He presented three singular champagnes : Brut Classique – a champagne with a chalky minerality -, Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2007 – an elegant and intense 100 % Chardonnay vintage – and the Vintage 2004 – a wine with a lot freshness and balance.
“Patience” and “Time” are the master words of Jean Paul Hébrart who imposes to himself the unique constraint to create exceptional wines. The winegrower vinifies all the plots of his vineyard separately in oak barrels in order to preserve individual identity for high expressive champagnes. Jean Paul was presenting his famous Rive Gauche-Rive Droite Grand Cru 2010 – all the diversity and richness of the estate in one vibrant and intense cuvée -, his Cuvée Noces de Craie 2012 – the new cuvée of the House : a Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru from Aÿ -, his cuvée Rosé 100% Mareuil-sur-Aÿ – a round and fruity lieu-dit cuvée with a vanilla hint – as well as an extra-tasting with the Rive Gauche-Rive Droite 2006 in Magnum – a generous wine with stewed fruit notes .
On the Huré frères‘ side, Pierre and François have a very specific philosophy : they use their sensibility to create cuvées with distinct personality. The two brothers design champagnes that express the aromatic profils of each plot of their terroir. During the tasting, Invitation was delicate and complex at the same time, Mémoire – a cuvée blended using the Solera method started in 1982- was vigorous and powerful and the single-plot cuvée, 4 Elements Meunier 2012, was mineral and herbaceous.
Gilles, from the estate Lancelot Pienne, values his terroir and his cuvées are marked with strong character thanks to the passion and the work of the winegrower. Representing the fourth generation on the estate, Gilles combines his dedication with his expertise to maintain the style of Lancelot-Pienne champagnes. He presented his Cuvée de la Table Ronde – a mineral 100% Chardonnay from Grand Crus of the Côte des Blancs representative of the terroir of the House -, Marie Lancelot 2010 Cramant Grand Cru – a delicate 100% Chardonnay but from old vines of Cramant with a light salinity – and Cuvée Sélection – a mature wine with a lot of roundness on the palate.
Nicolas Maillart is in search of very singular styles for his champagnes and wish to reflect every nuances of the terroir and his grapes through his wines. For him, an Artisan du champagne uses all his know-how to reveal the full potential of his vineyard. That day, the winegrower brought his Les Francs de Pied 2008 Premier Cru – a powerful and refined 100% Pinot noir ungrafted -, the Millésime 2008 Premier Cru – a very delicate and mature vintage – and the Chaillots Gillis 2011 Premier Cru cuvée – a fresh and vinous Blanc de Blancs with intense aromas.
A true author; Arnaud from Champagne A. Margaine works unrestrainedly but with a lot of sensibility to create his cuvées that have a real human dimension. Fifth generation on the estate, Arnaud expresses all the potential of his terroir through his champagnes for elegant and powerful wines. The cuvée Traditionnelle Le Brut is chalky and balanced between the delicacy and the crisp citrus flavors of the blending. The Millésime 2009 is a subtle and limestone 100% Chardonnay vintage. As for the Brut Rosé – a blended rosé -, it offered fresh, juicy and fruity notes for a charming finish.
As for Christophe Mignon, his champagnes are all about balance ; balance between tradition and alternative method, balance between minerality and fruit aroma, balance between heaven and earth… The winegrower does not follow any recipe but uses his sensitivity to create crafted champagnes. Christophe brought his Pur Meunier Brut Nature – an elegant ‘no-sugar’ version with chalky notes -, his Pur Meunier Brut Nature 2008 – a delicate and harmonious highly mineral vintage – and the Pur Meunier Brut Rosé – a pleasant and fruity rosé.
Antoine and Quentin, for the House Pierre Paillard, use the unique style of their terroir to make wines combining finesse, complexity and elegance. They manage their vineyard with a lot of humility in their quest of balance and terroir complexity for their wines. Antoine and Quentin presented Les Maillerettes 2010 – a Pinot Noir Blanc de Noirs with strong personality -, Les Mottelettes 2009 – a mineral and voluptuous Blanc de Blancs – and Millésime 2006 – a complex, generous and elegant vintage.
Rodolphe of the Champagne Pierre Péters explained us that for him, being an Artisan du Champagne means searching for the product that will be his master-piece ; a product that will bring a real emotional experience. The champagnes express all the terroir identity of the Côte des Blancs. Rodolphe offered his cuvée L’Etonnant Monsieur Victor Edition MK09 – an elegant single plot and perpetual blending cuvée with plenty of flavors – and Les Chétillons 2008 – a round and sappy vintage with impressive mineral character.
As for Frédéric Savart, he is a real author; he uses all his technique, passion and know-how to make wines with true emotion and distinct identity. The winegrower creates wines that are the pure expression of the nature. We met him that day on the terrace where he was sharing in casual and friendly atmosphere his cuvées : Dame de Coeur 2012 – a profound and intense Blanc de Blancs from Ecueil with mineral notes -, Expression 2012 – a pure Pinot Noir from Ecueil, well-balanced between acidity and vinosity – and Expression 2012 – a generous and fresh rosé.
True artist, Christophe Constant, of Champagne JL Vergnon, composes wines with unique savors respecting the nature and his terroir. His method uses a natural and simple vinification and the malolactic fermentation is avoided for fruity powerful wines. Christophe brought Eloquence Grand Extra-Brut – a mineral and authentic Blanc de Blancs -, O.G Brut Nature Millésime 2010 – a complex, evolving and generous vintage – and Résonance Millésime 2008 Extra-brut – a vinous and profound vintage with a mineral hint, thanks to its low dosage.
Finally, Laurent Champs of the House Vilmart & Cie is a true storyteller. Indeed, he uses the terroir potential and the finesse of his work to create champagnes with strong identity, messengers of their story. His wines express density and complexity : Grand Cellier -a vigorous cuvée with a nice acidity and some spicy notes -, Grand Cellier d’Or 2011 – intense and complex, this vintage has a strong personality – and Coeur de cuvée 2008 – an elegant and harmonious vintage.
A petit plus of the tasting, Christine and Stéphane Derenoncourt of the AOC Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux were also here that day to introduce the Domaine de l’A and 2 master classes were organized to present the 2015 vins clairs.
There is no doubt that the Artisans du Champagne have organized once again an outstanding tasting in a friendly atmosphere…