2017 PRINTEMPS DES CHAMPAGNES TASTING
Monday 24th of April – 3rd day of the Printemps des Champagne – the 23 winegrowers of the association called Terres & Vins de Champagne were hosting professionals from all over the world for their 9th edition of their annual tasting. This year again, radiant sun and blue sky on the prestigious Palais du Tau of Reims but this tasting edition of clear wines and champagnes of the group also offered some novelties…
Terres & Vins – the spirit of the terroirs of Champagne
Each year during spring and for nine years now, the group called Terres et Vins de Champagne organizes its annual clear wine tasting for the Printemps des Champagnes – formerly called Champagne Week. The Printemps des Champagnes is an event born 9 years ago through the Terres et Vins de Champagne association. The aim was to gather tasters from the Wine press, bloggers, wine merchants and sommeliers together in the same place for a pedagogical tasting. The opportunity for the professionals to feel out the character of the clear wines of the last harvest but also to discover and rediscover the champagnes of the members of the association.
18 winegrowers at the beginning, they are now 23 sharing the same passion. 23 winemakers from different geographical areas but with the same will to explain the diversity of the Champagne terroirs. Each year, they come together in a friendly way to share their wines and their taste for authentic Champagne wines but also to present their convictions, their methods in which they believe, their philosophies to value and highlight the character of each type of terroir, no matter what are the condition of the year. Their tasting is the opportunity for passionates to gather around honest wines made by hands-on men and hands-on women. Through the different editions and the exchanges, we better understand the subtlety and the work of these terroir connoisseurs. 23 characters, 23 convictions for a multitude of terroirs and a great diversity of cuvées !
Pascal Agrapart, Françoise Bedel et Vincent Desaubeau, Raphaël et Vincent Bérêche, Francis et Delphine Boulard, Emmanuel Brochet, Alexandre Chartogne, Vincent Couche, Marie Courtin, Laure et Pascal Doquet, Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, Étienne Goutorbe, Olivier Horiot, Cyril Jeaunaux, Valérie et Benoît Lahaye, Aurélien et Thierry Laherte, Vincent Laval, David Léclapart, Marie-Noëlle Ledru, Franck Pascal, Olivier Paulet, Fabrice Pouillon, Aurélien Suenen, Benoît et Mélanie Tarlant. A tasting with a buddy spirit to feel and try to understand the latest vintage on more than 30 different terroirs with as usual a “rant” theme to decry consumer practices going against the tasting of great wines : # Sansglaçon – i.e # Withouticecube.
2016 Clear Wine Tasting
For the third year in a row, the Terres & Vins de Champagne group welcomed the visitors in the center of Reims, in the Palais du Tau but this year the association chose to do a two-time tasting indicated by the sound of bell – the Vins Clairs tasting first and the champagnes thereafter. The opportunity for the winemakers to present their clear wines of the last harvest and take the time to exchange with the tasters before moving on to the champagnes. Indeed, before making champagne, you need to make wine… A still wine called clear wine or Vin Clair – a wine which has finished its alcoholic fermentation and is ready to be blended with other clear wines before being bottled. Their tastings during April are a good opportunity to get an idea of the character and quality of the last harvest and of the future cuvées. Lets zoom in on 8 estates and their Vins Clairs…
First, Françoise Bedel presented a 100% Pinot Meunier clear wine from limestone and silt soils : an original wine with smoky and yellow fruit notes. Her second still wine – a Pinot Meunier from marl terroir – offered a lot of generosity and freshness as well as a subtle delicateness. Finally, her Chardonnay Vin Clair coming from a Marl and clay soil was mild, delicate and fruity.
For Delphine Boulard, she presented two singular Vins Clairs of the estate : Les Rachais – a 100% Chardonnay and single plot wine – a Vin Clair showing already a great potential of the wine and an elegant balance between maturity, aromas and acidity. The second wine, Pétraéa – a Pinot Noir in solera with different years since 2012 – developed the power and elegance of the Pinot Noir with beautiful and delicate red fruit aromas.
At Champagne Geoffroy, the still wine called Volupté – a 100% Chardonnay from Cumières – was elegant and mineral with a lot of fineness and freshness whereas Empreinte – a Pinot Noir from Cumières – was expressive, vegetal and complex with red fruit notes. As for the Rosé de Saignée – a Blanc de Rosé from Cumières, 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay -, the wine was vibrant, harmonious and pure with an elegant vinosity.
As for Vincent Laval, the winemaker was presenting his Vin Clair of Les Chênes 2016 – a 100% Chardonnay wine – with its plum aromas and its generous minerality. A fruity and fresh wine. The Haute Chèvres 2016 Vin Clair – a Blanc de Noirs from Cumières – was generous, supple, mineral and fresh. To finish, Longue Violes 2016 – a 95% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier still wine – offered a lightly milky nose and a fresh, sharp and fine palate.
At the table of David Léclapart, the visitors discovered a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from grapes coming from the village of Trépail. The wine is very fresh, chiseled and generous on aromas with delicate woody notes highlighting the fruit aromas and bringing an elegant full-bodied structure. A wine showing already a great potential.
Next table, Olivier Paulet chose his Les Vauraiages Vin Clair – a structured, saline and iodic Meunier wine from Rilly with yellow fruit notes and offering an elegant acidity. The second Vin Clair, Les Entre deux rues – a Pinot Noir still wine from Rilly – was elegant and well-structured with a discreet vinosity. Finally, the Chardonnay clear wine from Rilly offered vinosity with balanced, mature fruit notes and delicate almond aromas.
To finish, three clear wines from Champagne Pouillon : the first one, Les Valnons – a Chardonnay wine from Aÿ – was lightly woody and developed mineral and white fruit notes. As for Les Blanchiens – a 100% Pinot noir from Mareuil sur Aÿ -, it offered a lot of freshness and structure with a great aromatic purity. Finally, Les Chataigners – a Pinot Meunier from Festigny – brought generous stewed fruit notes with a delicate vinosity.
The sound of the bell…
At the sound of the bell, the corks pop and the champagnes tasting can begin…. It is time to reveal the wines after the blending and the second fermentation… The tasting of Terres & Vins de Champagne takes place in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The visitors exchange easily with the winegrowers, discovering their approach as well as their personality over a glass of champagne. The wines are terroir expressive showing clearly the individuality of each of the winemakers. Lets take a closer look to some of them…
The discovery of the terroirs of Champagne starts with David Léclapart – a winegrower who says he loved the vine before the wine and who creates striking, original wines. This unconventional winemaker takes care of a 2.97 hectare vineyard in Trépail – Montagne de Reims – spread over 22 plots offering soils composed of a mix of clay and limestone from the Cretaceous period, rich in flint stones bringing extra minerality and smoky notes to the wines. Working without failing neither the vine, nor the earth, nor man (and cosmic equilibrium) is really important for David, this is the reason why he chose the biodynamic approach. Given the unforgiving and harsh climate conditions in Champagne, it is important to point out that it is immensely difficult to practice and maintain the biodynamic viticulture so it requires to be highly dedicated. Furthermore, all of his wines are single vintages – David doesn’t use any reserve wines -, the wines are non-dosé, non-filtered and non-fined, with minimal sulfur used. He creates exceptionally clean, pure and highly singular champagnes with the energy characteristic of Biodynamic wines. Tasted that day, L’Amateur 2013 – a 100% Chardonnay cuvée – is generous and fruity with pastry notes. L’Apôtre 2011 – a Blanc de Blancs without any dosage, 100% in oak barrels – offers complex and profound character with an elegant vinosity on the finish. Finally, L’Aphrodisiaque 2012 – 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, 100% in oak barrel and new cuvée coming out in September – is complex, generous and vegetal with roundness and maturity.
Lets take the direction of Merfy to meet Alexandre Chartogne from Champagne Chartogne-Taillet. Alexandre comes from a long line of Champagne winegrowers with a history dating back to the 17th century. In charge since 2006, he carried on what his father initiated : to manage the estate with respect for the terroir and to emphase each distinct characteristics of the plots of the vineyard. Lying on the southern slopes of the Massif de Saint-Thierry in the Montagne de Reims, the estate counts thirty parcels for a total of 11 hectares of vines averaging 25 years old. As for the terroir, it offers a combination of sand, clay and chalk soils and Alexandre works to enhance their minerality : the viticulture focus on preserving the individuality of each terroir, for the vinification each plot is vinified individually either in stainless steel vats, in barrels or in concrete ovoid tank. The winemaker creates pure, vibrant, intense and complex wines strongly driven by the terroir ; champagnes expressing his focus on a more sensitive viticulture like the cuvées offered during the tasting. First, Les Barres 2012 – a 100% Pinot Meunier made from ungrafted vines –, a buttered, mineral, complex and expressive champagne. Sainte Anne – a 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir blend – offers delicate and fresh minerality. A racy and concentrated wine with great finesse. Finally, Chemin de Reims 2008 in Magnum – a 100% Chardonnay aged in concrete ovoid tank – is well-structured, generous and elegant with brioche notes.
Right opposite table, Raphaël and Vincent Bérèche, 5th generation on the family estate farm their 9,5 hectare in over 20 parcels with great respect for nature as their main aim is to optimize the quality of the grapes. The vineyard spread across six communes: Ludes, Chigny-les-Roses, Trépail and Ormes for the Montagne de Reims, Mareuil-le-Port and Festigny in the Vallée de la Marne. The important partition of the estate, the field blend of the big three champagne varieties and the diversity of soils – sandy silty soils over chalk bedrocks, clay-calcareous – offers to the winemakers a great range to create highly individual wines. The estate is also among the first House to be High Environmental Value certified ; vineyards and soils concentrate the most attention of the brothers, with an approach to respect terroirs close to organic method : plowing, grassing, proscribing inputs, use of herbal preparations… In the cellar they chose to focus on fermenting in oak with native yeasts and to age under cork creating wines reflecting their terroir. The cuvées are deeply complex and vinous, pure and natural. For the tasting, Raphaël and Vincent were presenting their Brut Réserve – 30% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 35% Pinot Meunier, with a majority of 2014 -, a wine full of complexity, roundness and freshness. Rive Gauche – a 100% Meunier from Mareuil le Port, base of 2013 – round, vegetal, lightly smoky with a great minerality on the finish and iodic notes. Finally, Le Cran 2009 – a 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, from high hills of Ludes with limestone soils – is vinous mature and long with vanilla and spicy notes but also a nice freshness on the finish.
Located in Crouttes-sur-Marnes in the Vallée de la Marne, the vineyard of Françoise Bedel and Vincent Desaubeau covers a total of 8,40 hectares with clay and limestone terroirs. The Françoise BEDEL & Fils estate is one of the most emblematic of the biodynamic approach in Champagne : a pioneer in the region, Françoise adopted more organically and sustainable practices in the 90’s and in 1998 began to work biodynamically. Thanks to this method Françoise has made the most of her terroir and the vines roots descend deeper into the subsoil for mineral, structure and terroir character wines. The goal for the winemakers is to look after the soils so the grapes can be the pure expression of a terroir, a year to produce a great Champagne wine. The cuvées are strikingly original and focused on maturity, roundness, strong expressiveness with an oxidative touch. As for the long aging, it offers a leesy character to the wines. Her Dis “Vin Secret” cuvée – a 80 % Pinot Meunier, 5% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay, 2008 non-vintage wine – is generously aromatic, round, fruity and complex whereas Entre Ciel et Terre – a 2010 non-vintage blending with 60% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay, and 10% Pinot Noir – is taut and mineral with a saline touch and a delicate vinosity. Finally, L’Âme de la Terre – a 2005 vintage, 60% Meunier, 10% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay – is vinous, rich, intense with elegant and light buttered, mushroom, underwood notes.
For Vincent Laval, the estate has been organic since 1971 – a precursor and courageous choice for that time. The slopes of the vineyard located in Cumières in the Vallée de la Marne benefit from, chalky and clay soils – and sometimes black earth -, chalky subsoil, a particular and warm microclimate as well as a south exposure for a perfect minerality and maturity of the grapes. As for vines, their average age is more than 30 years with some that are nearly 70 years old. The winemaker preserves the character of each plot of his 2,5 hectare vineyard, accompanying the vinification, to finally find the plot expression in the finished bottle. Vincent chose to proscribe any techniques and products which are likely to present a risk to the environment and public health or to alter the quality of the wines. The winemaker creates transcendent and intensely soil-expressive wines with an impressive purity, structure and complexity ; champagnes expressing both the individuality of the terroir and the personality of the wine grower. The 2012 Hautes Chèvres cuvée – a 100% Pinot Meunier from the terroir of Cumières – offers vegetal, complexity and freshness. A delicate, mineral wine with a great purity. As for the 2013 Les Chênes champagne – a 100 % Chardonnay from Cumières -, it is a complex cuvée with a great mineral persistance, a saline character and floral notes.
The estate of Delphine and Francis Boulard is mainly located in the village of Cormicy, in the Massif de Saint-Thierry – also called ” Petite Montagne de Reims ” i.e. Little Mountain of Reims – on calcareous siliceous soils. Winemakers for at least 6 generations, the house is however a quite recent creation. Indeed, in 2009 Francis Boulard and his daughter Delphine took their independence and created the Francis Boulard & Fille House. Together, they chose the organic approach in the logic of producing wines closer to nature. As for the Biodynamic method, it allows to reach wines with greater complexity and it favors the appearance of a beautiful minerality in the wines. The vineyard now covers 3,65 hectares with an average age of 35 years. Natural weed cover, short pruning, ploughing 4 to 6 times a year, massale selection,… Father and daughter work hand in hand on the estate, enhancing their terroir and what nature gave them in order to create floral, savorous and delicate terroir champagnes. The first tasted wine, Les Murgiers 2013 – a 70% Pinot Meunier and 30% Pinot Noir Blanc de Noirs – is a mineral, well-structured, fresh and fruity wine with dried fruit and floral notes. As for the 2010 Les Rachais cuvée – a 100% Chardonnay single plot cuvée from Massale selection -, it is vegetal with a nice minerality and freshness as well as some pastry and honey notes.
Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, takes care of the 14 hectare family estate extended over the slopes of Damery, Hautvillers, Fleury-la-Rivières and mainly Cumières. The vineyard is divided into a 35 plots mosaic where the vines benefit from a generous amount of sunshine with a southeast exposure letting the grapes to fully express their individuality. At champagne Geoffroy, the soils – chalky, with sandstone and clay – are at the center of the approach of the winegrower. The search for harmony, the natural practices, the eco-friendly approach allow to preserve the balance of each plot and force the roots of the vines to go deep for mineral wines. In the cellar, each plot is pressed and vinified separately preserving perfectly the character of the terroir. Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy creates highly individual, rich and fresh champagnes with a saline expression and a fruity character. Three cuvées were presented by Jean Baptiste for the tasting : first, Expression – a 50% Pinot Meunier, 40% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir cuvée – is mineral, generous and crunchy at the same time with a vinous finish. Then, Houtrants complantés – blending of vintages (from 2008 to 11) and 5 grape varieties located on the same plot (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Arbane et Petit Meslier) – an exotic, well-balanced wine with a finish on freshness and vinosity. Finally, the 2006 Vintage – a Brut Nature blend of Chardonnay, Meunier and Pinot Noir – expresses underwood and brioche notes. A complex and elegant wine.
Valérie and Benoît Lahaye farm their family vineyard following the organic approach. Located on the terroir of Bouzy, the estate is spread over the Grand crus of Bouzy, Ambonnay and Tauxières-Mutry as well as further south in the Côte des Blancs with a total of 4,8 hectares. Benoît is a pragmatic winegrower who has chosen to treat its vineyard with plants or minerals and whose vineyard is both organic and biodynamic certified. For few years now, he also plows all his vines with a workhorse to aerate it and limit competition regarding water. Through his work, the winegrower wants to improve the characteristics of the terroir and reveal the full potential of the soil and the vines. In the cellar, he is as less interventionist as possible creating champagnes that reflect the personality of his terroir and expressing elegance, richness and complexity. Bouzy terroir brings structure, power and fruit, while the terroir of Ambonnay brings acidity and roundness. His non-vintage 2013 Brut Nature – a blend of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay – is iodic, elegant, complex, and round with subtil notes of brioche. The 2007 Vintage – 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay – develops elegant vegetal, smoky and spicy notes. The finish is mineral and fresh. Finally, Violaine 2012 – 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay – is a vibrant and expressive wine with power and vinosity.
The vineyard of Franck Pascal is located in Baslieux sous Châtillon and is divided into five villages on the right bank of the Vallée de la Marne. The young winegrower and owner of 7.10 hectares of vines has a clear vision of champagne : zero chemistry. Committed for twenty years now to the organic approach and then biodynamic, he seeks to preserve as best as possible the life that settles in his vineyard as well as his clay with flint and millstone terroir. Besides biodynamics, Franck uses homeopathy, plant dynamics and other energy techniques as well as essential oils and other approaches such as the geobiology. A real creator of emotions through the Champagne wines, his work in Biodynamics, the understanding and attention to his terroir allow him to produce champagnes with racy and unique character. Fluence 2012-2013 for example – 60% Pinot Meunier, 34% Pinot Noir and 6% Chardonnay – is a vegetal and generous Brut nature with a lot of minerality and freshness. Harmonie – a single plot cuvée made of 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Pinot Meunier -, a lightly saline and vinous wine, expresses underwood, buttered notes. Pacifiance – a restyled Solera from 2006 to 2008 – offers aromas of maturity as well as butter and toasty notes. A well-balanced wine with a lot of freshness. Finally, Confiance 2015 – a 100% Pinot Meunier Coteaux Champenois – expresses light woody notes with violet and red fruit aromas – raspberry and morello cherry – as well as a nice limestone minerality.
One of the specificity of the estate of Olivier Paulet is that all the vineyard is located in Rilly-la-Montagne, on the north side of the Montage de Reims. 4th generation on the estate, Olivier takes care of a little bit more than 8 hectares with clay and chalky soils. The winemaker is looking for the best expression of the quality of his terroir and the grape varieties. Olivier has been using biodynamic practices in the vineyard for years now, working the soil and introducing the practice of controlled natural grassing in order to extract the best from his terroir. The natural viticultural practices allow also to showcase the particularities of the chalky terroir of Rilly, each grape variety profiting from a specific soil : the Pinot Noir is planted on terroir with a higher degree of clay whereas Chardonnay is located on soils with more chalk, and finally Pinot Meunier is planted on sandier soils. Olivier creates thanks to his diversified terroir frank, mineral and expressive wines with a great balance. The Extra-brut Tradition of the estate – a blend of 50% Pinot Meunier, 25% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay – is expressive, sharp and mineral with a fine and round palate. The Rosé 2006 – a maceration rosé wine made of 20% Meunier, 80% Chardonnay – offers spicy, oriental and delicate notes and is both vinous and elegant. As for Risléus 2002 – a vintage made of 47% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Meunier and 20% Pinot Noir – is fresh, complex and supple with white flower aromas and light mushroom notes.
Founded in 1947 and located in the middle of the Grande Vallée de la Marne – more precisely in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ -, the estate of Fabrice Pouillon is composed of 6,5 hectares spread over 7 villages and 36 plots. The vines benefit from a primarily marl with Cretaceous chalk and limestone terroir. Dedicated to the vitality, energy and health of his vineyard, Fabrice began the conversion to organic viticulture in 2003. Today, the winegrower incorporates biodynamic principles as well : compost management, tea concoctions… And there is more : conscientious winegrower, Fabrice is also a member of the Lutte Raisonnée. In the cellar, most parcels are vinified separately to maintain a maximum diversity of terroir expression. The champagnes produced at the estate are expressive, vibrant terroir-driven and beautiful wines reflecting the passion of the winegrower and his dedication to his terroir. Lets take a look at his Réserve cuvée for example – a 70% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier blend. A generous wine expressing buttered and candied fruit aromas. The Valnons 2010 – a Blanc de Blancs made with Chardonnay from the cru of Aÿ – is complex, elegant and peppery. Finally, Méthode Fabrice Pouillon, Chemin du bois – a Blanc de Noirs made of 100% Pinot Noir from Mareuil sur Aÿ – is highly mineral with iodic notes. A very elegant champagne.
In charge of the family estate since 2009, Aurélien Suenen takes care of vineyards spread over five hectares and over various crus : Cramant, Chouilly and Oiry for the Chardonnay – Côtes des blancs with its terroir of Campenian chalk as well as clay in some small area -, the village of Montigny-sur-Vesle for Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier along with Chardonnay – Massif de Saint Thierry with its sandy soil and its subsoil of clay and silt. The objective of the winegrower is to obtain wines that he wishes to be the reflection of his soils so he takes a particular attention to the healthiness of the soil. The vineyard is therefore in sustainable method with practices like the plowing and the abandonment of some others like the use of herbicides. Champagne Suenen estate produces wines with a lot of freshness, elegance and minerality, like Oiry, a non-vintage cuvée – 2013 base, 100% Chardonnay – which is generous and round as well as fresh and mineral on the finish with floral and citrus aromas. C+C – 2013 base, Blanc de Blancs and a blend of wines from Chouilly and Cramant – is delicate, fruity and complex at the same time as well as incisively chalky. To finish, 2010 Vintage – a Blanc de Blancs – develops butter and brioche notes and is well-balanced with a great potential of aging.
Benoît and Mélanie Tarlant – 12th generation of the estate – are brother and sister. Together they manage no less than 55 plots spread over 14 hectares located in 4 different crus in the heart of the left bank of the Vallée de la Marne. The winegrowers chose a highly demanding viticulture, adapted to the mosaic of soils and subsoils they take care: chalk, limestone but also Sparnacian – clay-limestone – sands and pebbles. Their work approach focus on revealing the diversity of the wines, plots and subsoils of the estate – each plots for instance are worked according to its specific needs. Caring about the respect of the environment, nature guides the vine culture of Benoît and Mélanie who create full-flavoured and terroir-driven champagnes. Tasted during the event, the “Zero” Brut Nature cuvée – 1/3 Chardonnay, 1/3 Pinot Noir, 1/3 Pinot Meunier with 40% reserve wines – offers a nice freshness and a great minerality for a complex wine with underwood aromas. As for “BAM” – a Brut Nature made of 18% Pinot Blanc, 18% Arbanne, 64% Petit Meslier, and from a perpetual reserve from 2010 to 07 -, the wine is racy, delicate and elegant with aromas of the old grape varieties. Finally, “La Vigne d’Antan – 100% Chardonnay from the 2002 harvest– Ungrafted – is buttered, sily and mineral with great freshness on the finish. An elegant and aromatic champagne.
Just like every year, the tasting of the association of Terres & Vins de Champagne was a success. The professionals got the opportunity to enjoy a real moment of sharing and emotions…