Les Mains du Terroir de Champagne Casse-Croûte

Last November 13, in Bouzy, the group of winegrowers called Les Mains du Terroir de Champagne gathered together for a “Casse-croûte” tasting. An informal event to discover new cuvées and to exchange with winemakers of the association in a friendly atmosphere.

Reminder of who are Les Mains du Terroir de Champagne association 

Les Mains du terroir de Champagne – i.e. The Hands of Champagne terroir – is a group of talented and committed winemakers with philosophies that respect soil sustainability and include a good dose of humor and creativity… Each of them shares the same passion and the same will to get things moving on a sustainable point of view but each of them brings their own individuality.

The association includes the following estates : Champagne Aspasie / Champagne Coessens / Champagne De Sousa / Champagne Eric Rodez / Champagne Fallet-Dart / Champagne Philippe Gonet / Champagne Jacques Copinet / Champagne Janisson Baradon et Fils / Champagne Maurice Vesselle / Champagne Maxime Blin / Champagne Penet Chardonnet / Champagne Sélèque / Champagne Serge Mathieu / Champagne Vazart Coquart / Champagne Lacourte-Godbillon / Champagne Perseval-Farge

Casse-Croûte of Les Mains du Terroir de Champagne

Just before the end of year celebrations, some winegrowers in this group – typically 18 individuals (depending on their availability during a busy season) – decided to invite professionals for a unique event at the Champagne Maurice Vesselle Estate Tasting Room. The opportunity to discover, in an intimate and friendly atmosphere, the diversity of the terroirs represented within the association and to taste the champagnes – new cuvées, new vintages and more. Ultimately, it’s a sociable moment to share and exchange amongst winemakers.

The Casse-Croûte

At her table, Isabelle hosts me and explains her husband’s – Benoist – and her philosophy behind Champagne Perseval-Farge. The two winegrowers have hearts to carry on the tradition as well as their heritage, sharing emotion through singular and highly individual champagnes with a lot of energy and freshness. Their range of mono-cru champagnes from Chamery includes C. de Réserve – 11% Pinot Noir, 41% Pinot Meunier and 48% Chardonnay – : a fresh and well-balanced cuvée with a delicious richness accompanying white flower and pink grapefruit aromas. C. de Chardonnay – 100 % Chardonnay – is an atypical and ample Blanc de Blancs with almond and mineral notes. La Pucelle – 100% Pinot Noir from the lieu-dit called La Pucelle – is delicate, complex and mineral while expressing almond and cherry notes. As for, Les Goulats (new) – 67% of ancient varietals including Arbane, Petit Meslier and Fromenteau blended with 33% of Chardonnay -, it is a fresh, frank and vibrant wine with pure rhubarb and citrus aromas as well as vanilla notes on the finish.

At the table just next door, Jean-Pierre from Champagne Vazart-Coquart in Chouilly is explaining that he just turned his estate toward the organic viticulture. The winegrower has refined the already very well-developed style of the House creating elegant, mineral and powerful champagnes with delicate vinosity. The house is also cultivating long aging potential for their cuvées : as Jean-Pierre says “Its not a vintage but it must age!“. The Brut Blanc de Blancs cuvée – 100% Chardonnay with wines in Solera dating back from 1982 – is both fresh and complex with iodic and white pepper notes. The Extra-Brut Blanc de Blancs – spent one more year in cellar and at 2.5gr/L – is pure, saline and frank with generous notes of brioche. The Zero dosage – Base 2010 – is fresh, mineral and nervous with walnut notes. As for the 2009 vintage – 100% Chardonnay with an Extra-Brut dosage – is a rich and balanced wine with intense hazelnut and biscuit aromas. Finally, the 82/12 cuvée (new) – 1982 to 2012 solera wine with a 1.5 gr/L dosage – offers a great freshness and an elegant balance between the years of this complex champagne.

From Champagne Penet-Chardonnet, an estate located in Verzy, Alexandre works on the art of blending. The Domain is specialized in the production of exclusive, modern and harmonious low or non-dosé wines. The Terroir Essence cuvée  for example -2/3 Pinot Noir and 1/3 Chardonnay – is the perfect balance between freshness and vinosity with generous vanilla and roasted hazelnuts aromas. The Blanc de Blancs (new) – 100% Chardonnay from Verzy and Verzenay vinified in barrels – is both floral and fruity with an elegant freshness. The 2010 La Croix de l’Aumonier vintage (new) – 100% Pinot Noir aged in barrels – is expressive and ample with fresh butter and mineral notes. Finally, the 2009 Diane Claire cuvée – 2/3 Pinot Noir and 1/3 Chardonnay – is profound, complex and elegant with fresh iodic, spicy and orange peel aromas.

At Champagne Fallet-Dart, the family is growing grapes since 1610 and deeply passionate about their terroir. Authenticity and elegance are essential values for this estate located in the village of Charly-sur-Marne in the Vallée de la Marne area, creating refined champagnes. The 2008 vintage – 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir with an Extra-Brut dosage of 4gr/L – is supple and fresh with well-balanced citrus notes. As for the Rosée Brut – a cold maceration rosé made from a blend of 60% Pinot Meunier and 40% Pinot Noir -, it offers a lot of finesse with kumquat and black fruit notes :  a gastronomic wine.

In Avirey-Lingey, Isabelle and Michel from Champagne Serge Mathieu are often considered to be OVNI – i.e UFO in french – : Not-Identified Vinifying Object. The creative and talented couple produces authentic, elegant and expressive cuvées with fruity structure and vinous bouquet. The cuvée called La Commeliette (new) – 100% Chardonnay from 2012 harvest ; an unclaimed vintage and single-plot cuvée from the parcel La Commeliette – is “dressed” with a 1959 picture with in the middle Serge Mathieu and the grand-parents. It reveals an elegant and fresh wine with a buttered side. As for the 2000 vintage – a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay -, it is both fresh and complex with honey notes as well as lightly roasted aromas.

Located in Ambonnay, the family of the Champagne Paul Déthune estate applies an approach of Biodiversity and sustainable quality in order to create complex, fresh and terroir-driven wines. The Brut Grand Cru – 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay vinified in stainless steel tanks with an addition of 50%  of reserve wines in Solera aged in foudre – is intense and fresh with honey notes. The Blanc de Noirs – 100% Pinot Noirs from the Les Crayères plot, vinified 100% in barrels – is expressive with fruit notes – pear – melted perfectly with delicate woody and vanilla. Finally, the Princesse des Thunes cuvée – 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay vinified in foudres – is complex and fresh with generous leather, candied fruit and fig aromas.

Champagne Marie Copinet is settled on the terroir of Montgenost in the South slopes of the Sézanne area. Marie-Laure and Alexandre, the winegrowers produce champagnes with a lot of flawlessness and minerality. The Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature (0gr/L) – a blend of 3 years : 2011, 2010 and 2009 – is generous, frank and fresh with dried fruit notes. The 2009 vintage – 100% Chardonnay with 5gr/L dosage – is an elegant full-bodied wine offering round butter notes. The estate presented also 3 new cuvées : 3 single-plot Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature highlighting the terroir called Epreuve d’Artiste (EA), each bottle being numbered and signed by hand. First,  La Cocarde – from Montgenost chalky soils – presents a great freshness with grapefruit, mineral and chalky notes. Les Charrons – from Villenauxe clay-limestone soils – is delicate and fresh with a first impression with roundness. La Cabane – from Brouillet silt and clay soils – offers more complex notes with butter and toast aromas. Finally, La Ruelle des Loups – 40% Pinot Noirs and 60% Pinot Meunier from Montigny sandy terroir – reveals elegant and generous red fruit notes as well as mirabelle plum aromas.

A single terroir, a single micro-climate, a single vineyard with a single approach and philosophy – the Burgundy-style -, a single varietal for single vintage – except for the solera wines. At Champagne Coessens in Ville-sur-Arce, the terroir is first with 3.36  hectares of 100% Pinot Noir from clay soils. Jérôme Coessens crafts 8 exclusive full-bodied champagnes with elegant maturity and vinosity. The Blanc de Noir – from 2013 harvest of Fruit and Flower plots – is fresh, generous and fruity with butter and intense mineral notes as well as flower aromas. The 2010 Brut Nature – from the plot called Mineral – is fresh, frank and mineral with an elegant iodic touch and lemon notes. The 2014 Rosé de Saignée – exclusively from the Substance plot- is rich, full-bodied and generous with a lot of structure and an elegant vinosity. As for the Coteaux, the 2014 stemmed Coteaux is a full-bodied wine with seductive fruity aromas with licorice notes whereas the whole bunches Coteaux is powerful and energetic wine with harmonious mineral and red fruit notes.

At Champagne Philippe Gonet in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Pierre and Chantal explore relentlessly all the nuances and minerality of their Côte des Blancs terroir with the ambition of excellence. Thanks to their rigorous approach, the winemakers create luminous, pure and precise wines. The Extra-Brut 3210 (new) – 100% Chardonnay – is generous and mineral with a beautiful freshness on the finish. The Ter Noir cuvée (new) – 3 terroirs ; 1/3 Chardonnay from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, 1/3 Pinot Noir from Montgueux and 1/3 Pinot Meunier from Monthodon – offers power, elegance and generosity with fruity and mineral notes. The Ter Blancs cuvée – 100% Chardonnay, from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger and Ludes – is frank, round and mineral at the same time with an elegant salinity. Finally, Le roi soleil cuvée – 100% Mesnil Grand Cru Chardonnay – is fresh, vinous and generous with honey aromas.

From the village of Trigny, Champagne Maxime Blin is a family estate blending audacity, passion, love of the land and wine in order to produce from the 12 hectares in mono-cru  authentic, savorous and mineral champagnes. The Brut Carte Blanche – 80% Pinot Meunier and 20% Pinot Noir – is harmonious and expresses the beautiful generosity of the Pinot Meunier with an elegant freshness on the finish. The Maxime Blin cuvée – 1/3 Pinot Noir, 1/3 Pinot Meunier and 1/3 Chardonnay – offers power and freshness with brioche and light honey aromas. The 2006 vintage – 100% Pinot Noir – is a powerful wine with ripe yellow fruit, toast and fruit jelly aromas.

In the Grand Cru village of Aÿ, Louis Cheval is perpetuating the philosophy of Champagne Gatinois with a perfect balance between tradition and novelty as well as a special commitment in the region. A simple and smart range of cuvées with a lot of finesse and elegance all in generosity expressing with refinement the terroir of Aÿ. The Brut Tradition – 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay exclusively from Aÿ Grand Cru and aged 2 years  –  is tender and fruity but ample and complex at the same time. The Brut Réserve – 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay exclusively from Aÿ Grand Cru and aged 3 years – is both profound, rich with refined white flower and morello cherry aromas. The Brut Rosé Grand Cru – 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay – is intense and structured with light spicy notes as well as smoky and chalky soil tones. Finally, the 2009 vintage – 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay – is tender and complex with brioche and vinous notes.

At Champagne Lacourte-Godbillon in Ecueil, Géraldine and Richard maintain and develop the life of their soils in order to express their terroir with simplicity for highly individual, frank champagnes with a long finish. For them, not great champagne without great grapes… The Terroirs d’Ecueil cuvée – 85% Pinot Noirs and 15% Chardonnay – is fresh and delicate with vinous and fruity notes. The Mi-pentes cuvée (new) – 100% Pinot Noir – is frank and fresh with a delicate woody and butter side.As for Chaillots hautes vignes – 100% Chardonnay from two plots -, it is a floral, vegetal and mineral Blanc de Blancs with elegant and fresh brioche aromas. Finally, the Chaillots cuvée – 100% Pinot Noir from a single plot  – is structured and fresh with smoky, spicy and vanilla notes.

In Avize, the Champagne De Sousa is managed by Eric and Charlotte who sublimate the terroirs of the Côte des Blancs through natural and biodynamic practices as well as a single plot approach. The cuvées are wines of precision and intensity with a perfect balance between maturity, fruitiness and minerality. The Brut Réserve – 100% Chardonnay – is an expressive wine with floral and fresh notes as well as honey aromas. The Caudalies cuvée – 100% Chardonnay from old vines with an Extra-Brut dosage – is elegant and harmonious with woody and buttered notes. Finally, the 2010 vintage (new vintage) – same principle than Les Caudalies but exclusively from 2010 harvest – is fresh and structured with oxidative, hazelnut and mineral notes.

From Champagne Janisson Baradon in Epernay, the 2 brothers – Maxence and Cyril – are passionate about their soils and their work. Together, they produce frank and juicy champagnes with great maturity and finesse expressing perfectly the minerality of their terroirs. The 7C champagne – 7 varietals of Champagne :15 % Pinot Blanc, 15 % Fromenteau, 15 % Arbane, 15 % Petit Meslier, 15 % Meunier, 13 % Pinot Noir and 12 % Chardonnay – is fresh and fruity including intense and refined nectarine notes. As for the 2008 Toulette cuvée – 100% Chardonnay from a single plot -, it is a complex and generous Blanc de Blancs with stewed fruit notes whereas the Conges 2012 – a single-plot 100% Pinot Meunier champagne – is ample and subtil with pastry and saline notes. Finally, the Extra-Brut cuvée  – 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir – is lively and intense with elegant lemon and floral notes.

At Champagne Maurice Vesselle in Bouzy, it is all about time and patience for Didier and Thierry who bring freshness and finesse to champagnes which have an impressive long aging potentials. The Reserve cuvée – 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay – is a rich, full-bodied and fresh wine with citrus notes. Les Hauts Chemins cuvée – 100% Pinot Noir – is complex and powerful with vegetal and white flower notes. The 2007 vintage – 85% Pinot noir and 15% Chardonnay – is complex and aromatic with walnut notes. The Rosé cuvée – 100% Pinot Noir- is elegant and fresh with vinous and intense red-fruit aromas. Finally, the 2004 Bouzy Rouge – 100% Pinot Noir – is a stunning red-still wine with elegant and generous fruit aromas from the Pinot Noir varietal.

In Les Mains du terroir de Champagne association, each winegrower of the group has a different sensitivity, it is also what makes unique each champagne of the members who always have pleasure to share their stories with visitors.

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