2018 PRINTEMPS DES CHAMPAGNES TASTING
16th April 2018 – A special Champagne rendez-vous in the City Center of Reims. It is under the arcades from the nineteenth century of the chapel of the prestigious Hotel de la Paix that the fifth edition of the Passion Chardonnay tasting took place in Reims. A exceptional opportunity for professionals from all over the world to discover and rediscover the many individualities of Chardonnay in the Champagne region through the cuvées and vins clairs of the 10 members of the association.
Many individualities, ten terroirs, ten winegrowers but one grape variety – the Chardonnay – ; Passion Chardonnay is an association of winemakers who are passionate about their work and their land, sharing the same values and vision but who wish to reveal the specificity of their terroirs through the multi-facets of the Chardonnay. True interpreters of their terroirs, the winegrowers craft excellence cuvées thanks to their respect for their vineyard, their personal know-how and their choices of approach. Every year, the group welcomes professional visitors to share with them their passion and their philosophy during the tasting of Printemps des champagnes.
2017 Still wines – A challenging year…
The trip on the roads of Chardonnay starts with the 2017 still wine tasting staged by Geoffrey Orban. The terroir specialist explains to the visitors that 2017 was a complex and difficult harvest but above all a winegrower year that necessitated a lot of rigor, know-how and passion. Indeed, Spring brought hails and frost in some parts of the vineyard and the vegetative cycle was in a rush, forcing the winegrowers to work twice as hard while Summer brought a lot of rain and so the harvest required a particular vigilance and sometimes severe sorting. While the vins clairs tasting begun, the wines are expressive and already showing impressive potential reflecting the know-how and attentions of the winegrowers of the association during this challenging year.
Marcelline and Vincent from Champagne Pierre Legras handed to Geoffrey a 100% Chardonnay vin clair from the two lieuxdits Derrière Partelaines and Vignes de Partelaines in Chouilly. A clear wine made from grapes from 40 years old vines with a North-East/North-West exposure and planted on clayey-chalky soils and chalky subsoils. The plot is naturally covered with grass every two lines. As for the making-process, the wines underwent the malolactic fermentation and the vinification was in stainless steel vats.
The vin clair is fruity and pulpy with fresh grapes aromas showing the maturity of the harvest.
Karine and Richard Fouquet from Champagne Guiborat chose their 100% Chardonnay vin clair from the lieudit Mont-Aigu in Chouilly. The vines of the plot are 48 years old and benefit from a South/South-East exposure as well as a silty soil and thick chalky subsoils. The viticulture includes the ploughing of the soil under the line and grass cover between. The wines did not undergo the malolactic fermentation and the vinification is done partly in stainless steel tanks and partly in oak barrels.
The vin clair is chalky, succulent, taut and rich.
Bertrand from Champagne Lilbert-Fils offered a 100% Chardonnay vin clair from the lieuxdits Terres de Buissons (80%) with is South exposure and Moyen du Levant (20%) with its East exposure, both located in Cramant. The 60 year-old vines benefit from soils made of silt and chalk and chalky subsoils. Bertrand uses a sustainable approach and chose a vinification in stainless steel vats with the malolactic fermentation carried out.
The vin clair is ample with floral and saline notes.
Véronique and Philippe from Champagne Philippe Glavier selected a 100% Chardonnay vin clair from the lieudit Vozémieux in Oger. The vines aged more than 40 years are planted in ploughed clayey-chalky soil and chalky subsoil with a North / North East exposure. During the wine-making process, the malolactic fermentation is carried out and the vinification is done in stainless steel tanks.
The vin clair is fresh, mineral and iodic.
Emmanuel and Charles from Champagne Vve Fourny & Fils handed a 100% Chardonnay vin clair from the lieudit Mont Ferré in Vertus. The 55 year-old vines are rooted in ploughed redzina soils and chalky subsoils with a South exposure. The winemaking process includes the malolactic fermentation and a vinification stainless steel tanks.
The vin clair is creamy, chiseled and taut with lemon aromas.
For Marie Doyard from Champagne André Jacquart, it was a 100% Chardonnay vin clair from the lieudit Chétillons in Le Mesnil sur Oger. The 50 year-old vines are set in chalky-clayey soils and chalky subsoils with South / South-East exposure and covered with peels. No malolactic fermentation for this wine which is vinified in oak barrels during 8 months.
The vin clair is silky with fresh chalk and creamy notes.
Laurence and Charles Baffard from Champagne Bolieu chose a 100% Chardonnay vin clair from the lieudit Les Loges in Bassuet. The 49 year-old vines benefit from a South / South-West exposure and chalky terroirs. The plot is partially covered with natural grass. The winemaking process involved the malolactic fermentation and a vinification in stainless steel vats.
The vin clair is ample, generous and fresh with fresh fruit aromas.
Benoit from Champagne Jean Velut brought a 100% Chardonnay vin clair from the lieudit Grande Cote in Montgueux. The plot is planted with 49 years-old vines oriented South / South-East and located on a chalky terroir naturally covered with grass every two lines. The vinification is done in stainless steel vats and includes the malolactic fermentation.
The vin clair is incisive, precise and taut, with generous exotic notes.
Fabrice from Champagne Fabrice Bertemès offered a 100% Chardonnay vin clair from the lieudit Trottière in Trépail. The vines of the plot are 32 years old and benefit from a South-East exposure as well as a clayey soil and chalky subsoil naturally covered with grass. No malolactic fermentation for this wine which was vinified in stainless steel vats.
The vin clair expresses a certain exotic character. A mineral, fruity and rich wine.
Last but not least, Marie-Noëlle Henriet and Nicolas Rainon from Champagne Henriet-Bazin were presenting a 100% Chardonnay vin clair from the lieudit Voie des Traits located in Villers-Marmery. This plot with 26 year-old vines is ploughed and covered with natural grass. It benefits from a south exposure as well as light silts and graveluches soils with a chalky subsoil. The wines underwent the malolactic fermentation and were vinified in stainless steel vats.
The vin clair is fresh, taut, frank with fruity and vinous notes. An highly expressive wine.
Tasting Master-Class with Geoffrey Orban
This edition again, the group had a surprise in store with an intimate and informative masterclass dedicated this year to the 2011 vintage, tasted in Riedel glasses. An multifaceted and surprising vintage introduced by Geoffrey with the presentation of appetizing food-pairing for each cuvée. First, the terroir expert explained a bit more about 2011 in Champagne :
2011 brought a hot and dry spring with drought from March to May. The vegetative growth was strong and quick but there was not much mineralization which lead to a foliage delay, less yield, an early budding and a flowering 3 weeks in advance – which also meant an early harvest. On the contrary, summer brought rain and the beginning of the veraison – i.e. color change due to the ripening – was early. It was difficult to see precisely the dates of the harvest and because of the thickness of the bunches of grapes and the rain, grapes were exploding and rots expanded. However, Chardonnay resisted well. 2011 was a year of vine growers just like 2017 and the results were better than expected with yield of 14 000kg per hectare against 12 000 planned and the harvest offered supple wines…
The tasting started with the Côte des Blancs, on the terroir of Chouilly with Champagne Pierre Legras. Chouilly is a village sets on soils of chalk with colluvium – clay – which craft floral, mineral wines.
The 2011 vintage cuvée from the estate is a Blanc de Blanc Brut Grand Cru – 100% Chardonnay from 3 Lieux-dits : 3 old plots with 75% from Partelaines (North / North-East), 20% from Montaigu (East) and 5% from Chemins Ferrés (North / North-West). The malolactic fermentation was not undertake and the vinification was done in stainless steel vats until the bottling on April 6th, 2012. After 6 years in the cellars, bottles were disgorged in October 2017 with a Brut dosage of 5g/L.
The color is pale with stronger hints. The nose is creamy and floral with acacia honey and Carensac liquorice – expression of the chalky terroir. The palate offers a supple attack followed by a chalky frankness and a powdery salinity on the finish. With aging, honey and curry will appear.
As for the food pairings, Geoffrey recommended broiled jumbo shrimp a la plancha just with fleur de sel and lime.
Staying on the terroir of Chouilly and its chalk with colluvium, but with Champagne Guiborat.
The 2011 vintage cuvée from the estate is an Extra-Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs. This 100% Chardonnay is made only from first juice of grapes coming from 2 old plots in massal selection – 64% Le Mont Aigu (1970) and 36% Les Caurés (1946). The outcrop chalk of the terroir craft powerful wines. For the vinification, both the alcoholic fermentation and the aging were on the lees for 7 months. 64% of the wines were vinified in stainless steel vats and 36% in 400L barrels but the malolactic fermentation was not carried out. After the bottling in April 2012, the wines aged 72 months in cellars before the disgorgement in October 2017 with a 4,5g/L dosage.
The color is a yellow a little stronger that the first tasted vintage. The nose is fluid, caressing and rich in chalk expressing and heady flower (roses) notes. The oak is perfectly blended offering toasted bread aromas balanced with lemony notes. The palate is a photography of 2011 harvest : refined and pulpy with fresh grapes, light licorice and dry wood notes on the finish.
Geoffrey recommended to serve it in carafe with soft dishes like a foie gras and its crushed roasted hazelnut or cod loin and brown butter.
Not far from Chouilly, on the terroir of Cramant and its tender and thick chalk (clay) : Champagne Lilbert-Fils.
The 2011 Cramant cuvée of the Domain is a Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru presented for the tasting in magnum. This champagne is made 100% of Chardonnay coming from 2 old plots – Les Terres de Buissons located North East of Cramant for rich, ample, delicately creamy wine and Les Moyens du Levant located East for fresh, taut and rich in fruit cuvées. During the vinification, the malolactic fermentation has been triggered and the wines stayed 4 months on lees in stainless steel vats. The riddling has been done manually and the dosage that was chosen is of 6g/L.
The color is a lemon yellow. The nose is creamy with candied fruit and white heady flower aromas. The palate is creamy as well with iodic and marine notes.
For this vintage, Geoffrey suggested as food pairing, lobster with ice mint.
Still on the terroir of Cramant, but this time with Champagne Philippe Glavier.
The Folie de Cramant cuvée from the estate is a Blanc de Blancs Brut Grand Cru also presented in magnum. A single plot champagne from the parcel called Les Folies which crafts wines with power, concentration and vinosity. The vinification was in oak barrels of 300L until the bottling in February 2012. After 5 years in the cellar, the disgorgement was done in November 2016 with a 4g/L dosage.
The color is a golden yellow with yellow, green hints. The nose is rich and chalky with citrus, lemon zest and oak aromas as well as some elegant sulphurous notes – less sulphur during the vinification. The palate is concentrated and takes off during the tasting. The wine is perfectly balanced between the minerality and the wood notes.
To go with this vintage, Geoffrey recommend a poultry for its richness with Epoisse cheese sauce and fingerling potatoes.
A few kilometer further away in the Côte des Blancs, Champagne Vve Fourny & Fils is located on the terroir of Vertus.
The Monts de Vertus cuvée is an Extra-Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru. Made 100% of Chardonnay, the grapes were selected from the old plot Monts de Vertus with a South / South-East exposure and a fractured chalk sandy terroir with recrystallized chalk which crafts taut wines. For the vinification, the wines stayed 7 months on lees in stainless steel vats and the malolactic fermentation was triggered. After the bottling in April 2012, the cuvées laid 5 years in cellars before the disgorgement in June 2016 with a 3g/L dosage.
The color is a light yellow. The nose is iodic, seductive and flattering with hazelnuts and roasted notes. The palate is delicate, chiselled with both power and lightness. The finish offers a little bitterness with a chalky character for earth and sea tones.
A cuvée perfect to paired with a 24 months comté cheese or chestnut honey glazed poultry.
Champagne André Jacquart is an estate located on the chalky terroir of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger.
The Expérience 2011 vintage is an Extra-Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru cuvée. This 100% Chardonnay is a single plot champagne – a parcel called Les Chetillons with fresh chalk soils. The fermentation is done in oak barrels without malolactic fermentation. The bottling was in June 2012 whereas the disgorgement was in July 2017 with a 3g/L dosage, after 5 years of aging in cellars.
The color is a lemon yellow. The nose offers elegant and flattering white heady rose and acacia aromas. The palate is creamy, concentrate and taut with fresh chalk, lemon, grapefruit notes as well as a nice freshness on the finish.
To enhance the character of this vintage, different food-pairings can be imagined : hollow oysters, cheeses like Cantal, fish sashimi (salmon or sea bream) in tataki with sesame seeds.
Back to the Côte des Blancs with Champagne Bolieu located on the terroir Bassuet and Val-de-Viere.
The 2011 vintage is Blanc de Blancs Extra-Brut cuvée. A 100% Chardonnay from 3 old plots – Les Loges, Haut de Fosse and Cul Crut (hastier) with clay and chalk terroir. The vinification in partially done in oak barrel (25%) and the malolactic fermentation is triggered. After a bottling in June 2012, the wines aged 5 years and a half in the cellars. For the disgorgement in January 2018, the winemakers chose a 4g/L dosage.
The color is a pale yellow. The nose grips with white peach, pear and some raspberry notes. The palate is fresh, ample and rich. It develops balanced lemon, exotic and floral aromas.
The terroir specialist recommended to pair the vintage with a whipped Chaource cream put in quenelle and its Williams brunoise or a raw salmon tartare.
The next tasting is Champagne Jean Velut, a Domain located on the terroir Montgueux – a cru with soils of heady floral flint.
The 2011 Témoignage cuvée is a Brut Nature Blanc de Blancs presented in Magnum. This 100% Chardonnay vintage is from blend of different plots. The vinification is carried out in tanks and the malolactic is triggered. Once the first fermentation done, the bottling was in 2012 followed by 6 years of aging in the cellars and a manual Riddling. No dosage added for this Brut Nature during the disgorgement in January 2018.
The color is a pale yellow with green hints. The nose is fruity, fresh and aniseed-flavored offering generous white fruit, flower – dandelion, buttercup and hawthorn- and honey notes as well as fresh hazelnut aromas. The palate is concentrated, rich and chalky with a lot of freshness and a beautiful potential. A champagne with a nice tautness and calcium sensation on the tongue.
A perfect vintage to pair with oysters and its coriander sauce, razor clams, St Pieter’s fish or rockfish olive oil and baby vegetables.
Heading to the Montagne de Reims area with Champagne Fabrice Bertemès on the terroir of Trépail and is soils of chalk and clayey sand.
The 2011 Blanc de Blancs vintage is an extra-Brut Premier Cru. The Chardonnay grapes used for this cuvée come from 4 old plots – Tourniolle (1962), Fosse-Toret (1976), Trottière (1981) and Neigette (1982). The malolactic fermentation is not carried out during the vinification in stainless steel vats. The bottling was done in May 2012 and followed by 4 years and a half of aging in the cellar before the Disgorgement in November 2016. The chosen dosage was of 3.5g/L.
The color is a pale yellow. The nose is fresh, smoky and vinous with fruit, flint and smoky notes. The palate is exotic and fresh but also powdery with flint notes on the finish.
For the food pairings, Geoffrey suggested game meat like a partridge with candied grapes, pan-fried cep mushrooms and pink oyster mushrooms.
For the finale, Geoffrey gave us a 2012 insight with Champagne Henriet-Bazin from the terroir of Villers-Marmery benefitting from East exposure and chalk outcrop and gravely soil.
The 2012 Marie-Amélie vintage is a Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru presented with its brand new vintage label. This cuvée is made 100% of Chardonnay from 3 old plots of Villers-Marmery – Les Clos Ouest (1953), Les Basses Allouettes (1963) and Les Voies de Puits (1966). Regarding the wine making process, the vinification has been done in stainless steel vats and the malolactic fermentation has been triggered. After the bottling process in April 2013, the wine spent 5 years in cellar before a manual riddling and the disgorgement in April 2016 with a 3g/L dosage.
The color is a pale gold. The nose is rich and concentrated with raspberry – almost stewed -, lemon zest and Carensac licorice aromas. The palate offers fresh fruit, crunchy, tanic and robust notes.
An highly expressive wine that can easily go with red meat like an aged normandy beef rib, a beef tataki or spicy dishes.