Champagne is just one of those names. Magical, steeped in history, alchemy, the odd rumour or two, covered over with lashings of branding, pr and big money (maquillage as they would call it). Relatively small in actual vineyard area size, mighty in reputation. Don’t mess with Champagne, call your sparkling Champagne anywhere else In the world, and you’ll likely end up in court. With some 400 individual houses and over 2000 individual labels made each year, with one of the largest hectolitre per hectare allowances in Europe, Champagne production is somewhat sizemic. The largest Houses like Nicolas Feuillate, Moet, Veuve Cliquot and others lead the way, having made a global market for Champagne. Where they have paved the way for awareness and consumption, the smaller, family owned producers have continued to apply their craft, passing it down the generations, in limited production, unique climates, methods and techniques. Small in size, big in ability, to craft truly delicious wines of people and place where as the big names, pound for pound, will never match their vinous intentions. These Champagnes de Vignerons are making headway in a market where people crave uniqueness, personality and less focus on brand.
Côte des Blancs
Below Epernay, ending in Vertus sits the famous hillside of the Cotes des Blancs. Grand Cru villages, primarily producing the noble variety of Chardonnay. Mineral laden soils of limestone and chalk give plenty of minerality, freshness and verve to these wines. As you travel between the Grand Crus of Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Oger and Le Mesnil, not only is it pretty, you soon discover that each village is completely unique. But what stands out, is the purity of these wines, which comes directly from the soils. Some of the Chardonnay wines are brighter, fresher, others more creamy and rich whilst others are laden with fossil shells providing extraordinary complexity and depth of flavours to discover. Love it or hate it, Chardonnay, when it carries soil expression and is handled well, (not over oaked etc) can be utterly spellbinding.
Far to the South East of the Champagne region sits the lesser known Montgeux. Now well and truly on the map but for a long time considered a lesser cousin of Champagnes top sites, second to the Cote des Blancs, Montagne de Reims and Valley de La Marne. Major contenders for some of Champagnes most intriguing and flat out delicious wines of people and place are now coming out of Montgeux. Jacques Lassaigne is said to not be short of a Michelin star…or hundred, Fleury, Bouchard and a host of others are making critical acclaim. Big houses use Montgeux to make up their blends, similar to the Cote des Blancs yet so different, primarily Chardonnay vines are grown on these soils. Nutty, rich, slightly warmer than the cote des blancs, the wines are capable of being utterly fantastic.
See our producers Philppe Gonet
MONTAGNE DE REiMS
The Montagne de Reims is mostly made up of national park forest. Forming a broad, undulating headland of forests and thickets that stretches east-west for about 30km and north-south for 6-10km.
The vineyards hug its western and northern flanks, planted in a huge semicircle that extends from Louvois to Villers-Allerand. AS you circle round the Montagne de Reims from Verzy and Verzenay on the North slopes, where fitness and elegance are in abundance thanks to the limestone, chalk and silex soils, you come round the corner to Bouzy and Ambonnay where powerful and complex Pinot Noir thrives. Plantations are predominantly Pinot Noir with some Chardonnay. Robust wines with character, power and richness of flavour, providing incredible structure to blends..
See our producers Monzon-Leoux