Laval time!


There's something inspiring about the wines of Champagne Georges Laval made by the ebullient Vincent Laval. Sure, the wines are delicious, precise, and substantial, but they have an inner vibrance deriving from their distinct terroir and longtime natural viticulture. If anything, the Champagnes could be described as self-assured. The Lavals have been farming organically since 1971, trading parcels with their neighbors along the way to craft larger contiguous blocks to facilitate this. After meticulous selection at harvest the grapes are pressed in a traditional 2000kg Coquard vertical press. The vins clairs are fermented with native yeasts, aged in barrels, bottled with low sulfur and typically without dosage.

Organic farming since 1971 reults in healthy soils and magnificent wines at Champagne Laval

The south-facing, ampitheatre-shaped village of Cumières located on the southern slope of the Montagne de Reims, overlooking the Marne River is something of a sun trap and is often the first village to begin the harvest.

Looking west across the vines of Cumières

The Laval wines reflect this warm microclimate with mouth-filling, beautiful fruit, tempered by incisive minerality derived from the old vines and organic farming. This ripeness allows for bottling without dosage without sacrificing charm or length on the finish. Barrel-aging also adds a light oxidative burnished note to the wines lending further complexity and nuance to their wines.

I had the opportunity to sit down and taste the whole lineup last week with some industry folk who know the wines much better than I and to say it was a thrill would be a gross understatement. My friend John McIlwain (who took these photos and is the original author of the text thus far - I am shamelessly re-purposing) has opened a fair number of bottles with me over the years. I've always enjoyed them. But tasting the full range with a meal is a different experience. These were not only capital-G Great wines but among the most versatile and food friendly Champagnes I've come across, each one more fascinating than the last.

The Cumières Brut Nature, base vintage 2019, is lean and sinewy. One can really feel the energy bursting at the seams here, as well as the chalk, with plenty of material and acid structure to ensure improvement with time.

By contrast the 2017 Cumières Brut Nature (MAGS!) is just open for business. Disgorged at the end of May along with everything else on today's offer, this was lovely, redolent with orange blossoms and peel, ginger and a savory character that reminded me of a perfect tomato while not actually tasting like one. Again, wildly mineral. No hurry but wow.

The 2018 Blanc de Blancs Les Chenes was the most intense wine on the table. There is so much richness and texture here, with notes of preserved lemon and white lilies and Gala apple. This was a crowd favorite last week, incredibly satisfying now and still many years to go.

The 2017 Hautes Chevres is Blanc de Noirs (all Meunier) and served alongside Les Chenes presented a terrific contrast. This was all understatement, delicate and finely textured, with delicate red fruit character, touches of yellow plumskin and tons of dry extract.

Last in the lineup is the 2015 Longues Violes. Made in tiny quantities, I feel incapable of describing this wine. It was magnificent. Expensive, I realize but still. Totally brilliant.

The quantities on offer today are everything that is available. If you have never tried the Laval wines before, then this is a great opportunity, as the quality level through the range is so high. If you are a fan then I'll simply say these are definitely wines you want.

Sam Ehrlich

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