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While we are of the opinion that one could drink beautiful grower Champagne every night (what wine pairs better with more foods, after all?), we are aware that the majority of Champagne will be purchased and drunk during the holiday season. We at Chambers Street Wines are truly blessed to work with a wonderful array of growers (not only in Champagne) and to visit their cellars, walk their vineyards, meet their families and taste their wines. We also take a bit of inspiration from their sense of purpose, as they continue the work of their parents, and grandparents, and beyond. So we raise a glass to the farmers and vignerons everywhere who allow us to share their wines with all of you.
Below are some Champagnes from our favorite growers which, in addition to being delicious, display the interplay between tradition and terroir. It’s no accident most of the wines we love best are farmed organically or biodynamically. Whether it’s the resolutely classic wines of Andre Beaufort and Alexandre Filaine, the majestically mineral Champagne of Laval, the brightly expressive and pure Chardonnays of Suenen, or the shockingly savory single-vineyard Pinot Noir from Ruppert-Leroy, all are individual, inspiring, and distinctive. We raise a glass to all of you and wish you the happiest holidays! John McIlwain
This wine is based on the three classic Champagne varieties with the addition of Arbanne, Pinot Blanc, and Petit Meslier. The vines are planted in the "La Fosse" vineyard, the same vineyard that gives us the fabulous cuvée Vénus. The idea behind this wine is to see if terroir trumps variety, the ancient varieties sort of cancelling each other out to reveal greater expression of minerality. The wine is outstanding with fennel and red fruit notes on the nose, very fine mousse, and a beautiful, chalky finish. In general, these ancient varieties can yield a rustic Champagne, but, as we'd expect from Agrapart, this wine is the soul of refinement. (dosage: 5 grams) -Sophie Barrett
From their small Domaine in Avize the Corbon family fashions resolutely old school expressions of Champagne. Low yields, long elevage, and blocked malolactic fermentation, they are bright, precise, taut, and nervy. This non-vintage blanc de blancs is no exception: aromas of lemon rind, brioche, give way to hints of apple blossom, and gunflint; the nervy and punchy palate offers notes of quinine, green tea and citrus zest with a good core of chalky minerality on a admirably long finish. This is lovely now, though experience with the Cobon family's wines makes me think this will gain in complexity and sophistication with time in the bottle. Lovely with a plate of oysters better still with lobster rolls. John McIlwain
Les Contrees is a fascinating study of terroir within the Riceys. Four separate lieux-dits harvested at nearly the same time, vinified the same way and disgorged within days of each other. The expressiveness of each terrior makes this a must for Champagne obsessives. Yes, Virginia, there is terroir in Champagne!
For those who dismiss the minerality and terroir specificity of Pinot Meunier in the Vallée de la Marne, Benoit Déhu's La Rue des Noyers makes a compelling case for the grape's expressiveness. From a 1.7 hectare plot of biodynamically farmed vines in the the eponymous lieu-dit in Fossoy, Benoit produces a Champagne of great suppleness and verve. The grapes are fermented in oak with native yeasts, aged under cork, and is bottled without dosage. The nose is floral and redolent of red fruits, cherry blossom, and sea spray. The palate while broad and expansive and featuring layers of orchard fruit and citrus peel flavors gives way to a frank earthiness and salty mineral character in the long, lifted, lilting finish. John McIlwain
If you'd like to explore the terroirs and character of the Côte des Blancs, Diebolt-Vallois is a good place to start. Jacques Diebolt started the domaine with his wife in 1960 and has a collection of well-situated plots in Cramant, Chouilly, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Cuis and Epernay, per writer Peter Liem, From these holdings he and his son and daughter fashion classically styled Champagnes. The crown jewel is the Fleur de Passion, a Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs from a selection of old vine plots in Cramant (Pimonts, Buzons, Goutte d’Or, Rouillées, Fourches and Gros Monts per champagneguide.net). These selections are vinified and aged in used oak barrels without malolactic fermentation, and bottled unfiltered and unfined. The resulting wines are taut, nervy, towering expressions of Cramant terroir. Uncompromising in its youth, Fleur de Passion is structured, chiseled, and profoundly chalky. With time in the bottle, it reals a suave texture, deep minerality and nuanced pure fruit. The 2008 only hints at its potential, with whiffs of lemon blossom, and white apricot and chalk, the palate is densely mineral and coiled, while refined. This is a Champagne that needs quite a few years in the bottle to reveal its breed, but should dazzle in a decade and beyond. John McIlwain
Filaine is one of our favorite Champagne houses. And the singular Fabrice Gass is one of our favorite Champagne characters. His wines are made up of Pinot Noir/Chardonnay/Pinot Meunier from the south-facing village of Damery on the slope of the Grand Vallée de la Marne. The wines are made in the manner of 100 years ago. Fabrice farms the without chemicals, ferments in wood, and due to the age of his barrels, avoids malolactic fermentation. This disgorgement is based on the 2015 vintage and balances nicely the classic richness Damery and ripeness of the vintage with undertones of minerality. Aromatically the wines offer up aromas of baked apple, spices, and soil notes. On the palate flavors of ripe red fruit and a pervasive sense of chalkiness vie with with a creamy texture on the broad, rich finish. This is a perfect wine for the holiday table with its balance of generous fruit and earthy structure. John McIlwain
100% Pinot Noir from a single biodynamically farmedvineyard in Polisot. This rosé spends 48 hours on the skins, is fermented in tank with native yeasts and is bottled without sulfur. Sale price, was $104.99.
100% Pinot Noir from a single biodynamically farmedvineyard in Polisot. This rosé spends 48 hours on the skins, is fermented in tank with native yeasts and is bottled without sulfur.
Sale price, was $104.99.
70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, biodynamically farmed. Fermented in tank and bottled without dosage or SO2.
From an organically farmed, single-vineyard parcel at the top of the slope on the western side of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay fermented in used barrels. Disgorged in Spring 2017, zero dosage. Though from a premier cru village rather than its grand cru neighbor, Aÿ, the 2010 Les Blanchiens is no less an articulate expression of the calcareous clay soils that make up its terroir. The nose offers toasty brioche, Meyer lemon peel, lemon blossom and sea spray aromas. The palate shows punchy vibrant fruit t on the attack, with an incisive minerality dominating a rich and complex mid-palate. This is manifested by pungent soil notes, which give way to distinctly savory, sapid, and powerful finish. Though bottled without dosage, this is by no means austere. (Disgorged Spring 2017) John McIlwain
From a parcel of massale-selected Pinot Noir vines within the Fosse Grely vineyard in Essoyes.