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While in some ways it seems frivilous right now, to send out a Champagne email, we will eventually emerge from this and once again be able to gather with our friends and loved ones. And survival and perserverence are two wonderful traits to salute. For now we raise a virtual glass to all of you and your loved ones and wish you the best of health (really) and toast to weathering these unprecedented times.
There's a great deal to admire in the Champagnes and ethic of Aurelien Suenen. His wines combine beautiful fruit with a frank minerality in a graceful way. This results from conscientious farming (Suenen has been in transition to organic certification since 2009) and deft work in the cellar (native yeast fermentation, natural malolactic fermentation, moderate use of sulfur, and dosage determined by blind tasting trial). Blessed by an array of well-situated parcels in the grand cru villages of Cramant, Chouilly, and Oiry (the latter of which he bottles as a single village wine), his progress as a grower has been inspiring to watch. Year after year his wines display greater precision, energy, and verve, even in difficult vintages. The wines are filigreed expressions of the different characters of chalk between Oiry and that of Chouilly and Cramant. Oiry is the brighter and lacier of the two cuvées, displaying brisk acidity, hints of lemon oil, and a crystaline finish, while C & C is equally chalky with more breadth and suppleness to the palate, with flavors of orange peel and salt spreading out on the broad powerful finish. The contrasts between the two is fascinating and a delicious excercise in tasting for lovers of terroir driven Champagnes.
Also it should be noted that Suenen's wines, while true to vintage, manage to avoid the pitfalls of warmer vintages. Case in point his beuautiful 2015 Mont-Aigue (100% ungrafted from vines planted in sandy soil in Saint Thierry) farmed with assistance from Delphine Boulard and Alexandre Chartogne. Despite the warmth there is great freshness and sapidity here not usually found in the variety.
Champagne, though oft-maligned for wines that seem un-rooted due to a tradition of blending, has plenty of wines of terroir if you take the time to look. And an exciting place to start is with Aurelien Suenen. His village releases display his desire to grow Champagnes that articulate a sense of place. He notes that in Cramant there is different terroir expression in the wines from the high vineyards and the lower lying vineyards, with the vines planted in the latter proving to be more distinctly mineral. C + C, a blend of wines from Chouilly and Cramant is richer and more briny than the Oiry bottling. The nose offers an intoxicating blend of orange blossom, sea spray, and stone fruit aromas, while the palate is incisively chalky, pungently stony, and taut. This is not to say this is austere, rather brisk and punchy with great persistence on the long, expansive, and sapid finish. John McIlwain
The exacting Aurelien Suenen is one of our favorite growers in Champagne. The wines deftly combine incisive chalkiness with pure vibrant fruit. And his 2016 based Oiry Blanc de Blancs is a beauty. This is somewhat obscure appellation—we haven't been able to find another Champagne with this single village designation, as yet—so this is a fine opportunity to taste Oiry's distinctive, chalky terroir. Aurelien's parcels contain some very old Chardonnay vines which make for some pungently mineral, stony wines. The vins clairs are fermented partially in barrel, spend nine months on the lees, and are bottled with 2 g/L dosage. The 2016 is brisk, briny, and fresh on the nose with aromas of yuzu, Meyer lemon, quinine, and chalk dominating. The palate is lacy, nervy and very dry with racy acidity and an energetic driving finish. Suenen continues to grow with each vintage and this line-up of village designated Champagnes is particularly exciting. The 2016 will make a fine aperitif and shine brightly with crudo, sashimi, and creamy cheeses. John McIlwain