The valley between Montgueux and Troyes seen from Emmanuel Lassaigne's vines.

Montgueux: A Unique Terroir in Champagne

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My first stop in Champagne was at Domaine Jacques Lassaigne in Montgueux. I’m not prone to hyperbole, but these wines are excellent. Montgueux is five kilometers from the city of Troyes in the Aube. It’s a unique terroir, and essentially a viticultural island: an isolated outcropping of chalk some distance south of the Côtes des Blancs, yet still north of the Côte des Bars. In theory, this should be Pinot Noir country, but chalky soil prompts Montgueux’s growers to plant Chardonnay, which acts as an ideal conduit for chalky minerality. In fact, Montgueux does not have a history of viticulture and was only planted to vine in the 1960s. Peter Liem tells us that the Chardonnay from Montgueux, with its broad, almost tropical character, was popular with négociants, particularly Piper-Heidsieck. Now, there are a handful of independent growers in Montgueux; amongst them, Lassaigne is the best.

 

The majority of Lassaigne’s vines are planted across the street from his house overlooking the valley between Montgueux and Troyes. He farms four hectares in total and buys small quantities of grapes from trusted farmers in the village. I saw plant life between the rows and Emmanuel volunteered the information that he does not work with chemicals. To the question “why not become certified organic?”, he replied “the French are masters in the art of paper.” Many growers who work without chemicals prefer to remain uncertified because they resent having to deal with the bureaucracy and pay the fees to be certified in something they’ve been doing for years of their own accord.

 

In the cellar, Lassaigne vinifies all parcels separately and the fermentations are done in stainless steel, though he uses some oak for “Le Cotet” and “Colline Inspirée” with superb results. Lassaigne adds sulfur at harvest in order to keep the fruit from oxidizing and the juice pristine. Always looking to minimize chemical intervention, Lassaigne told me that they have been disgorging without sulfur at his Domaine for 32 years. Opposed to oenologists and their insistence upon sulfur as a preventative measure, he told me: “we don’t use very much sulfur, and still nothing goes wrong.” The first fermentations are completed with native yeasts and the second fermentations with a neutral yeast strain that imparts no aroma to the wine and promotes a very long, cool second fermentation. This long, slow, cool second fermentation develops fine bubbles, an integral part of good Champagne.

 

These wines are absolutely stunning - crafted by a perfectionistic and creative vigneron. We encourage you to try all three, the Blanc de Blancs de Montgueux, an expression of Montgueux terroir, Le Cotet, a superb single vineyard, and Colline Inspirée, masterfully blended from Lassaigne’s oldest vines. -Sophie

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Lassaigne, Jacques NV Champagne Blanc de Blancs Vignes de Montgueux

Lassaigne's Champagnes hail from the village of Montgueux, which lies south of the Côte des Blancs and north of the Aube. This is a unique terroir for Champagne; the chalk that typifies the Côte des Blancs mingles with clay and yields a broader style of Chardonnay-based Champagne than the more chiseled and laser-like versions from further north. This wine is raised in stainless steel and highlights the flavors associated with Montgueux: bright citrus fruits with leafy, herbal notes, and a ripe almost tropical undertone. It's a richer Blanc de Blancs that maintains plenty of acidity and cut. MSB

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  • white sparkling
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Lassaigne, Jacques NV Champagne Blanc de Blancs Le Cotet

This very special, single-vineyard wine from Emmanuel Lassaigne comes from vines planted in the 1960s. The top soil here is clay and silex with an under layer of chalk giving its distinct minerality to the wine. In fact, this vineyard highlights the unique-ness of Montgueux terroir, which has the clay of the Aube, also the chalk of the Côte des Blancs. Unlike Lassaigne's basic Montgueux, a portion of Le Cotet is raised in old barrel to allow the wine to see some oxygen during its élevage. The nose offers white flowers and orchard fruits, almond flesh, and stone. On the palate, you'll find fine bubbles, a creamy texture, and a long, chalk-laden finish. The base wine is 2010 and the wine was disgorged in 2013. MSB

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  • white sparkling
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Lassaigne, Jacques NV Champagne Brut La Colline Inspiree

We are very excited to have the first ever 750 ml bottling of Colline Inspirée at Chambers Street Wines! Previously this wine was only bottled in magnum. From vines that are all over 45 years old, the wine comes from three parcels in Montgueux and is partially fermented in barrel. The name means "inspired hill" and was taken from a poem. There's more masculine character and structure to this wine than there is to Le Cotet, broad mid-palate weight, a hint of smoke and spice, a firm spine, and good potential to age. The ripeness and intensity of the fruit match the oak used in the élèvage. A great wine. -msb

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  • $69.99