Courtesy of CIVC

Champagne Rising

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Champagne is a wine region so defined by its image, by its brand, that it’s often difficult to glimpse its physical nature. Before the brand, before human perception, there was ancient inland sea, covering what is now called the Parisian Geological Basin, which sustained a type of phytoplankton, whose calcified deposits would form the friable chalk (craie), for which Champagne is now famous. Successive earthquakes and other tectonic movements would eventually push up a series of cuestas or ridges, comprised of steep-sloped and gently-sloped sides. It is principally on these slopes where the vineyards of Champagne were planted. Out of this exposed craie, the labyrinthine, often cathedral scale, network of Champenois cellars were hewn. 

Overlying and sometimes intermingled with this chalk are clays, sand, and marls whose varying porosities are a pivotal interplay that sets the viticultural foundation from which choices of soil work, rootstocks, and cultivars have been made.

It might be tempting to believe that the lion’s share of innovative sparklers are now found outside of Champagne; but this remains the largest appellation in France, within whose borders exist micro-climates and wine-growers that remain relatively unexplored. 

We’ve selected a group of growers, who show the stylistic range that is possible, but often overlooked, within this established region. Jacques Beaufort’s wines reflect his commitment to biodynamic farming, extremely long lees aging, and late disgorgement. The Bérêrche brothers’ Champagnes are masterworks of skillful pressing and blending technique. Cedric Bouchard’s wines display his rigorous harvest selection, as well as his more vinous approach, bottling under less pressure and with fewer bubbles. Fabrice Gass’s masterful use of older barrels produces wines of a classical bent, while Roland Piollot’s commitment to the stewardship of the viticultural diversity of his old vines shows how expressive Champagnes based on underutilized grapes such as Pinot Blanc can be. These growers illustrate that as much as physical factors have shaped the terroir of Champagne, so too has human endeavor. -David Salinas

 

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Bérêche NV (2010 Base) Extra Brut Rose Campania Remensis

There are arts in Champagne that are too little understood and too little appreciated. One is that the Champenois have some of the most rigorous pressing and juice separation methods of any French appellation. Another is the incredibly long trajectory challenge of growing grapes, pressing them, vinifying them, all with the intent of blending the base wines before beginning the second fermentation that brings the fizz. In the Campania Remensis, the Bérêrche brothers have masterfully succeeded at both.

Born of the blending of 94% of a base white wine (60% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, and 10% Meunier) and 6% of a base red wine (95% Pinot Noir and 5% Meunier). While most rosés are blended in pursuit of particular shades of pink, the Campania base wines are blended in dark glasses, with a nod toward aromatic and palate balance. The rewards are ethereal and numinous for this pale strawberry, silver lined Champagne that evokes aromas of fresh raspberries, vanilla bean, dark chocolate, lemon zest, hazelnut, and cumin. Sustained by a crackling acidity, the palate remains zen balanced, enough to be lithe and restrained through to a finely pointed finish of sour cherry and ginger. Perfect pork bun pairing. Disgorged 5/2014. David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • rosé sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $82.99

Filaine (Fabrice Gass) NV Brut 1er Cru Damery Cuvée Speciale OLD

Winegrowing often resembles a complex game of dominoes where the masterful are able to foresee and guide the interactions between moving pieces in the vineyard and cellar.  The deft hand of Fabrice Gass is on full display in his Spéciale, where foregoing malolactic is handsomely balanced by fermenting in older barrels.

Intensely golden and finely pearled, the Spéciale shines with aromas of peppermint, baker’s dough, Red Delicious, honeysuckle, red currants, honey glazed pecans, and pineapple. On the palate, a big, bold opening is finely girded by acidity and hums with balance to finishing notes of lemon, coriander, and basil. A BBQ Pitmaster’s dream! David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $52.99

  • Organic

Bouchard, Cedric 2012 Champagne Blanc de Noirs Val de Vilaine (Inflorescence)

Whether from his tiny estate Roses de Jeanne or his bespoke négoce operation, Cédric Bouchard meticulously crafts Champagnes of breathtaking clarity. Each derived from one grape and once parcel and vinified to maximize sense of terroir and fruit while eliminating those elements Bouchard finds extraneous. This sense of focusing on signal to noise means the wines are never chaptalized, fermented in tank without filtering, fining, cold stabilization, undergo malolactic fermentation, and are bottled with no dosage under less pressure than other Champagnes to produce a finer mousse. The quantities produced range from tiny to nearly anecdotal. The wines are pure, unabashedly terroir-specific, and vinous.

Formerly known as Infloresence, as of 2012 Val de Vilaine, this blanc de noirs comes from a south-facing 1.49ha plot of vines in Polisy planted in 1974 owned by Cédric's father. If there's such a thing as an 'entry level' Champagne in Bouchard's lineup, this is it. Historically more approachable when young than Bouchard's other wines, Val de Vilaine, is now more tightly wound and concentrated as the already small yields were nearly halved to 26hl/ha bringing it in line with the other cuvées of Roses de Jeanne. Here you'll find a classic expression of Polisy terroir. -John McIlwain

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  • white sparkling
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  • no discount
  • $71.99

  • Organic

Piollot 2010 Extra Brut Val Colas Robin Pinot Blanc

Five generations of the Piollot family trace the modern development of Champagne. From Damase Piollot, who participated in the protest marches of the early 20th century, which ensured the inclusion of the historical vineyards of the Aube within the appellation of Champagne. To Robert Piollot, a master rootstock selector and grafter, who hand planted the single vineyard of Val Colas Robin with Pinot Blanc, now grown organically and biodynamically. Val Colas Robin is a sloping vineyard, near Polisot, that faces an upper portion of the Seine.  The eponymous cuvée shines with a fine bead and a bright golden, straw yellow hue. Fairly complex aromatics unfold into notes of apple blossom, lime, anise, ginger, spearmint, and green fig. Zippy is the palate password from beginning to end, seconded by flavors of lemon/lime zest. Val Colas is a singular expression of Champagne that is waiting to remake your next Thai meal. David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $62.99

  • Organic