Growers’ champagne in the UK

The UK is the biggest export market for Champagne, second only to, if much smaller than, the big home market.  Of course the big brands will make up much of the export numbers. Champagne is an expensive purchase and most people are going to buy something they have heard of before. But in many ways the real excitement starts with the discovery of the smaller houses and growers’ own champagne.  A tasting in February 2013 allowed a good range of these wines to be compared. 

A Chauvet

From one of at least three houses which include the name Chauvet – this one is called Champagne Chauvet!

Brut NV –Simple quite powerful lemon-flavoured fruit, attractive, good value at £27 a bottle. 

A Chauvet, Vintage 2005 – powerful, yeasty, even meaty nose, good fruit on the palate, impressive and powerful, rather than super refined

Tarlant

I have been really impressed by the Tarlant wines in the past and this single example is no exception:

‘Zero’ Brut Nature – never mind the technical stuff, this is like a dip in a mountain stream.  Pure, super dry, mineral, racy, brilliant.  Made from equal parts of Champagne’s three grape varieties, vinified in stainless steel with an unspecified proportion of reserve wines matured in oak. 

Bauget-Jouette

Carte blanche Brut NV – 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Meunier, 10% Pinot Noir. Noticeably dry on the palate with crisp, mineral and lemon notes to the fore with a good depth of fruit and some yeastiness.  Pleasantly austere. 

Camille-Saves 

Rather a different style with moderately powerful citrus (more lime than lemon) on nose and palate, then fine toast and bakery notes.  A lot of character for a NV. 

Marie Demets

The archetypical growers’ Champagne house as all the fruit is from their own 11 hectares of vineyards in the Aube region, 80% of which is Pinot Noir.  A mild mannered NV style with a peachy nose and a soft palate, easy to drink, would appeal to many who find Champagne overly aggressively acidic. 

Jacquesson

A wine from the historic Jacquesson portfolio, the firm dating back to 1798 with a claim to be the oldest independent Champagne house.  The fruit for the house’s Champagnes is 85% from their own vineyards, though you can be sure that the NV will be more than 15% bought-in fruit as they will keep their own mainly Grand Cru vineyards for the top wines.  In this case, the Cuvée number 736 is not just a marketing gimmick but the actual cuvée number of the NV since the house was founded – though they only started publically numbering them from 728 on.  See the profile on The Wine Doctor

Cuvée 736 NV –  a really classy entry on the nose, superb toasty, savoury aromas and flavours, presumably on account of a long stay on fine lees.  The palate broadens out with good quality citrus and apple fruit and the length is very good for a non vintage wine.  Very good indeed. Berry Bros stock this at £37.  

bubblesGardet

NV Brut Tradition – you can’t argue with a wine which is made in a village with a name as attractive as Chigny-les-Roses, named to commemorate the garden of Louise Pommery who had a summer house here.  Just a touch of Chardonnay (10%) in what is really a Pinot Noir/ Meunier blend. A light, attractive, refined and refreshing wine, moderate depth, but would make a very good aperitif. 

Pierre Paillard

Brut Grand Cru – 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay with the bonus of being from the village of Bouzy; super precise peach and green apple fruit overlaid with brioche and yeastiness.  Classy, great value at £24 and much raved over in the press – Jane MacQuitty and Fiona Beckett for example.

Gratiot-Pillière

Brut Tradition – a three-way blend dominated by Pinot Meunier at 75%, plus 15% and 10% respectively of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Subtle melon, apple and lemon fruit with fine tertiary notes.  Impressive.  Good use of often despised Pinot Meunier.

Thiénot

Thiénot are the owners of the much more widely distributed Canard-Duchêne. As a result the grower’s own wine has to be kept very distinct from the commercial brand. The Brut is 45% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 20% Meunier, with 20% reserve wines being added to assure quality and consistency.  The predominant note is rounded attractive fruit with plenty of finesse.  The Vintage 2005 is in a similar vein if with more fruit intensity: 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir. At this tasting this did not really shine. 

Collard Picard

Cuvée Prestige – a rather grand number, wood fermented with 50% Grand Cru Chardonnay from Mesnil and 25% each of Pinot Noir and Meunier. Beautifully integrated fruit and oak, subtle and seamless, not the most intense but sophisticated.  For a great profile of this couple and brand, click here

Renard-Barnier

Brut Cuvée Special – biscuity, nutty, lovely balance of crispness and ripe fruit from Pinot Noir and Meunier, so a Blanc de Noir. 

Brut Reserve – 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 10g dosage so quite rounded with a hint in the direction of off-dryness; rich peachy and nutty nose, very attractive fruit on palate; apparently fermented and aged in stainless steel before its time in the bottle.

2005 Reserve -  in effect a Blanc de Blanc as it is 100% Chardonnay; rich, toasty and elegant, not savoury; very fine. 

 

These wines, tasted at the SITT tasting in February 2013, were a great introduction to the really high quality growers’ champagnes now available in the UK, especially via independent wine merchants.  There is no excuse to buy dull Champagne. 

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