When Sébastien Visentin of Vin sur Vin Diffusion invites guests, even prominent French winemakers make their way to the Spree. Visentin’s range of wines is particularly strong in Burgundy and the Loire – and, of course, in champagne. The mix of wines from established vintners and little-known newcomers is worthy of all honor. Therefore, here is my selection of the 5 most interesting newly presented champagnes.
Jacquesson No. 740 DT Extra-Brut
Jean-Hervé Chiquet had brought two wines to Berlin: the cuvées 745 and 740 DT. The current vintage Dizy Terres Rouges, which was presented at the ProWein in Düsseldorf, unfortunately had to stay at home (or is already sold out). Be that as it may, the 740 DT in particular presented itself as strong as an ox. As is well known, the Chiquets want the 700 series to be understood as the opposite of a non-vintage wine. As it were, as “Vintages with Reserve,” as Tyson Stelzer put it. Since 2014, the 700s have been accompanied by a version with extended yeast aging (Dégorgement Tardif = DT). 745, in any case, comes from the warm but not overripe year of 2012. Chardonnay (57 percent) dominates over the red varieties, plus 20 percent reserve wines. Very creamy despite almost non-existent dosage, powerful and with the classic autolysis flavors. A modern classic.
Françoise Bedel Comme Autrefois 2005 Extra Brut
Françoise Bedel and her son Vincent Desaubeau produce biodynamically certified Champagne on 8.4 hectares in Crouttes-sur-Marne on the far western edge of the appellation. They have good south-facing slopes in the region known prosaically as the Marne Valley West. However, not exactly typical, because here loam, clay and limestone soils alternate. Accordingly, Pinot Meunier dominates Bedel’s entry-level wines. Comme autrefois, i.e. the vintage cuvée produced in the traditional style “as in the past”, is, however, dominated by Pinot Noir in 2005 (PN 40% | PM 30% | Ch 20%).
The “as before” refers to the complete aging in wood as well as the use of natural corks instead of crown corks for bottle fermentation. There are different opinions about their effect during long storage ( in this case: over 13 years!). The result here is in anyway a very individual champagne. Ripe apple notes and slightly vegetal aromas, very vinous and with quite soft acidity, but very pure and with good length.
Clandestin Les Revers Brut nature
Champagne Clandestin is a project originally launched by Bertrand Gautherot, owner of Vouette & Sorbée in Buxières-sur-Arce. The idea: a micro-négociant for organic Champagne exclusively from the Côte des Bar, the southernmost part of Champagne. In Benoît Doussot, Gautherot found a passionate winemaker, just twenty years old and trained in Burgundy, who resolutely implemented the concept. Today, Doussot is his son-in-law.
Self-assured, the latter now describes the company as a “Maison of 21st-century winegrowers, shaped by the instincts of a man from Burgundy and guided by the convictions of someone who comes from the Aube in Champagne.” After all, the Revue du Vin de France calls him “one of the most talented [winemakers] of his generation.” Les Revers (meaning “The Backside” in English) comes from north-exposure parcels and is in keeping with pure Burgundian winemaking philosophy. One grape variety (Chardonnay), one vintage (in this case 2019), one site. It convinces with good density and a classic, pure style. Surprising and atypical for champagne from the south: the wonderfully stimulating citric acidity.
Roger Coulon Premier Cru Blanc de Noirs Millésime 2013 Extra Brut
Since I published my champagne book a little over a year ago, I have always asked myself when I would first reconsider my selection. After tasting the champagnes of Roger Coulon, it was clear that I would count this house among the 100 most important champagne producers today. Founded in 1806 and located in Vrigny in the Petite Montagne de Reims, the house organically farms its 115-plus parcels on 11 hectares, with grape varieties spread across 4.5 hectares of Pinot Meunier, 4 hectares of Pinot Noir and 3.5 hectares of Chardonnay. The wines ferment spontaneously, mostly avoiding malo.
Half of the 2013 Millésime comes from Pinot Noir from the “Les Limons” site in Vrigny, the other from Pinot Meunier grapes from “Les Linguets” in Gueux. The partly sandy soils are resistant to phylloxera, which is why the vines were planted without American rootstocks, i.e. “ungrafted”. Perhaps it’s because of this, but the Vintage, which comes from the late-ripening, very classic 2013 vintage, shows wonderful tension, tremendous finesse and profound complexity. One of the two tops of the Paulée 2022.
Dhondt-Grellet Cramant Vielle Vigne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Le Bateau 2016 Extra-Brut
In 2017, an employee of Cave au Forum, one of the best wine shops in Reims, brought Dhondt-Grellet to my attention. Although I was skeptical because of the self-assured price, I bought a bottle of Le Bateau 2012. Three years later, William Kelley’s article “Dhondt-Grellet – Rising Star of the Côte de Blancs” appeared in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Today, the young Adrien Dhondt from Flavigny is calling up prices that rank in the upper league even in Champagne. The winery was founded in 1986, but picked up dramatically since 2010 when Adrien, just 20 years old, joined the business and eventually took it over from his parents in 2012.
The self-taught winemaker is influenced by Anselme Sélosse and inspired by Burgundy winemakers like Coche-Dury. In 2013, he integrated biodynamic methods, although he applies them pragmatically and without certification. His jewel is one of the oldest plots of Le Bateau, planted in 1951 in Sélection massale, one of the best and 100% Chardonnay planted lieu-dits of Grand Cru Cramant in the Côte de Blancs. 2016 is both powerful and finessed, with white flowers, citrus and brioche on the nose, immense inner density and the classic salinity from Cramant. The second highlight of the day.