Champagne news and 7 top picks from ProWein 2024

In 2023, champagne sales fell below the psychologically important threshold of 300 million bottles, a drop in sales of 8.2%. However, sales are above the 297.3 million bottles sold in the pre-corona year 2019 and are the second-best result in the history of the appellation. At ProWein 2024, champagne producers presented themselves weaker than usual. In the popular Champagne Lounge alone, the number of exhibitors fell from 60 to 41. Nevertheless, ProWein remains one of the best places to find out about the latest developments in Champagne.

5 mins read

This year, there were few new editions of prestige cuvées from the major brands. In the absence of market leader Moët-Hennessy, houses such as Roederer and Pol Roger once again presented the 2015s (Cristal and Winston Churchill respectively), while Bollinger showed the Grande Année Rosé 2014. Otherwise, there were of course the updated basic champagnes and one or two new vintages (such as Roederer Rosé 2017).

It was already clear in 2023 that Pommery is realigning the premium segment, for example with the launch of the strong Cuvée 150. At ProWein, the house showed the first relaunched examples of Apanage Brut. A new Rosé and Blanc de Blancs will also follow in the course of the year. The aim is to widen the gap to the standard repertoire in terms of both quality and appearance.

An interesting job change: Axel Gillery, Head of Marketing & Communication, is moving from Pol Roger to Tsarine. According to reports from Lanson-BCC circles, the house, which was founded in 1787, is to be completely restructured.

1. Lanson Noble Brut Vintage 2004

The Maison from Reims has impressed me time and again in recent years with its strong performances (here, for example, with Le Black Reserve). Le Vintage 2013 was available to taste at ProWein. A cool vintage with a blocked malo could pose challenges for the house in the past and was then covered up by too much dosage. In the meantime, Lanson has achieved a wonderful balance with very long ageing on the lees (93 P.). Then there were the newly adjusted prestige cuvées Noble 2004 Brut and Noble Blanc de Blancs 2004, which replaced the Noble Cuvée. Both combine a great wealth of autolytic aromas with enormous inner freshness. In the meantime, the decision not to carry out lactic acid fermentation has proved to be a stroke of luck. In my eyes, the blend is currently ahead (95 p.). It is somewhat confusing that bottles disgorged in 2018 from the following year 2005 in the “old” presentation of the Noble Cuvée are circulating at auctions or in Lufthansa First Class.

2. Gosset Celebris Extra But 2012

Gosset shares the long history with Lanson, a preference for stainless steel, the blocking of the Malo and the fact that it has no vines of its own. However, the much smaller Maison Gosset is still family-owned and favors Chardonnay above all. Celebris 2012 is the successor to the 2008 vintage and only the ninth since the introduction of this prestige cuvée. The convincing Grande Millésime Brut from that year has already shown that 2012 was a success here. Its bigger brother Celebris is powerful and concentrated. Pears, citrus and pastry cream on the nose, very vinous on the palate. The powerful acidity is still somewhat masked, but will give the champagne a long life. (95 P.) Celebris Rosé 2008 was also presented once again. Impressive, but here the density is somewhat at the expense of elegance (93 p.).

3. Philippe Gonet Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Millésime 2017

Le Mesnil-sur-Oger has been home to the Gonet family since 1910 and is now in its 7th generation of winegrowers. Since 2001, the siblings Chantal and Pierre Gonet have been running the Maison, having taken over from their father after his sudden death. Today, their portfolio consists of six Blancs de Blancs, two Brut and one Rosé. The 20 hectares of their own vines are spread across eight municipalities, but the greatest treasure is of course to be found on the Grand Crus terroir of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. I was particularly impressed by two cuvées at ProWein. One was the pure, elegant Ter Blanc, a Blanc de Blancs Extra-Brut from three parcels (from Mesnil, Oger and Ludes) and three vintages (92 P.). And then the Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Millésime 2017 from plots in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and Oger. With its wonderful precision and complexity, it makes you completely forget the difficulties of the vintage (93 P.).

4. Domaine Alexandre Bonnet Blanc de Noirs Hardy Récolte 2019

I last wrote a separate portrait of Alexandre Bonnet on Sur-la-pointe (more here). The house in Les Riceys in the south of the appellation on the border with Burgundy was founded in 1970. Over the years, the family developed it into a négociant. Due to a lack of succession, they sold it to the Lanson-BCC champagne group in 1998 . Since 2019, there have been two companies. The Maison Bonnet trading house and the Domaine Alexandre Bonnet, which only processes its own grapes.

At ProWein, I was able to taste the two stylistically very impressive Coteaux Champenois in Rouge and Blanc for the first time. And then the new cellar master Irvin Charpentier – “Son of burgundy, brother of Champagne” – also brought two new cuvées with him. The single-vineyard Les Vignes Blanches and Hardy, both Blancs de Noirs from 2019 with just 1 gram of dosage. I liked the premiere of the Hardy, where the Pinot Noir is north-facing, best in its pure florality. I was also impressed by how the fresh acidity of the vintage balanced the creaminess of the champagne (93 P.).

5. Soutiran Grand Cru Millésimé 2018

Ambonnay was once an insider tip for Pinot Noir champagnes from winegrowers. But then Francis Egly of Champagne Egly-Ouriet became a superstar and Maison Krug put the Clos d’Ambonnay cuvée at the absolute top of its portfolio. Since then, Ambonnay has probably been one of the best-known Crus in Champagne. Champagne Soutiran shows that, despite all the awareness of its own savoir-faire, the best quality can still be produced here at fair prices. The house owns 8 hectares and uses 2 hectares from family and friends, making it technically a négociant.

Given the common equation of Ambonnay and Pinot Noir, it is surprising that only the delicately partridge-eyed Cuvée Perle Noire and the Rosé de Saignée are pure Pinot Noir champagnes. In fact, 20 percent of the vineyards in Ambonnay are planted with Chardonnay – which is also reflected in Soutiran’s blends. The highlight is certainly the Grand Cru Millésimé, here from 2018. 60 percent Pinot Noir and 40 percent Chardonnay, 10 percent aged in wood. For all the power and aromatic force that is characteristic of Ambonnay wines, it also displays balance and freshness (94 p.).

6. François Secondé Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Sillery 2016

For history-conscious champagne lovers, the name Sillery has a mythical connotation. The château of the same name once belonged to the Brûlart de Sillery family, high-ranking members of the French court. When Louis XIV, the future Sun King, was crowned king in Reims in 1654, guests were served wines from Hautvillers Abbey, the seat of Pierre “Dom” Pérignon, and Château Sillery. It was not least from here that champagne conquered London’s upper classes. Today, almost all of the vineyards in the village belong to the luxury group LVMH via Champagne Ruinart.

In 1976, François Secondé founded the Champagne house of the same name in Sillery as a “vigneron indépendant” with 5.5 hectares of vines. Two thirds of the vines were planted with Pinot Noir and one third with Chardonnay. When the founder passed away in 2018, the long-standing chef de cave Jérôme Groslambert took over the business. Even though only a good 40,000 bottles are produced, there are nevertheless eight cuvées and two Coteaux Champenois. It is a portfolio without a single weak link. Outstanding: Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Sillery 2016, which follows the Burgundian philosophy of one vineyard (Les Puits), one grape, one vintage and is aged in 10 percent new wood. Its producer calls it “a Chardonnay in the land of Pinot Noir”. The champagne is less floral than its relatives from the Côte des Blancs, but rather powerful, well-structured and with a clear length (94 P.).

7. Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Millésime de Collection Vieillies Vignes de Chardonnay 2014

I mainly look for new discoveries at ProWein, but it’s impossible to go past Pierre Gimonnet. Especially when the family itself presents its entire current repertoire. Their most important concern is that a champagne should make its origins clear. In this case, that means the northern Côte des Blancs. In addition to the cool Cuis, the seat of Gimonnet, this means above all the Grand Crus Oger, Chouilly and Cramant.

The family is an advocate of the classic assemblage. But for some years now it has also been vinifying its crus separately. In view of the great class of the Cramant Grand Cru 2016, it is difficult to decide which philosophy to prefer: the mono-cru or the blend. Ultimately, however, the new Millésime de Collection 2014 (only 1,172 magnums) is the most convincing. The assemblage from very old Chardonnay vineyards in Cramant, Chouilly and Cuis was the same as for the Special Club, but matured much longer “sur lattes”. Creamy, multi-layered and with the salinity of the limestone soils of Cramant. (95 P.).

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Featured Image: Messe Düsseldorf / ctillmann
All other photos: Stefan Pegatzky / Time Tunnel Images

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