Le Blanc Singulier from Champagne Ruinart

Chardonnay is the backbone of Ruinart, the oldest champagne house of all. Its prestige cuvée Dom Ruinart, first presented in 1966, is a Blanc de Blancs. The Maison's latest newcomer, presented in 2000, is a Blanc de Blancs Non Vintage. Both are single-varietal Chardonnays. With the Blancs Singuliers, Ruinart is now taking a look into the future of its Chardonnay champagnes. Cellar master Frédéric Panaïotis presented them in Berlin.

2 mins read

It was his first visit to Berlin. Frédéric Panaïotis, chef de cave of the Ruinart champagne house founded in 1727, was a guest in the German capital to give a masterclass in person under the motto ‘Re(crafting) Chardonnay’. Most recently, the German wine press had only been able to welcome him virtually in online presentations due to the pandemic. While innovative packaging and ageing under cork were the main topics recently [see here], he now presented a brand new cuvée. The setting: a pop-up boutique in the Tacheles city quarter. There, the Maison presented a successful mix of bar and art gallery during Gallery Weekend Berlin.

The impact of climate change

The figures speak for themselves. Champagne has moved 300 kilometres south since the 1960s. Extreme summers like 1964, 1976 and 1982 are now very common. Since 2003, seven harvests have started in August – since 2017, there have only been early pickings. But that’s not all. Because flowering, but not budding, is also taking place earlier and earlier, night frosts are occurring more and more frequently, with fatal consequences for vines and fruit set. If it were up to the Huglin heat sum index, Grenache or Syrah would have to be planted in Champagne today. But how do you react in a Champagne house for which Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are crucial? And where aromatic freshness forms the core of the ‘style de la maison’?

A new cuvée as an answer

In 2015, the consequences of climate change were so obvious that Maison Ruinart decided to set up a programme to secure the aroma profile of its flagship grape, Chardonnay. Ruinart’s Chardonnay not only comes from the Côte de Blancs and neighbouring regions to the south. It also originates quasi ‘atypically’ from Grand Crus from the northern Montage de Reims, such as Taissy and Sillery.

Frédéric Panaïotis’ team outlined a cuvée that was to differ from the rest of the estate’s portfolio in a number of ways. Firstly, the vintage was to take centre stage. But balanced by 20 to 30 percent reserve wines from a specially created “Réserve pérpetuelle”, which is partly aged in wood. In contrast to the classic Blanc de Blancs, other origins should be used in the cuvée and the bottle fermentation should be longer (36 instead of 24 to 30 months). The dosage, on the other hand, should go from a good 7 grams to zero. ‘More precise, fresher, more sophisticated’ was the motto.

The future of Blanc de Blancs

Innovative packaging: a bottle wrap made from French organic cotton in the style of Japanese furoshiki cloth

Édition 2017 of the ‘Blanc Singulier’, as the innovative cuvée is called, was bottled for the first time in 2022. This kind of ‘mock-up’ did not go on sale in regular stores, but was only sold in the Ruinart boutique in Reims. Édition 2018 reached some key markets in 2023, but unfortunately not Germany. Frédéric Panaïotis brought the latter, as well as the 2019 edition (dég. 10/2023), to Berlin to taste it against a regular Blanc de Blancs (from the base year 2020). The latter shows the beautiful elegance and reductive freshness of the house, with the classic floral and lemony notes of Chardonnay (91 p.). Édition 2018 is more focused, but also somewhat riper and aromatically more complex with notes of yellow stone fruit and spices (92 P.). Édition 2019 certainly stands out from the trio with its radiant acidity and enormous freshness with beautiful complexity (93 P.).

In fact, Panaïotis has already announced that there will not be a Blanc Singulier every year, not in 2021 and probably not in 2023 either. But in the medium and long term, the cellar master is convinced that Blanc Singulier, which is currently only produced in small quantities, will one day replace the classic Blanc de Blancs. It embodies the future of Champagne not only through its content, but also through its packaging – the cotton fibre label, the plastic-free foil and the dark, recyclable bottle glass.

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Stefan Pegatzky / Time Tunnel Images

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