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Our “Champagne of the Month” for September is produced by a man who needs little introduction to most enthusiasts - Anselme Selosse. Based in the village of Avize, Anselme along with wife Corinne and more recently their son Guillaume, has been in charge of the family domaine Jacques Selosse since 1980. Immediately upon taking the reins Anselme set about changing the way the domaine worked which was pretty revolutionary back then; lowering yields and beginning to work more naturally in the vineyards. This was at a time when champagne was a lot less concerned with healthy practices and being driven by quantity over quality.
Anselme studied viticulture in Champagne and then in Beaune, Burgundy and it is these later studies that had a defining impact on his winemaking. Anselme is first and foremost Champenois but begun making champagne in a Burgundy style. Prestige wines of Champagne in Anselme’s early years were defined by their vintage and not their location which was the case in Burgundy. These ideals are widespread among the Champagne region’s winemakers today but in Anselme’s early career he was a pioneer which led to many winemakers working with him and learning from his ethos - this ultimately kickstarted the meteoric rise in top quality grower-producers/domaines in Champagne. We certainly have a lot to thank Anselme for.
Another early experience was a trip to Jerez in 1972 to study sherry production; the process of course being the Solera system or perpetual blending as it is today more commonly practiced in Champagne. It was this trip that planted the seed that would eventually become the cuvée “Substance”, our wine in question. Anselme uses the true Solera model for this incredible wine. One level of reserve wines are aged in barriques whilst the second is aged in tanks. This allows the wine to gain more complexity permitting the primary fruit to remain evident whilst also allowing for the rich secondary oxidative notes.
The Solera was started in 1986 and includes every vintage thereafter until 2009, no matter how good or difficult the year was as each brings its own individual character. Only Chardonnay from two plots in Avize is used in equal measure to create this masterpiece. Firstly we have the steep sloped “Les Chantereines” which has an Eastern exposition on clay soil and “Le Mont de Cramant” which has a Southern exposition and the chalky soil that Avize is famed for. The Solera reserve accounts for around 88% of the wine with a good proportion of the youngest vintage to bring a little freshness to the overall cuvée. The wines are aged together and it is this method that creates the overall complex structure. This edition was bottled in 2013 and disgorged on Tuesday 30th October 2018 with a very low dosage (extra brut). It is sealed with a natural cork and alcohol is at 12.5% abv. 3,000 bottles produced per year.
Domaine Jacques Selosse: cuvée Substance
Tasted Friday 23rd August 2019 at 19:40 (root and flower day – lunar calendar)
Characteristics: Pronounced intensity with primary aromas of honeysuckle, orange blossom, quince jelly, orange, orange peel, lemon, roasted pineapple, apricot, nectarine, honeydew melon, passion fruit, stewed apple, sasparilla, preserved lemon. There are secondary notes of vanilla, cloves, butterscotch, toast, toasted brioche, sablé biscuit, shortcrust pastry, orange buttercream, gingerbread, coconut, charred wood and resinous. Tertiary aromas include cinnamon, ginger, hay, honey, nutty, almond, frangipane, carob, coffee, caramel, cinder toffee, marmalade, dried apple, dried banana, dried apricot, marzipan and beeswax. The wine is full bodied, the mousse is delicate and the finish long.
Price at source circa €300
Substance is an incredibly rich and hedonistic wine. It is very oxidative, a result of the long Solera process but this is entirely deliberate and helps gives this wine its unmistakable character. Your senses are immediately awakened to the secondary and tertiary aromas from this style of winemaking but there is delightful freshness too which comes in the second wave thanks to the good proportion of younger wine and the level of tank aging. A truly outstanding champagne that really does have it all. Without any shadow of doubt Substance is one of the must try cuvées of champagne – bucket list stuff indeed. Whilst it is incredible now, if you have the patience it will age and develop beautifully over the coming years.