By champagnediscovery, Dec 1 2017 03:41PM

Champagne is quite rightly famous for its sparkling wines and we have found great pleasure in discovering the immense diversity of cuvées from so many World Class vignerons. What the region is less famous for is its still wines, known as “Coteaux Champenois”.

Red, white and rosé wines are created by many of the talented producers whom are crafting champagnes of the highest quality. These wines are often overlooked by visitors to the region and experts alike; such a pity as they can be truly excellent in their own right. We would agree however prices can sometimes be prohibitive with many Coteaux Champenois challenging renowned Burgundy villages in the cost stakes; some red wines being placed firmly in the market alongside Pinot Noir from Gevrey Chambertin and whites alongside Chardonnay from Meursault. It is inevitable to draw direct comparisons with price and grape variety, especially from adjoining regions but there are always other factors which need to be taken into account including production costs and even rarity; take these wines on their own merit and they really can stand alone. In an edition of Decanter magazine, the “Cuvée des Grands Côtes” from Egly-Ouriet was rated as Highly Recommended when reviewing the World’s best Pinot Noir (outside of Burgundy), it comes with a pretty serious price tag.

April once again saw the annual Champagne Week which now lasts considerably longer and has subsequently been rebranded as the Printemps du Champagne. Here numerous associations of vignerons host tasting sessions of champagnes, coteaux champenois and vins clairs – the still wine produced after initial fermentation.

This gave us the opportunity to taste many more still wines from Champagne. Once again, the Académie du vin de Bouzy session was a chance to try a large number of Bouzy Rouge wines. Bouzy – famed for its Pinot Noir is perhaps the most well-known village for red wine production. Once more the wines produced by Pierre Paillard and Benoît Lahaye were excellent. Our first taste of Gaston Collard’s wines in 2016 had us suitably impressed and they were very good once again. A new name and wine which caught our attention in 2017 was from Georges Remy. His lieu-dit “Les Vaudayants” 2013 was brilliant. Wines were also shown by Paul Bara, Maurice Vesselle, Camille Savès and Barnaut, the latter also producing a lovely still rosé from the small walled vineyard from the heart of the village “Clos Barnaut”.

Staying with rosé and moving down to the southern reaches of Champagne and into the Aube where Olivier Horiot crafts wonderful Rosé, Rouge and Blanc from the village of Les Riceys. We visited at harvest in 2017 and were lucky enough to taste his entire range. We have fallen head over heels with his champagnes and still wines. He produces two single plot Rosé de Riceys: “En Valingrain” and “En Barmont”, along with a blend of the two “Ésquisse Number 2” (Our “Champagne of the Month” November 2017). They are simply stunning wines. His Riceys Rouge “En Barmont” and Riceys Blanc “En Valingrain” are mighty also and could easily draw comparisons to Burgundy but these are wines from a village which deservedly should be on the map in its own right. They also have good ageing potential as a 2004 Rosé des Riceys En Barmont proved, especially when decanted. We also tried some vintages of Rosé des Riceys from Champagne Jacques Defrance which were of very good quality.

Champagne week also gave us the chance to taste Franck Pascal’s superb Confiance and David Lélapart’s lovely Trepail Rouge.

In Vrigny, on the Montagne de Reims, Lelarge-Pugeot produces a red from Pinot Noir – the 2012 is particularly good, and two whites, one from Chardonnay, the other from the black Meunier grape.

The production of Coteaux Champenois isn’t just limited to the smaller domaines/grower-producers as famous houses such as Bollinger, Henri Giraud and Bruno Paillard produce still wines.

So the next time you are in Champagne why not try some champagne without the bubbles? A (not exhaustive) list of producers whose wines have gained a good reputation can be found below:

Robert Barbichon: Pinot Noir rouge

Herbert Beaufort: Bouzy Rouge

Baron Dauvergne: Bouzy Rouge

Barnaut: Bouzy Rouge Millésime and Clos Barnaut Rosé

Bérèche: Ormes Rouge Les Montées

Bollinger: La Côte aux Enfants

Françoise Bedel: Blanc Vin Cent Bulles and Meunier Blanc

Paul Clouet: Bouzy Rouge

Jérôme Cœssens: Rouge Vendange Egrappé

Gaston Collard: Bouzy Rouge

Roger Coulon: Vrigny Rouge

Jacques Defrance: Rosé des Riceys

Déhours: Les Rieux (blanc) and La Croix Joly (rouge)

Benoît Déhu: La Rue des Noyers (rouge and blanc available)

Egly-Ouriet: Cuvée des Grands Côtes (rouge)

Gatinois: Aÿ Rouge

René Geoffroy: Cumières Rouge NV, Pinot Meunier

Pierre Gerbais: Rouge and Cuvée Marie (rouge)

Henri Giraud: Coteaux Champenois Blanc

Gonet-Médeville: Ambonnay Rouge Cuvée Athénais

Gosset-Brabant: Aÿ Rouge Vielles Vignes

Olivier Horiot: Riceys Rouge, Riceys Blanc, Rosé des Riceys En Barmont, En Valingrain and Esquisse No. 2

Benoît Lahaye: Bouzy Rouge

Laherte Frères: La Troisièe Vie Meunier

Larmandier-Bernier: Blanc Cramant Nature and Vertus Rouge

Jacques Lassaigne: Blanc

David Léclapart: Trépail Rouge

Larmandier-Bernier: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Lelarge-Pugeot: Blanc 2012, Blanc de Meuniers and Rouge

Aurèlien Lurquin: Rouge Les Crayères, Les Forcières Meunier, Blanc de Noirs Meunier and Chardonnay Blanc

Robert Moncuit: Chardonnay

Bruno Paillard: Blanc Mesnil Millésime

Pierre Paillard: Bouzy Rouge Les Mignottes and Les Gouttes d’Or (blanc)

Franck Pascal: Confiance

Thomas Perseval: Blancs Le Pucelle and Le Village

R. Pouillon: Mareuil Rouge

Georges Remy: Bouzy Rouge – Les Vaudayants and Le Chapeau de Fer

Camille Savès: Bouzy Rouge

François Secondé: Pinot Noir

Timothée Strœbel: Le Vin Tranquille blanc and rouge

Alfred Tritant: Bouzy Rouge

Jean Vesselle: Bouzy Rouge

Maurice Vesselle: Bouzy Rouge


Lee and Gita

By champagnediscovery, Dec 8 2016 03:00PM

Œnothèques and oddities:

Older wine and for that matter champagne can be a delightful tasting experience, albeit one which so often passes us by. A lack of suitable storage and more often than not, a lack of patience can interfere with many an enthusiast’s collection.

Whilst it is possible to purchase older vintages and prestige cuvées; you either have to take a risk via a well-known online auction site where storage conditions may be debatable; or alternatively stump up the high premiums demanded from reputable dealers or auction houses.

Another option is to look out for re-released – late disgorged wines that some producers make available. These can be a more reasonable and less wallet busting introduction to the joys of well-aged champagne and have the advantage of additional ageing in the bottle where the wine remains in contact with the lees.

Bollinger are famous for their late release vintage RD (recently disgorged) cuvée which retails for around €275 per bottle. The excellent Jacquesson et Fils however re-release their numbered non-vintage range (single harvest plus reserve wines) as Dégorgement Tardif, retailing at a very reasonable €78.

Some producers would rather wait for as long as it takes until they feel the vintage has attained the ideal point of maturity before releasing, such was the case with Corbon and their sublime 1996 which has been afforded a mere 20 years. Others, such as Michel Loriot will give you a glimpse of old vintages like the unforgettable tiramisu in a glass that was their 1959 Pinot Meunier, disgorged a couple of days prior to our 2015 tasting. A 1985 Corbon, tasted 30 years later was incredibly fresh, vibrant and just beginning to develop some gorgeous tertiary aromas.

Over the years, we have invested in electronic wine cellars (not having access to a real cellar) so as to protect our treasured collection. My parents on the other hand developed a unique way of aging an old bottle of ‘R’ de Ruinart 1993, purchased during a visit to the house in 1999.

For several years it was stored in the kitchen before being transferred to the garden shed with all the climatic and temperature fluctuations such storage brought about, before spending its later years in an old fridge in the same garden shed. Despite all of this and no doubt testament to the quality of the Ruinart Chef de Cave, when drank at Christmas last year; it showed particularly well. Some oxidative notes to begin with (unsurprisingly), soon gave way to a beautifully rich, honeyed and intense character. It was both a surprise and a real treat. It had led a stressful and completely unorthodox life when compared to bottles stored in ideal conditions but despite this, had still managed to grow old gracefully!

N.B. We do not advise ageing champagne in garden sheds!


Lee and Gita

By champagnediscovery, Oct 24 2012 02:05PM

Welcome to our website. My wife and I are Champagne enthusiasts who love both the wine and the region. We have been touring the area for the last eighteen years, as often as our funds have allowed! We are not professionals but ordinary, working people who have simply become immersed in our passion. This passion has pushed us to try to improve our techniques by studying and gaining qualifications with WSET. We currently hold distinctions at Level 2 and will be embarking on the Level 3 course later this year.

For the last ten years or so, we have been focusing our attention on the hidden gems, the stars of Champagne. Those smaller, quality conscious producers and grower-producers (domaines) who create excellent, seductive wines that are full of character.

Like many people we are becoming more interested in the provenance of our food and drink and champagne is no exception. It is now quite commonplace to find producers who work organically and biodynamically.

We are always on the look-out for the next new houses and cuvées to excite our senses. This website will hopefully share some of our experiences and arduous tasting expeditions!

Regular contributors to the Champagne-Ardenne forum on Tripadvisor, we can be found hiding behind the moniker: PsychoWarthog.

We hope you enjoy the site and will follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also contact us via the ‘Contacts’ tab on the homepage. We will endeavour to respond as quickly as possible and are happy to answer any questions or help with trip ideas.


Lee and Gita

"Don't wait for that special occasion to drink champagne. Create that special occasion by drinking champagne".

Welcome to Champagne Discovery

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