Looking beyond the bubbles
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 produced 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