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Our “Champagne of the Month” for October 2016 comes from the village of Celles-sur-Ource in the Côte des Bar. The village sits at a crossroads of four valleys, home to the rivers Ource, Arce, Seine and Laignes. The valley system continues south into Burgundy to the Côte d’Or and onto Chablis. As a result, the terroir is far more akin to that of Burgundy than which is found in the north of Champagne. Kimmeridgian soil from the Upper Jurassic period consists of limestone and marl (a crumbly mixture of various clays with calcium and magnesium carbonates and fossilised sea shells).
“L’Originale” by Champagne Pierre Gerbais consists of 100% Pinot Blanc Vrai from a single, south facing plot named “Les Proies” that was planted in 1904; these old vines have a well established root system stretching deep into the soil. This produces full flavoured grapes that attain a harmonious balance of sugar and acidity with low yields.
Historically, the Pinot Blanc variety was favoured in this valley due to the vine’s late budding, aimed at countering the danger posed by late frosts; something the area is prone to as 2016 showed to devastating effect. Whilst the Côte des Bar remains the spiritual home of Pinot Blanc in Champagne, it still only accounts for a small proportion of vine stock which has been dominated by Pinot Noir since the 1921 ruling which allowed the Aube to rejoin the Champagne appellation.
Champagne Pierre Gerbais has been certified organic since 1996 through “Ampelos” and hold the coveted HVE certificate (Haute Valeur Environnementale) granted for all-round sustainable viticulture. As soon as the grapes are picked, they are loaded into refrigerated transport in order to bring the temperature of berries down, therefore negating any early fermentation. The grape temperature remains controlled, through the pressing process and onto vinification which takes place in thermo-regulated steel tanks with cold settling at 12°. Malolactic fermentation is carried out and the wine is afforded 36 months aging on its lees without being put through fining or filtering. This cuvée is extra brut with a dosage between 3-4gl and the addition of sulphur is kept to a minimum due to its vinification process. Alcohol is 12% with a pH of 3.03, the total SO is 31mg/l.
Appearance: Pale, lemon with a fine persistent mousse.
Nose: Medium intensity, it is fresh and vivid with green apples, apple purée, autolytic notes of pastry combining to give hints of delicious “chausson”. Hazelnuts, sweet spice – cinnamon and white flowers – jasmine.
Palate: Green apples, apple purée and pastry again offering “chausson” notes. Tropical and stone fruits are evident – pineapple, apricot, peach and nectarine with a touch of hazelnut and almond. Medium intensity and finish.
This is an outstanding example of Pinot Blanc, beautifully crafted from historic vines, nurtured by four generations of the Gerbais family. Utterly delicious, serious champagne and not to be missed.
Price circa €49.00