Œnothèque: Our library of previous Champagnes of the Month -  November 2017











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Our “Champagne of the Month” for November 2017 is the first to be without bubbles! Over the past few years we have been exploring the still wines of Champagne or “Côteaux Champenois” as they are known. Red, white and rosé wines are made in a variety of styles from all across the region.


In the department of the Aube in the South of Champagne are the beautiful neighbouring villages of Ricey and Ricey-Bas, known as Les Riceys. As well as producing champagne, the villages are known for their still rosé wines “Rosé des Riceys”, produced from Pinot Noir. Historically these wines were the popular local variety but only around fifteen people make this particular style of wine today.


Olivier Horiot has seven hectares of vines at his disposal which he cultivates biodynamically. However, he only uses an area of around two hectares to produce his own wines. As well as five champagnes, one red and one white “Côteaux Champenois”; Olivier creates two “Rosé des Riceys” each from a single plot (lieu-dit) named “En Barmont” and “En Valingrain”. He also produces a third which is a blend of the two plots - “Esquisse Number 2”, all three wines are vintages. The lieux-dits are located on the slopes above Ricey-Bas, “En Barmont” is South-East facing and “En Valingrain” South facing. The soil is a Portlandian formation of Kimmeridgian chalk like that found in Chablis; just over 50 kilometres to the South-West.


The old Pinot Noir vines are low yielding and the well-established roots dig down deep into the chalk enabling the vines to produce complex berries. As well as the soils, the climate in the Aube has more in comparison with the Côte d’Or region of Burgundy than the North of Champagne. Coupled with Olivier’s standards and skills in the vineyard and winery, it is easy to see why he produces such good Pinot Noir – his other varietal wines and champagnes are excellent too.


Esquisse Number 2 2005 consists of 100% Pinot Noir from the two lieux-dits of “En Barmont” and “En Valingrain”. Each plot is vinified separately with 10% of the grapes foot-trodden, the remainder being whole bunches which are not de-stemmed; maceration and fermentation takes place over a week. As a thin-skinned grape, colour and tannin can be difficult to extract from Pinot Noir. It is important to maximise its extraction without overworking the juice. With this in mind Olivier chooses to “pump over” a maximum of once per day and sometimes going without. This process entails drawing off the fermenting juice from the bottom of the tank and pumping it onto the top of the “cap”. The “cap” is formed by the whole bunches sitting on top of the juice, gradually breaking down during the fermentation process. By “pumping over” a winemaker is able to dissipate heat whilst oxygenating the juice thus creating a more stable and complex wine.


After fermentation, the juice from both plots are racked into old fûts de chêne allowing them to blend and harmonise over time. The wine is neither fined nor filtered. Just 511 bottles and 20 magnums of Esquisse Number 2 were produced in 2005. Harvesting took place on 22nd September with bottling around a year later. Our bottle – number 345 was purchased direct from Olivier when we visited him during the harvest of 2016.











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Tasted: 12th October 2017


Appearance: Clear, pale, orange.


Flavour characteristics: Pronounced intensity with primary notes of strawberry, wild strawberry, raspberry, redcurrant, cranberry, red cherry, red plum, prune and dried fig. Secondary aromas of vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, cedar, smoke, charred wood, toast, dark chocolate and carob. Tertiary notes of caramel, hazelnut, frangipane, marzipan, leather, tobacco, vegetal and earthy.  


Acidity is high with medium body and medium well-integrated tannins, the wine is still developing and has a long finish; alcohol is 12% abv.


Esquisse Number 2 2005 is a truly outstanding wine and has potential for further ageing. We tasted the wine first by a normal pour into a glass and then via carafe which was allowed to stand for an hour. We would certainly recommend this method as it brought another dimension to an already intense wine.


This “Rosé des Riceys” is brilliant, enchanting and utterly delicious.


Price at source €33.00