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Intro: Reims, Champagne

Chartogne-Taillet based in Merfy just north-west of Reims, in the hands of Alexandre Chartogne, is now one of the finest in Champagne. Alexandre’s parents had always carried out good viticulture but after a stage with iconic grower Anselme Selosse, Alexandre has gone a stage further. Renowned soil analyst Claude Bourguignon was appointed as Alexandre set out to understand all his sub-soils, and compared the results to 17th century family records of barrels of wine from specific lieux-dits sold to the monks in a local abbey (who knew their stuff and paid up to 10 times more for wines from certain parcels!!). Ploughing by horse, no herbicides or pesticides, lower yields, natural yeasts, sensitive elevage are now the norm. Alexandre has always taken a very independent route and his champagnes are a world away from Selosse and taste very elegant, chiseled and poised. It’s well worth asking us about Alexandre’s tiny production of two other single parcel champagnes called Les Orizeaux (PN), and Couarres Chateau (PN) but they are available only in microscopic quantities.

Emmanuel Brochet has just 2.5 hectares of immaculate, organically tended vines in the village of Villers-aux-Noeuds, just to the south-west of Reims, where he makes very harmonious champagnes with good vinosity. He gained organic certification in 2008 and explained, “The way I came to organic farming was not through any sort of militant philosophy, but through the pleasure of wine. If you take pleasure in what you do, and if your environment gives you pleasure, your work will be better. It is a question of harmony”.

Jérôme Prévost is a protégé of Anselme Selosse and makes brilliant, complex champagnes of great depth from a tiny 2.2 hectare vineyard (with 48 year old, largely pinot meunier vines) near Gueux. Viticulture is meticulous and bio-dynamic oriented and his beautiful wines are made in an unmanipulated, natural style with indigenous yeasts, vinification and élevage in a mix of new to 13 year old barrels, no filtration or dosage. His champagnes are the ultimate expression of champagne as fine wine, and age especially well for anyone who can resist temptation and cellar a few bottles. His main cuvée, ‘Les Béguines’, was the top rated single vintage champagne in a tasting conducted by World of Fine Wine magazine last year.

New to the list this year, Roger Coulon, run by Eric and Isabelle Coulon have a 10.8 hectare estate based in Vrigny and have 70 well selected parcels of older vines (averaging a high 38yo) spread in villages along the Petite Montagne. They work as naturally as possible, leaving grass cover in higher hillside plots to avoid erosion and ploughing most of the land. They don’t have organic certification only because Eric is against the excessive use of copper used in organic viticulture.They uses natural yeasts, low yields, low sulphur, use juice from the cuvee only (and sell on any subsequent pressings) and barrel ageing for the reserve wines, followed by long bottle ageing. Their mousse is exceptional with a subtle creamy texture, and the champagnes have very pure, ripe fruit and a crowd pleasing quality.

Organic & Bio-dynamic

See our list of organic and bio-dynamic growers.