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Alexandre Chartogne

Chartogne-Taillet

VigneronAlexandre Chartogne
LocationMerfy (Marne)
Size of Domaine12 ha
TerroirContinental climate with Oceanic influence. Clay, sand and sandstone over chalk bedrock. Gentle slopes, various aspects. 80-150m altitude.
ViticultureChemical-free, healthy soils is paramount, partial grass cover, horse ploughing.
View Chartogne-Taillet wines ↓

Chartogne-Taillet based in Merfy just north-west of Reims and run by Alexandre Chartogne is hitting new heights of excellence. Starting out in 2006 at the age of just 23, Alexandre worked briefly with Anselme Selosse, who has heavily influenced his ideas on viticulture (although their winemaking styles are radically different).

Setting out to understand all his terroirs and sub-soils (clay and sand over chalk), Alexandre has worked closely with renowned soil analysts Claude and Lydia Bourguignon, comparing the still wines he made from each lieu-dit to 17th-century family records of barrels of wine from the same terroirs. These were sold to the monks in a local abbey, who knew their stuff and paid up to ten times more for wines from certain parcels, and Alex notes that there was an incredible correlation between the plots highlighted for their qualities by the Bourguignons, and the monks preferred parcels.

By choosing to work with plots, I continue the work of understanding and interpreting nature. I try to capture the natural wealth and translate it in the best way in my cellar, without modification
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Chicken coop in the middle of the vineyard

Alexandre now produces no less than eight special, single parcel bottlings such as Les Barres from ungrafted pinot meunier planted in calcareous sand overlying a bedrock of chalk in 1952, or Les Orizeaux, a pinot noir champagne from 1961 vines planted in broken limestone over deep sands. "By choosing to work with plots, I continue the work of understanding and interpreting nature. I try to capture the natural wealth and translate it in the best way in my cellar, without modification". Focus here is always on the health of the individual soils – soil and place are of vital importance. Chickens and sheep are allowed to roam around in the vines to eat bugs, grubs and control pests, and help manage weed control. Grass is partially allowed to grow, ploughing is done by horse (50% of the surface) or light tractor to avoid soil compaction, no herbicides or pesticides, bouillie bordelaise against oidium/mildew but no certification although organic farming has been practised at the domaine since 2002 – Alex doesn't want the hassle of extra bureaucracy and wishes "to remain free." Low yields, natural yeasts, ageing of some wines under flor, sensitive élevage in oak barrels are now the norm, and his champagnes are incredibly nuanced, they taste very elegant, chiselled and poised.

When we last visited in spring, work on a new cellar was well advanced, and massive old limestone blocks were being winched into place with the aim of everything being finished in time to receive the 2019 harvest. Alexandre is forever experimenting with restless energy and curiosity is at the heart of everything that he does. "I don’t feel good when I’m sure about something", he comments.

10_Vine_Trail_Chartogne_Taillet_16_9 At work in Couarres-Château

Chartogne-Taillet Wines

Chartogne-Taillet

SAINTE-ANNE
50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier (12.5% alc.)

This is a lovely, delicate style of champagne (22g/l instead of the more typical 24g/l for the secondary fermentation), showing very pure citrus fruits with good energy, a hint of quince, brioche and a saline, mineral flavour. It comes from 35yo vines planted in sandstone, clay and chalk in Merfy. Made 60% from the 2017 vintage and 40% from 2016, it was disgorged in June 2020 with a 5g/l dosage.

Chartogne-Taillet

ROSÉ
50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier (12.5% alc.)

A delicate salmon pink colour, this rosé champagne comes mainly from the 2018 vintage and was aged in a mix of 228ltr and 350ltr barrels. 15% pinot noir still wine from Orizeaux and Les Fontaines was assembled to give texture, structure and colour. It is very elegant and nuanced, layers of cherry and redcurrant fruits, underlined by subtle mineral/umami notes. The dosage of 5g/l brings balance and suits perfectly. Disgorged 03/21.

Chartogne-Taillet

COUARRES-CHÂTEAU 2013
100% Pinot Noir (12.5% alc.)

One of two single vineyard champagnes from Alexandre that he produces in very limited quantities, the pinot noir vines here were planted in 1987, in a parcel where there is 60cm of sandy soils over tufa. This is the third vintage released, aged in 3-6yo barrels with 22g/l for the secondary fermentation. While it shows an intensity and energy typical of 2013, it remains graceful and subtly poised, driven by its tense, pungent minerality. Its elegantly fragrant notes of red cherry and pear persist with excellent length on the finish, anchored by a pronounced salinity. 5.5g/l dosage. VLQ.

Chartogne-Taillet

LES COUARRES 2016
65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay (12.5% alc.)

Les Couarres is a lieu-dit in the heart of Merfy on a gentle south-facing slope where Alexandre owns two parcels – one on tuffeau (soft, fine-grained, mica-rich limestone also found in the Loire) and another one on deep clay soil. Particularly sensitive to oxidation, Alexandre takes great care in protecting these wines by using 2-3yo barrels which he places in the coolest part of the cave and tops up regularly. The wines from this parcel take time to unfurl and reveal themselves, they have a fleshy, spherical quality imparted by the clay soils which also bring tension and fine bitters, and a fine, gentle stony dimension from the tuffeau. Disgorged 09/20 - Dosage 5g/l.

Chartogne-Taillet

LES BARRES 2013
100% Pinot Meunier (12.5% alc.)

From a tiny parcel of ungrafted meunier vines planted in 1952 that were never touched by phylloxera (in a layer of sand that lies five feet above a bedrock of chalk), this was fermented entirely in 3-6yo oak barrels. It’s elegantly textured and sleekly built, marked by a graceful tension and a resonant briny signature of sandy soils. It unfolds on the palate with subtle layers of flavour, persisting with refined harmony and excellent length. 5g/l dosage. VLQ.

Chartogne-Taillet

LES BARRES ‘BLACK LABEL’ 2015
100% Pinot Noir (12.5% alc.)

Usually reserved for the production of a single vineyard ungrafted pinot meunier, Les Barres sits on 1.5m of free-draining Thanetian sand (the same soil as Les Béguines in Gueux) overlying Campanian chalk. Alexandre limits ploughing to the bare minimum (just once before winter and only under the row) to avoid compaction, and allows grass to grow to improve soil structure. Planted in 1987 on the west facing section of Les Barres, the pinot noir returns low yields on the sandy, free-draining soil. It has dense, unfurled fruit on the palate, characteristically generous thanks to the sand, with a brisk vein of acidity running through, and mineral salts as well as bitters driving the finish. A very fine inaugural release from Alex! Disgorged 07/19 - Dosage 4.5g/l.

Chartogne-Taillet

ORIZEAUX 2014
100% Pinot Noir (12.5% alc.)

This comes from vines planted in 1961 in sandy soil just above Alexandre's parcel of Les Barres. The parcel has always been highly prized by the Chartogne family as the wine reflects both the warmth of the sandy soil and the mineral quality of the limestone bedrock. Aged in 3-6yo barrels with 22g/l for the secondary fermentation, it’s a champagne of refinement and class, with succulent, perfectly pitched red fruits and is sure to age very well. Disgorged 06/19 - Dosage 3.5g/l.

Chartogne-Taillet

HEURTEBISE 2016
100% Chardonnay (12.5% alc.)

Les Heurtes Bises is a lieu-dit on a windy plateau in Merfy, anchored in a sandstone bedrock with water holding capacity far inferior to that of chalk soils nearby. The vines are regularly subjected to excess or lack of water as a result, so Alex pays particular attention to canopy management to help the plant adapt, either promoting evapotranspiration (water loss through the plant’s leaves) in wet vintages, or suppressing it in dry vintages. Alex pushed the élevage up to 18 months in 228ltr barrels to bring breadth and volume to this finely chiselled, multi-layered mineral bomb. Disgorged 11/19 - Dosage 4g/l.

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