Charlie and I visited Champagne in May-June 2013, following 5 days in Paris. We met some wonderful people and tasted some great champagnes. Brad Baker (http://www.champagnewarrior.com/) was terrific in helping me plan our trip and deciding which growers and houses to visit. It was very evident during our visits that Brad is highly thought of in Champagne. Jiles Halling (http://www.mymaninchampagne.com/) was tremendous in setting up our visits and tastings. Although we did not utilize Jiles’ tour services, meeting Jiles and speaking with people who did tour Champagne with Jiles, I would highly recommend you contacting him if you want some special visits and tastings. Thank you Brad and Jiles for great visits and tastings. Finally, for the first 5 nights, we stayed at Les Molyneux, a B&B in Verzy owned by Jiles and his delightful wife, Yvonne.
If you have read my prior posts, you know that I am not the best describer of wines. So, I have provided you with my overall impression, and whether I would buy the champagne (i.e., my best recommendation). My notes will also give you a good idea of what to expect if you visit. The growers and houses we visited were:
Champagne Godmé in Verzenay; visit and tasting with Sabine Guillame. Sabine is the sister of Hugues Godmé. [At the time of our visit, Champagne Godmé was a joint effort of Sabine and Hugues. However, in 2015/16, they separated their interests, and the location we visited is now Champagne Sabine Godmé (http://www.champagne-godme-sabine.fr/site.php). We tasted the:
Brut Blanc de Blancs – 100% chardonnay, dosage of 8 grams, disgorged 1/13, fresh, with a long taste, this is an excellent aperitif, buy;
Brut Blanc de Noirs – 100% pinot noir, dosage of 6 grams, disgorged 1/13;
Extra Brut Grand Cru – 40% chardonnay/60% pinot noir, blend of the 2004/05/06 harvests, disgorged 1/13, dosage of 4 grams, very good, buy;
Brut Millésimé 2003 – 100% pinot noir, dosage of 5 grams, another very good champagne, buy;
Les Alouettes Brut Millésimé 2005 – 100% chardonnay, dosage of 3 grams;
Brut Millésimé 2004 – 60 percent chardonnay/40% pinot noir, another very good champagne, buy; and
Les Romaines Millésimé 2005 – 100% pinot noir, buy.
Vilmart & Cie (http://www.champagnevilmart.fr/en/) in Rilly la Montagne; visit and tasting with Laurent Champs, chef de cave, 5th generation. We tasted the:
Grande Reserve – 70% pinot noir/30% chardonnay, blend of the 2009/10 vintages, disgorged 9/12, a very nice champagne with good fruit and acidity, buy;
Grand Cellier – 70% chardonnay/30% pinot noir, blend of the 2008/09/10 harvests, disgorged 9/12, fresh with lemons and grapefruit, smooth, buy;
Grand Cellier d’Or 2007 – 80% chardonny/20% pinot noir, toasty, buy; and
Coeur du Cuvée 2002.
Pierre Gimonnet & Fils (http://www.champagne-gimonnet.com/home_uk/page_gimonnet_uk.html) in Cuis; visit and tasting with Nathalie. We tasted the:
Brut Blanc de Blancs – 100% chardonnay, blend of 5 harvests with 2010 as the base;
Rosé de Blancs Brut – 88% chardonnay/12% pinot noir,
Cuvée Gastronome 2002 – 100% chardonnay, dosage of 7 grams, very good, buy;
Cuvée Fleuron 2006 – subtle, elegant, buy; and
Cuvée Extra Brut Oenophile 2005 – very nice.
Champagne DeSousa (http://www.champagnedesousa.com/en/) in Avise; visit and tasting with Charlotte DeSousa. We tasted the:
Brut Tadition – blend of chardonnay/pinot noir/pinot meunier from the 2006/07/08 harvests, disgorged 10/12, dosage of 7 grams;
Brut Reserve Grand Cru – 100% chardonnay, base wine is 2008, dosage of 7 grams;
Cuvée 3A – 50% chardonnay/50% pinot noir, named after the 3 grand cru villages of Avize, Ay and Ambonnay, where the vineyards are located;
Rosé Brut – 90% chardonnay/10% pinot noir, disgorged 4/13, dosage of 7 grams, fresh with a hint of rosé, buy;
Cuvée des Caudalies – 100 percent chardonnay, 50% reserve wines, long after taste, rich, buy; and
Cuvée des Caudalies Rosé – 90% chardonnay/10% pinot noir, disgorged 6/12, smooth, good, buy.
Pehu Simonet in Verzenay; visit and tasting with David Pehu. David was kind enough to host Charlie and I after Laherte cancelled our visit on short notice. We tasted the:
Selection Brut – 70% pinot noir/30% chardonnay, 2010 harvest and 30% reserve wines, disgorged 9/12, good acidity, refreshing, aperitif, buy;
Cuvée Transparence – 20% chardonnay/80% pinot noir, 2008 base with 40%
reserve wines, disgorged 2/13, dosage of 3 grams;
Cuvée Blanc de Noirs – 2009 base with 60% in barrel, disgorged 1/13, dosage of 8 grams, more fruit, more round, buy;
Selection Rosé – 20% pinot noir/80% chardonnay, 2010 base with 10 % reserve wines, dosage of 8grams, disgorged 1/13, and
Cuvée Speciale 2005 – 50% pinot noir/50% chardonnay, dosage of 10 grams, crisp but round, long finish, buy.
Penet-Chardonnet (http://www.lamaisonpenet.com/index.php?p=selection) in Verzy; visit and tasting at the home of Alexandre and Martine Penet, tasting with Adrien Asselin, and a visit of the garden and caves with Martine. This was a very special tasting, and every champagne we tasted was a “buy”. We tasted the:
Alexandre Penet Extra Brut Cuvée – 40% chardonnay/30% pinot noir/20% pinot meunier, 2009 base with 20% reserve wines, dosage of 5 grams, dosage 6/12. Note that the Alexandre Penet label uses all purchased grapes.
Alexandre Penet Brut Nature Cuvée Grand Cru – 70% pinot noir/30% chardonnay, 2007 base wine;
Penet-Chardonnet Grand Cru Reserve Extra Brut – 70% pinot noir/30% chardonnay, dosage of 3 grams, base wine is 2009, disgorged 9/12, fresh, complex, excellent; and
Penet-Chardonnet Rosé Grand Cru Extra Brut – 70% pinot noir/30% chardonnay, base wine is 2009, 0 dosage, disgorged 5/12, excellent.
Krug (https://www.krug.com/the-house) in Reims; visit and tasting with Mylène Soulas. Mylène discussed the relatively new “Krug ID” included on each of their bottles, and containing information about the wine and the disgorgement date, and for the Grand Cuvée, the base year and reserve wines included in the blend. See https://www.krug.com/en/krug-id for more details. We tasted the:
Vintage 2000 – very close to the taste of the Grand Cuvée, but not as lemony, and more biscuity; and
Vintage 1998 – this was oaky to me; enjoyed the 2000 more.
Pierre Péters (http://www.champagne-peters.com/en/home) in Le Mesnil sur Orger; visit and tasting with Rodolphe Péters. We tasted the:
Cuvée de Reserve Blanc de Blancs – chardonnay with a litte pinot noir, 2010 base with 40% reserve wines, a pure style, elegant, buy;
Cuvée Extra Brut – not a vintage declaration on the label, but always from a single year and from the same 4 parcels, this is 2009, dosage of 2 grams, buy;
L’Espirit de 2008 – citrus, sweet spices, tart, balanced, buy;
Les Chetillons 2006 – per Rodolphe, this the best expression of terroir, very good, buy; and
Rosé – 35-38% saignée method and 62-65% mixed red and white wines, dosage of 8 grams, excellent, buy.
Bollinger (http://www.champagne-bollinger.com/en_UK/welcome) in Ay; visit and tasting
with Christian Dennis. We tasted the:
Special Cuvée – 60% pinot noir/25% chardonnay/15% pinot meunier, rich mouthfeel, biscuity, very good, buy; and
Rosé – “this is a white wine with a little red fruit”, good.
Philipponnat (http://www.philipponnat.com/) in Mareuil-sur-Ay; visit and tasting with Nicoletta de Nicolo. We tasted the:
Royale Reserve Brut – 65% pinot noir/30% chardonnay/5% pinot meunier, dosage of 8 grams, 2008 base with 28% reserve wines, disgorged 3/12;
Royal Reserve Rosé – 75% pinot noir/20% chardonnay/5% pinot meunier, 2007 base with 24% reserve wines, dosage of 9 grams, very good, buy;
Grand Blanc Brut 2005 – 100% chardonnay, 30% of grapes from Clos des Goisses, disgorged early 2013, elegant, fresh;
Cuvée 1522 Brut Millésimé 2004 – 70% pinot noir/30% chardonnay, complex, powerful, long taste, buy;
Clos des Goisses 2003 – 65% pinot noir/35% chardonnay, disgorged 8/12, dosage of 4 grams, smooth, like a fine white Burgundy, buy; and
Cuvée 1522 Rosé 2006 – 65% pinot noir/35% chardonnay, dosage of 5 grams, disgorged 6/12, a rosé for food, buy.
Chartogne-Taillet (http://chartogne-taillet.com/) in Merfy; visit and tasting with Alexandre Chartogne. Jiles went with us on this vist, as he had not previously met Alexandre. This was a wonderful tasting! We tasted the:
Sainte Anne Brut – 50% chardonnay/50% pinot noir, disgorged 2 weeks prior. Alexandre’s objective for this wine is to reflect all of soil types of Merfy – sand, limestone, clay and chalk, “each vine tells its own story”. fresh, good acidity, an aperitif, buy;
Chemin de Reims 2008 – chardonnay;
Rosé 2009 – 60 % chardonnay/40% pinot noir, dosage of 6 grams;
Les Barres 2008 – pinot noir, dosage of 3 grams; and
Les Alliées 2008 – pinot noir, dosage of 3 grams.
We also tasted several vin clairs with Alexandre, specifically the pinot noir from Les Alliées in cement, the pinot noir from Les Beaux Sens in cement, the Chemin de Reims in oak, and the chardonnay from Couarres in oak. We also tasted the not-to-be released Les Alliées in bottle.
René Geoffroy (http://www.champagne-geoffroy.com/en/accueil.html) in Ay; visit and tasting with Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy. We tasted the:
Expression Brut – 50% pinot meunier/40% pinot noir/10% chardonnay, 2008 and 2009 harvests;
Empreinte 2007 – 76% pinot noir/13%chardonnay/11% pinot meunier, fresh, good fruit, buy;
Volupté 2006 – 80% chardonnay;
Rosé de Saigné – good red fruit, good balance, buy; and
Blanc de Rose 2010 – macerates pinot noir and chardonnay grapes on their skins together, “unique”, dosage of 2 grams.
Finally, we stayed our last night in Champagne at Hotel Les Avises (http://www.selosse-lesavises.com/champagne-hotel-retaurant/), hoping that by doing so, we could arrange a visit and tasting with Anselme Selosse. While we enjoyed the hotel (which is quite pricey) and dinner that night, staying at the hotel does not get you an invitation for a visit or tasting. We did enjoy a bottle of the Selosse Substance and a bottle of the Selosse Rosé for dinner at the hotel. We really enjoyed the Selosse Rosé.
We also ate dinner at both Le Parc in Les Crayères (http://www.lescrayeres.com/#/le-parc/) and L’Assiette (http://www.assiettechampenoise.com/). We enjoyed both meals, but we would give the edge to L’Assiette for both food and ambience.
As a footnote, while in Paris, we ate at Goust (dinner) (http://www.enricobernardo.com/WEB/index.php/en/gousthome), Guy Savoy (lunch) (https://www.guysavoy.com/en/), La Régalade Saint Honoré (dinner) (email at email@example.com) and Le Cinq (Sunday lunch) (http://www.restaurant-lecinq.com/en/). We enjoyed all of our meals in Paris, but our meal at Le Cinq was our favorite (although mostly walking back from the Le Cinq to our appartment on the edge of the 7th – because of a city-wide demonstration that prevented the taxis from getting through – was not fun). We also did a walking culinary tour of the Left Bank with Wendy Lyn of the Paris Kitchen (http://www.thepariskitchen.com/), which we really enjoyed.
Practicalities: Charlie and I rented an apartment in Paris (through VRBO), and then took the TGV from Paris EST to Champagne-Ardenne in Bezannes (the trip takes 40 minutes). Jiles had suggested the Champagne-Ardenne station, and it was very easy to get in and out of. We rented a car while in Champagne (Avis is located right outside the Champagne-Ardenne train station), and a week later returned to Paris via the TGV. We own a TomTom GPS that we use while driving in Europe. All of our restaurant reservations were made at least 30 days in advance, and were done via email. We also purchased our TGV tickets on-line before we left the US.