Champagne & Touraine
José Lievens and his wife Corinne (née Picard) run their business, and grow most of their grapes, in Berru, a village in the top corner of the Montagne de Reims, East and slightly North of Reims. They own 17 hectares of vineyards, predominantly Chardonnay, and in addition look after some neighbouring vines in the village for Pol Roger. Vines were abundantly planted here before the First World War, but this was a front-line village in both World Wars, and holdings declined sharply after then. Until 40 years ago they looked to be dying out. The renaissance was begun by Roger Picard and continued by his son Jacques, Corinne's father. Champagne Jacques Picard is still the only Propriétaire-Récoltant in the village, though others farm grapes over a total surface area of 80 hectares.
Unusually for the Montagne de Reims, Chardonnay makes up 85% of the blend, and only a very partial malolactic fermentation is employed. The remaining 15% of the two Pinots comes from two Premier Cru villages in the Vallée de la Marne: Avenay Val d'Or and Monbré, where the family purchased vineyards in recent years. The Brut Réserve stays long on the lees and the overall result is a wine with structure, citrusy notes and a delightful freshness from the Chardonnay, but with a mealy richness from the two Pinots. Interestingly and unusually, a part of the reserve wine comes from a solera system, which dates back to 2000. This Chardonnay solera is also significant in the production of the Brut Nature: bone-dry but with a brilliantly soft, creamy texture and a slightly lower pressure of fizz. In addition we have a Rosé, still essentially a Chardonnay blend, with 12 % matured red wine added. We also buy a little of a third exceptional white wine Art de Vigne. This is a single vintage wine made almost every year from 60% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. The wine ferments in 350 litre barrels, again with no "malo" but with a little bâtonnage until December. Clearly this is a totally different, more oxidative style of Champagne, with gentle vanillin, creamy notes, but with abundant fruit and citrus notes too. We have recently moved on to the exceptional 2005 vintage.
|White||Guide Retail Price per case of 6 (£)|
|JPRESNVH||Champagne Brut Réserve||NV||halves||120.00|
|JPRESNVB||Champagne Brut Réserve||NV||189.50|
|JPRESNVM||Champagne Brut Réserve Magnum||NV||magnum||400.00|
|JPNATNVB||Champagne Brut Nature||NV||232.80|
|JPNATNVM||Champagne Brut Nature Magnum||NV||magnum||464.30|
|JPADV05B||Art de Vigne||2005||304.80|
Les Demoiselles is a label we created ourselves for this tasty Sauvignon de Touraine. We used to say that we blended it ourselves - which was truthful - until we met Lionel Gosseaume. Now we leave it all to him, and the last three vintages have all proved exceptionally good and successful. He's based in the heart of Touraine, and is a proud advocate of the new Touraine-Oisly appellation (though not for this wine), and in addition to Sauvignon, he makes very good red and rosé from Gamay. 2014 is a great success for him - and in general in the Loire, thanks to the lovely autumn weather which brought ripeness without compromising freshness.
|Guide Retail Price per case of 6 (£)|
|LIDEM15B||Les Demoiselles, Sauvignon de Touraine||2015||75.80|
Cabernet Franc makes its debut on our list here (as a monovarietal, anyway) and not before time. With the deliciously ripe - but still classic and typical vintage of 2014, this seems like a good time to be making a first shipment.
Fabrice and his wife Sandrine run an estate of 27 hectares. Fabrice is the fourth generation in charge of an estate which until the 1960s also included arable crops as well as sheep, pigs and cows. He has been running the estate organically since 2000 and is now fully certified by Demeter.
A range of wines from the different soil types of the appellation are produced. The rich gravel soils by the river produce the first bottling each vintage, 'Les Graves', which is unoaked. Later in the year, after a year in barrel, the other cuvées will be bottled from the more sand and clay soils higher up the slope, with their unique tuffeau (limestone) subsoil. A range of different barrel sizes and coopers are used, including some Stockinger barrels from Austria which we spotted here when we visited in April. Les Graves is a great introduction to the grape, the appellation, the vintage and the producer.
|Red||Guide Retail Price per case of 6 (£)|
|GACHG15B||Les Graves, Chinon Rouge||2015||95.20|
|GACHG14B||Les Graves, Chinon Rouge||2014||95.20|
|GACVV14B||Vieilles Vignes, Chinon Rouge||2014||104.70|
|GACAN14B||L'Ancienne, Chinon Rouge||2014||111.50|