By champagnediscovery, Apr 26 2015 04:21PM

It was a busy few days at the Salons des Dégustations and there were many, many highlights for us. From the opulent and historic surrounds of the Palais de Tau and Domaine Les Crayères to catching up with old friends and meeting new. Chatting all things champagne with Michael Edwards whose first book set us on a course to discover the wonderful World of domaine champagnes to experiencing stunning wines for the first time from an array of exciting and dynamic producers.

A 1959 recently disgorged 100% Pinot Meunier from Champagne Michel Loriot, rich with coffee and vanilla was a revelation. We also got to taste their 1964 wine, disgorged in 1970 which whilst mature still had a youthful exuberance. First-time meetings with the likes of Jérôme Dehours and Alexandre Chartogne tasting their wonderful lieux-dits cuvées whilst re-visiting many familiar faces and wines at Terres et Vins, Les Mains du Terroir and Des Pieds et des Vins was a fascinating experience.

We also enjoyed an evening tasting with the Academie du Vin de Bouzy, concentrating on Bouzy Rouge wines. Proof that Champagne is capable of producing great quality red wines from growers such as Benoît Lahaye, Pierre Paillard, Paul Bara, Camille Savès and of course Barnaut who’s unique Clos Barnaut Rosé is wonderful.

In due course we shall pick out some of our individual highlights from the different Salons, so watch this space!


Lee and Gita

By champagnediscovery, Apr 26 2015 02:30PM

The Échelle des Crus vineyard rating system was introduced in the early to mid twentieth century to categorise individual grape producing villages “crus” in Champagne, providing them with a percentile score.

The intention of the system was to ensure growers received a fair price for their grapes. However, since its inception just 17 villages have received the 100% rating and therefore classification as Grand Cru. Forty-four villages have attained a rating between 90% - 99% gaining Premier Cru status, even if this is just for their Chardonnay or Pinot Noir variety. According to our original Larmat Vinicole Atlas dated from 1944, the cru system descended as low as 6th Cru with a rating less than 50% in an area of the Vallée de la Marne farmed by the excellent biodynamic producer Françoise Bedel who is producing truly wonderful cuvées.

Each harvest-time a price was set for a kilo of grapes and the villages received their percentage of that price according to their rating on the Échelle des Crus. For example, the Premier Cru village of Écueil was rated at 90%; therefore growers received 90% of the set price for their grapes.

Whilst we do not know to what extent this practice exists today (we imagine contracts between the Négoces and Récoltants relate more to quality), it does seem that despite its clear unfairness and outdated inadequacies, much is still made of the Cru system – even by champagne houses and producers, with many displaying Grand Cru or Premier Cru on their labels.

How an entire village can be given the same rating when it consists of multiple plots with differing geology, farmed differently by people with different methods and skill levels is clearly no longer suitable for a modern champagne. Surely the fairest system would be to rate each plot individually according to its own merits and the manner in which it is tended? Only then can the Cru system maintain its validity and integrity.

The overriding factor which determines grape quality must surely be the vision, endeavour, methods and skill of the grower? Yes geology can play its part but it is not the single defining factor. Likewise, a plot may have everything in its favour and deemed as Grand Cru but farmed poorly will yield poor quality grapes.

To have no Pinot Meunier villages or any villages from the southern regions of the Aube, Côte des Bar or Sézannes classified as high as Premier Cru is quite frankly insane.

So according to the Échelle des Crus the following villages which are home to some excellent and often World Class domaines are apparently not even worthy of Premier Cru status. On the Montagne de Reims and Petite Montagne de Reims: Gueux – Jérôme Prévost, Courmicy/Cauroy-lès-Hermonville – Francis Boulard, Merfy – Chartogne-Taillet, Villers-aux-Nœuds – Emmanuel Brochet. In the Vallée de la Marne: Baslieux-sous-Châtillon – Franck Pascal, Cerseuil – Dehours et Fils, Villers-sous-Châtillon – Collard-Picard, Crouttes-sur-Marne – Françoise Bedel, Oeuilly – Tarlant, Fossoy – A. Robert. Épernay and the Côteaux Sud d’ Épernay: Épernay – Janisson-Baradon, Chavot – Laherte Frères. Aube/Côte des Bar and Sézanne: Celles-sur-Ource – Roses de Jeanne/Cedric Bouchard and Cheurlin L & S, Buxières-sur-Arce – Vouette et Sorbée, Montgeux – Jacques Lassaigne, Les Riceys – Olivier Horiot, Buxeuil – Vincent Couche, Talus-Saint-Prix – Jeaunaux-Robin, Fouchères – Cœssens Largillier, Congy – Ulysse Collin. These are just a handful of examples of talented vignerons who clearly produce top-quality grapes and indeed superb champagnes.

So whilst many houses and producers still adorn their labels with Grand Cru or Premier Cru, this alone is not an indication of quality. It is therefore important to do ones homework and get to know the domaine and their cuvées.

After all, the crucial factor is the vigneron!

By champagnediscovery, Oct 24 2012 02:05PM

Welcome to our website. My wife and I are Champagne enthusiasts who love both the wine and the region. We have been touring the area for the last sixteen years, as often as our funds have allowed! We are not professionals but ordinary, working people who have simply become immersed in our passion.

For the last ten years or so, we have been focusing our attention on the hidden gems, the artisans of Champagne. Those smaller, quality conscious producers and grower-producers (domaines) who create excellent, seductive wines that are full of character.

Like many people we are becoming more interested in the provenance of our food and drink and champagne is no exception. It is now quite commonplace to find producers who work organically and biodynamically.

We are always on the look-out for the next new houses and cuvées to excite our senses. This website will hopefully share some of our experiences and arduous tasting expeditions!

Regular contributors to the Champagne-Ardenne forum on Tripadvisor, we can be found hiding behind the moniker: PsychoWarthog.

We hope you enjoy the site and will follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also contact us via the ‘Contacts’ tab on the homepage. We will endeavour to respond as quickly as possible and are happy to answer any questions or help with trip ideas.


Lee and Gita

"Don't wait for that special occasion to drink champagne. Create that special occasion by drinking champagne".

Welcome to Champagne Discovery

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