Thursday, May 21, 2015

Champagne Houses in Epernay

On my second day in Champagne, I went to three relatively unknown producers in the centre of Champagne, Epernay. The first was Castellane, a fairly large producer who sells 80% of its production domestically. This is unusual, but becomes clearer during the visit. Castellane would be the equivalent of an industrial wine producer. Its Brut Champagne has strong citrus flavours. It is fresh, but quite acidic with no yeast flavours to speak of. This is the result of bought-in grapes ( quality control?) and a relatively short maturation period.

Caves in Epernay

A visit to the small grower Julien Chopin was a little more rewarding. I tasted a Brut from 100% Chardonnay,  a Rose made from 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, and a Brut Nature (zero dosage) from 100% Pinot Meunier. The Chardonnay Champagne is light and quite delicate, the Rose is equally light, while the Meunier is much fruitier and a little plump. These Champagnes are true to their grapes, but lack finesse and excitement.

The third producer was Bouche Pere et Fils. The standard wines were similar to above, but the Cuvee Saphir was more interesting. This was a Champagne blend with 75% Chardonnay, matured for 8 years. Citrus was still the dominant flavour, but the finish was much softer and more toasty.

There are many rules and regulations in Champagne. The  mighty Committee tells you when to harvest, how many grapes per hectare can go into your Champagne, and so on. There are not many variables you can play with. And if you do not have old vines or the capital for long maturation periods, you will not make great Champagne.

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