Champagne for all occasions

© T. Joly
There are so many Champagnes on the market that it’s not always easy to decide which one to buy. Here are four excellent producers whose range of Champagnes can suit all tastes.

[ Practical ]

- Champagne G.Tribaut
88 rue d’Eguishem, 51160 Hautvillers
Tel : 0326594057
- Champagne Philipponnat
13 rue du Pont, 51160 Mareuil-sur-Ay
Tel : 0326569300
- Champagne Richard-Fliniaux
12 rue Roulot, 51160 Ay
Tel : 0326551497
- Champagne Drappier
Rue des Vignes, 10200 Urville
Tel : 0325274015
No, Champagne is not just an aperitif or a drink to celebrate events. Many Champagnes pair very well with food and can accompany an entire meal. Besides, not all Champagnes are expensive. It’s possible to find excellent ones whose prices fit all budgets. Lastly, each winemaker has its own style, so there are Champagnes for all tastes. Follow us to discover four producers representative of this diversity and offering high quality cuvees.

Let’s start in the cradle of Champagne, Hautvillers, where lived Dom Perigon, the monk who invented or refine the process of refermentation that gives Champagne its bubbles. In this village located on the Montagne de Reims, the family run Champagne G.Tribaut owns 12 ha of vineyards planted on different soils at various altitudes. So, this producer can grow Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, the three main grape varieties of the appellation. Aged at least three years and priced between €14.90 and €21.80, its Champagnes represents a remarkable value. Our favourite is the round, complex and fruity Blanc de Noirs that develops notes of acacia and white fruits. We also like the expressive and complex Cuvée de Réserve as well as the Grande Cuvée Spéciale that is similar in taste but bit dryer.

A few kilometres away, the small village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ is home to Philipponnat, a small, high-quality champagne house. Its fame owes a lot to the Clos des Goisses, a 5 hectare walled vineyard with an exceptional location: a steep, sunny southern slope down towards the river Marne that is planted with pinot noir and chardonnay. A blend of these two grapes, the namesake cuvee is one of the region’s greatest Champagnes. Aged on its lees in the cellar for 10 years before being released, half the volume having been fermented in oak barrels which gives a good texture and richness, the Clos des Goisses needs 15 to 20 years to mature and display its complex flavors and should be drunk with a meal, not as an aperitif. But, it costs more than €100 a bottle. However, Philipponnat also has medium to-full-bodied chiselled Champagnes from €26 a bottle and all are excellent, especially the Grand Blanc 2005, a 100% chardonnay with a low dosage and the elegant, smooth, complex and well-balanced Cuvée 1522.

Also in the same area, the vineyards of the Domaine Richard-Fliniaux stretch on the hillside overlooking the small town of Ay. Located at the junction between the Marne valley and the Montagne de Reimps, it’s the AOC only terroir being classified as Grand Cru for the three main grape varieties (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay) and many of the prestigious Champagne houses source grapes from there. This hillside is perfectly suited for Pinot Noir and gives well-structured and full-bodied champagnes. It’s illustred by the Cuvée Dédicace from Richard-Fliniaux, a well balanced and complex blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, the latter bringing fruitiness and freshness. A well balanced, complex Champagne with a long finish to be drunk at the aperitif or during the meal that costs €22.20 only. We also enjoy the Nadège Blanc de Blancs, an exceptionally structured and complex pure chardonnay that is priced at €20,60.

The Drappier House is located in the lesser known area of the AOC Champagne, the Côte des Bars, near Troyes, in the Aube department. It’s one of the very few producing a Blanc de Blancs made with forgotten grape varieties, Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Blanc Vrai that are associated with Chardonnay. A full-bodied yet elegant, mineral and chiseled Champagne with aromas of very fresh grapes, citrus fruit, white flowers or honeyed apples. Called Quatuor, it costs €45 a bottle. Drappier is also known to be a producer using no or very little sulphur in the vineyards and its Champagnes are characterized by great purity of fruit and great balance. Let’s name the wonderful Grande Sendrée 2005 that comes from a parcel of land planted more than 70 years ago and has a faintly honeyed aroma with hints of mineral, peach, and baked bread, the Brut Nature Zero Dosage made with 100% first press Pinot Noir that has a nose of citrus with a faint spice and mineral nuance, the Brut Nature rosé Zero Dosage with hints of cherry, raspberry, citrus and spice as well as the Carte d’Or Brut with notes of peach and citrus. Prices range from €30 to €65.

November 29, 2013
Thierry Joly