Because we visited Champagne in November 2011 (read here) we decided this visit to concentrate on makers that we did not visit last year and on areas where we had not had much success in the past.
H Goutorbe9 bis, rue Jeanson; Aÿ, 51160; T 03 26 55 21 70 www.champagne-henri-goutorbe.com
H Goutorbe cellar door
Having tasted the range here and bought before we focused on their ‘everyday’ champagnes, the Tradition Brut (€15.15) and the Prestige Brut Premier Cru (€16.90). They were both two thirds Pinot Noir and one third Chardonnay; the difference being the vineyards from whence the grapes came. Both were available in half bottles, €8.90 and €9.75 respectively. The Tradition was a good, basic champagne without too much acidity. The Prestige had finer bubbles and more complexity. We liked and bought both.
H Billiot1, Place de la Fonataine, Ambonnay, 51150; T 03 26 57 00 www.champagnebilliot.fr
H Billiot cellar door
We read about this grower in Mathew Jukes’ column in Money Week the week before we left for France. We had seen their cellar door often but it had not been open whenever we were free. This time we were in luck. We tasted the Tradition (€16.70) and Reserve (€17.70) that were two thirds Pinot Noir and one third Chardonnay; the difference being the time spent on the lees in the bottle. We bought both these. The Tradition came in half bottles at (€9.00). We also tasted their Rosé (€19.50), ’05 vintage (€23.00) and Cuveé Julie (€29.00). The latter was aged in oak before bottling, something that quite a few grower merchants are doing.
Bonnaire120 Rue d’Epernay, Cramant, 51530; T 03 26 57 50 85 www.champagne-bonnaire.com
Bonnaire tasting room
We have never tasted in Cramant before so decided to spend some time exploring the streets to see who was open. We recognised the name Bonnaire from their partner Paul Clouet in Bouzy who we visited some years ago. We tried their 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs – Grand Cru (€21.00 or €11.00 for a half bottle), ’04 vintage (€24.00) and ‘Variance’ (€25.00). The latter two were exactly the same except in the ‘Variance’ the wine had been aged in old oak barrels from Burgundy. This made for a very interesting wine and a great comparison to the vintage for a wine tasting. We bought both. We also tried their Rosé (€23.00) which was made by adding red wine from Bouzy to their Blanc de Blanc. We didn’t think this worked as the champagne was too fruity and a vivid strawberry colour.
Voirin-Jumel555 rue de la Libération, Cramant 51530; T 03 26 57 55 82 www.champagne-voirin-jumel.com
Voirin-Jumel tasting room
The cellar door has a fine view over vineyards of Cramant (as shown at the heading of this page) and a person taking the tastings who certainly knew her stuff. We found the Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Brut (€16.20 or €9.40 for a half bottle) too light. The ’06 vintage (€21.10) had hints of bottle age on the nose (think biscuits or brioche). The Cuveé 555 (€24.90) was made in very old oak barrels; it was different in style to the vintage but had no noticeable oak nose or flavours. We bought the vintage champagne.
Franck Bonville9 rue Pasteur, Avize 51190; T 03 26 57 59 90 www.champagne-franck-bonville.com
Franck Bonville tasting room
Avize is another town where we haven’t had much luck in finding walk-in tastings. The champagne we had for dinner at Les Berceaux the night before gave us this grower to find, and what a good find it was! We tasted a range of Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs; Brut (€16.80 or €9.40 for a half bottle); the Prestige which is a blend of the best of two recent years, in this case the ’07 and ‘08 (€19.10); the ’07 vintage (€19.80); and the Cuvée ‘ Les Belles Voyes’ (€39.80) where the grapes come from a single vineyard and the wines are aged in oak for up to 12 months which gave the champagne a subtle fresh new oak nose and taste. They also had a Rosé (€18.80 or €10.60 for a half bottle) made by adding a small quantity of red wine from Ambonnay resulting in a very pretty pale pink that tasted stunning. We bought the Rosé and the vintage.