We came into Champagne from the west and so started our tasting of Grower Champagne on the Côte des Blancs in the town of Vertus. Most of the grapes that the vineyard owners harvest is sold to the large champagne houses but some of the growers make their own champagne, hence the term Grower Champagne. Most times the quality is excellent and the prices are very competitive. And we just like buying our wines from family run businesses..
GUY LARMANDIER30 rue du Général Koenig, 51130 Vertus Tél 03 26 52 12 41
Most of their champagnes come from Grand Cru vineyards and, other than the rosé, are 100% chardonnay. We started with their Cuvée Perlée (€18.30) which had good fruit bust was slightly tart. The Cramant Brut (€19.10) had more fruit and a fuller mouth feel. We had found what we wanted so we bought this and did not taste the vintage champagnes which were around the €30 mark.
Then onto Avize for one of our main targets, Franck Bonville
FRANCK BONVILLE9 rue Pasteur - 51190 Avize Tel : 03 26 57 52 30
All their champagnes are from grand cru vineyards, even the Pinot Noir used in their rosé. We started with their Brut Blanc de Blancs (€18) made from three vintages ’11 50%, ’10 20% and the ’09 30% and their Brut Prestige Blanc de Blancs (€20) made from the ’08 and ’09 vintages. Both were excellent and so we bought both. We also tasted their Brut Rosé (€20) and if we were going to buy a rosé this would be the one. They make half bottles of their Brut (€10) and their rosé (€11.30). We are looking to add them to the halfwine.com range.
As we had some time we decided to look for other champagne houses in Avize.
SANGER33 Rempart du Midi , 52290 Avize Tel 03 26 5779 79
Sanger is a co-operative where the staff all come from the champagne college to which it belongs. We tried their Voyage 360 Brut (€17.90) and their Terroir Natal Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru (€19.90). They were not to our taste and we thought that they were a bit expensive.
LANCELOT-GOUSSARD30 rue Ernest Valle, 51190 Avize Tel 03 26 57 94 68
Their Reserve Brut (€16) was made from Chardonnay from surrounding villages and from the ’08 and ’09 vintages; soft bubbles and slightly sweet. The Cuvee Speciale Cramant Grand Cru ’06 (€19) had very little dosage and was more to our taste so we bought this.
GUY CHARBAUT12, rue du Pont, 51160 Mareuil-sur-Ay Tel 03 26 52 60 59
halfwine.com offer half bottles of their Reserve Brut (see see here and we have visited them on many an occasion. We really like the Reserve Brut premier cru (€16.80) and their Blanc de Blanc premier cru (€16.90) so we tasted them both. We bought the Brut. They also offer a rosé and a vintage (the ’05 on this visit).
H GOUTORBE9 bis, rue Jeanson; Aÿ, 51160; T 03 26 55 21 70
Having tasted the range here and bought before we focused on their ‘everyday’ champagnes, the Tradition Brut (€15.25) and the Prestige Brut Premier Cru (€17.05). 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, €8.95 and €9.80 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
We have tasted here on several occasions and so know what we like. We tasted the Tradition (€17.20) and Reserve (€18.20) that were two thirds Pinot Noir and one third Chardonnay; the difference being the time spent on the lees in the bottle. In the past we have bought both these, this time we bought the Reserve. The Tradition came in half bottles at (€9.50).
NICOLAS MAILLART5 rue de Villers aux Noeuds 51500 Ecueil Tél: 03.26.49.77.89
We met Nicolas Maillart at a wine tasting in London and so decided to seek him out. When we arrived the place was locked up as tight as a drum. As we were leaving a people carrier arrived with 5 people and one of them opened up. We asked if we could come in for a tasting. We actually joined a wine tour which to our surprise was interesting and well done – thank you to the tour leader. We tried the Brut Platine (€24 or €12.50 for a half bottle) that was 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay with a dosage of 7gm sugar per litre; fine bubbles and dry. The Extra Brut Plantine premier cru (€26) spent 5 years on the lees and had only 2gm sugar; straw coloured and very dry. The Brut Rosé grand cru (€27) was 70/30 Pinot/Chardonnay with 7% red pinot and 6gm sugar. The red wine added greater complexity and we preferred this to the two ordinary champagnes – rare for us.