It is Champagne season, and you can’t step out during the Spring, without seeing the flashes of gold or bright orange that decorate the labels of Champagne’s major players, Moet, Mumm or Vueve. Between them, they produce over 60 million bottles per year, and produce styles that lean toward sweetness rather than the searing mineral freshness great Champagne should offer.
Champagne is one of wines gifts to the world. Its hills are listed as a Unesco world heritage site, and for us, the best exponents of Champagne are the small, ‘grower’ producers, referred to as ‘recoltant manipulant’. The best of this group of producers have gained cult status among wine media, sommeliers and passionate drinkers in major cities around the world, and it is the only Champagne resource we use at Press Wines. At the end of this article is a list of our best ‘grower’ champagne producers, but first let’s talk about this week’s producer, Andre Clouet from the Grand Cru Pinot Noir villages of Bouzy and Ambonnay.
Andre Clouet owns 8 hectares of vineyards on the prized mid-slopes of Bouzy and Ambonnay, on vineyards loaded with chalk soils. It commenced production in 1741 and is now run by chef du cave Jean-Francois Clouet. Jean-Francois still lives in the family house that was built in the 1700’s, and exclaims that his ‘family was making wine in Champagne at the same time Dom Perignon was starring.” In the present day, Andre Clouet is one of the greatest small houses in Champagne and one of the best and most committed exponents on Pinot Noir in Champagne.
Champagne can be made up of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the fruitier Pinot Muenier. Rarely to you see ‘Blanc de Noirs’, Champagne produced from only the noble Pinot Noir. However, Jean-Francois is committed to this style, as he loves the power and purity. The Andre Clouet wines can be described as powerful, concentrated and rich, leaning to some bright, tart red fruits, though they have an intense mousse and a piercing freshness. The commitment to Pinot Noir affords the intensity.
This pack includes two of the Andre Clouet cuvees, to give you a look at a subtle style shift in Champagne through the lens of one of its great producers. We are offering 3 bottles of the ‘Grand Reserve Blanc de Noirs Brut NV’ which is classically made with about 8 grams per litre dosage. This is an exuberant, generous style of Champagne, with light red cherry, wild strawberry flavours and a fleshy, rich mouthfeel. It is a great aperitif style.
The next 3 bottles are Jean Francois' ‘Silver Brut Nature NV’ which has zero dosage. This wine is all about freshness, precision, focus and tension. Flavours here are more on the citrus side, but there is a spice, toast, grilled nut, biscuit like flavours that complement. It has a raw and salivating nature, that makes it appealing for salty, briny seafood entrees, or again, aperitif.
We were tempted to offer Andre Clouet’s Rose No. 3 Brut NV with this pack as well, as it is a stunning wine. Though, we understand that Rose Champagne is an acquired preference. We do believe the Clouet turns out one of the finest expressions of Rose Champagne, very classic and vinous in style. If this is something you are keen to try, please let us know and we will source some for you.
Below is a list of our other favourite grower Champagnes. Keep and eye out for them, and if you are interested in a mixed 6 pack of these to trial over the Spring and Summer, again just reach out and we can organise for you.
If you are a Champagne lover, or just like to have some good bottles in the fridge over the festive season, Andre Clouet is a great resource, and offers a lot more value and integrity than a lot of the major players you will find on mainstream retail shelves. We hope you enjoy.
Agrapart – Avize (Grand Cru)
Andre Clouet - Ambonnay, Bouzy (Grand Cru)
Bereche – Montagne de Reims
Bollinger – Ay (Grand Cru)
Egly Ouriet – Ambonnay (Grand Cru)
Jacquesson – Dizy (Premier Cru), Avize (Grand Cru)
Jerome Prevost – Gueux
Larmandier-Bernier – Vertus (Premier Cru)
Pierre Peters – Mesnil-sur-Oger (Grand Cru)
Savart – Ecueil (Premier Cru)
Vilmart – Bouzy (Grand Cru)