VINCENT CHARLOT COTEAUX CHAMPENOIS CHATAIGNIER SUR VOILE CHARDONNAY 2018
STILL NUTTY SUR VOILE
LEFT OF CENTRE / ORGANIC / BIODYNAMIC / 750ML
Intentionally flat, this is a unique still Champagne made from 100% Chardonnay and aged sur voile (under flor like in the Jura) with only 300 bottles made. Vincent Charlot is one of those thrilling producers, proud of the life in his soil, and in his wines. In addition to making Champagne with bubbles, he focuses on a number of wines that are not refermented in bottle. These are dry and elegant wines with tension. They're incredibly interesting wines that shed a unique light on a region that focuses on purity and terrior. There is something curious about the wines and are of course age worthy and have a place on the table with food, like their bubbly siblings. Lets all try to drink more Champagne, bubbly or not, toute la journée - all day every day!
From the distributor: “When I drink wine, I want to taste its terroir – this is what I’m in it for. I want to see the personality of the place where it was born, I want to be moved, to create emotion,” Vincent Charlot explains with so much passion that you suddenly feel the need to get your hands on a bottle of good grower Champagne and drink it, NOW. A passion that’s easy to fall for, especially once you discover the natural richness that he’s the shepherd of: the Charlot estate consists of no less than 39 different plots with extremely diverse soils and expositions. “The heavier clayey soils give wines of exotic, vinous generosity; silex translates into tangy gunpowder notes. And my chalk-borne cuvées, such as the L’Or des Basses Ronces, can transport you to the beach at low tide, so strong is their iodine grip and mineral energy,” Charlot poetically praises the virtues of his variegated vineyards.
His dedication to this mosaic leads him to vinify each parcel separately and release up to 27 (!) different cuvées each year, with quantities ranging from one single barrel (~300 bottles) to 5,000 bottles per wine. In a region where the grandes marques count their nonvintage bottles in millions, Vincent firmly stands on the geeky grower side, releasing only vintage wines. He is the breed of Champenois that reminds you that, although sparkling, Champagne is wine above all–and we love that.
An essential step on this terroir-showcase route is farming: Charlot proudly calls himself “the peasant of terroir” instead of winemaker and all of his plots are cultivated organic and biodynamic. (Only 2% of the Champagne vineyard are farmed biodynamically, btw.) Vincent has grown into this approach gradually, with foundations laid during his apprentice years in Alsace (he was in school with the local natural trailblazer Christian Binner that we also import). There, many vineyards were already organic and covered with grass back then in the early 1990s; when Charlot returned to Champagne and took the domaine (selling grapes to the local co-op back then) over from his parents at the turn of the new millennium, he was looking for ways to harmonize his new finds with the family heritage.
“I have never tilled the soil since then–mixing the layers destroys biodiversity, in my opinion,” he asserts. His trust in a natural balance is so strong that he even avoids seeding the plants himself, save for an occasional lavender or rosemary to “keep the bees happy in summer if there are too few flowers otherwise”. Convinced that the plants are there for a reason, and they allow the grower to read the soil, Charlot prefers to guide his farming by observation and the natural mycorrhiza happening under his vines.
Charlot wasn’t sold on biodynamics right away, though, he admits; he had multiple training sessions with Pierre Masson, one of the French pioneers of the philosophy, but only fully adhered to it when he saw the results live in his own vines. “I just felt great in my vineyards, witnessing the incredible biodiversity,” Vincent recalls what led him to apply for the Demeter and Ecocert certification in 2010. After some initial disputes with his neighbors over their use of helicopter spraying (not allowed in organics, of course), he succeeded in obtaining the seals and has been enjoying the resplendent ecosystem of some 90 different species ever since: “There’s lamb lettuce, wild mint, forest strawberries, mushrooms, pheasants breeding…” he muses and a vivid image mixing Rousseau’s canvas, an all-seasons farmer’s market and David Attenborough’s documentaries arises in our heads; a late spring / early summer view of Vincent’s vineyard fully backs this fantasy.
Given his precious natural material, the cellar work is kept to a minimum in order to showcase it: the grapes are harvested manually at optimum ripeness, and then spontaneously fermented, since Vincent believes that the yeast is like a “little mushroom selected by the terroir to express it”. Very often, the wines decide not to go through malolactic: “I don’t know why, to be honest, my cellar isn’t that cold,” Vincent laughs, “but I leave that to the wine and the results are beautiful, with balanced alcohol and pronounced acidity.” The vins clairs spend usually about 9 months on lees in seasoned barrels from Bordeaux and Burgundy: “I always use 3- or 5-year-old barrels, since I’m not interested in getting tannins from the wood. I already have these, perfectly ripe, from my skins and seeds,” Vincent describes.
Once the wines are bottled, the secondary fermentation is started with grape must concentrated by evaporation, mixed with 5 neutral organic yeasts, never sugar. The wines then spend several years on lees – some around four, some up to eight, and after disgorgement, they are topped up with the same champagne and dosed with no more than 4 grams per liter, i.e. falling under the Extra Brut category. Some of the wines are released as “Charlot-Tanneux”, a family label that Vincent uses for wines coming from smaller parcels that aren’t officially certified due to their small size (and proximity to conventionally farmed vineyards of his neighbors) but enjoy the same biodynamic care and minimal winemaking as the Vincent Charlot wines.
The resulting wines in both cases are sensual, serious, and sensitive, all at the same time. Terroir notes, fruit, elegance, energy, acidity, body, creaminess… all the elements necessary for an outstanding wine experience are in poised balance here, and the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts: opening a bottle of Charlot is a highly recommended ritual to enjoy in a big enough glass, with or without food. And preferably with some like-minded friends who will be equally happy spending the night discovering layer after layer after layer of these incredible terroir bijoux, courtesy of Monsieur Charlot.
FREDERIC LAMBERT TRADITION CHARDONNAY SAVAGNIN 2018
RENARDIERE VIN JAUNE SAVAGNIN 2010 620ML
NUTTY SALTY KUMQUATS
LEFT OF CENTRE / ORGANIC / 620ML
This is from a 0.8HA plot of his oldest Chardonnay vines planted on Marl. Fermented and aged in 400L barrels. More showy than the Jurassique - very polished and sexy but still with the underlying Jura twang.
CONTINI VERNACCIA DI ORISTANO FLOR 2013
NUT FLOR LENGTH
LEFT OF CENTRE / 750ML
Low acidity and high alcohol offer a rich textured oxidative white. In the glass it is brimming with roasted nuts, cheese rind and liquored citrus. A great alternative to Vin Jaune, with a salty Sardinian edge.
From the Distributor: The production of Vernaccia in the lower Valley of the Tirso in Sardinia, has its roots in very ancient times. It is obtained exclusively from grapes of the vine of the same name; it is left to mature in chestnut barrels, in the dusky half-light of the Contini cellars.
The barrels are oxygenated, and the wine develops a flor, a natural, native yeast growth which acts as a protective layer, while also imparting certain flavours and aromas to the wine. Sherry is also made with a similar production method, and the resulting wine is not unlike a full-bodied fino Sherry.
Vernaccia di Oristano is a wine of a decidedly Mediterranean flavour, with a full-bodied, persistent perfume, with hints of toasted hazelnuts and almond blossom. It can be served chilled as an aperitif or at the end of the meal, a wine for mellow thoughts, excellent with almond based sweets and pastries. This has the potential to age in a cellar for a very long time. Once opened, the bottle can last for a few weeks.
Founded in 1898 Contini is one of the oldest and most prestigious wineries in Sardegna. Known for classic Vernaccia in the early years, Contini is now producing excellent wines from other native Sardinian varietals, such as Vermentino, Cannonau and Nieddera.
The growing area is located just a few metres above sea level, in one of the best wine production areas of the lower Tirso Valley on the Sinis Peninsula, a region rich in history. The winery itself is located at Cabras, a town in mid-western Sardinia, less than 10 kilometres from Oristano.
Three generations after Attilio founded the winery, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are competently and passionately dedicated to the creation of traditional wines with the assistance of the best modern technology. The family has deliberately curtailed rapid growth, in favour of producing quality wines at a sustainable pace.