VINCENT CHARLOT COTEAUX CHAMPENOIS CHARDELOUPS PINOT MEUNIER 2018
STILL AUTOLYTIC BLANC DE NOIR
LEFT OF CENTRE / ORGANIC / BIODYNAMIC / 750ML
Intentionally flat, this is a unique still Blanc de Noir white wine made from 100% Pinot Meunier sur lies (on lees) with only 280 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.
OCEAN AGED CUVEE BRUT 2013
KING VALLEY, VICTORIA
BRIOCHE TEXTURE MIST
CLASSIC / 750ML
Fruit sourced from the highest vineyards in Victoria and then matured in the Oceans flux for 2 years. A combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier make this a rich style of traditional method fizz. A brillant textural fizz - great things to come.
From the Producer: The bottled wine is aged on lees for a minimum five years, with 1-2 years submerged in the ocean. Unlike traditional storage, the gentle motion of ocean currents maintains the yeast lees in suspension. This enhances the maturation process producing a fresh and complex wine with incredible length and finesse. After ocean ageing, each bottle is riddled and disgorged by hand. The bottles’ exterior is preserved in its raw and unique state making each bottle one of a kind.
Glenn Eberbach is the winemaker of Prima Donna Wines and creator of its Ocean Aged Vintage Cuvée. Born and raised in the Yarra Valley, he developed an early fascination with winemaking as both an art and a science. His formative years were spent in the cellars of De Bortoli and Domaine Chandon, honing his craft and getting his hands dirty. After completing a double Bachelor in Viticulture and Winemaking he embarked on a northern hemisphere vintage as a flying winemaker.
“What started as a three month vintage became a five year adventure when Sicilian winery Barone Montalto made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The role took me across Italy working in collaboration with a number of inspiring winemakers. It also introduced me, quite by accident, to the benefits of ageing wine in the ocean.”
Returning to Australia as a contract winemaker in the King Valley, Glenn discovered the Burder Family Vineyard and its pristine fruit for sparkling wine production. A new collaboration was born and in 2012 the first Vintage Cuvée under Prima Donna Wines was produced.
“In a year that most growers would rather forget, the Burder Vineyard produced fruit that was perfectly balanced and without blemish. I decided there and then to start creating my own wine.”
Today, Prima Donna Wines produces a Vintage Cuvée in the Méthode Traditionnelle style with fruit sourced exclusively from the Burder Vineyard. As a field blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the grapes are handpicked, whole bunch pressed, barrel fermented in French oak barriques and stirred on yeast lees for twelve months before secondary fermentation in bottle.
“Our winemaking philosophy is very much hands-off. We want to capture a time and place in bottle with minimal intervention. The vineyard and vintage conditions dictate the terms, and ultimately, the final blend that goes to bottle.”
LA VIOLETTA YEYE ROUGE 2020
GREAT SOUTHERN, WEST AUSTRALIA
JUICE SPICE BERRY
CLASSIC / 750ML
Awash with every red coloured fruit you can think of. Light, bright and playful. Drink anywhere, anytime with anything.
From the Distributor: YeYe Rouge (Pinot Noir, Syrah + Tempranillo) Low yielding clonal Pinot Noir from Denmark makes up the heart of the blend, bringing lifted red fruits, musk and herbal notes, with Syrah contributing spice and structure. Plenty of stalks, whole berries and carbonic in here, all wild fermented, then pressed to oak to complete malolactic fermentation. The Syrah comes from an ironstone gravelly loam site west of Mt Barker; mid-weight, juicy, spicy. A splash of Meunier brings dark-fruited aromatics and a different angle on the palate. Six months in oak and early to bottle keeps the style where I like it - bright, layered, juicy, with some savoury scratch. Unfined. Sulphur dioxide added just before bottling.
From the Producer: La Violetta began producing small quantities of wine at Denmark, on Western Australia’s south coast, in 2008. Grapes are sourced from a handful of trusted growers with exceptional vineyards, some amongst the oldest in the state. The idea is to keep production at a small scale so that each wine is crafted with care.
Before being lured west by the quality of Great Southern grapes, winemaker Andrew Hoadley worked all over Australia’s cool and hot zones and in Piedmont, Abruzzo and Washington State. He now lives on Mt Shadforth, just out of Denmark town, and makes the wines in a small facility in the countryside.
The name ‘La Violetta’ derives from an old Piedmontese song celebrating intoxication.
BEST'S YOUNG VINES PINOT MEUNIER 2020
GREAT WESTERN VICTORIA
FORWARD CHIRPY CANDID
CLASSIC / 750ML / 12.5%
Best's have done an amazing job at putting Pinot Meunier on the map. Meunier has notoriously thin skins, with low pigment (anthocyanins) - the combination of these two characteristics lead to a light bright wine honing into a primary fruit profile. The young vines Meunier hovers on the edge of the rose-red wine spectrum.
From the producer: Generally used in sparkling wine production, Pinot Meunier is rarely made as a straight table red wine. However, at Best’s, we have been producing small quantities of single varietal red wines from Pinot Meunier since the 1960s, with the vineyards and wines gaining cult-like status (and loyal followers) along the way. Although eminently drinkable now, previous examples of this wine prove that it will age gracefully for many years to come. Try this, if you can, in 5-10 years time.