A Quick Detour June 4
After our appointment with Bedel, we pointed our blue car west and started trekking back toward Reims, with some fun along the way. Since we had a bit of extra time, we decided to have a lovely lunch in Dormans at Restaurant S. Suty. Its in the town square and well marked by bright orange umbrellas and decor. Its pretty standard French fair, but done well and they had a nice list of champagne from the Vallée. We ended having a half bottle of H. Blin Brut Tradtion. I’ve heard about this cooperative for a while, and the wine was pleasant but not amazing.
After our leisurely lunch, we made our way to Œuilly, primarily to visit Tarlant, which I’ll discuss in the next post, but we had a quick stop at François Chaumont. Chaumont is a bit of a unicorn in Champagne, he’s the only producer to make champagne using only fruit from the Grand Cru of Puisieulx. Here’s a link to hear how this tongue twister of a village is actually pronounced - Puisielx
Puisieulx, along with Oiry, Sillery, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, and Tours-sur-Marne, are all part of the club of “forgotten” Grand Crus. These five villages are classified as Grand Cru, but its exceptionally rare to find a wine made exclusively from their grapes. Each of these villages only has a bit of land under vine, tend to be in the flatter area next to a “better” Grand Cru, and most people say snarky things about them just being used by the big houses to pump up their percentage of Grand Cru fruit. I won’t deny these opinions, but I also wanted to form my own opinions, so during this trip I made a point to track down as many of these crus as I could and taste wines made from their fruit.
Oiry, I covered with Suenen. Tour-sur-Marne wasn’t part of this trip but Lamiable makes outstanding wine from this village, and you can often find it on the list at Ambonnay. Sillery, unfortunately I didn’t taste the wine, but François Secondé makes one and I’ll taste it soon enough. Beaumont-sur-Vesle, I still haven’t found a single example of, but during my trip to Louis Roederer I learned that about 1/3 of the Pinot for Cristal comes from this village, pretty nice recommendation.
During one of my outings, I drove through Puisieulx, Sillery, and Beaumont-sur-Vesle, which are all next to each other in the low lands beneath Verzenay and Verzy. Seeing these vines, and tasting some of the wines from them helps confirm the theory I mentioned in the Suenen post. Namely that mid to low slope is actually a great place for vines in Champagne. The grapes achieve more ripeness and the soils benefit from the erosion of the top of the hill bringing extra good soil to the bottle of the hill. Fun to think about and research, though admittedly a bit nerdy.
Those of you that are up on your geography might be questioning why I went to the Rive Gauche of the Vallée to taste wine from a Grand Cru located in the northeastern corner of the Montagne de Reims. François’ wife and her family own a winery in Œuilly, their facilities were bigger the Francois’, so he moved there and makes his wine in their winery.
François was delightful, and excited that I tracked him down. I’m sorry that I didn’t budget more time to spend with him. Instead of just buying his wines and moving along, we ended up tasting through the line with him and learning more about his village. Puisieulx has only 15HA of vines, and François owns a third of that. He’s farming conventionally, but hopefully he’ll take inspiration from his friend and former wine school classmate, Vincent Laval and move to a biodynamic, or at least organic approach. The soils there are pure chalk, and the erosion effect does take place here, which seemed to give François a good deal of pleasure. I suppose if everyone said bad things about my village, I’d be happy to take the good top soil from my stuck up neighbors too. François feels that his village is all about freshness due to the high chalk and mineral content in the soils, and after tasting his wines, I have to agree. Across the line of wines I found lots of chalk and spicy notes. Fascinating wines, fingers crossed in the future they may come to Portland.
So interesting to dig around in “lesser” areas, both Grand Crus and other villages and discover the cool stuff that people are doing rather than staying just with the accepted mainstream, whether maison or grower.