Champagne Vilmart & Cie
“Laurent Champs makes some of the classiest wines in all of Champagne. Nuance, polish and sophistication are all signatures readers will find here. No matter the vintage or wine, there is a sense of effortless grace at Vilmart that I always admire.” -- Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
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Refinement, elegance, perfection. The fine line we all want to walk between hedonism and austerity.
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Montagne de Reims
- Rilly-la-Montagne, 1er Cru
- They have 13 large parcels over 11 hectares. Nearly unheard of in Champagne.
- Mostly south, south-west, and south-east facing parcels in a village that is almost entirely facing north.
- Average age of vines is 30 years old, older than the average in Champagne
- Blanches Voies: due south facing, planted in 1964, ungrafted 40% Pinot Noir and 60% Chardonnay
- Hautes Grèves: South-west facing, with both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
- This was the northern edge of viticulture until recent decades
- 2nd most northern grape growing region in France, after Alsace, but much less sunshine and more rain.
- Harsh cold winters
- Short hot summers
- Very wet climate, although drought has been an issue in recent vintages because of climate change
- Rain in summer, snow in winter
- Viticulture is possible because of long, (hopefully) dry, temperate autumns to extend the growing season.
- Because ripeness was a struggle, grapes are usually grown for white wine, or in the last 150 years, sparkling wines.
- Cool climate red varieties Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier dominate, but the vast majority are destined for white or rosé sparkling wines.
- Wines are going to be high in acidity, light in body, low in alcohol, and often need extended aging of 18 months or more to temper the high acidity.
- Sugar is often added to wines at the end, called dosage, to help balance the high acidities from cold climate grapes.
- 60% Chardonnay, almost the opposite of the village norm.
- Adds finesse and freshness
- Often a signature lemon meringue pie flavor profile.
- If handled reductively, can impart white flower, ginger, green apple, quince and other primary flavors
- Oxidative or aged examples can be full of brioche, kernel, honey and truffle
- Does best in east facing sites with little to no top soil on chalk and other limestones
- 36% Pinot Noir
- Critical for structure and body, more powerful than the other two grapes
- Fruit profile can include red apple, strawberry, apricot, and peach
- Savory notes of spices, stones, rose petal and violet
- Almost always the grape used for rosé Champagne
- Shows best in on south facing sites with clay over chalk
- 4% Pinot Meunier
- Supple and fruity, often easier to drink younger than the other two, which makes it a great blending partner.
- Had a poor reputation until the last decade as it was planted in the worst sites, poorly farmed, and over-cropped as a work-horse, or filler grape.
- Now we know when treated with care, it can shine brilliantly on its own or add an inimitable character to a blend (notably in Krug).
- Easier to grow than the other two. It buds later than Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, meaning it's a great insurance policy against the late frosts that can decimate the groups of Champagne.
- Its dynamic nature also means it can find a home in any of the soil types of the region, but furthermore, can express terroir with clarity.
- Biodynamic methods employed as well
- Started with the last generation, who was very strict organic, to the detriment of fruit quality in some years
- Laurent, is more pragmatic in his approach, but very committed to sustainability
- Cover crops employed for decades
- Pest control by pheromones (by the entire commune for many years)
- Oak is the defining feature of these wines, but without a heavy imprint. It’s used as a cohesion measure.
- Pressing in Coquart, with 4 press cycles for each lot
- Top vintage wine “Coeur de Cuvée” from the heart of the free run juice.
- The Taille (final, hardest press) is sold off
- Large 2200–5500-liter foudre and demi-muid for the NV wines
- Smaller barrique as well as demi-muid for vintage wines
- Malolactic fermentation is always blocked, giving the wines a crisp acidic structure
- 10 months aging for all vin clair
One of the original Grower Champagne estates, established in 1890, is today run by the talented Laurent Champs. If you like Krug and Bollinger, then Vilmart is for you. They have a reputation for being on the Burgundian end of the Champagne spectrum.
Vilmart is obsessed with good vineyard work, has plenty of low-yielding older vines, and happens to make really delicious wines. Taste and you will learn. And if you have already learned, you will almost certainly want to taste some more!
Members of Les Artisans du Champagne, along with the likes of Marc Hébrart, Savart and JL Vergnon, among others. They are a producer group promoting a like-minded focus on quality.
Older examples of these top wines come to taste a lot like a mature Chevalier-Montrachet with fermentation and aging in barrels. Vilmart blocks the malos, retaining great mineral tension. Aside from their rosé, the wines are dominated by Chardonnay—and not the pencil-lead Chardonnay of the Côte des Blancs, but the more generous Chard that you get on the Montagne de Reims where the black grapes tend to be more dominant.
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Grande Réserve Brut, NV $64.99 $57.19
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Grande Réserve Brut, NV (375ml) $47.99 $42.23
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Grande Réserve Brut, NV (1.5L) $82.99 $73.03
"The NV Brut Grande Réserve is a fine introduction to this range. Bright, nervy and refreshing, the Grande Réserve marries the richness of Pinot with the briskness of Chardonnay. Lemon peel, almond, chamomile and dried flowers build into the finish. There is a bit of angularity in the contours, but then again, this is the entry-level wine. Disgorged: July, 2020. 89 pts" -- By Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Grand Cellier Brut, NV $88.99 $78.31
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Grand Cellier Brut, NV (1.5L) $200.00 $176.00
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Grand Cellier Brut, NV (3L) $580.00 $510.40
"A mouthwatering Champagne that shows seamless integration of the plush and creamy mousse, rapierlike acidity and expressive range of peach, chopped nut, ripe green apple, star anise and honeysuckle aromas and flavors that persist on the long finish. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Disgorged January 2022. Drink now through 2027. 94 pts" -- Wine Spectator
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Cuvée Rubis Rosé Brut, NV $98.99 $87.11
"The NV Brut Rosé Cuvée Rubis is bright, floral and vibrant. Crushed red berry fruit, spice and lifted floral accents abound. The purity of the flavors is compelling. The Rubis is the most enjoyable of the three Roses I tasted from Vilmart this year. All that effusive floral, spice and mineral energy builds to the resonant finish. The blend is 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay. Disgorged: July, 2021. 91 pts" -- By Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Grand Cellier d'Or Brut, 2017 $116.99 $102.95
"The 2017 Brut Grand Cellier d'Or is a rich, exuberant wine. In 2017, the Brut Grand Cellier d'Or has an exotic, tropical quality that is a bit unusual, but also incredibly appealing. Hints of mango, passionfruit, citrus confit and white flowers all build nicely in the glass. Medium in body and yet quite resonant, the 2017 is an absolute delight. The 2017 looks to be more of an early-drinking vintage, but I doubt that will be a problem for Vilmart fans. The blend is 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. Disgorged: Julv, 2021. 92 pts" -- Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Grand Cellier d'Or Brut, 2014 (1.5L) $300.00 $264.00
"Revisited from the September 2018 disgorgement, Vilmart's 2014 Brut Premier Cru Grand Cellier d'Or is showing beautifully, wafting from the glass with scents of pear, toasted brioche, white flowers, crisp peach and honeycomb. Medium to full-bodied, vinous and incisive, with superb depth at the core, racy acids and a bright, unerringly precise finish, it's still very youthful—to the extent that I'd love to be broaching a full case a decade from now. 94+ pts" -- William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Coeur de Cuvée Brut, 2014 $160.00 $140.80
"The 2014 Brut Coeur de Cuvée impresses with its density and overall energy. Apricot, baked apple tart, spice, chamomile and lightly honeyed accents all meld together. The 2014 is deep and beautifully centered, with tons of poise and impeccable balance. It's a pretty big wine by Vilmart standards, and yet all the elements are so well put together. The blend is 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. Disgorged: March, 2021. 94 pts" -- Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Coeur de Cuvée Brut, 2012 (1.5L) $550.00 $484.00
"The 2012 Coeur de Cuvée is magnificent. In this vintage Laurent Champs balances the natural intensity of the year with tremendous energy and vibrancy, making for a Champagne of remarkable beauty. Like all the Vilmart wines, the 2012 Coeur de Cuvée is super-refined. Even so, it is also incredibly tight and nowhere near ready. I find its depth, power and tension absolutely compelling. Bright saline notes, spice and floral accents extend the eternal finish. The 2012 is 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. Disgorged: February 2019. Don't miss it! 96 pts" -- Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Rosé Emotion, 2013 $170.00 $149.60
"The 2013 Brut Rosé Emotion is more interesting than the 2014 tasted alongside it, as it has more depth and overall textural presence. Here, too, I find the fruit a bit faded, while the oak imprint is unusually strong. The blend is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. Disgorged: April, 2020. 90 pts" -- Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Rosé Emotion, 2014 $170.00 $149.60
"Vilmart's 2014 Brut Rosé Emotion is laced with sweet dried cherry, dried herbs, blood orange and mint. It offers terrific breadth for the year, with the Pinot more in evidence than in the 2015 tasted alongside it (the blend is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay for both). Eight grams of dosage feels expertly judged. Disgorged: February 2022. 94 pts" -- By Antonio Galloni
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Les Blanches Voies Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, 2012 $400.00 $352.00
"The 2012 Extra-Brut Blanc de Blancs Les Blanches Voies is elegant, weightless and crystalline in its purity. Lemon peel, white flowers, crushed rocks and marzipan abound. Another six months has done the 2012 wonders. A wine of transparency and crystalline purity. Even with more than two years of disgorgement, the 2012 is very tightly wound. It's all understatement and class here. 95 pts" -- Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
Vilmart & Cie, Champagne Ratafia, 2013 (500ml) $56.99 $50.15
"The 2013 Ratafia (Chardonnay) is laced with hints of dried fruit, almond, dried flowers and chamomile. It offers gorgeous complexity, along with notable energy and freshness. It is a very fine, elegant Ratafia. 94 pts" -- Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media