“This is a stellar set of wines from Alexandre Chartogne…The combination of vinous, textural intensity and vibrancy conferred by low dosage, makes for compelling, often thrilling, Champagne.” -- Antonio Galloni, Vinous
This Article Contains
Masterful wines, everything but the essentials by stripped away to display their essence of place.
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- Montagne de Reims
- Côte des Blancs
- Merfy, home base in Montagne de Reims
- Chenay, in Montagne de Reims
- Avize, Grand Cru in Côte des Blancs
- Oger, Grand Cru in Côte des Blancs
- Les Barres, southwest exposure, very sandy soil. Ungrafted Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier are planted.
- Les Oriseaux, south and north exposure, sand, up to 2 meters over limestone and chalk, along with rare illite (like Mousse). Pinot Noir planted in 1970.
- Les Beaux Sens, south exposure, a meter of limestone sand over chalk. Planted between 1974-2013. Blended into St. Anne
- Le Chemin de Reims, south / south-east exposure, iron-rich sand over chalk. Planted in 1980, 1995, 2011. 85% Chardonnay, 15% Arbanne
- Les Grands Champs, south / south-east exposure, a steeper slope for higher ripeness. Clay with limestone over chalk means more water retention, often grassed to avoid erosion. Used in the St. Anne blend.
- Les Bermonts, planted in 1989 and goes into the St. Anne blend.
- Les Fontaines, east and west exposure, well draining chalky sandy soils over chalk and sandstone, very low yields. Blended into the St. Anne.
- Les Ricordanes, planted in 1972 and 1991, blended into St. Anne.
- Les Brets, east and north-east exposition for a cooler profile. High amounts of moisture retaining clay, sand and silt over chalk. On a slope and prone to compaction makes this only workable by horse. Planted in 1997 and 1991. Used in the St. Anne blend.
- Le Closet, 100% Pinot Meunier planted in 1970 and 1992, for the St. Anne wine.
- Le Mont Agé, south / south-east exposition. Water retaining sandy clay over clay means these can only be worked by horse. 100% Pinot Meunier planted in 1980-1983, goes into St. Anne.
- Les Alliées, planted in1969 to 100% Point Meunier and goes into the St. Anne.
- Les Couarres, southern exposure on a gentle slope. One section is sand and clay over tufa (a type of limestone usually found in the Loire) the other is limestone sands over clay and rock. These are the most water retentive soils and lead to high yields which have to be managed with pruning and de-budding. 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, planted in 1970 and 2009. This is a single vineyard wine.
- Les Heurtes Bises, southern exposure, sandy clay over sandstone. Planted in 1972, 1985, 1986, and 2010 to mostly Chardonnay with some Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for its own single vine
- Les Barmonts, on the upper plains, clay-limestone-flint over chalk
- Les Roches, on the upper and mid-slope plains, clay-limestone-flint over chalk
- Le Mont Cramant, mid-slope, clay-limestone over chalk
- La Noue du Porchet
- Les Chantraines
- Les Gros Yeux Du Couchant
- Les Crayeres
- Le Clos Jacquin
- Avize & Oger, split between the two
- Les Pierres Vaudon, on the plain, clay-limestone and chalk
- Fosse le Prête, on the plain, clay-limestone and chalk
- Les Monts Chenevaux, on the plain, clay-limestone and chalk
- Chemin de Chalons, on the plain, clay-limestone and chalk
- 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
- Rain in summer, snow in winter
- Very wet climate, although drought has been an issue in recent vintages because of climate change
- 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.
- Variations between his sites are due to aspect, elevation and proximity to water, like the Marne river.
- 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.
- Pinot Noir, 50%
- 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
- Chardonnay, 40%
- a high percentage for the Grande Vallée
- 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
- Pinot Meunier, 10%
- 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.
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- Arbanne, one of the rare grapes of Champagne
- Not certified
- No insecticides, herbicides or fertilizers
- Usually uses plant extracts, copper and sulfur for fungicides, but in especially bad years will use synthetics, rather than compact the delicate soil structure with excessive applications of natural products
- He works with Claude and Lydia Bourguignon, the two foremost experts on soil microbiology.
- Half the vineyards are plowed and harvest by horse
- Treatments are sprayed using a cart, rather than tractor to avoid compaction
- Most of the work is done by hand, with the health of the soil the top priority
- Sheep and chickens add fertilizer
- Replants with selection massale cuttings
- Some of their roots go down more than 65 feet!
Traditional - Natural-leaning
- Pneumatic press
- Native yeasts for primary fermentation, not a pied de cuve
- Native, selected, pied de cuve yeasts for secondary fermentation
- Fermentation in 228L and some 600L French oak barrels
- Occasional stainless steel is used
- Reserve wines are kept in large underground concrete tanks
- Vin clair ages for 9 months before blending and bottling
- Malolactic is allowed to happen naturally
Alexandre Chartogne is one of Grower Champagne’s indisputable super-stars. Together with Aurelien Laherte, of Laherte Frères, they form an expanding class of producers who support each other in their exploration of the minutiae of Champagne's largely undiscovered terroir.
After a stage with the great Antoine Selosse, Alexandre returned to the family estate and turned it upside down. He’s tinkered with every aspect of Champagne making from vine management to vessels. He's landed back where he says his ancestors started: in the vineyards of Merfy, growing perfect fruit and aging in neutral oak.
Merfy has been planted with vines since Roman times and was considered one of the best villages of the middle ages under the care of the Abbey of Saint Thierry. But phylloxera and WWI were not kind to the area, much of it was destroyed and it fell into obscurity. Alexandre is the only grower-bottler there now and has made it his mission to uncover the long forgotten truths of his heritage.
With a handle on his home turf he's turned that curiosity towards the other prized sub-regions in Champagne. Starting with the Côte de Blancs, the new Hors Serie is his first wine from the village of Avize. From a terroir purist it's not hard to believe how starkly different this wine tastes compared to the rest of his line up, but it is no less a pure expression of its own place.
As he's mastered his techniques and terroir, from the small, northern village of Merfy, his wines have blossomed into some of the most compelling wines in Champagne.
Chartogne-Taillet is a member of Terres et Vins de Champagne, started by his friends Raphael Bereche and Aurelien Laherte. The focus is on promoting terroir driven wines and each year they host a tasting of their vin clairs, the first an only event of its kind.
Magical. They start with fruit, which is there and you can taste it, lemons, red apple, berries, tangerine, but it turns into something complex, rising to an ethereal plane. Here texture and flavor integrate into something greater than the sum of its parts, earth, truffle, toast, honey, air, gravel, chalk, rocks, saline. Each one is different, but united by a wholesome sense of place.
The non-vintage St. Anne, one of only blends he makes, is just a joy to drink, a reflection of the top wines, but with more joie de vivre.
His rosé always brings to mind chocolate chip cookies and home.
Chartogne-Taillet, Champagne Cuvée Ste.-Anne Brut, NV $69.99 $61.59
"The NV Brut Cuvée Ste.-Anne is an absolutely stunning Champagne for its complexity, value and soulfulness. Rich and creamy on the palate, with tons of resonance, the Cuvée Ste.-Anne is absolutely impeccable. Dried orchard fruit, spice, pastry, baked apple tart and lemon confit all infuse the Cuvée Ste.-Anne with striking complexity and depth. I can’t think of too many Champagnes that deliver this level of quality for the money. Not surprisingly, I have seen it offered by the glass in a number of top restaurants around the world. Alexandre Chartogne does a fabulous job with this cuvée. Don’t miss it." – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
Chartogne-Taillet, Champagne Le Rosé Brut, NV $82.99 $73.03
"The NV (2019) Brut Le Rosé is a very pretty, ethereal wine. Crushed red berry fruit, spice, dried rose petal and cedar lend notable aromatic presence. The Rosé is decidedly understated and gracious in this release. I would prefer to drink it sooner rather than later. 90pts" -- Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media