Cedric Bouchard among his vines
We love Champagne. Dominated by large companies that buy grapes from a multitude of the region’s grape growers, Champagne has seen a surge in growers who keep their grapes to make their own bibulous bubbles on a small scale. We love Champagne, but we love these small-production Champagnes the most.
Along with Selosse, Egly-Ouriet is the original grower that let the world know that the finest of Champagne did not have to come from one of “Les Grande Marques” (literally, “the big brands”) of the region. Organic since the 80's, healthy vineyards are key to Egly-Ouriet’s approach. Located in the grand cru village of Ambonnay, much of Egly’s vineyards are planted to Pinot Noir and all except one of their wines is accorded grand cru status (not the same thing as in Burgundy, but notable nonetheless). Known for a rich and powerful style, their wines are bottle conditioned on the lees longer than many others, resulting in some of the region’s most beautiful, complex and sought-after wines. Egly-Ouriet used to be an incredible bargain. They’re still a deal compared to the fancy icons of the region, but if you like Egly-Ouriet, you might want to stock up now; their prices go up every year and everything but their Brut Tradition is becoming more difficult to find. Available now:
Egly-Ouriet Champagne Grand Cru Brut Tradition
Egly-Ouriet Champagne Premier Cru Les Vignes de Vrigny
Egly-Ouriet Champagne Grand Cru Brut Rosé
Totally under the radar, and it’s difficult to see why. The Champagnes of Jean Vesselle are excellent and very reasonably priced. Based in the Pinot-centric grand cru village of Bouzy, their wines are richly fruited, with the classic cut and refreshment of fine Champagne. Their Brut Reserve is one of Champagne’s great bargains in 2019 and their Oeil de Perdix is one of the region’s most distinctive. They are a constant for us here at Craft and Cru.
Jean Vesselle Champagne Brut Reserve 375mL
Jean Vesselle Champagne Brut Reserve
Jean Vesselle Champagne Brut Reserve 1.5L magnum
Vean Vesselle Champagne Extra Brut
Jean Vesselle Champagne Oeil de Perdrix
Another constant, we always keep Gerbais’ Grains de Celles around. It is an Extra Brut with 25% Pinot Blanc (a rarity in Champagne) in the blend. Exuberant and fruity, it features lots of ripe stone fruits and citrus notes before turning dry and mineral but never aggressive; it is a gentle style of Extra Brut.
Pierre Gerbais Champagne Extra Brut ‘Grains de Celles’
Bereche et Fils
These guys are one of our favorites, the only problem is getting the wines. Get ‘em while you can!
Bereche et Fils Champagne Brut Reserve
Bereche et Fils Champagne Brut ‘Reflet D’Antan’
Another super limited producer, Jerome Prevost makes a teeny tiny amount of the most fabulous pure Pinot Meunier in three styles: white, pink and late released. We have his 2016 white wine, Les Beguines, in stock and we believe it’s a legend in the making. Tasting through a vertical of Les Beguines this year, the 2016 was the youngest but also a clear stand out. Pure notes of lemon, yellow apple and white peach are accented by white flowers and mint; it is a stunning wine today, but it will be getting more interesting for at least another 5 years.
Jerome Prevost Champagne Extra Brut Les Beguines 2016
Last but certainly not least, representing the avante garde of Champagne, Cedric Bouchard’s wines are something every sparkling wine fan needs to try. Each and every one of his wines adheres to a simple but meaningful standard: they must be single-vintage, single-varietal and single-vineyard. Released too young to print the vintage on their labels, you must look for the vintage in a code on the back label of his bottles (V16, V17…). We get a small amount of his wines every year and the Val de Vilaine is the one to drink right away. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, the Val de Vilaine is always bursting with citrus and stone fruit flavors, as well as herbal and floral notes, never toasty or buttery, but layered and textured. The 2016 is fresher and a little lighter while the 2017 is a bit more plush, full and fruity. Either is a revelation.
Cedric Bouchard Champagne ‘Val de Vilaine’ 2016
Cedric Bouchard Champagne ‘Val de Vilaine’ 2017