Pascal Agrapart is to Avize what Champagne Pierre Péters is to Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Here, Avize is the personification of summer to Mesnil's winter, although we're still on the chalky slopes that define the Côtes des Blancs. In the epicenter of Chardonnay royalty, Agrapart's Avize champagnes show an amplitude and breadth that's completely juxtaposed with Mesnil's austerity.
But, make no mistake about it, these extra brut and brut nature wines are defined the very most by their taut and energetic personalities, ones that match magically with Avize's more charming and generous demeanor. The greatest thing I can say about Pascal's wines is that they truly beg to be drunk. They provide never-ending fascination, wild development in glass with air, and they offer a quenching characteristic that just fulfills summertime needs every time.
Today, after an in depth tour with Pascal, I'm very happy to offer a deep range of wines from this historic grower-producer.
Agrapart farms 10 hectares covering 60 different parcels, all located in Grand Cru villages, but Avize is the source of his Tête de Cuvées. Wines here commonly go through full malolactic, and elévage takes place in both older oak barrels as well as stainless steel.
Terroirs is comprised of Chardonnay sourced from Grand Cru villages, Avize, Oger, Cramant, and Oiry. A blend of two consecutive vintages, with the older vintage being aged exclusively in neutral oak barrels. A NV Blanc de Blancs that is the first I reach for alongside Pierre Péters'. In fact, last month I brought magnums of both to a dear friend's wedding. The side-by-side comparison was simply awesome.
Minéral is sourced from extremely chalky soils in Avize (Les Champboutons) and Cramant (Les Bionnes). Pascal imagined Chablis would be a village that would most closely match with the personality of Minéral. Laser-focused, and finishes with a deep salty impression of white fruits.
Complantée is co-planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Arbane, and Petit Meslier. Although it may appear this mix of varieties would define the wine, it's the unique parcel's terroir with its mix of chalk and clay throughout that's ultimately the unique component. Like Terroirs, this contains two consecutive vintages blended.
Avizoize is sourced from an upper hillside in Avize containing old vines. The soil here sees much more clay than Minéral, so it has a fuller texture and sense of gravitas, but the chalky bedrock still ultimately informs the backbone of the wine. Fully chiseled, with some up-front deep, textural impact and then firms up and gets surprisingly linear on the finish. Very long.
Venus, named after Pascal's horse who works this vineyard, is a single vineyard that takes us back to a more linear style along the lines of Minéral. But, the clay composition here brings a power and drive that's simply quintessential Avize Grand Cru. Pascal called to mind Meursault when thinking about the style that comes from this site. This sees no dosage due to the perfectly ripe and satisfactory vin clair we tasted in barrel. In fact, a still Coteaux Champenois would be an ideal partnership with this site. We'll see if Pascal decides to toy with that idea. No hints...
Purchase Directly Here.
Agrapart "Terroirs" Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut NV
$60 per bottle.
Agrapart Terroirs Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Champagne 1.5L
$171 per bottle.
Agrapart Terroirs Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Champagne 3L
$425 per bottle.
3x Agrapart Complantée Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Champagne
$89 per bottle.
1x 2010 Agrapart Minéral Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Champagne
$118 per bottle.
2x 2010 Agrapart Avizoise Blancs de Blancs Extra Brut Champagne
$149 per bottle.
1x 2010 Agrapart Vénus Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature Champagne
$219 per bottle.
5x 2009 Agrapart Minéral Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Champagne
$118 per bottle.
3x 2009 Agrapart Vénus Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature Champagne
$212 per bottle.
1x 2008 Agrapart Minéral Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut
$109 per bottle.
4x 2008 Agrapart Minéral Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 1.5L
$399 per bottle.
6x 2008 Agrapart Vénus Blanc De Blancs Brut Nature Champagne
$249 per bottle.
2x 2004 Agrapart l'Avizoise Grand Cru Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
$209 per bottle.
1x 2004 Agrapart Grand Cru Blancs de Blancs Extra Brut Champagne
$319 per bottle.
1x 2002 Agrapart Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut
$339 per bottle.
Within the pantheon of beer, to many, Cantillon is the holy grail. And for lovers of wine, there really is no substitute. Yesterday, I finally made my pilgrimage to Brussels and visited this 1900-founded, and still family-run, Lambic brewery. Today's offer features Cantillon's three primary bottlings: the Gueuze, Kriek (cherry), and Rosé de Gambrinus (raspberry).
A listing for any of these Lambics in the US is highly unusual. Currently, the only other listings are for $290 and $500 per 750mls. Today, I'm happy to offer each at $89 per bottle, and down to $83 per bottle on mixed 3-packs.
Lambics, also referred to as sours, initially pulled me in for their vinous qualities and unusual persistent finish. Often times I find a flinty reductive quality that calls to mind the best bottlings from white Burgundy producers such as Roulot, Lafon, and Coche-Dury. That driving intensity, crazy levels of concentration, so severe, and yet concluding with unparalleled freshness.
Commonly regarded as the world's most mysterious beer, Lambics are spontaneously fermented with natural yeasts. This is mother nature's most ancient brew. They are produced in, and around the city of Brussels. In the 1950's there were hundreds of Lambic brewers within this Pajottenland region of Belgium, but today only a few remain. The production is extremely labor intensive, and as a business proposition there simply wasn't the financial incentive 70 years ago for brewers to continue this tradition - technological advancements offered more desirable options.
Lambics are derived from about 35% wheat and 65% malted barley, with relatively small amounts of aged hops used.
Gueuze is a blend of three vintages of beer from barrel. The youngest vintage, still containing some sweetness, offers the necessary sugars to complete fermentation in bottle, resulting in a totally dry beer. The oldest vintage brings those more refined flavors that have developed while aging in barrel.
The Kriek bottling, using the local Schaerbeekse sour cherries (not so sour really), will take you back in one sip to the first time you had a bite of cherry pie as a child - one without the preservatives and confectionery qualities you'd find at a grocery store pastry section today. Tasting these freshly picked cherries yesterday in Belgium was a sense memory that will be tied to me forever. Thankfully, in glass, all of the raw qualities of these cherries holds strong.
The Gambrinus bottling uses local raaspberries A perfect, mysterious fit for this ancient style of beer. The slightly sour component of the Lambic melding with the pristine raspberry fruit. A nice counterpoint to the Kriek.
Following your heart as a wine lover into beer territory is not always easy, I know that as well as anyone. Once you taste the magic from this most fabled Lambic producer, you will become a believer in this ancient brew!
Cantillon Gueuze 750ml (Bottled 9/13/16)
$89 per bottle.
Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus 750ml (Bottled 1/16/2018)
$89 per bottle.
Cantillon Kriek 750ml (Bottled 1/24/18)
$89 per bottle.
I've arrived in Champagne and the next several days will be spent visiting with some of my favorite grower-producers. Beginning night #1 at Anselme Selosse's hotel/restaurant, Les Avizés is as fantastic a reception into the Côte de Blancs as one could expect. The next three weeks are going to be a blast, thank you in advance for coming along for the ride! Please be sure to follow @kogodwinemerchant for more in-depth videos and pics that can be found in our Instagram Stories feed.
The wide range of offers from the region will start today with perhaps the only other figure in the grower-producer movement with the street cred of Monsieur Selosse:
The young and hip generation of grower-producers in Champagne have been an integral part of the region's explosion in popularity (and quality) over the last several years. But, if we reflect on the origin story we'd be greatly remiss to not start with the name Egly-Ouriet. The style here is one that certainly pulls no punches, and for that they're regarded as one of the region's most unique and respected grower-estates.
In Ambonnay, Pinot Noir's most cherished Grand Cru village, Francis Egly took over the reigns from his father in 1982. A choice was made at that time to stop selling grapes, bottle 100% under the Egly-Ouriet name, and convert all vineyard practices to organic. As rare as organic viticulture is today in Champagne, in 1982 this was a completely radical move.
This conversion is at the root of of the style that the Egly is known for today. With a treasure trove of old vines, the organic shift allowed Francis to naturally push harvest back to the extreme for maximum ripeness. The Egly wines are defined by their robust fruit as much as they are for their finesse.
In Ambonnay power is never on short supply, and coupled with the low yield regimen and old vines these champagnes could be monolithic. However, Francis keeps dosage very low (1-3 grams), and uses only the purest first pressing known as the cuvée. Additional steps such as bottling at low atmospheres of pressure and extended lees aging give the Egly wines a very particular style. One that's known for its singular expression of terroir and flashy element of grandeur.
Champagne's greatest resource and authority today, Peter Liem, sums up the domaine well in his indispensable new book, Champagne:
“If there are any Champagnes that fit the often-used description of ‘Burgundy with bubbles’, Egly-Ouriet’s would be the leading candidates...Francis Egly has been making wine at this renowned Ambonnay estate since 1982, and among grower-producers today, he has a reputation in the region second only to Anselme Selosse"
Les Vignes de Vrigny is comprised of 100% Pinot Meunier from 40 year old vines in the Premier Cru village of Vrigny. Fermented and aged in tank, and aged 36 months on lees.
Tradition is comprised of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. 90% is sourced from the Grand Cru village Ambonnay with the rest coming from Grand Crus Verzenay and Bouzy.
50% Barrel fermented, aged 48 months on the lees.
V.P. is comprised of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. 90% from Grand Cru Ambonnay with the rest coming from Grand Crus Verzenay and Bouzy. V.P. stands for Vieillissement Prolongé, or extended aging – aged 84 months on the lees.
Les Crayères is the top single vineyard of the estate, containing the oldest vines of all, planted in 1946. 100% Pinot Noir from the renowned Les Crayères vineyard in Ambonnay, known for its extremely shallow topsoil and chalky bedrock. Completely barrel fermented, and aged 70 months on the lees.
Egly-Ouriet Brut 1er Cru "Les Vignes de Vrigny" NV
$79 per bottle.
Egly-Ouriet Brut "Tradition" Grand Cru NV
$85 per bottle.
Egly-Ouriet Extra Brut Grand Cru "V.P." NV
$113 per bottle.
Egly-Ouriet Brut Grand Cru "Les Crayères" NV
$198 per bottle.
If one Pinot Noir-focused Champagne name has emerged onto the scene with the greatest impact over the last couple of years, it's undoubtedly Frederic Savart. With only 4 hectares in the Montagne de Reims, Savart's style is one which has won over his fervent fan base in sweeping fashion, seemingly overnight. Rarely do a range of these cuvées escape the New York restaurant scene, but...
Today, I'm happy to offer a diverse lineup, including special E-mail 4-pack pricing on the L'Accomplie Vieilles Vignes.
Enthusiasm is not something capable of being contained by Frederic. He's happy when he meets you, and he's really happy when you see what's up in the glass. He's avid about ensuring we understand terroir expression is the primary objective. But, unlike many who walk that high road, he brings a flair and delicious factor that's compelling immediately.
Located in the Premier Cru village of Ecueil, Savart's parcels have a distinct sandy topsoil above clay and chalky bedrock. Certainly this is part of the story to why finesse is the first thing you recognize. But, in the cellar, larger format aging in wood brings an oxidative influence that's really about soft contours of texture, and not about flavor of wood. Waxing poetic, easy. Executing, very difficult.
Savart's Champagnes remind me of that rare breed which makes their brilliance known upon first sip, no matter the taster. They are low in dosage and brimming with energy, yet each cuvée has a unique luscious fruit profile that's completely intoxicating. Each bottling is drastically different from the next in reflection of terroir, something that's clearly at the root of Fred's obsessive focus on site, above all.
The majority of the cuvées today are available in very tiny quantities. The L'Accomplie was one of the greatest surprises thus far. I've revisited this wine several times on the trip and it's undoubtedly one of the greatest values in Champagne today, holding its own with cuvées 2x the price. I thought it would be fun to offer some seriously sharp pricing on mixed 4-Packs so you can start to see what the Savart fanfare is all about.
L'Accomplie is comprised of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. 5 grams/liter dosage.
Bulle de Rosé is comprised of 70% Pinot Noir, 22% Chardonnay, and 8% Pinot Noir red wine. 6 grams/liter dosage.
L'Expression Rosé 100% Pinot Noir from the estate's oldest vines. 0 grams/liter dosage. Aged exclusively in 500L barrels.
Millesime 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. From the estate's oldest vines.
Savart L'Accomplie Vieilles Vignes Extra Brut Champagne NV
$69 per bottle
Special E-mail L'Accomplie 4-Pack Price: $252 ($63/bottle)
Savart Bulle de Rosé 1er Cru Rosé Brut Champagne Vieilles Vignes NV
$81 per bottle.
2012 Savart L'Expression Rosé Champagne.
$246 per bottle.
2008 Savart Extra Brut Millesime
$229 per bottle.
The grand cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger is the source of the most quintessential chalky and dead-serious blanc de blancs champagnes of all. Here, the name Pierre Péters exists in rare company with the likes of Jacques Selosse, Krug and Salon. Chardonnay excels in Mesnil's porous, chalky slopes and there's no producer that covers the entire range like Pierre Péters.
The non-vintage Cuvée Réserve, sourced entirely from grand cru villages, is the reference point for the Côtes de Blancs. And the single vineyard, Les Chétillons is one of the most prized in all of Champagne. The newest cuvée L'Etonnant Monsieur Victor is a dream blend of the crème de la crème in the cave. Today's offer extends from the current non-vintage release (based on the 2013 vintage) back to the 2007 Les Chétillons.
While the story behind Pierre Péters warrants significant time, I'd like to start with some technical information gleaned during my visit that really helped me understand exactly why the wines are as focused and profound as they are.
- Mesnil's unique broken chalky soil allows vines to easily travel deep, picking up nutrients and mineral expressions from this bedrock, in turn, supplying the wines with that chalk-inflected and unmistakable saline note that stands apart from even the neighboring villages in the Côte de Blancs. If Mesnil is winter, then Avize is summer, Crammant fall, and Oger spring.
- Stainless steel is used for the aging here (with the exception of reserve wines, we will get to that later). The use of oak in Mesnil is believed to bring a nutty character that may work well in many other villages, but here it becomes far too pronounced and detracts from the taut and straight-line focus that is its calling card. In short, stainless steel provides a balance that is ideal for Mesnil Chardonnay.
- There's a maximum of 3 hours between harvesting a cluster to the time it is pressed. In the world of white winemaking this is as rapid as it gets. The idea is that degradation of Chardonnay will begin, even in the most faint respects, after this 3 hour period has passed. The extremely rare luxury of two pneumatic presses allows for pressing on an ideal, un-rushed schedule.
- There's a noble bitterness and citrus pith note to the fruit here matched with the salinity that's the foundation for the house style. Ultimately, in my estimation, the most crystalline reflection of chalky terroir. With age (yes, the NV warrants cellaring too) the nutty and slightest of caramel notes can arise. If I had to choose one village to visit in bottle after decades, it would be Mesnil for this wild combo.
- An average of 65% of this Chardonnay completes malolactic fermentation. In cooler years, this percentage can rise to 80%. Fuller the malo, more creamy the texture. In ripe years such as 2003 and 2009 the partial blocking of malo maintains the tension of structure that otherwise would become too flabby.
- The perpetual blend (source of reserve wine) was started in 1997 and contains wine from: 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996. Vintages like 1999 and 2003 were excluded, for instance, because they brought a hefty weight that was not ideal.
- Before 1997, instead of using a perpetual blend, Rodolphe's father chose single vintage reserve tanks to pull from to supplement the NV.
- Today, the perpetual reserve is kept in a combination of three formats: Stockinger foudre (wood) 18%, concrete 38%, and steel 44%. The foudre brings fine tannins and faint nutty development. The concrete brings out the chalky character, while paradoxically keeping the lees settled. The steel brings the bright citrus and fresh fruit qualities.
- The NV Reserve Cuvée is sourced from 63 parcels and is supplemented by the perpetual reserve.
- The L'Esprit is sourced from 4 parcels contained in Grand Cru village: Mesnil, Cramant, and Avize. ALL LARGE FORMAT NV RESERVE IS ACTUALLY 100% L'ESPRIT - Shhh!
- Oubilée Reserve taps the three best reserve vessels (foudre, concrete, steel) and then spends two years in steel tank.
- L'Etonnant Monsieur Victor is a newer bottling that taps the best tank of Les Chétillons, the best Reserve wine, and the Oubilée.
- Les Chétillons (2.5 ha) comes from a single vineyard, with 3 separate parcels being vinified on their own. The oldest parcel was planted in 1936 and does not go through malo. The two younger parcels were planted in 1971 and they go through partial malo. 10,000 bottles produced annually on average.
The transition from grower to grower-producer is never a seamless one. Pierre Péters historically sold all grapes to large champagne houses until 1919 when Camille Péters chose to bottle his first wine. Camille's son Pierre, only 12 years old, took an interest in the newly formed estate, showing wines at exhibitions in Paris. Upon Camille's passing, Pierre took control of production in 1944 at the age of 24. It was under his tenure that new vineyards were acquired, attention to detail grew, and the estate Pierre Péters rose in stature.
Of Pierre's two sons, Jacques went on to become Chef de Cave at Clicquot and François chose to stay at the domaine. The choice by François was not necessarily an easy one, as at this time the larger houses like Clicquot cast a large shadow on the more emerging grower-producer movement. Pierre saw fame and accolades while François continued to fight the good fight, honing in on improving his vineyards and working closely with his contemporaries. François was a founding member of the Special Club.
François's eldest son, Rodolphe began to focus on wine after initially studying marine biology. A close friend convinced him of the spectacularly rare gift that awaited him at home. Rodolphe earned an Oenology degree and an MBA before working in various aspects of the wine trade. He joined his father in 2000, and in 2008 he took control of production.
Over the last decade Rodolphe has taken the Pierre Péters to even greater heights. The estate now covers 18 hectares primarily in Le Mesnil (45 of 63 parcels), as well as vines in grand crus, Cramant and Avize.
In 4000 Champagnes, Richard Juhlin sums up the estate well:
"Pierre Péters is a hidden treasure of Champagne . . . and the prices are laughable considering the quality of the wines.”
Pierre Péters Cuvée Réserve Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut Champagne NV
$63 per bottle.
Pierre Péters Cuvée Réserve Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut Champagne NV 1.5L
$134 per bottle.
Pierre Péters Cuvée Réserve Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut Champagne NV 3L
$399 per bottle.
2010 Pierre Péters Cuvée Spéciale Les Chétillons
$149 per bottle.
2010 Pierre Péters Cuvée Spéciale Les Chétillons 1.5L
$349 per bottle.
2010 Pierre Péters l'Étonnant Monsieur Victor Champagne
$329 per bottle.
2007 Pierre Péters Cuvée Spéciale Les Chétillons
$182 per bottle.