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.
Cuvée de Réserve is a reference point for the Côtes de Blancs. It’s 100% Chardonnay sourced from 63 parcels (all in Grand Cru villages) supplemented by the perpetual reserve. The reserve wine was started in 1997 and contains wine from 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, etc. Vintages like 1999 and 2003 were excluded, for instance, because they brought an undesired weight. About 65% of this Chardonnay completes malolactic fermentation, though it can rise to 80% in cooler years. In ripe years, such as 2003 and 2009, the partial blocking of malo maintains tension and structure.
Mesnil's unique broken chalky soil allows vines to travel deep, picking up nutrients and mineral expressions from this bedrock and supplying the wines with that unmistakable chalk-inflected, saline note that stands apart, even from the neighboring villages in the Côte de Blancs. There's also a noble bitterness and citrus pith note matched with the salinity that's the foundation for this house’s style. With age, nutty and slight caramel notes can arise. If I had to choose one village to visit in bottle decades later, it would be Mesnil because of this wild combo.
The estate historically sold all of its grapes to large champagne houses until 1919 when Camille Péters bottled his first wine. Camille's son, Pierre, only 12 years old at the time, took an interest and showed the wines at exhibitions in Paris. It was under Pierre’s tenure, starting in 1944, that they acquired new vineyards, attention to detail grew, and the estate rose to fame. Today, Pierre’s grandson, Rodolphe, continues to raise the bar. The estate now covers 18 hectares in Le Mesnil as well as Cramant and Avize.
Pascal Agrapart is to Avize what Pierre Péters is to Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Here, Avize is the charming personification of summer to Mesnil's rigor of 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 amplitude and breadth juxtaposed with Mesnil's boney austerity.
But make no mistake, Pascal's extra brut and brut nature wines are defined by their taut and energetic personalities, pairing magically with Avize's more generous demeanor. The greatest thing I can say about Pascal's wines is that they beg to be drunk. They provide never-ending fascination and wild development in the glass. The world has caught on, as available quantities are now painfully limited.
Agrapart farms 10 hectares covering 60 different parcels, all located in Grand Cru villages, but Avize is the source of his tête de cuvées. The wines commonly go through full malolactic, and elévage takes place in older oak barrels and stainless steel.