All wines stored at 55° and 70% humidity
Les Barres Extra Brut is 100% Pinot Meunier from un-grafted 60-year-old vines. Un-grafted. Deep sandy soils over clay and chalky bedrock. Vinified and aged in neutral oak barrels.
Alexandre Chartogne is the Prince of Champagne. He's humble, whip-sharp, and intent on proving to the world that his tiny village of Merfy now deserves the praise which was once heaped upon it as far back as 853 AD. Yes, Merfy was once among the most celebrated villages of all Champagne, with parcel names dating back 800 years. Although the wines were then still, the terroir was a beacon for greatness. Today's offer from Chartogne-Taillet features a dizzying array of wines.
Among the true band of brothers I visited, Alexandre is the most overtly passionate and pensive. Since taking control in 2006 of his family's 1863-established parcels, he's worked to uncover the story below the vines - Regularly taking pit samples to understand the unique geology here. Unlike most villages, in Merfy soil changes rapidly from one 0.5 hectare parcel to the next - Imagine if Burgundy's Côte de Nuits was compacted into the village of Chambolle. And, his uncommon use of native yeast ferments doubles down on his dedication to telling a story of place.
This deep digging by Alexandre has brought a new understanding of terroir. The micro-cuvées now produced from 11 hectares have Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier matched with soil for ideal expression, as compared to ideal yield of quantity, as neighbors follow.
“I do not feel good when I’m sure about something.”, says Alexandre. He understands, like any true lover of wine, the more you know the more your realize how much is still left to be learned.
Alexandre worked under the ultimate hero of the grower-champagne movement, Jacques Selosse. It was there he began to question all that he knew. He fully realized that in a region most recognized for producer style and method in the cellar, it was actually the vineyard that would have to be the foundation of change. His organic and biodynamic work creates a flourishing life of activity in the vines that yield the most pristine raw material. Farm-first focus may be something I constantly hammer home, but this point has no more fitting application than with Alexandre.
Merfy lies just north of Reims, and while it was once prized, over the last centuries it's fallen into the shadows of more celebrated villages like Le Mesnil, Avize, Bouzy, and Äy. However, Alexandre has firmly placed Merfy in the minds of collectors over the last decade, and its Pinot Meunier vineyard Les Barres (0.5 hectares) is widely considered one of the very best in all of Champagne.
Alexandre's main focus is on single vineyard, single vintage, and single varietal wines. - an unusual approach in Champagne that many small growers have now also adopted.
Alexandre's wines are allocated in very small quantities each year, and there's no winemaker in Champagne I turn to with more regularity when given the chance. I'm always reminded that champagne's ability to express terroir is just as profound as Burgundy. And the ultra-focused work on these single parcels offer the clarity that we all crave.
|Wine Type||Sparkling White|
|Grape Variety||Pinot Meunier|
|Appellation||Montagne de Reims|