In the heart of Petit Montagne de Reims, twin brothers Pierre and Philippe Aubry have shouldered a legacy dating from 1790, with 16.5 hectares from 60 individual locations. Today, Pierre holds a national diploma in enology and Philippe in biology; they run this small company in a highly innovative way. The yield is low and only “coeur de cuvée” is used for the vintage wines. The grapes are divided into five classes according to their quality, and a considerable amount is vinified in old, traditional 205-liter oak barrels. The most remarkable thing about Aubry is that, through almost archaeological search for old plant varieties, they have succeeded in making a brilliant Champagne out of three forgotten grape types: Pinot Gris, Arbanne, and Petit Meslier. Furthermore many grapevines are planted “en foule,” as they were before phylloxera.
Nicolas Chiquet farms 23 heactares in the Valle de la Marne in the villages of Aÿ, Dizy, Hautvillers and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. All of the fruit (including that which is used in the non-vintage cuvee) comes from premier and grand cru grapes. Nicolas does not employ any oak aging at Gaston Chiquet; he believes that concentration, fruit maturity and malolactic fermentation impart enough body and texture to make aging in barrel unnecessary. The vineyards are planted to equal (forty percent each) parts chardonnay, pinot meunier and twenty percent are planted to pinot noir. Gaston-Chiquet also produces a vintage dated chardonnay from 5 parcels on the western side of the grand cru village of Ay. Usually recognized as a grand cru village for pinot noir, these vines of chardonnay were planted in Ay in the 1930s. “In 1919, two brothers, Fernand and Gaston Chiquet—winemakers born and bred—came together to create their house Chiquet Brothers. They were ‘pioneers’ in Champagne, the very first winemakers to take the initiative, bold at the time, to keep their grapes, turn them into Champagne and sell their own wine. Nicolas Chiquet planted his first vines in 1746, and since then eight generations have tilled Dizy’s soil. Gaston Chiquet registered the company in 1935 and expanded the property with land in Aÿ, Cumières and Hautvillers. Gaston Chiquet is best known for making the only blanc de blancs from the Pinot village of Aÿ. Aÿ was the big name in the area long before wines became sparkling, and many were the kings and popes who counted Vin d’Aÿ as their favorite wine. The vineyards slope down steeply to the village by the Marne River, and the best locations are just over the town, sheltered from the wind and with maximum exposure to the sun.” -Richard Juhlin, 4000 Champagnes.
The Laherte estate was founded in 1889 by Jean-Baptiste Laherte. At this time, most of the vines were situated in a village known as Chavost. The fourth generation, that of Michel Laherte, expanded the family estate, and then he got married to Cécile Tissier whose family was living in Courcourt. Born into an 8-child-family, Cécile quickly got used to working in the vineyard and managed to combine her work as a dynamic vinegrower with the education of her two children, Christian and Thierry.
The two young vinegrowers greatly expanded the Laherte estate by modernizing the press and the tanks and implementing new techniques, thus making the most of the vineyard. Thierry quickly realized that too much modernity was detrimental to the Terroir’s expression – wines were not expressing themselves properly. After all, what is the point of using herbicides, pesticides, and huge stainless steel tanks? Being a vinegrower does not mean producing grapes as easily as possible. It also means cultivating the soils, smoothly vinifying the juices, remaining humble and patient, and letting each grape variety express itself in the wine.
Laherte Freres is available in Calgary at Kensington Wine Market.
There are few wines in this world that exude such laser-like precision, finesse, delicacy, and power as the Champagnes of Marie Courtin. The domaine is run by the feisty and energetic Dominique Moreau and is named for her Grandmother Marie Courtin. The estate covers about 2 ha in the Aube. This, the most-southerly part of Champagne, has long been a sleepy back-water where growers have toiled for generations only to sell their fruit to the grand marquee in the north (who still look down on them) only to became a drop in the vinous bucket that is mass produced Champagne. In recent years though, the Aube has become the hotbed for varietal/vintage and vineyard designated champagnes – where dedicated growers can see their agricultural efforts all the way to bottle.
Marie Courtin is available in Calgary at Kensington Wine Market.