We continue to champion numerous grower Champagnes at Atlas. Why? Simply put, they can offer exceptional quality at lower prices than the branded Champagnes from larger-scaled houses. There is a need to be selective, but it is still possible to access vintage Champagnes from individual Cru solely from Grand Cru classified vineyards via smaller scale growers. We are still surprised by the number of clients who still buy branded non-vintage Champagnes, paying more for an inferior, less characterful Champagne than they would be able to buy if they followed a grower. Simon's offer on Guy Charlemagne, below.
We first offered the wines of Guy Charlemagne back in 2014 and since then, their cuvée ‘Le Mesnillésime’ (pronounced Le May-nil-lay-seem) has become a regular favourite with our clients. The name is a play on words with the name of the famous vineyard of Le Mesnil and the French word for vintage, in case you were curious! Normally clients struggle to remember the name - let alone pronounce it - but the striking blue and gold label certainly registers. If you have bought before the image is sure to jog your memory.
Philippe Charlemagne represents the fifth generation of his family to make wine in Mesnil-sur-Oger, from 15 hectares of vines, principally in the villages of Oger and Mesnil-sur-Oger itself. This is from the Côte des Blancs, so very much Blanc de Blancs territory – 87% of Philippe’s vines are Chardonnay and the balance are Pinot Noir. The pick of the range is undoubtedly ‘Le Mesnillésime’. This is an exquisite Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) for which only fruit from the best single vineyards is selected, including Chétillon and Les Coulmets. It suffices to say that it is only made in the finest vintages. All the vineyards benefit from a markedly chalky, limestone soil and east south-east exposure. As you might expect the vines are old and established, with the average in excess of 40 years of age, but some much older. The wine is partially fermented in old oak barrels and benefits from a low dosage of just 4 g/l in order to retain its natural elegance and poise. We are also pleased to offer the Cuvée Charlemagne for the very first time following a particularly strong showing. This is another Blanc de Blancs, which is only made in the finest vintages with a limited production of just 8,000 bottles. It comes entirely from Les Coulmets and once more is bottled with low dosage.
Whichever Blanc de Blancs I am tasting from Guy Charlemagne, I am always impressed by the purity, subtlety and race that these Champagnes capture. Sure, the nature of a given vintage magnifies certain facets of the wine’s characteristics, but these traits seem to run true whatever the vintage.
2009 Blanc de Blancs, Le Mesnillisime, Vieilles Vignes, Grand Cru, Extra Brut, Guy Charlemagne
£270 per 6 bottle case in bond
Pale gold in the glass, with a gentle bead of bubbles, the aromatics here always have me thinking of fine French patisserie… notes of freshly baked pastry and bread meld with zesty nectarine. The 2009 has a broader, more mouth-filling style than the 2008 or 2004 and will prove to be more accessible at a younger age; that is not to say the wine will not age well, but I anticipate a broader drinking window. There is a terrific intensity to this wine, surprising concentration of fruit yet all carried off with a sense of finesse and poise. The tangy aspects of the fruit merge with hints of juicy apple and a chalky mineral vein that lends a mouth-watering accent as tension builds. The clarity and precision of the fruit impress greatly as does a finish that refuses to fade. Such a classy Blanc de Blancs and sure to impress those that have followed this cuvée. Really fine. Drink 2020 to 2029. (SL)
2013 Blanc de Blancs, Les Coulmets, Grand Cru, Extra Brut, Guy Charlemagne
£195 per 6 bottle case in bond
Perhaps a note paler than its sibling, the Coulmets offers chalky mineral notes, freshly baked bread and appley fruit on the nose. The palate has a graceful softness to it, supple, pure, defined with mouth-watering apple notes. Not as expansive as Le Mesnillesime, there is a fine complexity here, notes of a floral nature meld with scented apple and orchard fruit notes. It has a gently tangy citrus fruit to the finish with very fine length. Elegant, less concentrated than the preceding wine, but with such a juicy, fresh quality to the fruit. The lingering impression is of leesy orchard fruit. Very impressive, particularly given its level. Drink 2019 to 2025. (SL)
If, like me, you are keen to take delivery of either of these wines to enjoy over the coming months, they will be available for delivery from the 3rd December. And if we were to compare to the case price of another orange/gold-labelled Champagne you may well recognise, a non-vintage from a very broad base of vineyards, the case price to be near identical to the price of Les Coulmets…..I know where my money goes!