A while ago, I was at the French Association’s Independent Wine Growers event in London and was really impressed with the high quality level of many of the producers there. There were many interesting wines that showed great character and true typicity of terroir –something that seems so lacking in many of the wines I have tasted of late. Best of all, the prices were frequently very reasonable.
Of course, I am partial to small, artisanal producers who often put heart and soul into their wines, with very little money relative to the cost of the finished product coming back. I feel lucky and grateful that these producers exist and are willing to share the beauty that is their wine with us wine lovers. The fact is, supporting these growers, wherever they are, is imperative to the continued “betterment” of wine everywhere and gives a much needed alternative to what increasingly looks to be the “global” homogenization of style and varietals.
Although, most of the wines I tasted are difficult to obtain outside of France, or a handful of countries, I thought it would be fun to mention some of the producers that struck my fancy, starting with grower Champagne producer Le Gallais, located in Boursault, just a handful of kilometers from Epernay. As those who know me will attest, I love sparkling wines and I don’t discriminate based on origin, only on quality. Having said that, there is something about Champagne that is just a bit extra special…
The champagne was delightful like the husband-wife team who produced it; the overall style of the house was refined, delicate and floral. Le Gallais described all his wines, proudly explaining his methodology in the cellar such as only using the first press, aging well beyond what is required by law, and the rose made using the siagnée method, a more difficult and expensive process. When I commented that this was optimal for the champagnes, but not for his bottom-line, he shrugged and said, “I make it for me and the rest I sell!”
Some of the champagnes I liked:
Le Gallais Cuvée du Manoir Brut NV is their “basic” NV and comes from a blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 45% Pinot Meunier and 10% Chardonnay and is just under 6 grams dosage. Aged 3 years in cellar, apple blossoms and citrus notes on the nose, this champagne was floral and balanced with a touch of almond it had wonderful acidity. This is a great food wine.
Le Gallais Cuvée du Manoir Extra Brut NV, made from the same blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay with just 2 grams RS, very refined, mineral notes, stone fruit, apple custard and a pinch of almond. Aged 4 years in cellar.
2004 Le Gallais Rosé des Poètes Brut 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Pinot Meunier, 5 grams dosage, aged 6 years cellar, this wine has a beautiful rose color. Red fruit aromas, wild strawberry and nuances of red cherries on the palate, well balanced with a long finish.
Another producer of note:
Domaine Les Grandes Costes’ range of wines were all high in quality, and reflected their terroir of limestone, clay and gravel; all seemed very soft and velvety, well-balanced and best of all didn’t seem manipulated like so many wines out there. Below, one of the wines I tasted:
2009 Domaine les Grandes Costes La Sarabande Coteaux du Languedoc is 25% Cinsault, 26% Grenache, 19% Carignan, 30% Syrah, no oak contact this wine is velvety with black raspberry, currant and red plum flavors and finishing with a touch of spice.