11 hectares of organic vineyards in the Montagne de Reims is home to Champagne Vilmart. Oak fermentation and aging with little to no malolactic fermentation means you have wines that are powerful, weighty, firmly acidic and make a statement. Just as well they manage to coax a lot of flavour out of their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes so the final product is a beautiful wine.
The Grande Reserve is 70% Noir with the balance being Chardonnay. As you would expect of the house style it is firmly structured, rich in flavour yet it avoids heaviness. Beautiful layers of flavour with red berries, stone fruits and chalk along with some more toasty, nutty and sweet spices. The palate makes an impact but the fruit density really melds in with the structure on the finish and it very enjoyable to drink. This is one NV that I would consider aging for a few years to knock the corners off a bit.
Champagne – A wine region of France approximately 160km East of Paris. It is also the name of the wines produced from the area. Most famously it is a sparkling wine that undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle and is aged on lees. Although there is the occasional still wine you can find around particularly Pinot Noir. The fantastically named Bouzy Rouge is one such example. There are very few single vintage, single vineyard, single variety Champagnes (I can only name one and it was produced only 47 times between 1900 and 1999). Why? Due to the large area the region covers, and the challenging weather the houses blended wines to produce a consistent and reliable product every year. This is where the growers come in. They relish the chance to show off vintage variation and small plot wines.
Pinot Noir – This is the most elusive grape. It is relatively early ripening and extremely sensitive to terroir. Its perfect place on earth is the Cote d’Or in Burgundy. So haunting are great red Burgundy’s charms that growers everywhere try to emulate them. Pinot Noir is not just a one trick pony, it can make great reds, rosé, sparkling and even sweet wines, whites on occasion and I’ve tasted a decent fortified Pinot Noir too. Adding body, perfume and richness to Champagne it also adds red berry and floral/rose petal notes along with spice and subtle layers.
Chardonnay – The grape that you can plant anywhere, in any climate and do anything to and it will still taste like an OK wine. When people hit the sweet spot of site, climate, cropping and winemaking, Chardonnay becomes a magical wine that will age gracefully but charm you at any age. Chardonnays can range from cool climate lean and citrusy to warmer climate tropical and overt. Oak and lees can add flavouring as can malolactic fermentation. In a Champagne context Chard can add mineral flavours, stone fruits and acidity along with some weight of fruit.