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Grower Champagnes from Cave du Cochon

By May 12, 2015No Comments
The larger, well-established and ‘grandes marques’ Champagne houses have been dominant forever in the New Zealand wine scene, and if wine enthusiasts wanted an alternative, there were the wines from co-operatives and secondary labels. But as with the rest of the world, interest in grower Champagnes has increased, partly from the active marketing and extremely high quality of a number of these growers, and partly from the market seeking out distinctive and unusual wines which are made from terroir-driven philosophies.

Chris Ayson and Richard Starr established ‘Cave du Cochon’ last year following a long interest in fine wine and activity working in wine retail, to import and distribute in New Zealand a selection of grower Champagnes as well as other wines. In October they made their first shipment of grower Champagnes into the country. The producers of the wines they selected have a small production, making only 5,000 cases or so annually, and Cave du Cochon brought in 25-50 cases each of the wines, with one of the Champagnes allocated to 10 dozen only.

The Champagne houses represented are ‘Clos de la Chapelle’ based in the premier cru village of Villedommange, near Reims, specialising in Pinot Meunier, ‘R.H. Coutier’ from the grand cru Ambonnay with 8.5 ha, ‘Lancelot-Royer’, based at the grand cru Cramant in the Cote de Blancs, and ‘Berêche & Fils’ who work their 9 ha at La Craon-de-Ludes in the Montagne de Reims biodynamically. Chris and Richard have found a small, but strong interest in these wines from the more adventurous wine trade around New Zealand, and these interesting wines can be found in progressive outlets and restaurants. www.caveducochon.com

Chris Ayson & Richard Starr – Cave du Cochon
Importers of grower Champagnes
A Tasting of Cave du Cochon’s Champagnes
Chris Ayson and Richard Starr were in Wellington to show the trade their interesting wines, and were able to offer me a taste of a selection of their grower Champagnes. I offer my impressions here:

Clos de la Chapelle ‘Instinct’ Champagne Premier Cru Brut NV
Bright straw-yellow with slight golden hues. The nose is full, rounded and voluminous with up-front yellow stonefruit aromas alongside bready, yeasty autolysis notes, revealing citrus fruit and aldehyde notes in the glass. Dry to taste, full and mouthfilling, open fruit flavours show with richness. The soft mousse and presentation is enhanced by gentle acidity. Though showing breadth and accessibility, this has a fine-texture underlying phenolic line. The fulsome palate carries through to a moderately long finish of stonefruits and bread. A pleasing all-round, flavoursome Champagne. 60% Pinot Meunier, 25% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay, from the ‘Villedommange’1er cru, with 7-8 g/L dosage and aged 3 years. 17.5/20 May 2015 RRP $55.00

R. H. Coutier Champagne Grand Cru ‘Tradition’ Brut NV 
Bright, deep straw-yellow colour with lemony-gold hues. This has a full but firm and intense nose with concentrated aromas of yellow stonefruits and tightly bound bready, yeasty autolysis. This has great focus and depth, and is classical Pinot Noir in expression. Dry to taste, elegant in proportion, and with concentrated flavours of yellow stonefruits, nuts and brioche, the palate has drive and linearity, with finesse, richness and complexity all vying for attention. The wine has power and refined phenolic structure carrying the wine to a long finish. This has class, power and concentration. 62% Pinot Noir and 38% Chardonnay from the ‘Ambonnay’ grand cru, undergoing 50% MLF and carrying 6 g/L dosage. 18.5/20 May 2015 RRP $70.00

Lancelot-Royer ‘Cuvee des Chevaliers’ Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut NV
Bright, light straw-yellow colour with slight green hues. The bouquet is very elegant, refined and tightly bound with aromas of citrus fruits, white and yellow florals and subtle yeasty autolysis notes. Dryish to taste, the palate is tightly bound and aromatic with lifted citrus and floral fruit flavours. The mouthfeel is creamy and the dosage is apparent, but cut by fine acidity and very fine textures. The autolysis is discreet, lending detail, and carries along an elegant, lingering finish with good concentration and line. This is a classical Blanc de Blancs. 100% Chardonnay from the ‘Cramant’ grand cru undergoing 100% MLF, carrying 6-7 g/L dosage, the wine aged 44 months on lees. 18.0+/20 May 2015 RRP $90.00

Bereche & Fils Champagne Brut Reserve NV 
Full straw-yellow colour with light golden hues and a suggestion of blush. The nose is softly full, broad and voluminous with some depth, showing ripe yellow stonefruit and floral aromas along with red berry nuances. The aromatics are open and up-front, revealing modest autolysis and complexing aldehydes. Full and broad, savoury, open stonefruit flavours are intermixed nutty, aldehyde notes. The mouthfeel is soft, the phenolics sitting in the background, allowing the fruit sweetness to emerge. There is an array of savoury and funky flavours which become the feature. Is this a nod to natural wine? One-third each Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from La Craon-de-Ludes, 20% vinified in oak with no MLF and carrying a dosage of 7 g/L. 16.5+/20 May 2015 RRP $90.00


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