Grower Champagne Club – November 2009

Vilmart & Cie, Cuvée Grand Cellier
Vilmart & Cie is located in the village of Rilly-la-Montagne, in the Montagne de Reims, the northernmost growing region of Champagne. This producer has a fanatical following and somewhat of a cult status among grower Champagnes. Terry Theise, importer and über fanatical proponent of “farmer fizz,” with a large and distinguished selection of these wines in his portfolio, has written: “no grower in Champagne is more significant than Vilmart” and notes that their wines, while always remarkable, “have become almost uniformly beautiful” in recent years. Indeed, young winemaker Laurent Champs, who took over from his father in 1991, is clearly enormously talented, but perhaps what sets this estate apart more than anything else is its use of oak. Oak treatment is not always a plus, and is not typical in Champagne where stainless steel is the norm. But when used carefully and sensitively, as Champs does, it imparts a richness and elegance that is unrivaled. The Cuvée Grand Cellier is $70, and is a blend of about two thirds Chardonnay and one third Pinot Noir. It is an exceptional food wine, and its complexity and depth also make it perfect as an aperitif. Vilmart & Cie has been called the “poor man’s Krug” (a house that also uses oak). Is this the height of praise or an unwelcome association with the evil big houses? You be the judge. We think it’s in a class by itself.