Grower Champagne Club – December 2010

2002 Marc Chauvet, Special Club
An inscription in a 12th century church in Rilly-la-Montagne indicates that a local winegrower by the name of Nicolas Chauvet has been buried there since 1529. Nearly five centuries later, just across the road, his descendants, Nicolas and Clotilde Chauvet, continue to carry on the family tradition, under the name Champagne Marc Chauvet. In a world still dominated by men, Clotilde is the winemaker here, while her brother Nicolas carefully looks after the vines. The Premier Cru village of Rilly la Montagne lies in the heart of the Montagne de Reims — a horseshoe-shaped region just north of the Côtes des Blancs and the Vallée de la Marne — and all three of the Champagne grapes are grown on the chalky soil here. In her winemaking, Clotilde strives to let the grapes express their unique qualities, using a mix of “know-how, experience, and feminine intuition” in her blending. Her wines are fresh and complex, with great character and elegance, which is especially evident in this bottling from 2002, a classic vintage in Champagne. This blend of 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir, has subtle flavors of pear, peach, and praline, that weave together seamlessly.

The “Special Club” is an association of grower-producers that was formed in 1971 to promote their winemaking efforts and the expression of regional terroir in their wines. It is an arena in which to exchange ideas, but it also serves as a jury of peers that, in superior years, produces exceptional bottlings representing the tête-de-cuvée of each producer. The selection process is carried out over time: all members taste each others’ wines at different stages, and only those that successfully pass club standards at every stage are allowed to be released in the unique bottle with the “Special Club” label. Because each member’s wine represents the entire club’s judgment and taste, their standards are high and exacting and only truly exceptional Champagnes receive the “Special Club” designation. This is unquestionably one of them. It is $60