Grower Champagne Club – February 2015

R.H. Coutier, Blanc de Blancs NV
If you attended our annual grower Champagne tasting in December, you may have been here when we finished the second bottle of Coutier Rosé and the importer pulled out a different Champagne by the same producer from a “special stash” he’d brought. Well, the crowd went nuts and we sold the entire case in the last hour of the tasting, with customers clamoring for more but, alas, that was all the distributor had. Or so they thought. The wine was this one and miraculously more was found so we didn’t have to think twice about putting it in the club. It comes from R.H. Coutier, in the Montagne de Reims Grand Cru village of Ambonnay. The Coutier family has been here since 1619 and today farms nine hectares of vineyards, planted one-third to Chardonnay and two-thirds to Pinot Noir. This is typical of the region, where the red grapes are predominant. What is unusual is to find a 100% Chardonnay from the village. The Coutiers actually planted the first Chardonnay here, back in 1946. The vines do well as the vinyard exposure shifts here, turning more southerly, creating a slightly warmer microclimate. In addition, the local soils have more clay and less limestone, lending a more sumptuous character to the fruit. Winemaker René Coutier’s style is to balance this richness with his signature purity and raciness. He lets only half of his wines go through malolactic fermentation and he does not use oak, though he does rest the wines a relatively long time on their lees. This Blanc de Blancs has beautiful apple and white stone fruit flavors, with creamy texture, and excellent acidity. At only $46, it’s a steal and we’re thrilled we were able to get more and put in the club. It is utterly satisfying on its own or paired with appetizers or perhaps tempura. (A side note: Coutier continues to sell off about 80% of his fruit to large houses, such as Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, keeping the best for himself, and keeping his own production at a managable 3 to 4000 cases annually.)