Grower Champagne Club – August 2015

2009 José Dhondt, Mes Vieilles Vignes, Brut Blanc de Blancs
We were amused to see that this stunning vintage Champagne was labled not just vieilles vignes (old vines), but mes vieilles vignes, or “my old vines.” A charming touch, that shows just how proud the producer must be of his vineyard, in this case, a small parcel of 50-plus-year-old vines, planted by José Dhondt’s grandfather on a slope near the village of Oger in the Côte des Blancs. Like many small producers, José was a longtime grower before he produced his first Champagne under his own label in 1974. He has about six hectares in the Côte des Blancs (Chardonnay) plus vineyards in the southern Côte de Sézanne, planted in part to the Pinot Noir that goes into his Rosé. (He sells a small portion of his fruit to Möet and other large Champagne houses). While not strictly organic, Dhondt avoids the use of chemicals as much as possible, keeps yields low, and presses his fruit in a traditional vertical wood press. He produces three Champanges: a non-vintage Rosé, a non-vintage Blanc de Blancs, and this, his old vine. It is always made from fruit from a single year, although he only labels it as such when he feels it has been an exceptional vintage. And 2009 was such a year. It is one of the younger vintage Champagnes we’ve tasted, but it does not suffer its youth in the slightest. Beginning with beautiful, layered aromas of toast and brioche, its rich flavors continue to evolve forever, ending in a long, focussed finish. It is $77 and is simply gorgeous — a pleasure to enjoy on its own or with light fare that allows the complexity to shine through.