Grower Champagne Club – January 2016

Varnier-Fannière, Brut Grand Cru
Like so many small Champagne estates, this family grew grapes long before they began producing their own wines. As a grower, Varnier-Fannière dates back to 1860, but current winemaker Denis Varnier represents just the third generation of the family to produce Champagne from their fruit. They are based in the Côte des Blancs village of Avize. The chalky slopes there are perfectly situated to grow precise and expressive Chardonnay, and the site has long been sought-after by the top large Champagne houses. Today, Varnier-Fannière owns just over four hectares of vines, in Avize, as well as in nearby Cramant and Oger, all Grand Cru villages, with vines averaging an impressive 45 years in age. This 100% Chardonnay is sourced from all three of those Grand Cru sites, with each adding their own unique character to the blend: power and notes of graphite from Avize fruit, while fruit from Cramant adds fragrance, and Oger, a lovely fullness. Altogether, this cuvée is a beautiful expression of the Côte des Blancs, fresh and lively, yet with remarkable elegance, and precision. According to importer Terry Theise, who admits to being on a “total Varnier kick these days,” these wines exude class and fastidious detail. Their Brut Grand Cru, he says, is charming and tasty and “only wants to ease your way into satisfaction, and express the silken chalky charm of the Côte des Blancs.” All this for $63.