Grower Champagne Club – January 2019

Vilmart & Cie, Grand Cellier, Brut 1er Cru, $85
Vilmart & Cie is based in the village of Rilly-la-Montagne, in the Montagne de Reims region. Their Champagnes are brought to us through Terry Theise who, as most of you know, has played a major role in promoting grower Champagne. He has a collection of outstanding producers in his portfolio, all of which he has carefully selected over the years, but of Vilmart & Cie he says, “no grower in Champagne is more significant.” And the much-respected writer Peter Liem notes: “Vilmart & Cie is not only one of the greatest grower-estates in Champagne, but one of the finest Champagne producers of any type in the region.” The estate dates back to 1890 and was a récoltant-manipulant (grower-producer) from the beginning. Today, Laurent Champs is at the helm, representing the fifth generation of the family. He has 12 different parcels, spread over 11 hectares, mostly in Rilly-la-Montagne. He is committed to organic and sustainable viticulture and has never used any herbicides or chemicals in his farming. All of his Champagnes spend at least ten months in large oak casks, contributing to their singular richness and depth. This cuvée is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, aged ten months in oak with no malolactic fermentation. It is utterly elegant, with a creamy, silky texture, and fresh notes of butter and citrus that continue to evolve in the glass, especially if it’s not served too cold. As with all of Laurent’s Champagnes, it is an exceptional food wine. Excellent on its own, of course, or with fish (such as sole or turbot) or crustaceans (prawns or oysters). Beautiful now, or you could lay it down for a year or two to let all of its complexity really develop.