R. H. Coutier, Brut Millisime, Grand Cru, 2012, $73
The Coutier family has been based in the Grand Cru village of Ambonnay in the Montagne de Reims since 1619. Today the estate is led by fifth generation vigneron Antoine Coutier who farms nine hectares of vineyards in 40 separate plots, planted about two-thirds to Pinot Noir and one-third to Chardonnay. Pinot Noir has always been the predominant grape in the region and Antoine’s grandfather was actually the first in the village to plant Chardonnay, back in the 1940s. (We put their stunning 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs—a rarity for the region—in the club back in 2015). The vineyards of the Montagne de Reims develop a more southerly exposure at Ambonnay, providing a warmer microclimate. That, plus a bit more clay in the otherwise mostly chalky limestone soil, tends to produce richer, more sumptuous wines. The Coutier house style balances that richness and opulence with their signature purity and raciness. After years of practicing “lutte raisonée,” using no pesticides or herbicides in their vineyards, they began organic conversion in 2019. Although we put their 2011 vintage in the club in June, we couldn’t pass up the chance to feature this Champagne, from the excellent 2012 vintage, while it was still available. Like the 2011, it is a blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, all from their Grand Cru vineyards. It goes through partial malolactic fermentation and is aged a minimum of three years in bottle sur lie. The 2012 has lovely toasty notes and a soft creaminess on the palate, balanced by fresh, bracing acidity. Drinking it less chilled will emphasize the softer notes—the colder it is the more the fresh acidity will shine through. Enjoy it over the next few years with rich seafood, such as crab or lobster.