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Champagne Roger Brun

Whenever I visit Aÿ I always visit Champagne Roger Brun.

Philippe Brun who manages this house in the heart of AŸ is a man of science and a broad perspective. He is also one of the reasons I fell i love with Champagne. When you ask he always shares his knowledge about agriculture and wine. He will take you to the fields to talk about the soil and the reason the leaves on that particular field is yellow instead of green. He even got his own red Citroën 2CV now to take you round the fields. He is very aware of marketing and trends and will have no problem debating or disagreeing on agriculture, soil, wine, politics, space or parenting.

Philippe Brun educating me about grapes in the vineyards. Foto: Lars Filtenborg.

Wine development

The moment you taste his Champagne you sense a wine made with passion and personality. It’s the wine that sticks out. From the entry level all the way through the range, which is quite a few different bottles. Most of the Champagne Philippe makes are for pairing with food. I find some of them very versatile for a wide range of dishes. The quality of wines from Roger Brun is above average and still Philippe loves to do experiments with smaller batches. The Blanc de Blanc and the Vieille Vignes are two very exiting examples of that.

Sustainable farming

One of the subjects we almost always debate, when we meet is the environment. And although he’s experimenting with blending his wines in the cellar he disagrees on experimenting with nature and fertilisers that you can buy of the “Internet”. In this case it could be fertilisers that are natural/organic but not tested for commercial use. Philippe is very much aware of how he manages the terroir and as he says “I have to drink my own water” (and Champagne). He will never use copper for example. He manages fields were copper was used before in time and there is absolutely no insects or life in that soil, so he has to add that to those fields to get a natural environment growing again. At some point he will have to leave the land to the next generation, so naturally it needs to be healthy and taken care of.

Light facts about Champagne Roger Brun

  • Location: Aÿ.
  • 6,9 hectares of vineyards.
  • Production is around 50.000 bottles per year.
  • They use malolactic fermentation.
  • Vineyards in: Ay, Mareuil sur Ay, Dizy, Avenay Val d’Or, Grauves, Mancy, Mardeuil, Monthelon, Champillon, Dizy.
  • Their prestige cuvée is: La Pelle. Single vineyard Champagne named La Pelle from the best spot in AŸ.
  • They use oak, but only old oak to oxidate the wine a bit without giving it too much flavor from the wood.
  • Philippe Brun is the current winemaker.
  • Philippes father produced the 2004 La Familiale who was also the one that invented La Familiale in the first place.
Some empty examples of the vast range from Champagne Roger Brun.

The wines

Grande Réserve

The entry wine from Roger Brun is really approachable and easy to enjoy as an aperitif. I think that this one holds its own and will go a long way compared to a lot of other Champagnes in this category. Classic blend but with more Pinot Noir than the Meunier and Chardonnay. High dosage, but still within the limit of being a Brut. The blend will vary from year to year, but somewhere around 50/25/25 – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.

Grande Réserve sec

This is the same wine as the Grande Réserve – but the sugar level is raised to 20g/l. This is less residual sugar than in a Demi-sec and it will still go well with cake or if you have a sweet tooth. This is Philippes take on Champagne that will fill the gap between the brut Champagnes and a sugar loaded cocktail.

Grand cru

Grapes from the Grand Cru fields. 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay from Aÿ. This wine is the N.V I would go for from Roger Brun. This will change a bit with the base year, but for me that just makes it so much more exiting to taste the next release. In my opinion one of the best Champagnes you can buy in this price range.

Blanc de Blancs

Experiment from Philippe – 100% Chardonnay. Limited number of bottles. Approximately 1500 . I think he will do it again in 2020 with a base of 2017. I am looking forward to that.

Vieille Vignes

Also an experiment from Philippe. Pure pinot noir from 2008 plus a little reserve wines. The grapes comes from the back slopes of Aÿ close to the forrest. It aged 8 years in the bottle before release. Bottled in 2009 and disgorged in January 2017. Powerful and yet with a good portion of acidity to it. It goes a long way with food and recently I had this with pork belly, apricot paste, mushroom bouillon and violet.

Cuvée des Sires

This beauty is from Aÿ vineyards and is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Philippe uses oak for the Pinot Noir and steel for the Chardonnay. This cuvée can be enjoyed when released. The different vintages of this wine will vary depending on the weather, but if you like Champagne I’m sure you will be happy about any of the vitages. You can try to keep some on these in your cellar, as they are also made to age.

La Pelle

The La Pelle vineyard in Aÿ in October 2018

La Pelle is a single vineyard of the Roger Brun estate. Standing at the top of this vineyard you have a really nice overview of Aÿ. It is a superb south faced field in Aÿ, planted only with Pinot Noir. The grapes from this slope are used by prestigious Champagne houses, and a lot of them have vineyards next to the La Pelle field. The cuvée La Pelle Extra-Brut is a Blanc de Noirs which is vinified in small used oak barrels only from this vineyard. The vintages are different because of the weather that particular year. Some of them are round and some ar more spicy and can be kept for a very long time. This wine is made for gastronomy and I have tasted them on several occasions and I have never been let down. Usually the number of bottles per year is between 0-5000 depending on the year. If Philippe only makes one press it will be 2730 bottles. So if you get the chance you really should try it. There are two Kings of France on the label for La Pelle. Namely the two kings from 16th century who had their press in Ay.  Francis 1st – who brought Leonardo da Vinci to France, and Henri IV – the most popular French king who ended religion war. The city of Aÿ still celebrate Henri IV day.

Réserve Familiale

Réserve Familiale is for the ones you consider family. It is not for sharing with just anyone. The vintages I have enjoyed have all been very potent and absolute perls. They are only made from vintages where they can see the potential for making it right. The two latest additions was made by two different generations. Philippes father made the 2004 from 60% pinot noir made in stainless steel and 40% chardonnay in oak after fermentation. The 2006 was made by Philippe from 2/3 pinot noir and 1/3 chardonnay all the process was done in oak. Réserve Familiale is a blend of Aÿ, Mesnil and Avize.

Links to ratings and tasting notes for Champagne Roger Brun: The Champagnist and A la volee

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Champagne A. Chauvet

It was a good way to start the day when I drove from Reims to Tour-sur-Marne on a beautiful sunny morning. The stunning scenery of coloured fields on my way to visit the A. Chauvet house put a big smile on my face. 🙂

On the way to A. Chauvet.
Greeted by beautiful autumn colours in the fields with the mist in the background

The aunt of Jacques greeted me when I arrived that Tuesday morning in October at the Chauvet establishment. She invited me inside to meet Jacques Paillard-Chauvet in the small office. This is a family owned business where Jacques is 5th. generation. Because of his passion about Champagne he left the finance sector in Paris. He can now pursue his passion together with his family. Shaking hands on the way through the office it seemed like most of the family was there and Jacques invited me to have a walk and talk about their Champagne wine making.

What is important for A. Chauvet?

Jacques told me about how the Chauvet family tries to give soul to the wine. The vineyards and grapes obviously have a lot to say about that – but the labour of the family and their workers also have to go into those bottles. When Jacques showed me the cellars I could see that there there were no new sparkeling press or gyro pallets. It is easy to see that the Chauvet family does a lot of work here by hand.

He also told me that they like to be as close as possible to the wine. And that they prefer that it should be made by man and not by machine. By having this human approach to their winemaking, they always have information  on how things are progressing. And if necessary intervene or make decisions on how to proceed if the wine is developing in another way than is expected.

The old press.

Jacques told me that the production is between 30.000 – 35.000 bottles per year depending on the yield. They always make the best Champagne with the grapes they have. It is important for them to make less varieties of bottles and keep the quality up.

Tasting the wines

The Cachet Vert is a blanc de blancs and was very delicate. I found that the aroma was light and refreshing. I also tasted a little sweetness to it as I don’t eat candy, so maybe my palette is more sensitive to sweetness in wine. It had a very subtle elegant roundness about it which I also liked.

After that we tasted the Carte Blanche which is a brut and representing the style of the house. This one is more floral in the aroma and more complex. It showed more body and complexity and the aftertaste stayed for longer. For me, it was a very harmonic wine which I could easily drink with food or just for the pleasure of it self.

The Grand Rosé made me go “uhhh” (which is not a bad thing) because of the intense fragrance of sweetness and red berries. Because of that I got deceived to think that the wine had a little sweetness to the taste. However the dosage of the Grand Rosé is a Brut. So I would have guessed wrong about the taste without that knowledge. 

Vintage wine

We talked about vintage wines and when the quality of the grapes is right for producing them. “We will not do a ‘technical vintage’ Champagne just to have a vintage every year,” said Jacques. (I like that a lot!) You could say that a ‘technical vintage’ is a wine, which is made even if the quality is not there. As a result of this they will not produce the wine if it’s not suited for a vintage. I did not taste the vintage as they were waiting to release the next.

We also spoke shortly about their red wine – they use it for a small number of bottles or for the rosé blend. They will only make the red wine in bottles if the quality of the wine is good enough. And if they don’t have to use it for the rosé.

The tasting room

Lovely old style tasting room at A. Chauvet

On a final note

I visited Tour-sur-Marne for the first time this year but I’m sure it won’t be the last. I can definitely recommend to drive there just to enjoy the scenery on the way. The visit was a really good experience at Champagne A. Chauvet and I will definitely come back to visit them again. 

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Is it rosé or is it chicken?

In my opinion a lot of rosé wines taste almost the same – so could one argue that it “taste like chicken”? Well.. Maybe after a couple of bottles from, but lets not go there yet. The same could also be said about reds and whites, but this article is about rosé wine and some of the differences in how to produce it. But most importantly – What can you do to find the best rosé for the summer.  If you know all about production you can skip to the “How do you find the best rosé” section.

Some say rosé is the best of two worlds and perfect for pairing with food. Some say it’s a pop wine. All we know is that there is a lot of it.

The latest archeological Study of pottery in whats now Georgia suggests that wine has been made in 300 liter jars 6000-5800 BC. One thing is for certain – I wasn’t around back in those days. But if you think about  how we’ve mashed red grapes by hand and foot – before we moved onto electronic and pneumatic equipment – I think there is a good chance of a lot of rosé coloured wine being made right from the start in the Neolithic age.

Fast forward to today and and there are several rules on how this type of wine should be made all over the world. EU has rules for how producers can blend or not when making a rosé. You can still stomp your feet in a basket or go all techie on it with the latest all shiny grape press from Coquard.

Essential ingredient in traditional wine production – feet!

Four common production methods.

There are many ways to give the rosé its colour and add to the flavour. Here’s some light reading about some of the most common.

MACERATION

Maybe the most popular method of making rosé? I have no stats to confirm that. But after the grapes are picked and put in the press they are crushed and the juice is left in contact with the skins. Just like a red wine would be made. The skins are left to soak only for a limited amount of time. Depending on the desired style of rosé, this can last anywhere from a couple to many hours. The longer the maceration, the darker and more richly flavoured the rosé. The maceration method can be used to make many styles of rosé depending on grape variety and length of maceration.

DIRECT PRESSING

Kind of the same method as skin maceration. With direct pressing the grape juice has contact with the skins, just enough to add the color, tannins, and flavours from the skins to the juice. This process tends to produce the lightest-coloured rosés of all. 

SAIGNÉE (Rosé du nuit)

The saignée method – which means “bleeding” – is a method that let the winemaker produce not just a rosé but a red wine as well. It is a way to  concentrate red wines where a winemaker wants to vinify a red wine according to standard methods. Early in the maceration process a part of the juice is  “bled” from the tank. This juice is then vinified separately as a rosé. The rest of the juice is left to continue the process into a more concentrated red. The saignée method rosés are likely to be richer in style. A common french expression you will hear is “Rosé de nuit” which refers to the fact that the juice was bled after staying overnight in contact with the skins. Philippe from Roger Brun Champagne makes a 4 Nuits rosé Champagne, which is a bomb and all the way over in cranberry land. (yay!)

I my opinion you get some of the most interesting and fantastic rosé wines from this method. Champagne Roger Brun makes two different rosés which is Romance Rosé and 4 Nuits with the saignée method. Check them out in the shop.

Rosé the saignée way.

BLENDING

You blend White and Red – you get Rosé.


These wines can vary in style and colour from light to heavy depending on the amount and type of red wine used in the blend.
For some reason you can find many articles [usually poorly researched] online which mentions that the practice of blending white and red wines is prohibited by EU in Europe unless you are making rosé in Champagne.
Yes – the Champagne district is allowed to blend white and red to make rosé, BUT so is the rest of EU as long as it is made from appellation wines as defined by PDO/PGI standards.

Thanks to Wine enthusiast Steve Slatcher for this article: http://www.winenous.co.uk/wp/archives/2496

Article 8 page 4.

General rules on blending and coupage

A wine may be obtained by blending or coupage only where
the constituents of that blending or coupage possess the required
characteristics for obtaining wine and comply with Regulation
(EC) No 479/2008 and this Regulation.

Coupage of a non-PDO/PGI white wine with a non-PDO/PGI red
wine cannot produce a rosé wine.

However, the second subparagraph does not exclude coupage of
the type referred to therein where the final product is intended for
the preparation of a cuvée as defined in Annex I to Regulation
(EC) No 479/2008 or intended for the production of semisparkling
wines.

Reference: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:193:0001:0059:EN:PDF

Which means that if the wine can not meet the standards defined for a PDO/PGI wine you can not blend them to make a rosé.
For example In France you could not use “Vin de France” formerly known as “Vin de Table”. 

What about “good taste”?

What about taste? Initially I was going to write about quality but it is so subjective and what I really want to talk about is good taste. I don’t think that one production method produces better quality than the other, it will just produce different wines. Your taste and preference for what is a quality wine is individual and what I think is a good bottle might not be good on your palette. This summer there have been a vast supply of rosé wines to choose from on the shelves. Even though I’ve still had a hard time finding rosé wines, which I thought were good quality and tasty. Sure I’ve found a few, but I was under the impression that I would have found a lot more. I don’t import any rosé still wines but maybe I should accept the challenge and find some decent ones for my shop.

This lead me to the next paragraph

How do I find the best rosé

The key to find the best rosé is to taste as many different bottles as possible. The important bit here being that you need to compare the bottles to each other at the same time. The important thing is the direct comparison of flavours, smells and textures. You could for example buy 4-6 different bottles and taste them in the same type of glass[important! We’ll get into this in a later blog] and at the same temperature. You could do it together with friends and have a good discussion about the wines you try. Write down what you think on paper so you have notes for the next bottles you want to try. The more you try, the more data you will have and maybe after a while you can determine if a certain type of grape is a favourite or a region or a production method.

Nothing in tasting is wrong. If you are reminded of a certain flavour or smell when you are trying wines, then it is right for you. Others might not agree with you, but then you can always have a good conversation about why you think as you do. You might find that you like certain wines when they make you smile, no matter where or how they are produced.

So does rosé “taste like chicken”…?

Getting back to the initial question – So does rosé “taste like chicken”…? I would really like to write a big NO, but I find that a lot of the Provence rosé wines I have tried is hard to separate for my palette. So I could argue that some of them “taste like chicken”. 🙂 I will still recommend to do your own exploring and find the wines you really like. On a final note the best rosé for me is still a Rosé Champagne. It will put a smile on my face every time.