Many of you know from our offers (Cornilissen, Macle, Caloz, and Vodopivec to name a few) that we're always on the "bleeding edge" of the wine world (and some might argue that we tread on the edge of reason). You probably also know that we go to great lengths to source wines at the absolute best prices, often found anywhere on the globe.
Today we present the Champagnes of cult producer Vouette et Sorbée – biodynamic beauties, made by Jacques Selosse disciple Bertrand Gautherot at prices 20-25% lower than our competitors.
I was privileged enough to be introduced to these simultaneously hedonistic and intellectual wines that have more to do with Chablis than Champagne by a friend who also happens to be a customer. The occasion was an informal dinner out in Brooklyn (btw: for an out of the way place with outstanding food, I highly recommend The Good Fork in Red Hook. Besides being an incredibly kind person, Ben, the proprietor, has his kitchen firing on all cylinders).
As tends to occur when more than four of us get together, there were more bottles than people at the table and some absolutely stunning wines made an appearance (1975 Pepe, 1990 Giuseppe Monprivato, 1978 Armand Clos Epenaux, 1976 Prum Wehlener LGKA, and some older Cornilissen, etc.)
To my surprise, the glass that most impressed me that evening was the Vouette & Sorbée Fidele. Served blind in a decanter, it completely re-arranged my mind.
But don’t just take my word for it, Richard Juhlin calls Vouette a “4-star property” and notes that it is clearly superior to any other Champagne house outside of the ‘main’ department of Marne, (see below for more about Champagne departments and communes) and that for his vineyards Gautherot used cuttings from Raveneau and Selosse.
So why haven’t you seen the wines before?
As one of the few certified biodynamic producers in Champagne, Vouette et Sorbée is also tiny, with only 5 hectares (12 acres or ¼ the size of Central Park’s Great Lawn) and the yields are tiny and the production low. The grapes are hand harvested, and the juice is fermented with indigenous yeasts, and raised in barrel. As you might expect, no dosage is added to the wines. All wines all are from a single vintage, but don’t spend enough time on the lees to qualify for vintage dating.
Their vineyards have been certified biodynamic since 1998, but 2001 was the first vintage – since then the wines have achieved cult status in France and are nearly impossible to find for domestic consumption let alone abroad.
While I have only tasted the Fidele, which I have had 3 times in the last month, it would be a huge mistake to ignore the Blanc d’Argiles and the Saignee, full descriptions and notes for which are at the very bottom of this (yes, incredibly long) email.
On the Fidele:
"Golden in color, the wine has a slightly nutty sweetness on the nose that is feminine and velvety.
On the palate there is a certain saline quality and a unique minerality that may just deserve its own element on the periodic table. The term kaleidoscopic is over-used, but here it is completely apt as the wine contains green apple fruit and apple skins, fresh herbs, gentle spices, and freshly cut grass and the signature minerality mentioned above. Joe noted a Jura-ssic element to it as well as complete homage to Selosse.
After an hour and fifteen minutes in a decanter, the wine still retains a soft bubble and is still lively on the palate -- in fact, it continues to open up and show new layers of flavor. In the midpalate there is a subtle and beautiful richness... but without weight (something that is all too uncommon) and an incredible lift that translates into the finish that is paradoxically palate-coating and clean. The wine somehow is rich and concentrated while still well defined. If there ever was one, this is a wine made for food."
If you are looking for something to help change your definition of Champagne and are game for potentially polarizing wines that that share more with Burgundy than Champagne-proper, please don’t hesitate to call the store at (212) 980-9463. Quantities are limited, especially the Saignee and the Blanc d’Argile. Please give us your maximum interest and we will will distribute as fairly as possible. (as usual, we’re likely talking bottles, not cases, but let ‘er rip!).
More on the Estate
The estate is located in the centuries old (~700 AD) village of Buxières-sur-Arcein, in the department of Aube, which is in the south of the Champagne region and is actually closer to Chablis than Reims. (It’s only about 60 kilometers to the town of Chablis, whereas it’s over 130 kilometers from Reims.) In contrast to the Marne’s chalk soils, the Cote du Bar is composed mainly of Kimmeridgian soils, which it shares with Chablis and parts of Sancerre. Most feel that Chardonnay is best suited, but Pinot Noir is the dominant grape probably due to a history of growing Gamay here. Once Gamay was booted out, Pinot was what the growers reached for.
Departments and Communes of Champagne
Marne is the department within Champagne where all the "great houses" are. It contains a whopping 620 communes including Ay (Bollinger, Gosset) Epernay (Dom Perignon, Pol Roger), Le-Mesnil-Sur-Oger (Salon) Mareuil-sur-Aÿ (Billecart-Salmon, Philiponat) Reims (Krug, Ruinart, Taittinger, Roederer, Veuve-CliCquot), and Vertus (Larmandier & Larmandier Bernier) to name a few. Also, all classified Grand Cru Champagne vineyards are within Marne. Combine this fact with the marketing engines of the above mentioned houses and you might think that all Champagne only comes from communes within Marne. Not True! There are three other departments in the Champagne region (Haut-Marnes, Ardennes, and Aube) that have communes that are allowed to produce AOC champagne. The Domaine in today’s offer, Vouette & Sorbée is located south of Marne in the Commune of Aube.