Not all Champagnes are equal

Not all Champagnes are equal Image

Following our recent trip to Champagne, we discovered how truly great Champagne is not necessarily the most expensive.

Recently we have been lucky enough to spend time with some of our great producers within Champagne. Always a magical place to visit with the Grand Marque Champagne houses, the labyrinth of underground tunnels and the cellars deep under the towns all lined dusty bottles and magnums (and the occasional art installation) waiting to be disgorged at the perfect moment.

These houses are beyond impressive, many of them are luxury brands that are steeped in history and highly recognised throughout the world. Great as these Champagnes are, the winemakers here can often be bound by the constraints of the brand image and cannot always express themselves and, more importantly, the variety available within Champagne.

The simplest way to sum up the production here is you have growers who grow grapes in Champagne, and you have producers who use those grapes to create Champagne. As mentioned above, large houses or Grand Marques, adhere to a signature style and with the vast quantities they produce it has moved away from hands-on wine making in many cases. In the medium sized houses, you can find fantastic quality, a production size which is small enough to work with the growers and create different diverse styles but large enough to ensure great prices. The smaller growers will sell grapes to the other houses where prices are based on quality of grapes and the more regional grapes will go to the co-operatives to create a volume driven, lesser quality low priced champagne.

The main reason for our trip was Champagne Lallier who many of you will know from their visits to Bakewell. This is one of the special Champagne houses in the area and owner Francis Tribaut is being recognised internationally for having the firm intentions to represent Champagne at its best.

Lallier Champagne, Grand Cru Brut Reserve NVHe firmly believes in the terroir producing the Grand Cru grapes which go into Lallier and demands this is reflected in each bottle made. He knows the merit of making ‘wine' first then Champagne.

The process starts with him personally selecting the best grapes from their own vineyards and from trusted partner growers in Champagne, where quality can be ensured and matches that of his own. He only uses Grand Cru or Premier Cru Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes in all his blended Champagnes.  He has grown and developed his own natural yeasts for fermentation from Chardonnay grapes from a single vineyard which he believes gives the best results.

The grapes, parcels and even individual pressings are vinified separately. Francis does this so he can spot the potential of each before the magic of his blending the Champagne begins. Then comes the wait - his Champagnes are aged for a minimum of 2 years in their chalky cellars and the results speak (taste) for themselves!

For his Grand Cru Brut NV, Francis favours a Pinot Noir heavy blend with Chardonnay usually around 2/3rd to 1/3rd blend. This brings an exhilarating freshness and fantastic structure to the Champagne as well as allowing for good ageing potential. It also stands all his Champagnes in good stead for food matching- something we probably don't do enough. This Champagne would pair brilliantly with all manner of canapés and starters.

Lallier are unique in creating their R… Series of Champagnes. These, such as R.014, are made up of almost 85% of Champagne Lallier R.0142014 vintage Champagne, the rest being from previous vintages. The advantage to these wines is how they represent the traits of that vintage without the price tag of an actual vintage Champagne. They obviously also have greater maturity and depth from aging yet without losing the initial freshness. These make a great match for meaty fish dishes, maybe monkfish and even a good cheese board.

We can't explore Lallier without mentioning their ‘Ouvrage' NV. This is the epitome of their style and Francis ‘masterpiece'. With 70% Pinot Noir to 30% Chardonnay, it is an elegant beast with beautiful apple and peach notes, background brioche and lovely freshness – a celebration wine, but it will work perfectly with salmon style starters and terrines.

So, if it's a real Champagne treat you are wanting and you prefer real added value, right from the vineyard up, then look no further than Lallier, who deliver an individual Champagne at a price you can afford.

For more information about the region of Champagne have a look at our all about wine section for 'Champagne in a nutshell'. 

Last Updated: 17/10/2019
Author: Judd Slack

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