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Champagne Chartogne Taillet, Sainte Anne Brut NV
Pinot Noir 65%, Chardonnay 35%
Philippe & Alexandre Chartogne
Alexandre Chartogne is a disciple of the legendary Anselme Selosse and this influence shows in the concentrated and powerful styles of Champagne he produces. There is some use of oak barrels here and the average vine age is high. The village of Merfy where Alexandre has his vines was once extremely prestigious in Champagne before it was all but destroyed in World War I. This cuvee is a great aperitif while still being full-flavoured and substantive. This is a lovely, delicate style of champagne (22g/l instead of the more typical 24g/l for the secondary fermentation), showing very pure citrus fruits with good energy, a hint of quince, brioche and a saline, mineral flavour. It comes from 30-year-old vines planted in sandstone, clay and chalk in Merfy and is made 60% from the 2014 vintage, 40% from 2013. Disgorged in Oct 2016 with a 5.5g/l dosage.
Sand, clay, chalk on chalk mother rock. Debud, no vendanges en vert. Soil ploughed for last 4 years. Allow grass to grow, cutting it back only when it becomes too vigorous. Renowned soil specialist Claude Bourguignon is employed to analyse the soils yearly, judge the activity of micro-organisms in the soil and advise on any organic treatments. Manual harvest. Yields average 50 hh. Pneumatic press. Natural indigenous yeasts for smallest vats and barrels, sachcromyces cerevisiae for biggest vats. 1st fermentation has given an average of 10.5% alcohol, so just a touch of chaptalisation necessary. Vinification in stainless steel at 17C-18C for 10-14 days. The chardonnay undergo malo-lactics, pinot does not. Elevage on fine lees for 7 to 10 months. Racked from 1 to 4 times. 20% reserve wine is used (from 2 older vintages the reserve wine is kept in stainless steel cuves). From 2006 onwards, the wine is neither fined nor filtered. 22g of sugar used for the secondary fermentation. 2 years sur latte. 4.5g/l of cane sugar used for dosage. Kept in cellars for further 4 months post desgorging.
Under Alexandre Chartogne's guidance, the wines of Chartogne-Taillet are some of the most sought-after Champagnes being produced. Alexandre worked with Anslem Selosse, who he describes as 'my wine father', returning home in 2006. The first wine that he produced was the 2006 vintage of Les Barres, a very special parcel of ungrafted Meunier, planted in 1952. The soil in this parcel is sand for almost 3 meters before the roots reach the chalk bedrock, allowing the vines to live in two environments. In 2007 Alexandre assumed control of the entire estate. In the early years, Alexandre experimented with lots of different vessels for fermentation and elevage, including amphorae and concrete eggs. Watching the wines, vineyards and Alexandre himself evolve over the last 10 years has been extraordinary. When I think back to my ancestors, I think that they knew what they were doing. There was nothing bad in the vineyards and the wines were made in oak. This is my direction after many years of seeing other things and watching the wines develop.In the vineyards, Alexandre does not follow any certifications; his goal is to respect the soil populations as much as I can. His work is followed by Claude and Lydia Bourguignon, the two foremost experts on soil microbiology. I do not use chemicals, herbicides, insecticides and plough half of my vineyards with my horses. Most of the work is made by hand, but no certification. Sheep and Chickens are used for fertilization and focus is put on the health of the soil as Chartogne believes that the transmission of terroir comes only though careful work in the vineyard. Horses are kept on the property and used for ploughing and a majority of the work in the vineyard is made by hand. After careful selection and harvest, the wine is pressed in a 4,000kg pneumatic press. Fermentation is especially important at this address: Everything is fermented with native fermentation in my house. The second fermentation have also native but selected inside my vineyards. I have my own yeasts. But for the first (alcoholic) fermentation, it's always 100% native from the vineyards, without pied de cuvee says Alexandre. In a region where neutral base wines and clarity was favored over the heterogeneity that comes with native yeast fermentation, this philosophy is still at odds with the majority of producers in Champagne today. Fermentation is done mostly in wood: 228 liter barrels with some 600 liter French Oak. There is still stainless steel at the estate and reserve wine is held in large underground concrete tanks, but Alexandre is building a new cellar to store more oak and moving to this medium for his primary mode of elevage and fermentation. Normally base wines are aged for 9 months before assemblage and tasting. Malolactic is part of the wines Alexandre says. The wines from my village makes it (malo) all the time, so (I am) malo friendly. Starting with the very first year back at home, Chartogne was experimenting with special, single parcel bottlings. Today, he produces wines from 8 different parcels: Les Barres, Beaux Sens, Le Coarres, Couarres Chateau, Heurtebise, Orizeaux, Les Allies and Chemin de Reims. In each parcel a different variety planted, but Chartogne is adamant about the variety not being important. It is the soil and the place that is most important. The variety is just the transmission of the feeling of that place says Alexandre. In addition to the very small production parcelle wines, he produces a Rose, which he considers to be the wine that carries the biggest imprint of the winemaker, as well as a non-vintage called Saint-Anne, which expresses the different terroirs of Merfy. Ste. Anne is a village wine, and an excellent lesson in just how fine wine from cru normal made with expertise and care can be. - Terry Theise
Wine Advocate 91pts - Tasted April 2019 - The latest release of the NV Brut Sainte Anne is a blend of equal parts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, based on the 2015 vintage, and it was disgorged in April 2018. This iteration of Chartogne's entry cuvee is especially charming, wafting from the glass with notes of waxy lemon rind, almond paste, elderflowers and spices. On the palate, it's medium to full-bodied, broad and fleshy, with a generous core of tangy fruit, ripe acids, a refined mousse and a long, flavorful finish. Despite its charm, this is also among the more intense, concentrated renditions of Sainte Anne that I can remember tasting, and it comes warmly recommended.