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Paul Déthune will be a familiar name to regular SommSelect readers. These micro-production grower Champagnes always feature in our regular rotation thanks to their incredible complexity at everyday prices. Today is a special day though, as we reach a new level of Déthune madness. Their 2016 Blanc des Blancs is a meticulous, single-vintage selection of the very finest Chardonnay to be found in the Déthune family’s holdings and a truly special Champagne experience. It carries the Déthune stamp we’ve adored for years in their Pinot-based bottlings—that thrumming power, the pointillist detail—only through the lens of a more ramped-up orchard fruit and mineral-laden style. And of course that Déthune value is there, too; good luck finding vintage Champagne this unique and this profound for this sub-$100 price tag. Déthune fanatics, rejoice with us!
The Déthunes have farmed vineyards since 1610, with four generations now working in the Grand Cru village of Ambonnay. They were some of the first in the village to bottle their own production: current proprietor Pierre Déthune’s great-grandfather Léon made the switch almost a century ago. Their commitment to the village’s health has run deep for decades, and Pierre has achieved sustainable certification from two separate bodies for his careful, environmentally-friendly vineyard work. He doesn’t use any herbicides or insecticides in the vineyard, and the winery now runs entirely on solar power. Pierre achieved organic certification in 2020, and continues to push the envelope of sustainability, re-introducing cover crops and other plants to increase the biodiversity of his farm.
Every Champagne lover knows Ambonnay. The Grand Cru village in the Montagne de Reims, with its full southern aspect and chalky soils, produces the most powerful Pinot Noir in the region. It’s home to legendary grower-producers like Egly-Ouriet and Marie-Noëlle Ledru, who, like Déthune, have staked their reputation on a signature combination of force and finesse. And while conversation here rightly centers around Pinot, close to 20% of the village is planted to Chardonnay. The Déthunes typically use their white fruit to bring a touch of mineral lift to their non-vintage cuvées. But in vintages where they feel the base Chardonnay wines are truly special, they’ll bottle them on their own. Such was the case in 2016.
The Déthune Blanc des Blancs 2016 was fermented and aged entirely in 205-liter barrels. The vin clair goes through malolactic fermentation naturally and enters tirage unfiltered, a rarity in Champagne these days. After three years on the lees, it was disgorged and then aged a further year in bottle. It’s a sparkling force of nature. As soon as you pull the cork, you’re hit with waves of orchard fruit—creamed apple, pear skin, apple blossoms, spiced Granny Smith—followed by lemon peel, white flowers, and seaspray. Pulsing through it all is a golden savor, with almond skin, toasted brioche and fresh hay, and an incredible pulverized chalk minerality. Served cool, not cold, in an all-purpose or Burgundy bowl, the palate is immediately full and mouth-coating, turning more towards the rocky and saline aspects of the nose, before it’s whisked away by a flush of scintillating acid leading into a minutes-long finish. It’s drop-dead gorgeous right now, and I have no doubt that it’ll only get better with some medium-term aging in your cellar. Lovers of great Blanc des Blancs, lovers of Ambonnay, lovers of Déthune, this is not to be missed!
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