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To call Gaston Chiquet an old-school grower Champagne is an understatement: This is the original Récoltant Manipulant. In 1919 brothers Gaston and Fernand Chiquet decided to keep a large chunk of their own grapes, rather than sell to the maisons and négociants, and produce their very own wine, with their name on the label, and sell it to the public. And thus, “grower Champagne” was born. Fast forward 100 years and eight generations and this house continues to produce some of the best, traditionally styled sparkling wines in France, and therefore the world. Today’s discovery, the limited “Cuvée de Réserve,” is a true throwback to benchmark Champagnes of the 20th Century. While the current fashion trends towards bone-dry, often austere styles, the “Réserve” is unabashedly decadent. Luxuriously textured, with rich, golden layers of brioche and honeyed fruit, it is glorious, guilt-free pleasure in a glass. Oh, and it just happens to be surprisingly affordable, too. So, chill it down, pop the cork, and relax into a retro state of mind.
Note: Love the old-school Champagne vibes? Grab a six pack and save an additional 10%!
The concept of grower Champagnes, and the term Récoltant Manipulant, is very much a familiar lexicon in the world of sommeliers, wine media, and enthusiasts these days. But it was completely unheard of 100 years ago. Like much of France, small landholders would eke out a living selling their harvest of wine grapes to large maisons, or houses, that would combine them with the fruit from hundreds of other farmers, make Champagne, and put their label on it before going to market. You know these guys—Veuve, Möet, Roederer etc.—and you know they’re everywhere, but when the Chiquet brother’s decided to go their own way they began a quiet, and slow, revolution that has brought us to an embarrassment of riches now when it comes to the options for high-quality, small-production Champagne.
Not only is Gaston Chiquet the original grower, they’ve also managed to maintain a consistent approach to winemaking for going on eight generations now. The big guys call this “house style,” but at Chiquet, it’s just the family tradition. Oak is never used, malolactic fermentations are never blocked, and the wines are aged on their lees following secondary fermentation for a very long time. The “Cuvée de Réserve” is made from a blend of all three primary grapes, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay, and it comes from only Premier and Grand Cru vineyards in the villages of Äy, Dizy, Hautvillers, and Mareuil-sur-Äy. The base vintage is 2013, with a proportion of 2009 as well, and it was aged for an astonishing 72 months on the lees prior to disgorgement.
The result of that throwback winemaking is a soft, delicate mousse that is surrounded by a rich, creamy texture, and balanced by precise, tongue tingling acidity. Serve it chilled, at around 45-48 degrees, in an all-purpose glass, or if you’re feeling really retro try a coup (but not a flute) just for fun. The sparkling, golden hue will open up with layers of ripe apples, fresh brioche, Meyer lemon, toasted hazelnuts, white peaches, cranberries, and honeysuckle, and finish with a soft, saline minerality. It’s certainly enjoyable all on its own, but it’s even better with something equally decadent like caviar or truffled eggs. This is the perfect elixir for a long week, when you want to slip into something comfortable and treat yourself to a bit of nostalgic relaxation. So stock up, you’ve earned it!
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