I am sat at the kitchen table finishing off what is left of a bottle of Clos des Futies Extra Brut 2009. It is Vincent Charlot’s prestige cuvee, a single vineyard (a Clos even!) blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, from Epernay. I have just got off my email having had a small discussion with Vincent about the sugar level in the wine. It is rich. VERY rich. Rich to the point that it needed discussing. Anyway, it was discussed and I was assured it was the richness and maturity of the vintage that was driving the sugar on the palate (the dosage being extremely low). Of course I trust Vincent, and as I pointed out to him, I have tried many wines that have a similarly deceptive palate but this one caught me by surprise. 24 hours later and I am in awe. Still wonderfully rich, there is no way of getting around that, but the sweetness has gone and you are left with exotic fruit notes of mango and apricot laced with this mineral backbone and faint pink grapefruit pithe. Amazing.
I was first introduced to the wines of Charlot-Tanneux on the shelves of Au Bon Manger in Reims. Aline, the delightful owner, persuaded me to part with some hard earned cash for a bottle of Cuvee Micheline Tanneux 2006. The label wasn’t putting up a good fight to gain my attention, but I don’t judge a book by it’s cover and gladly handed over the money. It sat in my wine fridge at home for a wee while until I eventually persuaded myself to drink it (this doesn’t take much). I was, as with the Clos, puzzled by the sweet oak ladened palate but there was no getting away from the structure and texture. Sublime and so seductive.
Vincent commenced in 2001 and works with 4.2 hectares purely in biodynamic production. He hails from the village of Mardeuil but has vineyards in Epernay, Pierry, Moussy, Ay and Vauciennes producing 30 to 35000 bottles per year. He vinifies each plot separately in separate barrels. He even has one plot, Basses Ronces, separated due to different root stock – Chardonnay sur 41b and Fercal. His message is that it is all about the soil – even over grape variety. I must confess that I raised my eyebrow at this statement until I had the opportunity to try his wines in barrel. Incredible expression and minerality. The soil is king and you really get that. He uses very old oak and both ferments and matures in it looking for micro-oxigination and natural tannins in the juice. He uses indigenous yeasts and occasional batonnage depending on the vintage.
When asked how many cuvees he produces, Vincent shouts out “Oh lots! About 15 depending on the year!”. I must admit having tried most of them I am a little confused as to how they sit but I will describe a few below and you can keep your eyes peeled on my tasting notes as they come! All bottles are very small production running in the 1000s if not 100s.
Cuvee Nicolas is an 80/20 blend of Pinot Noir/Meunier from Pierry. It spends 11 months in oak, and with all of his cuvees, has a surprising complexity to the mid to late palate. Lovely dry Pinot Noir notes of the nose and sea shell and plum on the palate.
La Fruit de ma Passion 2011 made from 2 parcels; La Ganette and La Chapotte in Mardeuil, was instantly one of my favourites. A superb blend of Meunier (65%), Pinot Noir (20%) and Chardonnay (15), it has an impressive saline front end and lovely blackcurrant notes on the palate. Brilliantly weighted and with epic levels of minerality.
Micheline Tanneux Millesime 2006 is another pure Pierry wine made from 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. There is a fiery toast nose and a wonderfully layered fruit palate with toast and starfruit. Huge stuff.
L’Or des Basses Ronces 2011 is produced using the two different root stock of Chardonnay in the village of Mardeuil. It shows a lovely balance of sweet fruit and serious salinity. Melon, grapefruit and a finely balanced finish.
Cuvee Honore Charlot 2009 is from the clay and limestone soils of Ay. A 70/30 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from a tiny plot producing a mere 420 bottles! A seductive front end with dried cherry and forest fruits. It has the typical fruit one expects from Ay with an impressive minerality. The finish is all plum stone with some real spice and white pepper. After an hour in the glass it gives more apricot which I have noted from certain vineyards in Ay. A really impressively structured wine.
L’Ecorche de la Genette 2011, is a 90% Meunier rose backed up with 10% Pinot Noir. It is supremely elegant with a serious and vinous weight to it. Saline and mineral, it develops delicious blackcurrant notes with air.
Which brings us to Clos des Futies 2009. A tiny clos, 18 ares (producing a mere 817 bottles), nestled on the mid slopes in Epernay, east facing and sheltered from the winds by slopes to it’s North and South. It enjoys the morning sun and is allowed to mature to full ripeness before picking gaining it’s superb richness that needs hours in the glass to sing! Powerful bitter notes blend with a delicate mousse and an amazing minerality that drives the finish. Epic.
Vincent deserves some more recognition. His wines are saline, beautiful and powerful. Everything I love! I can’t wait to see how they are with some age…
Region: La Vallee De La Marne
Contact: Vincent Charlot
Cuvée De Prestige: Clos des Futies
Year Founded: 2001
Bottles produced: 35000
Style: Saline, beautiful fruit, powerful
Terroir: Mardeuil, Epernay, Pierry, Moussy, Ay, Vauciennes.
Vinification: All old oak, no malolactic, indiginous yeasts, no fining, occasional batonnage depending on the year, some sulphur after press.
Viticulture: Biodynamic, uses tree pulp and grain for manure to add life, no ploughing between vines.
Recent Tasting Notes from Charlot-Tanneux