I first met Aurelien a few years ago after hearing on the proverbial that there was this new magician on the horizon. At that time we spent a number of hours discussing his philosophy and tasting wines in cask and a number of bottles early in their life. Two years later and we are so nearly there. The first wines made in his philosophy are soon to hit the shelves and I couldn’t be more excited!
Aurelien’s history within Champagne is an interesting one. As the youngest child he spent the first part of his life away from the vines and in Philidelphia playing professional basketball! He did however return to shadow his father in 2003 before taking over later that year. Although following on from his father’s existing philosophy he knew he wanted to strive out on his own and create wines that were an expression of him. He started to imprint this philosophy as of 2009, turning to single parcel wines, natural yeast selection and using only his vines in the Cote des Blancs, except for a single ungrafted Meunier vineyard in Montigny sur Vesles. It has been a steep learning curve for Aurelien but it is clear that he is grasping all of the challenges with both hands and succeeding.
All wines are vinified in oak (apart from the non vintage wines which undergo 25-35% oak contact and the rest in steel tank) and egg. His vineyards are predominantly in Oiry; 1.5ha, Cramant 1ha, Couilly 0.47ha and 0.2ha in Montigy sur Vesles.
We sat down on a cold November’s evening in 2015 and worked through his entire range:
Last of the historic range is the Reserve, MBDA and Millesime 2008.
The Reserve, a 55/45 blend of Pinot Noir and Meunier, 6g/ltr and 20% oak is a fascinating wine showing the contrast in terroir as it is blended from vines in Montigny sur Vesle, a town based on sandy soil. Crisp with surprising minerality and good focus.
MBDA is a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Sweet and jammy, you really notice the addition of Pinot Noir. A soft salinity works hand in hand with a berry skin pithe note on the finish.
Millesime 2008 was the last of his father’s work. 100% Chardonnay made from two plots. A touch of honey and gingerbread along with melon and toast. I am told that this wine underwent a very minimal amount of time on it’s sediment in tank and you really feel this in the palate as it lacks a certain oomph that you would expect from such a great vintage.
All fascinating wines but as you will see they don’t quite fit into the philosophy of what Aurelien is trying to create. Things all kick off with the 2012!
Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, 2012 base (1 barrel from 2011), is a blend of Oiry, Chouilly and Cramant using a 50/50 blend of natural and selected yeasts. It undergoes 25-35% oak contact. You sense the vines from Chouilly on the nose and superb caressing and expansive palate. The mousse is superb, the use of oak, amazing. Concentrated, pure, lazerlike.
Oiry, a single village wine and 95% 2013 was first tasted at the beginning of 2014 and showed a remarkable amount of depth, smokey, sweet and bracing acidity. Almost 2 years later and tasted a la volee, there is still fire present but now more tension and salinity and impressive minerality. A superb wine and one that makes you realise why this village is Grand Cru. I look forward to the release of this wine.
C+C is a blend of Chouilly and Cramant (Aurelien tells me he may add to this cuvee in the future upon potential vineyard acquisitions in Avize and Oger) from 2013 harvest. Again tasted a la volee it has a spicey nose and surprisingly soft palate. That lovely bitterness that is always present in Cramant dominates the palate. A touch of white fruit. I must admit I was a little surprised with the soft weight but perhaps a year or two more will add to this.
Le Mont Aigu 2013 (a single vineyard in Chouilly) was first tasted in barrel (new oak – 600 litre Stockinger) and I noted the presence of oak at the time! A brute of a wine. Two years later and tasted a la volee it is still dominated by the oak. The palate gives you a big hit of chalk and a touch of creamy fruit but you are left chewing on oak and a mildly disturbing bitter smokey note at the end. I hope that another few years in bottle will help this to lift. I cross my fingers.
With his tiny vineyard in Montigny sur Vesle, Aurelien makes La Grande Vigne. 100% Meunier made from ungrafted vines and bottled on cork. Tasted in barrel I found it a touch simplistic. How wrong was I. The 2013 is wonderful. A refreshing step into red fruits. Salted caramel, playfully textured and then it smacks you in the face and reminds you how serious it is! This is an amazing wine and you understand why Aurelien keeps ahold of these grapes for his own wines rather than sell them.
As one should, you keep the best till last. Tasted in 2014, my note was simply ‘smokey, rich, concentrated and sweet. Brilliant acidity and length’. I scored it 88 (at two years old!) with potential for 95. 2 years later and Les Robarts 2012 has only got better. A single vineyard at the border of Cramant and Avize (Aurelien’s vines sit in Cramant). It has undergone vinification in 20ha/ltr barrels and egg. The nose give you salt, iodine and toasty oak. The palate is hugely powerful, filling every crevasse. The salt note hits the finish beautifully. It is a perfectly layered wine even at this age. It has the same tension and excitement that I found in Emmanuel Brochet’s Haut Meunier when I first tried it. It is that good.
I am really excited by the future of Aurelien’s wines. Roll on 2018/19!
Region: La Cote des Blancs
Contact: Aurelien Suenen
Cuvée De Prestige:
Style: Rich, Saline, Powerful, Pure
Terroir: Oiry, Chouilly, Cramant, Montigny sur Vesle
Vinification: Oak, and Egg used.
Recent Tasting Notes from Suenen
Suenen Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru
Tasted:January 25, 2016
Oodles of wet chalk and salt on the nose. Touch of smoke and a sprinkling of toast. Sweet lemon gooseberry and white pepper. …read more…
Base Vintage: 2012