With Chartogne-Taillet one appreciates the significance of terroir. Theirs is an example of just how wonderful wines can be simply because of how talented and conscientious they are. Their land, while good (Merfy is “84%” on the Echelle de Crus) is not aristocratic, and I’m certain if we could transplant them to, say, Aÿ or Mesnil they’d promptly take their place among the elite. As it is, we have overachievers making some silky, swank fizz articulated with careful diction, “easy” drinking and forthright. These are racy, spicy Champagnes at the low end; sumptuous, brioche-y Champagnes at the top. For some reason, a consistent standout in blind tastings!
The basic wine is keen and racy, and the upper-end wines are virtually luscious, they are so brioche-y and creamy. Lovers of old-style Champagnes are encouraged to look closely at these. More recent cuvees have shown a silken complexity that’s consistent enough to infer the design of a knowing hand.
Chartogne-Taillet owns parcels in Merfy, and remains the only RM producer in the village. The soil in Merfy is clay, sand and sandstone over chalk, forcing the roots of the vines to “live in two environments” as Alexandre Chartogne puts it. Alexandre, now in charge of the cellars at Chartogne-Taillet, worked with Anselm Selosse in Avize and applies Selosse’s ideas in the cellars and vineyards in Merfy. Alexandre vinifies each parcel individually some in stainless steel and a growing number in neutral barrique.
The family’s holdings in Merfy include the Chemin de Reims vineyard, a site mentioned in viticultural writings from the ninth century. Today, chardonnay from the Chemin de Reims vineyard is used in Chartogne-Taillet’s tete du cuvee, Cuvee Fiacre. This cuvee is named for Fiacre Taillet, born in the beginning of the 18th century, who kept records of wine making almost three hundred years ago. This tradition is carried on by Alexandre Chartogne today.