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.
Less incisive than the 2008 but even more generous and white-flowery. A little broader, more inferential but also extravagantly chalky. Want to see full-impact terroir in Champagne? Taste this, then the BdB from Moussé, and finally Varnier-Fannière St. Denis. ~Terry Theise
“I know, I can’t explain it either,” he said. “All the bad grapes must have gone into the NV.” Yes, this is ’11 and yes, it is superb. If you have forgotten, it’s entirely 63-year old ungrafted Meunier, and this is a wonderful version; deep and earthy, bright and shimmering; a long tertiary finish of cardamom and oat-bread toast. If you put a little cognac in your shiitake risotto it might taste like this. A stupidly long finish that doesn’t want to vacate your senses; it takes up residence in your entire upper respiratory system. ~Terry Theise
100% Pinot Noir, and 100% inexplicable how it can be this good in ’11. It’s round and elegant and glossy; the most sophisticated single-parcel wine Alexandre has yet made, PN both solid and ethereal; crystalline and large-scaled, savory yet floating, incisive yet clinging. Absolutely superb! ~Terry Theise
This came roaring back from the 2011 doldrums, and the last couple editions have been the best ever, perhaps a little less assertive than before but also a lot more elegant and complex. For me it stands in the absolute top class among entry-level grower-Champagnes; I mean, who has better NV Brut than this??? Now 60% 2013 and 20% each of ’12 and ’11, it’s 65-35 PN/CH, deg 1/2016, very dry (could be “Extra Brut”); it’s an elegant straight-lined and silky edition of this, as graceful and balanced and tasty as they come. Incisive and classy, chiseled and vaporous, with an aerial solidity. ~Terry Theise
Alexandre’s Rosé is 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir; about 15 percent of the pinot is red wine from 50-year old vines in the Les Orizeaux parcel, abutting Les Barres. Chartogne-Taillet is a unique estate in that all of the wines, with the exception of the Cuvee St. Anne, come from a single vintage; this disgorgement is all from 2007.