I think if you asked me to sum up Chiquet’s wines in one pithy phrase, I’d have to say either “delicious and articulate” or “articulate and delicious” depending on which you preferred. (Maybe “salacious and ticklish,” in a pinch . . .) I myself tend to peg Nicolas Chiquet’s wines as “innately lovable” and so it always surprises me to rediscover just how focused and precise they are, as if the prose of E.B. White were rendered in the form of Champagne.
They taste effortless, tactful, yet attractive. What I’m tasting are wines of pure terroir. They are, in effect, anti-varietal. Even the celebrated Aÿ Chardonnay isn’t so much a variant on Chardonnay as it is another dialect of Aÿ. Chiquets are both the chalkiest and most succulent of all my Champagnes. This is a 23-hectare estate, which means we can get some wine to sell! Which is lucky for us, because these are sensually gorgeous, hedonistic wines that everyone can cozy up to.
Nicolas Chiquet farms 23 heactares in the Valle de la Marne in the villages of Ay, Dizy, Hautvillers and Mareuil-sur-Ay. All of the fruit (including that which is used in the non-vintage cuvee) comes from premiere and grand cru grapes. Nicolas does not employ any oak aging at Gaston Chiquet; he believes that concentration, fruit maturity and malolactic fermentation impart enough body and texture to make aging in barrel unnecessary.
The vineyards are planted to equal (forty percent each) parts chardonnay, pinot meumier and twenty percent are planted to pinot noir. Gaston Chiquet also produces a vintage dated chardonnay from 5 parcels on the western side of the gramd cru village of Ay. Usually recognized as a grand cru village for pinot noir, these vines of chardonnay were planed in Ay in the 1930s.
With air we glimpse aromas we almost never see in Champagne (parsnip, eucalyptus), and all I can say is, THIS IS GROWER CHAMPAGNE. One of the best ‘05s I know, deg 2/2015, it’s now starting to resemble the “family” of these PN-dominated vintage wines, with a marked chalk-dusty texture rare in ’05. ~Terry Theise
Back in ’97 when I first introduced this it was seriously rad to have an all-Chardonnay wine from the cradle of Pinot Noir that is Aÿ. I don’t know of any others, and for terroir lovers like me, it gives a rare chance to see the taste of Aÿ detached from the taste of PN.
The wine underwent malolactic fermentation and spent 24 months sur latte. The Chardonnay for the NV Blanc de Blancs d’Ay comes from Grand Cru sites in Ay.
Note: we tasted an old vintage of this wine, deliberately selected as an average year, not a great one, and I guessed it to be ’78 or maybe ’81—its high (by today’s standards) dosage had kept it stirringly fresh. It was in fact 1960—I mean, nineteen-freaking-SIXTY, and it was off the hinges in WOW-value. ~Terry Theise
This portfolio’s Most-Improved-Wine must again contend with the 2011 issue, and again there is an excellent wine below a sheer veil of bugginess. Buyer beware, according to one’s tolerance for vegetal (rhubarb in this case) flavors, or how adroitly you can shove them aside to access the lovely wine beneath. 53% Meunier, 24% PN, 24% CH. Yes that is 101%. ~Terry Theise
I thought he was discontinuing this wine, but here it is again, and very happily. In effect it harkens back to earlier generations, when they just did one-third each of the three varieties and put the wine up for sale after six or seven years en tirage. This one’s based on 2007, with 24% 2006. Disgorged 7/2015, it’s 40% PM, 35% CH and 25% PN.
In effect what this gives us is a chance to see an NV with some tertiary development, or in other words to drink a Champagne that’s been aged for us. Considering how cool and judicious the “Tradition” often is, this guy is extroverted, smoky and phyllodoughy; quite savory all in all, redolent of shoot-smoke—they’re often burning the cut shoots when I’m there in March, and that fragrance is evocative and unmistakable. An ’08 will follow in about a year’s time, and I cannot wait… ~Terry Theise