We were not looking for another champagne producer, but Forest-Marié seemed to be sent to us from on high. A chance encounter with their Blanc de Blancs at a restaurant after attending the Salon des Vins de Loire at Angers, and the discovery that my hotel proprietor was the local agent led to a protracted but ultimately successful process of negotiation whereby we became the California importers for this exceptionally good house.
Situated in Trigny, a village that shares the same Massif de St. Thierry terroir as our long-time favorite, Chartogne-Taillet, this producer has quietly developed a following in France, culminating in some top ratings in the latest Guide Hachette. Thierry Forest (after whom the local mountain is not named) is an unassuming but serious wine-grower who makes authentic, forceful champagnes that exemplify all we have come to love about the récoltants.
How thrilling that Thierry’s current vintage is 2006, when others are releasing their 2013 wines. An equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, entirely from the Ecueil holdings, this is a grand, dry champagne, gingery and long, with prodigious depth of flavour.
It was a bottle of this wine that grabbed my attention in that restaurant in Saumur where I was dining with Julien and Corinne Fouet. One never expects very much of the ritual aperitif champagne in France, but this one was startling for its class, its wonderful biscuity evolution and its length on the palate. Clearly an older cuvée than the one we offer you now, it showed the potential of their Chardonnay to evolve into the sort of rococo classic beloved of champagne aficionados. This cuvée is composed of equal parts 2009 and 2010.
Made entirely from black grapes (40% Pinot Noir, 45% Meunier) and based on 70% of the ebullient 2010 vintage, this is a vinous, cherryish pink champagne that exemplifies the charming possibilities of the genre.
This is the cuvée that won the coveted Coup de Coeur from the Guide Hachette in France. Made from equal parts Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier, 45% 2006, 45% 2007 and 10% reserve wines, it has that insinuating nose that only champagne can offer, full of biscuity intrigue. Crisp and fresh, with a beguiling gingery overtone, this is a mighty satisfying “basic” champagne that is a poster-child for what makes our grower friends such a rewarding source for this most important of beverages.
This cuvée came to Thierry from the Premier Cru village of Écueil, home of Gracianne Marié, his wife. Blended from 2005 and 2004, it presents entirely differently, not just because of its distinctive terroir but because it is made from a base of 65% Pinot Noir (the balance is Chardonnay). An imposingly spicy, gingery champagne made in a dry style (just 6 gm. of dosage), it would serve as well at the table as as an aperitif.
Similarly composed to the Brut de Blancs above, but finished without dosage, this is an entirely compelling rendition of the modish style. Nutty and full-flavoured, with length to spare and a sense of refined composure.