Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Chartogne-Taillet, another Anselme Selosse protégée dons the "Great-Grower" mantle

As Robert Walters began his literary roadtrip through the land of the "Great Growers" (Bursting Bubbles) he mentioned in passing that the village of Merfy, in the Massif de St. Thierry sub-zone, was home to Chartogne-Taillet, one of the notable producers in the category. He would not be visiting that estate on this journey, however, because "... we cannot visit everyone, and so we are starting our journey further south, just west of Reims." I, on the contrary, am not bound by the same constraints as Walters, and so I will cover Chartogne-Taillet herein.

Chartogne-Taillet is located in the village of Merfy in the Montagne de Reims sub-zone of Massif de St. Thierry, the northernmost region of Champagne.

Modification of a map secured from cambridgewineblogger Massif de St. Thierry is at the top of the map.

The 17 villages located in Massif de St. Thierry are beautifully framed by surrounding vineyards and forests. The region's vinous history stretches back to the 11th century when the renown of the wines from the Abbey resulted in the  awarding of a Champagne appellation: the wines of the Montagne de Saint-Thierry. Phylloxera, and two World Wars, significantly reduced the size of the vineyard but it has rebounded to today's 1001.9 ha. Pinot Meunier (54.31%), Pinot Noir (28.64%), and Chardonnay (16.85%) are the region's staples.

Vineyards of Massif de St Thierry (Source: massif-saint-

The vineyards of Merfy extend over 45.6 ha and rest on soils comprised of clay, sand, and sandstone over chalk. The vineyard slopes are mild with varying exposures. The Merfy village outline is shown in the picture below while the vineyard plots are shown immediately after.

The Merfy vineyards are outlined in red above

Merfy vineyard parcels

Chartogne-Taillet is no newbie to the champagne scene. Peter Liem (Champagne) points to documents dating to 1863 which show the Taillets growing grapes in the region. Marie Chartogne and Etienne Taillet were married in 1920 and lent their individual surnames to the estate resulting from their union. Ownership of the estate passed to Philippe and Elizabeth Chartogne in 1978 and then to their son Alexandre upon their retirement in 2006.

Chartogne-Taillet currently farms 11.68 ha, 10 of which are in Merfy and the remainder in the adjoining villages of Chenay and St. Thierry. The vineyards are divided into 30 parcels planted with Pinot Noir (50%), Chardonnay (40%), and Pinot Meunier vines averaging 25 years of age.

While learning about the business, Alexandre worked as an intern with Anselme Selosse and eventually adapted a number of his practices to the Chartogne-Taillet environment:
  • Organic farming and biodynamic principles
  • The promotion of biodiversity through the use of cover crops
  • Encourage deep-root systems through regular plowing (preferably by horse to minimize soil compaction).
In the cellar, each plot is vinified separately in stainless steel tanks (mostly), neutral oak barriques, or concrete eggs. Beginning in 2006, Alexandre decided to pursue terroir-based wines and employed his single-vineyard parcels in that pursuit.

The portfolio of Chartogne-Taillet wines is shown in the table below.

Cuvee Sainte-Anne Le Rosé Vintage Brut Heurtebise Blanc-de-Blancs* Les Barres Extra Brut* Les Orizeaux Extra Brut* Les Alliees Extra Brut* Cuvee Fiacre
Varieties Chardonnay (mostly), Pinot Noir Pinot Noir, Chardonnay Pinot Noir, Chardonnay Chardonnay Meunier Pinot Noir Meunier Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
Village Merfy

Merfy Merfy


Vineyard(s) Several parcels

Les Couarres Les Heurtebises Les Barres Les Orizeaux Les Alliers Chemin de Reims (Chardonnay), Les Orizeaux (Pinot Noir

Deep layer of calcareous sand over clay Sandy topsoils over layers of clay, sandstone, and tufa 1.5 m of calcareous sand over chalk bedrock Broken limestone over thick sands Unusual black sand

Vine Age (Years)

Ungrafted Meunier vines planted since 1952 Vines planted in 1961

30 years for Chardonnay,; 55 years for Pinot Noir
Vinification Vessel Stainless Steel Stainless Steel Stainless Steel

Old oak barrels Old oak barrels Old oak barrels

Yeasts Indigenous Indigenous Indigenous Indigenous Indigenous Indigenous Indigenous Indigenous
Malolactic Fermentation Chardonnay only


Blend 20% of reserve wine from two vintages Varies depending on vintage; no reserve wine. Small portion of Pinot Noir from Les Orizeaux vineyard 60% PN, 40% Chardonnay

60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir
Lees Aging (Years)



Dosage 4.5 - 7 g/L

Varies 0 - 4.5 g/L

6 - 7 g/L
Bottle Aging (post-disgorgement) 4 months


“Full-bodied wine with subtlety and finesse” “Chardonnay of generous depth and racey structure” “… a champagne unlike any other, showing a resonant, multi-faceted depth of fruit infused by a savory, scallop-shell minerality.” “Vibrant, complex wines” “Bright, exuberantly fruity fragrance”

Derived from a variety of sources. Wine descriptions from Peter Liem's Champagne. *Single-vineyard wines.

One of the wines featured in a 2016 tasting of "hipster wines" was the Chartogne-Taillent Les Barres 2008. To me the wine exhibited great freshness on the nose along with a toasted brioche and a nuttiness. Long finish and drinking beautifully. For Adam (one of the other participants), this wine was his favorite of the flight (the other flight participants were George Laval Rosé and Bérêche et Fils). Adam loved the oxidative notes that gave the wine a richness and full bodied appeal. He also found it to be layered and complex.

Terry Thiese views Alexandre as one of the most exciting young producers in Champagne. views his wines as "each distinct, complex and terroir-driven and yet they share a minerality and vinosity that can be attributed to Alexandre's hard work in the vineyard."

And the Selosse beat goes on.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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