Friday, April 6, 2018

Jérôme Prévost: A Montagne de Reims "Great-Grower" Champagne

Jérôme Prévost is one of the Champagne producers identified as a "Great Grower" by Robert Walters in his book Bursting Bubbles. Peter Liem, noted Champagne critic, and himself the author of the critically acclaimed Champagne, describes Jérôme Prévost in Bursting Bubbles thusly:
It's virtually impossible to be a hip wine bar or wine store in Paris, or indeed anywhere in France, if you don't have champagne from Jérôme Prévost. Selling a Prévost wine, or ordering one from a wine bar or restaurant, has become almost a badge of honor, a secret sign that affirms your initiation into an exclusive club of those in the know. Unfortunately, with an annual production of only about 13,000 bottles, Prévost's wine is not always easy to obtain.
The Prévost vineyard (the estate is called La Closerie) is located in the village of Gueux in the Petite Montagne sub-zone of the Montaigne de Reims sub-region of Champagne. Petite Montagne is 30-ha in size (Walters) and is one of the two primary "homes" of Pinot Meunier in Champagne -- the other being Vallée de la Marne. The distribution of varieties in Petite Montagne is 50% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Noir, and the remainder Chardonnay.

Modification of a map secured from cambridgewineblogger Gueux is the northernmost village in Petite
Montagne sub-zone
The village of Gueux, according to Walters, is located on the northern edge of the Petite Montagne zone. Its soil is a mix of sand, calcareous elements, and tiny marine fossils which date to 45 million years ago. According to, the vineyards of this village cover 19.8 ha (489 acres) and is distributed between Pinot Meunier (84.5%), Pinot Noir (11.7%), and Chardonnay (3.8%).

Village of Gueux in Petite Montagne showed bordered in red
Jérôme Prévost came by way of his 2.2-ha vineyard -- Les Béguines -- as a result of his mother inheriting the property. According to all accounts, Jérôme was not much interested in  becoming a winemaker until he met Anselme Selosse. Anselme took the young man under his wing, had him work at the Selosse estate, and eventually encouraged him to bottle the Les Beguines fruit at the Selosse winery. This arrangement held from the initial vintage in 1998 until 2003 when Jérôme began making the wine in the garage behind his home.

The vineyard soils are layers of alluvial sand and clay imbued with chalky fossils. The vineyard was planted between 1962 and 1964 on rootstocks designed to maximize quality rather than yield. These rootstocks descend deeply into the earth thus naturally providing lower vigor and yields. The result is riper, more intense fruit (Walters).

The vineyard is farmed organically with the living soil approach meshing perfectly with the psychology and outlook of the winemaker.

Prévost picks the fruit when it is fully ripe. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermented by indigenous yeasts in a mix of used barriques and demi-muids ranging in size between 400L and 600L. The wines are aged in the fermentation vessels. The wines are unfined, unfiltered, unstabilized, and no enzymes are added. Small amounts of SO₂ are added to the wine.

Liqueur de tirage addition is currently at 23 gm, down from 24.5 gm prior to 2007. This new level has resulted in lower pressure, fewer bubbles, and lower alcohol.

This single-vineyard, single-vintage, single-varietal champagne is disgorged after 18 months (Disgorgement prior to 3 years prevents this wine from being labeled as a vintage champagne). Approximately 2 g/L of dosage is added. Jérôme believes that his wine begins to open up and drink well after about 6 years in bottle.

Jérôme has planted a small parcel next to Les Béguines with Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. The grapes are currently too young to serve as the base for their own wines so they are currently added to Les Béguines.

The winery also produces a Rosé -- Fac-Simile -- which is basically the Les Béguines blended with Pinot Meunier still-wine from the same vineyard.

Walters describes the Prévost wines as:
... dry, vinous, aromatic, floral, spicy wines with salty minerality and huge energy, drive and longevity. They are textured yet very tightly wound and savoury, especially when young. They can be wildly complex, they are never boring, and they are great with food.
According to Liem:
Saline, savory undertones and sleek, tense build. Its energy and vibrancy is unlike any other Meunier in Champagne and his wine always needs several years after its release to reveal its depth and complexity of flavor.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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