Champagne may be the most exciting region in France these days. Every square inch of the vignoble seems to have some enterprising young grower exploring the potential of their vines. After witnessing decades of experimentation and success, confidence in the possibility of going out on one’s own is high. The result is a region flush with young and emerging talents and what seems to be an endless supply of exciting new wines coming onto the market.
If there is a downside to this, it’s that there’s a lot of noise - marketing noise, in specific, and with it excessive hype for this estate or that. Moreover, I fear that the market is experiencing something like a craft beer effect, where consumers are excited to try the next new thing and no house really catches on, with lasting effect.
Sure, a small number of estates achieve cult status, but a large number of them get hot for a year or two before another pretty young thing hits the market. What’s more, estates that helped establish the market start to seem “old hat” and uncool - “No one drinks that anymore. Have you tried Domaine Newfangled Bubbles?”
All of this can make for a category that follows a predictable pattern and one which never quite hits the heights that the loudest voices claim it unquestionably does. Nevertheless, sometimes a Domaine comes along that makes you sit up and pay attention, as it seems to deliver on the promise that has been hyped for so long.
Get to know the name Lacourte-Godbillon in the Montagne de Reim’s premier cru village of Ecueil. The vines have been in the family for some time, but the Domaine has only been around since 2006, when Claudine Godbillon and her aptly named husband Ricard Desvignes decided to quit their city jobs and return to the family’s vines to make a go of it.
Ecueil is Pinot country, and the wines have a sweet Pinot fruit quality that is deeply attractive and beyond impressive. Stands to reason, as the vineyards are tended essentially organically and harvest is done manually. All the plots are vinified and aged separately in neutral oak - only from Ecueil’s own forests or from the Champagne-Ardenne. The care, focus and attention can be felt in the glass.
The entry-level NV blend - Terroir d’Ecueil - is a very fine bottle of bubbles, especially for the money, and may be one of the best values in the region. Very seductive, sweet fruits - peach and raspberry - play with cream and vanilla, delivered on a very supple, airy mousse that has great length and a gorgeous finish.
The 2012 millésime is another story altogether. Sumptuous and powerful, with great intensity of fruit and depth of flavor, not only is this wine a complete knockout, delivering on the immense promise of one of Champagne’s greatest vintages, but it is impossible not to drink with abandon, even though this deeply impressive wine will clearly age very, very well.
I cannot recommend these enough. This may be the discovery of the year. Don’t trust me? Well, do you like the wines of Eric Rodez? The importer discovered this estate through his recommendation. That alone should be enough to ensure that you should be hitting reply now.
NV Lacourte-Godbillon Terroir d’Ecueil Brut
85% Pinot Noir & 15% Chardonnay. 50% of the blend is reserve wine and 50% from a single vintage with 6% dosage. Fermentation and aging is in stainless steel.
My Note: Very seductive, sweet fruits - peach and raspberry - play with cream and vanilla, delivered on a very supple, airy mousse that has great length and a gorgeous finish. For the money there are few Champagnes that even come close to this.
2012 Lacourte-Godbillon Premier Cru
60% Pinot Noir & 40% Chardonnay. 10% of the wine is raised in neutral oak barrel and dosage is 3 g/L.
My Note: Intense, suave and delicious sweet pinot fruits, sweet cream, savory undertones. The depth and length of the wine is impressive, as is its fine mousse. This is exceptional. 2012 comes through this wine like a clarion bell and this is a particularly impressive example.