Once you leave Canada to a real wine market, there seems an endless font of grower champagne. My latest discovery came courtesy of Le Caviste in Seattle: Pierre Gerbais’s Grains de Celles – a fruity, direct, and transparent entry-level bottle of Champagne built for just about anything.
Tasted at their 5th anniversary party by the glass and then subsequently on New Year’s Eve by the bottle purchased and brought home, the Champagne was consistently outstanding. This is a ‘farmed’ not ‘made’ champagne so don’t expect complex autolytic characteristics or incredible weight and depth. Instead, expect an apple-fruit driven, mineral laced and juicy dinner Champagne that can cut through fried foods or elegantly complement high-end Nigiri sushi.
Pierre Gerbais is located in Celles-sur-Ource in the Aube, which explains the riper fruit characteristics in their wines. Today the domaine is run by Aurélien Gerbais, who is in his 20’s and already has a real knack for finding purity of fruit. This philosophy derives from Gerbais’ time studying in Beaune, where he became inspired by growers such as Grivot, Gros, and Lachaux. The domaine is located next to the great Cedric Bouchard and Gerbais has learned much from his neighbour. The domaine has been organic since 1996, prior to which it was one of the standard vineyards applying chemicals. A health tragedy in the family caused by the pesticides and herbicides prompted this early conversion to organic viticulture and the winery remains certified by Ampelos.
Interestingly, the Domaine has collected natural wines in its cellar for decades alongside classics. According to the US importer’s website, Aurélien says about this: ““Half the wines in it are classic but give you headaches (a reference to the sometimes excessive amounts of sulfites they contain) and half the wines are natural, but among those you have to open six bottles to find two good ones.”
The Grains de Celles is made from vines planted in 1996 and is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardnnay, and Pinot Blanc. While Gerbais uses oak in many of his cuvee’s, this bottling is fermented and aged entirely in stainless.
I would add that this bottle is among the top new grower champagnes I have tasted in the past 3-4 years and its price point brings it into the ‘best values in champagne’ category along with the likes of Gaston Chiquet and Jacquesson. I intend to seek out the single vineyard old-vine ‘L’Audace’ next time I am in the United States.
Excellent and Highly Recommended Value
$40 USD + tax at Le Caviste