About this WINE
The champagne grower-producer Gaston Chiquet has made a name for itself as one of the best. In a region with thousands of small producers, it is a credit to owners Antoine and Nicolas Chiquet.
Based in the evocatively named Dizy, the family first planted vines in 1746 but did not produce Champagne until 1935, when brothers Ferdinand and Gaston Chiquet took the bold step of setting up their own label, rather than merely selling grapes to the larger houses.
With 22 hectares of vineyards in the great villages of Ay, Mareuil-sur-Ay and Hautvillers in the Vallee de la Marne area of central Champagne, they currently produce 15,000 cases each year, from a blend of 45% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir.
Rosé wines are produced by leaving the juice of red grapes to macerate on their skins for a brief time to extract pigments (natural colourings). However, Rosé Champagne is notable in that it is produced by the addition of a small percentage of red wine – usually Pinot Noir from the village of Bouzy – during blending.
Which grapes are included in the blend, and their proportion, is one of the key factors determining the style of most Champagnes. Three grapes are used - Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
26% of vineyards in Champagne are planted with Chardonnay and it performs best on the Côtes des Blancs and on the chalk slopes south of Epernay. It is relatively simple to grow, although it buds early and thus is susceptible to spring frosts. It produces lighter, fresher wines than those from Burgundy and gives finesse, fruit and elegance to the final blend. It is the sole grape in Blancs de Blancs, which are some of the richest long-lived Champagnes produced.
Pinot Noir accounts for nearly 40% of the plantings in Champagne and lies at the heart of most blends - it gives Champagne its body, structure, strength and grip. It is planted across Champagne and particularly so in the southern Aube district.
The final component is Pinot Meunier and this constitutes nearly 35% of the plantings. Its durability and resistance to spring frosts make the Marne Valley, a notorious frost pocket, its natural home. It ripens well in poor years and produces a soft, fruity style of wine that is ideal for blending with the more assertive flavours of Pinot Noir. Producers allege that Pinot Meunier lacks ageing potential, but this does not deter Krug from including around 15% of it in their final blends.
Antonio Galloni - 22/12/2008