Most Admired Champagne Brands 2017: 16-30

03 February, 2017


I visited the Alfred Gratien winery in Epernay on one of my very first visits to Champagne with a group of restaurateurs. They enjoyed the trip so much they gave me a magnum of the Brut on the way back to London and started a passion for champagne that continues today.

I’ve had a soft spot for the Alfred Gratien wines ever since, especially older vintages, several of which are still to be found in my cellar. This is a very traditional house that rejected the move to fermentation in stainless steel which most houses adopted in the ’60s and ’70s. It continued to ferment in 250-litre oak casks, bought second-hand from the Chablisienne cooperative in Chablis today, suppressing malolactic fermentation for further freshness and longevity. The Brut style is a three-way blend of 45% Chardonnay, 28% Pinot Noir and 27% Pinot Meunier, which gets at least three years’ bottle age before release, and gets better with even more.

The vintage wines are Grand Cru based and usually about two-thirds Chardonnay with similar portions of Pinot Noir and Meunier making up the blend. Cellarmaster Nicolas Jaeger is the fourth generation of his family to have the role. The Jaegers come from Reuil in the Marne Valley where Pinot Meunier is king and they see Meunier as an important element in their blends.

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