2012 Vilmart & Cie Champagne 1er Cru ‘Coeur de Cuvee’ Brut
This 80% Chardonnay / 20% Pinot Noir from Rilly la Montagne 1er Cru – Blanches Voies is almost overwhelmingly generous yet finesse-ful, salty, and spicy (think five-spice mix, specifically). This will grow incredibly complex with time in the cellar and in the glass. Pair with oysters, scallop tartare or foie gras and a fancy night!
According to writer and critic Peter Liem, “Vilmart & Cie. is not only one of the greatest grower-estates in Champagne, but one of the finest champagne producers of any type in the region.” We couldn’t agree more!
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Founded by Désiré Vilmart in 1890, the Vilmart et Cie Estate has produced their own wines since the very beginning. Taking over the reins in 1995, Laurent Champs is the fifth generation to run this outstanding 11-hectare estate in the Premier Cru of Rilly la Montagne. Spread over only 12 parcels, Laurent’s dedication and his life’s work can best be seen walking through his impressive vineyard holdings.
“We use cover crops in 7 of 9 rows as a rule and do extensive soil work to keep the vines and the soils healthy,” Laurent says, standing at the top a hillside vineyard. “You see, the aspect of the vineyard in Champagne is very important. Most of the vineyards here in Rilly are facing north or east. It is only here that we see a perfect south facing hillside.”
The vineyard is Blanches Voies, widely regarded as the finest vineyard in the village, a rare south facing hillside village in the otherwise north facing stretch of the Montagne de Reims. Blanches Voies is split into two sections: Blanches Voies Hautes and Blanches Voies Bas. Blanches Voies Hautes is very chalky in the top section and planted to Chardonnay; the lower section, Blanches Voies Bas, has more top soil and is planted to Pinot Noir.
Laurent has 5 hectares in this 15-hectare vineyard, which is the source for his vintage wine ‘Grand Cellier d’Or’ (80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir) and his celebrated top wine, ‘Coeur de Cuvée’ (80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir). Both wines come from the same vineyard, but different parcels. ‘Coeur de Cuvée’ comes from the oldest vines that are over 60-years-old, while the ‘Grand Cellier d’Or’ comes from vines around 50 years.
‘Coeur de Cuvée’ refers to the center (or “heart”) of the traditionally four-thousand-kilogram press, which Laurent still employs. From a pressing of four thousand kilograms of grapes, a yield of 2,550 liters of juice makes up the cuvée. For ‘Coeur de Cuvée,’ only this center 1,400 liters – referred to as the “coeur” or “heart” – of the cuvée is used. (Traditionally, this is why barrels in Champagne were 255 liters – one pressing would produce exactly 10 barrels of wine.) The must is fermented and raised in 1-3-year-old barrique from Damy for ten months; like all of Laurent’s wines, it does not go through malolactic process. “It was my father who started making this wine, aged in oak barrels. The first vintage was 1989 and this wine has been made in every vintage, apart from the 1994 vintage. My father didn’t control for malo, but for me, this is very important to the style of my wines and the precision that I want.”