On Tuesday, October 16th, I arrived at Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils for a tasting with Didier Gimonnet. Located in the Premier Cru village of Cuis, the family owns 28 hectares throughout the Côte des Blancs – home of Chardonnay. The Gimonnet family has a very long history in Cuis, dating back to 1650. They were a family of farmers and at the end of the 19th century, they had one of the biggest cattle ranches in the area.
Didier’s grandfather began making wine and founded his champagne house in 1920. Today, Didier and his brother, Olivier, work together to manage their vineyard land, craft their wines and promote the business. Gimonnet states, “I spend over 40% of my time in the vineyards. We believe that 80% of the vinification starts in the vine. We do all we can to respect the identity of our champagne – we are after harmony instead of intensity and balance over concentration.”
Gimonnet stressed the importance of the ‘soul of terroir’ – the chalk soils that give off a salty freshness. He called himself ‘not trendy’ – he is a firm believer that champagne is a blended wine and the blend is what is so interesting. To this end, their non vintage cuvée is the priority of the house and their house style always includes Chardonnay from Cuis.
Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils produce 250,000 bottles a year and 98% of their vines are located in the Côte des Blancs. The Gimonnet’s are specialists in crafting champagne from the Côte des Blancs and have vineyard holdings in the Grand Cru villages of Cramant, Avize, Chouilly, Oger as well as 1er Cru vineyards in Vertus along with their 14 hectares in Cuis.
On the importance of blending, Gimonnet states:
“We respect the past generations of grape growers and winemakers…we respect their knowledge and their understanding of blending. We feel that the more components there are in a champagne, the more complexity the champagne will have. We are pragmatic instead of idealistic. For us, dosage is the last touch to create the balance we are looking for. For 20 years, we used between 5 and 6 grams of sugar in our dosage. Now, if a wine can support no dosage, we will produce a zero dosage champagne…but only if the balance is there.”
The majority of Champagne Gimonnet’s vines are between 30 and 40 years old. They favour ‘sélection massale’ (replanting new vineyards with cuttings from excellent old vines from the same property) for propagating their vines as they have some exceptional sites to work with. Regarding winemaking, the house style strives for freshness with natural concentration – to this end, they do not practice ‘bâtonnage’ (lees stirring). All reserve wines are kept in bottle with very low pressure to preserve freshness.
Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Tasting:
Cuis 1er Cru Brut Sans Année – this non-vintage wine is a blend of five vintages with the base wine coming from 2015. Incredibly refreshing and easy to drink, I love the salinity of this champagne. Quite alive and bright in the mouth. Harmonious. 24.90€
Cuvée Brut ‘Rosé de Blancs’ NV – with Chardonnay making up 93% of the blend, there is 7% of Grand Cru Pinot Noir from Bouzy added. With 20,000 bottles produced, it is no wonder that the consumers want more of it. This champagne displays beautiful flavours of field berries, has outstanding texture and great length. Delightful. 30.50€
Cuvée Brut Gastronome 1er Cru 2014 – a blend from five different Côte des Blancs villages, this champagne is made to enjoy with food. With a seductive creaminess, delicate spice notes and great depth, the house style of freshness is also very present. Delicious. 30.50€
‘Special Club’ Grand Terroirs de Chardonnay 2012 – the ‘Special Club’ series was started in 2012 to create a few single terroir wines in limited quality. The ‘Grand Terroirs de Chardonnay’ just might be one of the most memorable champagnes I have ever tasted. Crafted from old vines that range in age from 40 – 90 years and selected mostly from the heart of Cramant Grand Cru. This champagne is elegant and complex in its’ precision. Stunning. 48.90€
‘Special Club’ Chouilly Grand Cru Extra Brut 2012 – in France, there is a national idiom called a ‘madeleine de Proust’…it is from Proust’s novel ‘In Search of Lost Time’ where the narrator reflects on his past and the memory of a ‘petite madeleine’ with tea brings back warm, comforting images. This champagne evokes this same image for Didier as it is made entirely from the 1.90 hectare of the ‘Montaigu’ vineyard which was planted in 1951. It was his fathers’ best vineyard and the Gimonnet’s pay tribute with an incredibly delicate and finessed champagne. Bright salinity with delicate floral notes. Captivating. 67.50€
‘Special Club’ Cramant Grand Cru Extra Brut 2012 – considered by the Gimonnet’s to be their best terroir, 80% of these vines are more than 50 years old with 1 hectare planted in 1911 and 1913. The Cramant vineyards come from the Gimonnet’s mother who was ‘always elegant’. This champagne is feminine, nuanced and pure. Finessed. 70€
‘Special Club’ Oger Grand Cru Extra Brut NV – made entirely from Chardonnay grapes from the Grand Cru village of Oger, this is a deviation from the classic Gimonnet style. This champagne is powerful and quite masculine with structure and poise. With intriguing notes of graphite, crisp apple and lemon peel, it is an impressive wine. Structured. 32.60€
‘OENOPHILE’ 1er Cru Brut Nature 2012 – if you are looking for an electric wine, here it is. Made with 100% Chardonnay, this naturally balanced champagne does not require any dosage. It is a blend of 86% Grand Cru and 14% 1er Cru grapes. This is a racy champagne that vibrates with tension. Wow. 38€
Didier Gimonnet was an exceptional host who spoke easily and openly. It was very apparent how passionate he is about Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils and his family. I absolutely appreciated the time and attention he gave to me.