2017 Ambonnay Rouge Athénaïs Gonet-Médeville
From a third of a hectare of old vines planted in 1905. Xavier remains true the ideas for his Champagnes - that is to say he is seeking full ripeness, and the wine is all aged in barrel. A deep colour and bright cherry fruit, with a spicy overlay and pure silky feel. Long on red berry and pure Pinot juice. L&S (May 2019)
*Case price discount: Mix any 12 bottles (or 9l equivalent) of wine or 6 bottles of Champagne, Spirits, Sweet Wine or Fortified to get the 'case price' for each bottle.
Xavier has twelve hectares in total, spread across eight villages. There are three Grands Crus, Le Mesnil sur Oger, Oger and Ambonnay, as well as five Premiers Crus, Mareuil sur Ay, Bisseuil (where he has a substantial 4.8 hectare plot), Billy Le Grand, Trépail and Vaudemange.
In 1996 Xavier met Julie Médeville (of the Bordeaux family which owns the Graves Château Respide Médeville and the Sauternes Château Gilette) at a tasting in Reims, and they married the following year. Xavier set out on a path to quality from the moment he was in charge in 2000, and is keen to emphasise what he does and does not do. "One press makes nine barrels - and it all goes into barrel, all divided according to the parcels it comes from.", he says, "no malo, no chaptalisation, no filtration, and the wines are left in barrel to stabilise. The red wines are properly red. The non-vintages are around 70-80% of the current year, with up to 30% reserves, normally just 20% of the previous year and 10% of the year before that."
Our first visit here was a joy, seeing the vineyard in Bisseuil, which is all in one block, on a sunny south-facing slope, which is perfect for achieving full ripeness. The tasting after so much anticipation is always an anxious moment on both sides, but the 'Tradition' does not let him down - indeed it sets the bar very high - simply delicious, and we both know that we are on the right track. The Rosé both surprises and delights because it is so different - almost all Chardonnay except the the red used for colour, it is a sprightly apéritif rosé. The micro-cuvées that make up the rest of the range are the stuff of future legend, rare, but worth seeking out.
"What made me want to make Champagne was wines from '29, '45, '55, '59, '61, '64 - I want to make wines like that", says Xavier. You need have no fear of cellaring these wines to see how they evolve, however delicious they are now.
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