Champagne Alfred Gratien

Founded in 1864, Gratien is a traditional Champagne négociant in the best sense of the term.  They have employed members of the same family as their chefs de cave for four generations.  The first was Gaston Jaeger, who began in 1905, and the present winemaker, Nicolas Jaeger, began working with his father in 1990 and took over the reins seventeen years later.  The house purchases the quasi-totality of the fruit that they use, but they source fruit only within an easy drive of their premises, located in Epernay.  All of the base wines are fermented in cask.  There are over 1,000 used oak casks on the premises – the third largest collection after Krug and Bollinger.  Wines are kept on the lees until the spring following the harvest, but no lees stirring (bâtonnage) is done, as Nicolas feels it can make the wines heavy.  Only the first run juice (the cuvée) is used, and the press wine (the tailles) are vinified in a separate process for a different brand entirely that is only commercialized in Germany (home to parent company Henkell).  Malolactic fermentation is systematically suppressed.  Reserve wines are kept in a solera (properly called a réserve perpetuelle in Champagne) instead of keeping the vintages separately, and 50% is renewed each year.  All of the vintage wines are aged under cork.  The dosage is moderate, and it is performed using a liqueur formed from the Cuvée Paradis, held in solera (with 10% renewed each year).

Brut Classic NV

This has a base of 2011 (thus bottled in ’12 and hence five years on the lees) along with 40% reserve wines.  The blend is 57% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, and 23% Meunier.  The wine was disgorged June 17 and dosed at 10 g/l.  As with all wines, it is only cuvée and 100% fermented in cask.  The end result has a richly toasty nose of ripe apple, almond and brioche.  The mousse is elegant and creamy, and the malic acid gives a lively balance in spite of the generous dosage.  Very well done.  ***

Brut Vintage Blanc de blancs 2009

This comes completely from grand cru sites, including Le Mesnil, Chouilly, Avize, Cramant, and Oger  The wine is dosed at 8 g/l.  The nose opens with a lively, lemony fruit buttressed with a faint note of honey.  The texture is rich and lush, with a luxuriously soft finish relatively typical of the vintage.  Well done.  ***

Brut Vintage « Cuvée Paradis » 2008

A blend of 65% Chardonnay and 35% Pinot Noir from grand and premier crus, dosed at 8 g/l.  2008 is a wonderful vintage in general, and this Cuvée Paradis by Gratien is an exceptional success even within that context.  The combination of the cask ferment, long aging under cork, lively acidity (from the blocked malolactic fermentation) and the delicate, creamy texture from the exclusive use of the cuvée brings to this wine both an incredible density and concentration but at the same time a delicate, creamy texture and a finesse that are uniquely rewarding.  ****

Brut Vintage 2005

A blend of 70% Chardonnay with 15% Pinot Noir and 15% Meunier.  Recently disgorged, this has thus spent 11 years on the lees.  The autolysis here is at a marvelous point, with notes of truffle, grilled brioche and roast walnuts.  There is a complexity here that is truly profound, and the texture has softened up a bit from the intensity of the ’08 Paradis to make this a silky, truly seductive beverage.  Marvelous.  ****

Brut Millésime 2004

An interesting wine, paradoxically fresher than the 2005, this is a blend of 68% Chardonnay and 13% Pinot noir blended with 19% Meunier sourced from a treasured site at Leuvrigny.  The result is still fresh and silky, with a creamy texture and a lovely weight.  The elegance and finesse of the ’04 vintage is truly amazing: this was disgorged in only January 2017.  Truly marvelous wine.  *****

Brut Vintage Rosé « Cuvée Paradis » 2007

A blend of 63% Chardonnay and 37% Pinot Noir, including 8% vinified as red wine by the house R. H. Coutier in Ambonnay.  The end result is an elegant expression of red berry fruit, but the feel on the palate is a bit light.  ***

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