Earlier this year I turned 40 and so to celebrate a friend and I decided on a road trip to Champagne. This was my third time visiting the region and on both previous occasions I’d been with the same friend (and our wives) and had done a small amount of visiting. That first trip back in 2003 was one of the stepping stones to me deciding to work in the wine trade.
Champagne is such a good wine region for English people to visit – it’s relatively close and as we discovered we were able to leave Hampshire in the morning and arrive in Champagne in time for a visit in the afternoon.
And so we arrived – a little journey wear at Champagne Veuve Fourny et Fils. This is a house that is now in it’s 5th generation of winemakers proudly situated in 1er Cru Vertus at the Southern end of the Cotes de Blancs. For the past 20 years the vineyards have been managed organically, and whilst they tried to move into Biodynamics they took an approach that meant they kept the bits they deemed beneficial and ditched the practices that didn’t.
Whilst the majority of the Cotes de Blancs is East facing, in Vertus there is a portion that is South facing and here the Fournys plant a little Pinot Noir, used to make their rose’ Champagne. Their plots are all fermented seperately and then blended to achieve the overall finish that the brothers are looking for in their finished Champagne. In addition they own a small ‘Clos’ walled vineyard around their domaine called ‘Clos Faubourg Notre Dame’ that is tiny and makes very limited quantities of exceptionally good Champagne. I have tasted this before on 2 or 3 occasions but on this visit there was not a bottle to be seen in the domaine. The domaines vines are generally ‘quite’ old ranging from around 40 years old to over 60 years old and this helps to give the wines their characteristic concentration.
We started by tasting their vins clairs (base wines) from around the slopes.
Le Mont Ferre’ was really pure elegant with finesse and poise whereas Morttere Route 13 Routes was much more mineral and brought less fruit character. Les Coteaux Proche Mesnil was full fruited very pure and offered lots of minerality and immense length with some almost tropical notes – I could have drunk this one as it was! Cabanne was full fruited with a lovely mid palate.
We also tasted their Pinot Noir fermented white to add to certain wines which showed lots of minerality, some fuller body and some blackcurrant notes (which was a little odd in an almost colourless liquid). We also tasted their still red wine which is added to make their rose’ – this was direct from oak barrel and I have to say I was really surprised and impressed by the quality of the red wine – I have often imagined that much of the red wine added to make Rose’ Champagne is colourful but not a lot more – and yet this reminded quite a lot of a red wine from Burgundy of reasonable quality – a village level Savigny Les Beaune was what immediately sprang to mind.
The wines then….
Veuve Fourny Blancs de Blancs Brut 1er Cru NV Premier Cru Vertus
Made with 6g/l dosage this is definitely at the low, dry end of things and included 20% reserve wines and is based on 2010,09, & 08 vintages. Intense expressive nose, bright citrus, ssome brioche and yeasty notes (yes it’s Champagne!). It is really elegant and fine. Really good length and with good depth and concentration. This is really rather good at the price. 91 Points
Veuve Fourny Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV Premier Cru Vertus
Zero dosage, made with the same wines as above. Very long and fragrant with lots of concentration. Really pure and ultra elegant. Extra layers of minerality and freshness coming through. This is more expressive than the Brut NV and I do wonder whether the dosage addition might dumb some complexity from wines (and not just this one?) Just a really lovely wine. 92 Points.
Veuve Fourny Grande Reserve Brut NV Premier Cru
Made with 20% Pinot Noir, 6g/l dosage and based on 2010, 09 & 08.
Less elegant but fuller bodied with some black and red fruit character wading onto the scene. Quite pure and with good concentration and length, however for me the Pinot tramples a little of the elegance and finesse of the Chardonnay. 89 Points.
Veuve Fourny Vintage Brut 2008 Premier Cru Vertus
Very fresh and with huge intensity – this is the first 2008 I have tasted and if they are like this then 2008 is a vintage to get hold of as it is released. Still quite tight and austere initially, but really complex and the length matches that intensity. All about potential here which is massive. 93 Points.
Veuve Fourny Vintage Brut 2007 Premier Cru Vertus
Lacking the same complexity and concentration that 2008 has and it’s a lighter wine with less ripeness too. Still it is quite pleasant and certainly much more approachable now. Length is good if not exceptional. 90 Points.
Rose’ Brut NV Premier Cru Vertus
Made with 67% Chardonnay, 20% Blanc de Pinot Noir and 13% Red Pinot Noir. 1/3 reserve wines, 6 g/l dosage. A lovely pale pink colour, not overtly fruity, and there isn’t that sweet jammy aroma that some pink Champagne can exhibit. Good length and with a real sense of poise. Fine and elegant and finishes with some savoury notes. 90 Points
Cuvee R Extra Brut Premier Cru Vertus
90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir. 3/4 g/l dosage.
This is a blend of two vintages from some of the oldest vines the domain owns which are then aged for 18 months in oak barrels on their lees prior to bottling. This is a really interesting Champagne. Full, quite rich and mouth filling but manages to have precision too. Really really good length and with the yeasty notes and high acidity comes a sense of some austerity. This is really rather good – and yet serve it with something like Fois Grois and I think it would be amazing. Definitely more of a food wine and would probably overwhelm seaafood and other things that people often serve with Champagne. Something like Salmon would also work well I think. 92 Points.
Photos Credit J. Marlow