Champagne Tarlant in the snow

Feb 21, 12 Champagne Tarlant in the snow

Posted by in Champagne, France, Travel

I was in Champagne a few weeks ago when most of Europe was suffering through a bitterly cold “cold-snap”. How cold was it? In the vineyards of the Valle de Marne, in the Champagne region (where I happened to be), it was -18 Celcius, that’s O degrees Farenheit. However, when you get invited to go out and taste the  champagne with a member of the wine making family, how can you say no? Which is how I found myself sitting in the middle of one of Champagne Tarlant’s vineyards, going through a tasting of their range with one half of the brother and sister team that run Champagne Tarlant day to day, Melanie Tarlant. Champagne Tarlant is unique in the region as they are one of the few champagne growers who make the majority of their wine with zero dosage. Zero dosage has a bit of a reputation in the wine world as being mouth puckeringly acidic and citric. Zero dosage means that no sugar is added after disgorgement. Champagne makers add a dosage to sweeten the wine, the reason being that the wines may still be a bit thin and acidic due to whatever reasons and so they add sugar to make it a bit more palatable, adding a sweetness to counteract the acidity. Melanie doesn’t think that adding sugar is the answer. They began making zero dosage in the 1970’s when a client asked her father to make one for him and since then. Her brother Benoit, who is the family winemaker,  has upped the production to 80% of their champagne being zero dosage. Her family believe that adding sugar is like adding make-up to an already beautiful woman, she doesn’t need it to be gorgeous. Zero dosage can be tricky because it all goes back to the beginning of the wine making process, they can’t or won’t add sugar later to cover up any mistakes or faults in the wine. That is another quality that makes them stand out, they make...

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Michel Drappier decants a magnum of his vintage champagne

There seems to be a campaign on to decant champagne. I was at a lunch recently with Michel Drappier where he was presenting his unsulfured champagnes and the conversation got around to the idea of decanting champagne. Now, as readers of The Winesleuth know, I’m a big fan of decanting wines and truth be told, in order to make jeroboams or anything bigger, the champagne has to be decanted into the bottles but seeing as I don’t get to drink jeroboams very often, the issue of decanting never really comes up. Did you know that the practice of decanting really started with champagne? When champagne was first made they had to decant it to get rid of all the dead yeast, this was obviously before they came up with riddling the wine. But anyway, decanting fell out of favour over the years and now hardly anyone decants champagne anymore. Michel however, believes that decanting champagne, esp. vintage champagne is good for the wine. If you consider it, why shouldn’t you decant vintage champagne? It’s been in the bottle for years and the entire point of decanting is to let the wine breathe, why would champagne be any different? And don’t worry, the bubbles will still be there as long as you slowly and carefully decant the champagne but you shouldn’t let it sit around too long in the decanter. Michel has developed his own decanter and decanter base for his wine. I made a short video of Michel decanting a magnum of his 1995 vintage champagne here. Over lunch at Pied a Terre, a lovely French restaurant on Charlotte St,  Michel told me about how the house has moved to making wines with very little sugar and no sulfur. I asked him why no sulfur and it turns out that he and his father are both highly allergic to it! Michel wants to make low sugar or zero dosage wines because he wants to showcase the purity of fruit in his wines and thinks...

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