At Formaggio Kitchen South End, we stock only small grower Champagnes made by winemakers who grow their own grapes. Chartogne-Taillet is one of our favorites! This small winery is located in the Champagne region of France in the town of Merfy and is that town’s only récoltant-manipulant, meaning that they are the only winery in town that grows their own grapes. To spot a grower Champagne when shopping, look for the letters RM for récoltant-manipulant on the label. (You will see the letters NM for négociant-manipulant on the labels of Champagnes that are made by larger producers who buy most of their grapes.)
The Chartogne family has had vines in Merfy since 1683. Handsome, young winemaker Alexandre Chartogne farms his family’s property organically. He also implements some biodynamic techniques he learned about while training with biodynamic Champagne producer Anselme Selosse. The Chartogne-Taillet vineyards are plowed with a horse-drawn plow, harvested by hand and each parcel is vinified separately. One of the parcels is an ancient vineyard known as the Chemin de Reims, a site mentioned in wine documents from the 9th century! Alexander says, “… we always work hard to help the plants and soils to be healthy and ‘alive.'”
The Chartogne-Taillet Cuvée Sainte-Anne is made up of 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir. Like most non-vintage Champagnes, this cuvée is a blend of more than one vintage. Vintage Champagne is only made when a year is deemed to be exceptional and non-vintage bottlings (blends of various vintages) were born out of necessity, given the historically cold weather and tough harvests that make for difficult vintages.
We love this wine for its roundness and its bright apple, mineral and chalky notes. Importer Terry Theise describes the Cuvée Sainte-Anne as, “a gentle crowd pleaser of a wine that makes a wonderful, versatile accompaniment to most any meal.” At our South End location, we stock it in full and half bottles, for large gatherings or intimate twosomes. If you’re in the mood for pink Champagne we also have full bottles of Alexandre’s beautifully fruity rosé, made from the same percentages of chardonnay and pinot noir.
Note: this post is part three in a series focusing on sparkling wines – part one focused on the several ways bubbles get into sparkling wine and part two touched on the history of Champagne and the differences between récoltant-manipulants and négociant-manipulants.
Julie Cappellano is the General Manager and wine buyer at Formaggio Kitchen South End, Boston.