The Côte de Blancs, as its name implies is white grape country. A lozenge-shaped hill stretching south of Épernay for about twenty kilometres. The Côte is overwhelmingly planted to Chardonnay, which here, reaches its heights of complexity and distinction like nowhere else in Champagne.
In the commune of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, the topsoil is very shallow, allowing the vine to penetrate directly into the Cretaceous chalk, making the wines of this Grand Cru village the most searingly acidic when young, but with enough constitution to ensure a long and distinguished life.
Le Mesnil-sur-Oger is considered to be the finest of all the Chardonnay dominated villages classified as Grand Cru. It is a large and diverse commune of 420 hectares. Some 320 hectares are owned by individual growers of which, more than 80 commercialise their own Champagne, a notably high figure for the region. The balance of vineyards belong to the Grandes Maisons.
Some critics consider the Coopérative Union des Propriétaires Récoltants (UPR) or, more conveniently called ‘Champagne Le Mesnil’, something of a factory given the scale of its operation, but the quality of the base wine is without question. Established in 1937, the members of the co-operative own some of the best sites within the commune. Their commitment to quality is further endorsed when one considers the close (and confidential) relationship it has with its main trading partners, which include Moët & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Taitiinger, Laurent-Perrier, Delamotte and Pol Roger. It is rumoured that some of the wines even find their way into the legendary Salon, located just a few minutes’ walk away across the village.
UPR Le Mesnil bottles and commercialises less than 10% of its own production. There is little or no marketing budget. No glossy magazine advertisements. No umbrellas. No gimmicks. You pay for what you get. So, for the real Champagne lover, the wines are something of a steal.
I’ve known Gilles Marguet, the director (and amateur pilot) since I relocated back from the Cape in 2002. In fact, Gilles and I had worked a harvest in the same Stellenbosch cellar, albeit in one year apart, in 1994 (him) and 1995 (me). He’s a thoughtful guy, albeit a man of few words, until you mention flying…
Le Mesnil ‘Sublime’ Grand Cru Brut NV
This is obviously pure Chardonnay. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel and concrete tanks at 18 degrees Centigrade. Left on their lees, the wines are cleaned-up and bottled in the following spring. The assemblage is usually around 90% of the current vintage, with 10% reserve wine, made up of one or two older vintages. It is then aged for a minimum of three years on its crown cork before disgorging and receiving a dosage of around 7g/l.
Le Mesnil ‘Sublime’ Grand Cru Brut Rosé NV
Since Le Mesnil vinifies only Chardonnay, their Grand Cru Rosé is made up of a blend of home-grown Chardonnay, with Pinot Noir sourced from a couple of fellow Grand Cru co-operative cellars from the Montagne de Reims. It is usually around 50% Chardonnay, with 35% Pinot Noir and 15% red wine. It usually spends between three and four years on the lees and bottled with a dosage of around 9g/litre.
|Le Mesnil ‘Sublime’ Grand Cru Brut NV||pack shot||fiche|
|Le Mesnil ‘Sublime’ Grand Cru Brut Rosé NV||pack shot||fiche|
|Le Mesnil ‘Sublime’ Millesime 2015 Grand Cru||fiche|