Champagne nerds might recognise this lieu-dit as one of the sources of Pascal Agrapart’s renowned Avizoise cuvée. Suenen’s vines lie just across the border in the Cramant section of this vineyard, at the top of a small hill. Originally planted in 1952, with further plantings in 1978 and 1984, the average age of Suenen’s vines is now 38 years, and they contain a large portion of massale selection vines.
The 2014 was aged in a single Rousseau 20-hl foudre for 10 months before bottling. As with all the single-site wines in 2014, this spent five years on lees until disgorgement, with two grams per litre in this case, in June 2020.
Suenen describes this terroir—30 cm of silty clay over degraded, upper Campanian chalk—as combining the tension and salinity of Oiry with the concentration of Chouilly. It is the most textural of Suenen’s four lieux-dits releases and also, arguably the most complex. There’s depth and concentration, with great mineral freshness and drive—it’s impossible to describe neatly but it’s superb. - Importer Note
The story of this Domaine dates all the way back to 1898. By the time Suenen took the keys, it had acquired additional vines in the very north of the region. Very quickly he realised that it would be impossible for him to work the entire Estate (over five hectares with two hectares in the north) to the standards that he was aiming for. The vineyards in the north were in Montigny-sur-Vesle, very near the edge of the appellation, and they were too far away. So, with one exception (a tiny plot of ungrafted Meunier in La Grande Vigne), he sold off all of his northern plots. Today, Suenen farms just 3.2 hectares covering multiple parcels scattered mostly (apart from the aforementioned) across the northern Côtes des Blancs, in the Grand Cru villages of Cramant (where the Domaine is based) and neighboring Chouilly and Oiry. There are 17 parcels in total—mostly old vine—which now include a sliver of Avize purchased in 2020.
As you would expect of any top grower, Suenen works tirelessly in the vines. Here he is assisted by his right arm, Christophe Barbier, who has been working for the family for over 20 years. Suenen and Christophe cultivate, use cover crops and organic composts to nourish the humus and aim to increase soil biodiversity as much as possible. Herbal infusions are used to promote the natural defenses of the vines. Organic certification came in 2019. To further understand the nuances of his terroirs, Suenen works closely with Emmanuel Bourguignon (son of Claude and Lydia). Yields are low (half those of his father’s era) and while there is no fixed formula, Suenen tends to pick later than his neighbours, thus bringing more ripeness and depth to offset his vineyards’ intense minerality.
The winemaking here has followed a similar changing-of-the-guard trajectory. Although Suenen still uses the original enamel-lined tanks, today roughly a quarter of his production is vinified in wood and his single-site wines are 100% cask fermented and matured. Of course, these casks are neutral. Previously this took the form of six- to eight-year-old barrels from the Côte de Beaune. Now Suenen is transitioning to Stockinger foudre and demi-muids, which he finds impart less oak imprint. He also uses a single Noblot concrete egg to vinify some of his 1925-vine fruit from Oiry’s La Cocluette. In further contrast to his father’s time, Suenen’s wines spend far longer on lees in both cask (around nine months) and bottle (a minimum of 24 months for the blends and around 60 months for the vintage lieux-dit wines). He has also reduced the liqueur d’expédition level from brut to extra-brut to allow the singularity of each parcel to further shine through. Sulphur is used at press and after malo, with malolactic allowed to occur naturally. The base wines are naturally fermented and clarify naturally; there is no fining or filtration.
|Product Type||Wine Sparkling Champagne|
|Sub Region||Cotes des Blancs|
|Winemaking Practices||Minimal Intervention|