When Aurélien Suenen took the keys at his family Domaine, it owned two hectares in the far north of the region in a village called Montigny-sur-Vesle, positioned northwest of Reims in a subzone that is sometimes called Massif de Saint-Thierry (but might equally be called Vallée de la Vesle). Early in the piece Aurélien sold off most of this land (which was removed from his base in Cramant), as he realised he could not maintain the quality in the vines, so far away, to the standards he was setting himself. That said, he kept hold of this tiny parcel in La Grande Vigne, which speaks volumes to his respect of these particular vines.
La Grande Vigne is a 0.21-hectare plot of ungrafted Pinot Meunier in a stunning terroir (ungrafted vines in Europe are obviously extremely rare, another feature that makes this wine so unique). The vines here are now 50 years old, planted in the deep, sandy Thanetian-era soils of the area. These soils are similar (yet deeper) to certain locations in Merfy—perhaps more like Prevost’s Les Beguines in Gueux (so interesting to compare!). The terrain is flat, with a slight north-western tilt. This fascinating and complex terroir elevates this unique, unfiltered Champagne to the top of the Meunier pile.
Raised in a single 500-litre demi-muid (Stockinger) for 10 months, the 2014 spent 60 months on lees until disgorgement, with one gram per litre, in July 2020. - 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||Montagne de Reims|
|Winemaking Practices||Minimal Intervention|