Champagne Tarlant: word to the vineyards

We tell you about the champagnes of the Maison Tarlant, an interesting reality of the Marne Valley, with a remarkable tasting.

It is not a fashion of the moment but a necessity born as a natural evolution from the centennial history of the Maison Tarlant : to leave room for the voice of the vineyard, of the single cru, limiting to a minimum what can distract attention from the grapes and from the respectful interpretation of the territory. by man.a recognizable style made of long refinements and fermentations in woodMélanie and Benoît represent the twelfth generation of a family that began producing champagne since 1929, the year of the establishment of the AOC, and which has its roots in the region since 1687. Today they are the collected witness of the knowledge handed down from their father in son, a precious baggage transmitted through gestures and doing (and above all not doing) in the cellar and in the vineyard. A style that is recognizable today, based on long refinements and fermentations in wood , never rooted in one’s own convictions but always in search of novelty and which has allowed Benoît, since 1999, and Mélanie, since 2005, to share their vision and their thoughts of a champagne that was not exclusivity and luxury, as many often think, but an ambassador of its own territory.

Meunier, the true indigenous Champenois

And which territory are we talking about? Oeuilly , in the Vallée de la Marne (The Valley of the Marne), one of the most evocative subzones of Champagne along with La Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs. If the latter see Pinot Noir and Chardonnay respectively as the main protagonists, in the Marne Valley the Meunier forcefully enters the assembly of champagnes, becoming more and more the absolute protagonist of Cuvée which manage to enhance the characteristics of the Miller (translation of the French name of the vine, due to the leaf floured by a white formation that forms in the underlying part).

The Meunier, in the words of Mélanie assisted by Daniel Romano, her companion and food and wine journalist corresponding to Champagne for The Best 99 Champagne Houses and the new 99 Parcelle project, as well as being the true indigenous Champenois (it is found exclusively in this area, apart from sporadic appearances in Germany), the indigenous who resisted the invasion of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, has very specific characteristics: a strong vine , very suitable to withstand the frosts and humidity of a river area such as the valley of Marl, which contrasts with a fragile fruit in the skin, thin and delicate , which tends to split; not a mirror of the territorylike Chardonnay, as defined by Mélanie, but a great table animal that strongly feels the influence of the soil on which it rests its roots in the form of exaltation of its characteristics of intensity and fruit.

The land for the Meunier

The soil suitable for Meunier, demonstrating its being perfectly acclimatized between these wooded valleys, is the Sparnacien : a mix of sand and limestone clay typical of the Epernay area (it takes its name from Sparnicum , the Roman name of the city) much used for create ceramics, even of large dimensions. A soil that holds a lot of water, thanks to the clay component that distinguishes it, becoming very difficult to work after the rains, without suffering from cracks in periods of drought thanks to the sand: a soil that gives richness, structurebut maintaining finesse and flavor. Characteristics different from the chalky soil, the one that everyone associates with champagne but which is actually mainly typical of the Côte des Blancs: the chalk that insists among the vineyards of the Maison is the so-called campagnano , 98% pure chalk, a large water accumulator capable of to make up for water shortages, giving at the same time a clear and luminous minerality; very different from that of hard limestone, another type of soil present in this variegated river valley, very difficult to work but which has, in addition to giving valuable olfactory characteristics, the ability to maintain a constant soil temperature.

Obviously these are parameters, hatches that serve to understand the work behind these cuvées with very limited numbers , most of them coming from a single vineyard, clarifying why the maison works 55 plots spread over only 17 hectares trying to give voice to all the colors of this multifaceted territory. Obviously succeeding.

The tasting

Cuvée Zero – Brut Nature : the absence of the dosage (that is, of sugar added after disgorging) is the common feature of all the Tarlant champagnes. A way, according to Mélanie, of not influencing the natural territorial expressiveness, as she has emphasized several times. This is an equal parts blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. Do not call it basic because this champagne, which becomes a best buy and an enviable quality / price ratio, holds the table well beyond the aperitif thanks to its round and intense, long sip, with the aromaticity of yellow flowers, turmeric as a side dish. saffron and hints of hydrocarbon. Buy the magnum, the normal bottle would not be enough.

BAM! : the bang is actually the acronym of a rediscovery and enhancement project. In fact, BAM stands for (Pinot) Blanc, Arbanne and (Petit) Meslier, ancient vines of Champagne that are now almost lost. Difficult varieties, not very productive and constant that over the years have given way to the more reliable Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In particular, the Petit Meslier, to which the Tarlant family is historically linked, is characterized by loose bunches and small grapes: it goes without saying that in an area where the yield per hectare factor is a significant parameter, this low productivity has had an impact on in the progressive disappearance. The vineyard of Oeuilly from which it comes is halfway up the hill, between two lieu dit(plots of vineyards which are given a specific name based on their historicity and peculiar characteristics): Four à Chaux with a prevalence of limestone clay and les Sables with a prevalence of sand. The three protagonists create a wine that is out of the box: the rural and cereal notes are clear, the bread crust becomes dark turning progressively towards graphite and ferrous, in the mouth the development is rustic, extremely vertical (thanks to the Arbanne) with hints of rhubarb and licorice (for the Petit Meslier). To give further complexity, the addition of the perpetual reserve (or réserve perpétuelle , the mix of previous vintages). For unconventional glass lovers, a champagne to try.

La Vigne d’Antan 2002 : 100% Chardonnay from a 1960s vineyard very close to that of BAM, called Ilot des Sablesin Oeuilly. A unique feature of Champagne, being the only Chardonnay vineyard with an open foot on siliceous sand. A plot in which the ancestors of Mélanie practiced exploratory coring, an innovative intervention for the time, to make sure of the unique characteristics of that vineyard that survived the nefarious advent of phylloxera in 1892: an island of sand emerged from more compact soils, the chalky and calcareous ones, the salvation for that old vineyard that still resists today. The custard stands out on the nose but it is certainly not a carefree and jaunty Chardonnay, on the contrary it subsequently insists on dark and earthy shades, leaving the task to the sip to reveal its potential, the chewable and powerful material. A testimony of territory and memory, the redemption of the shame suffered by the evil parasite that pulverized an entire ampelographic heritage. Highlander.

La Vigne d’Or 2004 : it is a Blanc de Meunier from a single vineyard on Sparnacien in Pierre de Bellevue in Oeuilly. On its chosen terrain, the ugly duckling of Champagne becomes a swan: typical is the dark red fruity trait that turns from apple to purple plum, to refresh a mentholated-balsamic breath and a gust of salt. At the sip the salinity dominates, together with the rosemary and the bitter tones, pleasant and enticing, which remains long and pleasant. Someone mentioned the sensations of gin and tonic by making a comparison with the art of mixing: at this point Benoît is considered a very fine barman.

La Vigne Royalle 2003 : we leave Oeuilly to head to Celles-lès-Condé. This champagne comes from a single Pinot Noir vineyard called Moque tonneau, entirely on hard calcareous soil. A challenge in every sense: for the difficult soil to work, for the extremely dry year, for the grape variety that in certain conditions tends to go overboard due to alcohol and structure and, above all, for the idea of ​​wanting to make a cuvée that could follow a more classic, traditional style. The result is simply sublime: a champagne that demonstrates how a small maison manages not to disfigure in the face of powers with much greater firepower (in terms of economic availability and hectares of vineyards). A Blanc de Noirs with light colors, thanks to the innermost vineyard and close to the wood, far from the influence of the Marne, and capable of returning to the sender all the heat of the vintage, thanks to a crystalline, clear, fresh sip and a balsamic nose and very fine.Chapeau bas !

Cuvée Luois 2002/2003 : perhaps the most characteristic champagne of the Maison. From the les Crayons vineyard in Oeuilly, half Chardonnay and half Pinot Noir entirely on chalk. A special vineyard, with plants over 70 years old (a rarity, in Champagne the vines have an all too rapid turnover), a true river wine dedicated to the ancestor of the family and which saw its first vintage in 1982, a decade earlier than the real explosion of champagnes from a single vineyard. Usually born from the blend of several vintages (with the exception of ’82, ’85, ’89, ’96 and ’02) and is the most of all of the maison: chewable structure, opulence on the palate and on the nose, almost Mediterranean in its powerful citrus, a Sicilian baroque that leaves you impressed and captivated.

Argilité 2012 : half Chardonnay and half Meunier, from a single vineyard from Celles-lès-Condé on limestone soil. It is the way of the amphora for champagne, an experimental road traveled by those who are evidently never satisfied and always looking for new stimuli. Bizarre and unconventional champagne, it has a disheveled and spontaneous nose that pleasantly plays with oxygen, although it is always not dosed it has a residual sweetness deriving from the refinement in overly porous amphorae that have concentrated the sugars in fermentation. An almost German Riesling trend.

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