On the Trail

Fifteen Years of Aspasie Champagne

Gary Westby

This past October was my twenty-sixth visit to Paul Vincent and Caroline Ariston of Champagne Aspasie in the tiny village of Brouillet in the northwest corner of Champagne. At this point, it's more like going to see old friends than doing business. We have been direct importing their Champagne since before they were even called Aspasie (some of you might remember them as Ariston). They have been our top selling Champagne producer for many years for good reason; they offer spectacular quality and exceptional value. We've been working together now for fifteen years—since some of our employees at K&L were in sixth grade.

I came directly to them after renting a car at the airport—it is the one visit I can always guarantee will be so exciting as to keep my jet lag from making me crash out too early. We started in the vineyard and visited the plot called the Verberie—thirteen hectares of Chardonnay all fixed up with wooden stakes. In another five or six years we’ll be selling the first batch of this wine, which will be a single vineyard offering. After checking out the vines, we strolled over to the vat room and tasted the one month old wines from the recent 2015 vintage that were in the middle of malo, but showing a lot of promise. I’ll feel more confident about speaking in depth on these when I return in the spring and taste them with a bit more development. We tasted the current releases, which all showed exceptionally well (as they usually do). It amazes me that Paul’s wine get better every year—especially given the high level that they started at! You would think that after twenty-six visits it would difficult to keep that progress going, but Paul and Caroline always find a way to outdo themselves.

Over dinner we drank the Cepages d’Antan, their tiny production, single vineyard blend of the near-extinct native varieties in Champagne: Arbanne, Petite Meslier and Pinot Blanc. They only grow enough to fill their press once and they will only make the wine if the vintage is good. The 3000 bottle production Champagne is one of the most special that we carry. It combines real exoticism of aroma and flavor with fantastic electric acidity, and it's a dynamic pairing with numerous types of cuisine. You can also drink it on its own and just enjoy the pureness of flavor. Aspasie's most amazing wine, however, just might be the entry level Carte Blanche, which they give an amazing five years of sur-lie ageing. This gives the wine incredible, classy, high-end brioche toast, while the far northern terroir provides the snap to keep it in dry focus. We sell that wine for less than thirty bucks, which is part of the reason we seem to run low on supply every New Year's Eve. All of the Aspasie wines, however, are soulful, terroir-driven and made to a very high standard, which is why I still get excited by their arrival even after fifteen years of doing this. Plus, I'm not sure where else you can find that kind of value in Champagne.

-Gary Westby