On the Trail

The Return of Tarlant Champagne

Gary Westby

It has been a long time since we have had Champagne Tarlant in stock—five years in fact! I just returned from Champagne where I visited Benoit Tarlant, the 12th generation of this family growing grapes in Oeuilly. He had a lot to show me; he just finished a huge build out of cellars underneath his winery, he is making more and more progress using amphora for fermentation and some of the vines that he planted when we first met years ago are now producing Champagne that is now being released. We have two of the great wines that Benoit Tarlant makes with the fruit from his 37.5 acre estate. They are both incredible and very impressive values at their respective price points. The Tarlant "Brut Tradition" Champagne ($39.99) combines serious vinosity with bright refreshment like few other bottles do. If you love Champagne like Krug and Bollinger, this is a must try. The current batch is based on 2009, and has been aged longer on the lees than some of the vintage Champagne that we carry; it was disgorged in February of 2015. It is composed of 56% Pinot Noir, 39% Meunier and 5% Chardonnay, all from the estate. The feature that makes this Champagne so interesting is the deep reserves that are used—all barrel aged stuff that really makes this Champagne rub the Krug spot for me.

I arrived at the winery at the same time as the sous chef from Domaine Les Crayeres in Reims. He was dropping off a box of sushi for Benoit, and I was lucky enough to get to share some with him! My first experience with Michelin Star takeaway was a great one to say the least—and yes, it went very well indeed with the Champagne! The most iconic wine at Tarlant is the single vineyard Tarlant "Cuvée Louis" Brut Champagne ($89.99). It comes from a vineyard called les Crayons which is on the slope nearest the Marne on their property. While the rest of their vineyard has widely varied soil types, the Crayons is very pure chalk and quite old—over 60 years. The current batch is based on 1999 and has reserves going back to 1996 and has been aged on the lees for fifteen years, just being disgorged in May of 2015. It is now labeled as extra brut, as the dosage is just 2g/l, but don’t be scared: the 15 years on the lees has made this a rich, full bodied Champagne that is in no way austere or hard. If you want a grower Champagne of spectacular depth and Burgundian power, this even blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is an excellent choice. It is one of the great single vineyard Champagnes period.

I don’t know when I’ll get these excellent wines in again as our supply chain has become rather difficult, so don’t hesitate if you are interested in them. Five years is a long to wait in between shipments.

-Gary Westby