On the Trail

Aspasie – A Destination in Champagne

Gary Westby

Paul Vincent and Caroline Ariston of Champagne Aspasie have one of the most beautiful, top quality estates in all of Champagne. It is remote, and you have to want to visit in order to get there as it's is far off of the beaten path in Champagne. Tucked away in the far northwest of the region—the little village of Brouillet, population fifty—it is my favorite place to visit in all of Champagne.

When I visited last week, Paul had already bottled his wine, but saved some of the 2016 vin-clair for us to taste together. Regardless of vintage, every year seems better than the next here and Paul’s tireless work in the vineyard and in the winery is paying off in the finished products. The 2016 growing season posed many problems for the growers in Champagne, with spring frost, mid-season mildew, and even August sunburn affecting the grapes. Paul was very proud of his 2016’s and for very good reason, they were some of the best of my trip this year. He explained that 2016 was a vintage that will be bad for people “who are afraid to work on Sunday” and explained that you needed to be ready to react to the needs of the vineyard at any time in order to have a success.

While in most places the pinot meunier stood out as the most successful variety for this vintage, the Aspasie vin-clair was very good across the board. The Cepages d’Antan, which is a co-pressed, co-fermented blend of approximately 40% arbanne, 40% petite meslier and 20% pinot blanc stood out with razor sharp acidity and singular focus. His 2016 Blanc de Blancs, which is usually single vineyard Gouttes d’Or, has some of his old Walin plot in it this year, and was one of the longest finishing base wines that I tasted this year. We also tasted some of Caroline’s new, single vineyard, barrel fermented Blanc de Blancs form a site that was planted just four years ago. They barely managed to fill the press and produced just 2050 kilos of grapes from this site. It was loaded with exotic vanilla, and I can’t wait to taste it in four or five years when it is first disgorged.

It is amazing to me to think that the current release of the Aspasie Carte Blanche is now seven years old, with five years of ageing on the lees. I was there in 2010 to taste those base wines, and I suppose the batch bottled this year will be here before I know it…in 2022!

-Gary Westby