On the Trail

Sézanne's Star Arrives

David Driscoll

While we don't often see Champagne houses market their locale within the region (primarily because many of them blend parcels), we can assure you that the Sézanne is a Champagnois appellation we rarely see here in states. When you do hear about locality it's typically the vineyards of Reims or Épernay that get mentioned, and almost never the Sézannais commune to the south, further towards Chablis. Nevertheless, it's there that we recently struck a deal with the house of Le Brun de Neuville, our newest import from France and one that we're incredibly excited to tell you about. Named Champagne producer of the year at the 2015 International Wine & Spirits Competition, it's a prestigious addition to our direct purchasing program.

With 150 hectares of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier planted around the estate, Le Brun de Neuville is planted to Sézannais soils that are incredibly chalky. Only a few centimeters of earth separate the dirt from the limestone rocks, whose porous nature make the terrain a natural reservoir for water even during the driest of summers while preserving acidity and freshness in the grapes. With more than 170 different growers contributing beyond that, the portfolio offers an incredible diversity of flavors while maintaining an energy and drive that is consistent throughout all the wines. The entry level Le Brun de Neuville "Authentique Assemblage" Brut Champagne offers fresh and clean flavors balanced and buoyed by riper apple notes. It's both refreshing as an aperitif and satisfyingly full on the palate like I would expect from a fine cuvée. For the price, it's an instant competitor to K&L stalwarts like Frank Bonville and Aspasie. For just a few dollars more, however, the 2008 vintage brut offers the total package. A vibrant nose of honeyed fruit and rich brioche, backed up by more richness on the palate, with a firm mineral note ballasted by a backbone of zippy acidity all the way through. The bubbles are fine and graceful across the palate with oxidized nuttiness on the finish. It's a helluva deal.

The rose comes exclusively from the village of Bethon in the Sezanne, and is aged on the lees on a cork rather than a crown cap, something typically reserved for much more expensive wines. Kept for three years on the lees, the color is vibrant and the flavors are rich and complex. I was completely taken by all three wines recently, having taken them home for a test drive, and can't wait to begin hand-selling them in the store. Our buyer Gary Westby conveyed to me this visit was one of the highlights of his recent trip, and it's easy to see why.

-David Driscoll