On the Trail

The Right Place, The Right Time

Gary Westby
Winemaker Angelique Coutelas in the cellar

Winemaker Angelique Coutelas in the cellar

Sometimes a person is lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Four years ago on a cold spring morning, I was lucky enough to be one of the first to sample the premier release of Champagne A.D. Coutelas "Cuvée Louis Victor" Brut, a wine I strongly feel is the most exciting Champagne that we have in the store for under fifty dollars. It has the character of a big offering from Bollinger or Krug—not a light, citric style Champagne, but rather a power player of complexity with brioche, truffles, and a haunting savor. Located in the village of Villers-Sous-Chatillon (the same as Collard-Picard), Coutelas makes wine from all estate-owned fruit, and is one of the few producers to use a solera style of  blending in their Champagne making. Because the Champagnes are therefore the result of fractional blends from older selections, year after year, it’s almost impossible to know the exact composition of the wines. Angelique and Damien Coutelas are believers in the use of wood for fermentation and use a number of different barrel types of a variety of sizes. The wines are rich, vinous, and savory in style.  

This Cuvée Louis Victor comes from just one very large oak barrel in the deep cellar of the Coutelas family, and is blended accordingly in the solera style, with an equal amount of wine added to top up the barrel when they bottle once a year. On their website, they say that the blend is 1/3 each Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier, but the truth is that they really don’t know. Each year, Damien Coutelas refreshes the solera with whatever wine he thinks was best from the current harvest. The solera was established in 2007, and the current batch has wine from 2007-2012, with an additional 36+ month of ageing on the lees. As time goes on, this Champagne will get better and better, and we will get less and less of an allocation. I cannot recommend Champagne fans buying this now strongly enough. This is the type of Champagne we'll be talking about a year from now, wishing we could get more and kicking ourselves for not buying cases when we had the chance, now that we're once again in the moment—in the right place and at the right time.

-Gary Westby