On the Trail

New Champagne Horizons

Gary Westby

This spring, I visited the Trudon estate in Festigny for the first time and - after a long wait - the Champagne has finally arrived. Jerome Trudon is very different than most of the growers we work with as he has spent half of his career outside the family business. After receiving his diploma of enology at Reims, he left for California and spent two years making the wine at Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley. He then returned to Champagne and worked in Reims for Champagne Louis Roederer making wine for the next twelve years. When his parents decided to retire, Jerome returned to the family estate to take over the operation. The two wines that we have from him now and the special bottling that is coming for the club in October were all made by him.

The Trudon estate is 18.5 acres and entirely in the village of Festigny, half way to Château Thierry from Epernay—about a half hour out. It is in its own little valley set back from the Marne with several streams, notably the Flagot, creating good drainage for its rolling slopes of mixed soil. This is ground zero for Pinot Meunier in Champagne and Jerome Trudon is a true specialist. He has fifteen plots of vines that average about thirty-eight years of age. The vineyard is planted to 90% Meunier, 6% Pinot Noir and 4% Chardonnay. He is still selling some of his grapes to negociants, and his production is approximately 65,000 bottles a year.

Jerome is much more flexible than most of the Champenois that I have met when it comes to the wine making. I expect that this comes from his work at Roederer, and his travels abroad. He works mostly with stainless, but also with barrels for the primary fermentation. He decides on a tank by tank, barrel by barrel basis whether or not to do malolactic fermentation, based on the cuvée that the wine is destined for. The bottles are aged on the lees for a minimum of three years.

The Trudon "Emblematis" Brut Champagne is the bulk of his production, but feels like a specialty cuvée. It is composed of 70% Meunier and 30% Pinot Noir and is aged three and a half years on the lees. I love the exotic, pure Meunier fruit in this Champagne and the way that it marries with the creamy, delicately toasty aromas and flavors. The wine has no trace of sherry like oxidation or bruised apple malic character that Meunier based Champagnes sometimes have. On the contrary, this is very clean and bright given the level of concentration and character in the wine. At the price, I don’t see any reason for any Champagne fan not to try it (unless you only drink zero dosage blanc de blancs!).

Jerome’s Trudon "Rosephile" Brut Rose Champagne showed the charming, elegant side of his craft in the best possible light. It is entirely Meunier, with 7% vinified red from a massal selected plot of over 60 years of age. I wrote Luxardo cherry in all caps in my notebook and this wine has fantastic purity of fruit, but a finish that is dry and balanced. He decided to do only 30% malolactic fermentation on this batch to preserve its snap and refreshment. Be careful, this is very easy to drink and the second glass tastes better than the first!

For the Champagne club in October, we will feature the Trudon "Monochrome" Brut Champagne, which is 100% Meunier from some of his best plots. This Champagne has been aged three years on the lees, but has 1/3 reserves from past vintages added in for complexity and roundness. I found this wine to be strikingly pure, with generous aromas of white flowers framed by a touch of freshly baked bread. The finish is very bright, maybe the brightest I have ever tasted from an all Meunier Champagne, and has yet to cross over into the savory mushroom like character of other Meuniers.

These wines were all purchased with a dollar that was at a peak of its strength, and the retails are very fair because of that. I hope that K&L’s Champagne fans will enjoy them as much as I have.

-Gary Westby