It was a long drive from Epernay to the western edge of the Marne valley, but it was well worth it to meet the people and see the facility behind the inimitable champagnes of Fallet-Dart.
Paul Fallet, who manages the estate with his cousin Adrien, gave us a warm welcome with his dog Elios, and took us to see the vineyards right outside his estate. They consist of beautiful, massale-selected vines planted in the 40s and 50s. The vines were hit particularly hard in 2017 by the quadruple whammy of frost, botrytis, pests, and hail. They lost nearly 40% of their crop.
“We were perhaps too strict when selecting which fruit to keep and which to throw away, but it has to be this way to make great champagne,” said Paul.
Fallet-Dart uses no fertilizers, a practice that Paul explained causes the roots to dig deeper into the ground, giving the end product more distinct flavors of the terroir and minerals. They hold onto their bottles for at least three years before disgorging them, and let them rest for at least six months before shipping them off - all measures that ensure superb levels of quality in their champagne. We sat down to try the line up with a couple of surprises at the end.
The Cuvée de Reserve is Fallet-Dart’s Blanc de Noirs; it is made out of 70% Pinot Meunier and 30% Pinot Noir. This edition was based on the 2013 vintage and rested on the lees for three years before being disgorged last year. It had rich savory fruit flavors of dark cherry and baked apples, with distinct mineral flavors and great lift from the acidity.
The Grand Selection is based on the 2011 vintage, and uses 50% reserve wine from six previous vintages! It rests on the lees for four years. 70% of it is Pinot Noir, 15% Meunier, and 15% Chardonnay. It has a nice doughy lees flavor with notes of hazelnuts, citrus, and red berries. It’s powerful, structured, and complete while showing great finesse. This really is one of the better values in traditional, non-vintage champagne.
We were presented a real treat in the form of a bottle of 1998 Fallet-Dart, disgorged right in front of our eyes, and one of the last three bottles of the 1983 Brut! Paul’s uncle Gerard explained that the champagnes of yesteryear were usually dosed much higher because they were more often used as dessert than aperitif. This only changed in the 90s with better economic times. This 1983 was rich with the flavors of honey, creme brulée, baked apples, and lemon, with a deep golden color and almost viscous texture.
A grand thank you to the Fallets for the incredible experience!
- Alex Schroeder