Le Gallais—A New Direct Import Find from Champagne

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I never imagined that we would direct import a producer whose entire production comes from one of the blessed Clos of Champagne. This past March, on my spring trip to the region, I had the chance to go to the other side of the wall of the Clos Boursault to visit Charlotte Le Gallais and her father. After months of waiting, the wines have finally arrived at K&L.

The Clos of Champagne are some of the most storied plots in the region, making some of the most famous and expensive wine in the region. Krug owns both the Clos du Mesnil and the Clos d’Ambonny in those two respective villages, while Philipponnat the Clos de Goisses and Billecart the Clos Saint-Hilaire in Mareuil. The list goes on. These sites must have a wall high enough to keep a horse from jumping over it and must also have the production facility on site. There is a simple truth about both the Clos of Burgundy and the Clos of Champagne- only the most exceptional sites were worth building a wall around.

The original wall of the Clos Boursault was first built in the 1500s, but the current wall was built by Madame Clicquot when she built her country entertaining house here in 1843. Charlotte Le Gallais’ great grandfather, Hachod Fringhian, bought the property in 1927, and it has been in the family ever since. It is located between Oeuilly (home to Champagne Tarlant) and Mardeuil, just 10 minutes west of Epernay.

The Le Gallais property is composed of 10 planted acres inside the wall, and within that small amount of land, they have both great east-facing slopes for Chardonnay as well as south-facing sites for Pinot Noir and some west-facing sites for Meunier. I took a trip in Mr. Le Gallais’ 60s Landrover around the property, and it amazed me the variety of sites they have within the walls. The winemaking facility is on the flat part of property and houses a buried tank for a solera of reserve wines, the only one that I know of in Champagne. They only make about 25,000 bottles per year here, so our allocations are limited.

The must-try bottle is the Le Gallais Cuvée du Manoir Brut Champagne, which is only $34.99. It is composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 45% Meunier, and 10% Chardonnay and given four years of aging on the lees. It benefits from an incredible 50% reserves. This is a very brut at just 6g/l of dosage but is not at all austere. I love this wine for its easy style, great toasted baguette aromas, and nut bread and savory pinot flavors. The finish is long, and the wine is amazing in its completeness. This is the place to start with the wines of Le Gallais and a fantastic aperitif.

We only received sixty bottles of the Le Gallais Brut Rosé des Poètes Champagne, which was the top rosé Champagne of my spring trip to the region. This is composed of half each Pinot Noir and Meunier from the best, oldest sites in the clos, and the subject to a rigorous triage on the sorting table. Less than a third of the bunches are selected. The wine is made entirely of free-run juice. Although not labeled as such, this is all 2014, a vintage of exemplary purity that we have not seen the likes of since 1988. This not only has the expensive brioche aromas from a nice four-year rest on the lees, it also has perfect strawberry fruit. In the mouth, this wine is subtle, detailed and extraordinarily long finishing. The complexity of this deep wine is there if you search for it. Take your time with this one- it is special.

The Le Gallais La Grande Vinge Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne is all Chardonnay from the east-facing vines in the clos. This is aged five years on the lees and has super clean Meyer lemon flavors and a direct and refreshing finish. This would be perfect with all kinds of shellfish. Sadly only 36 bottles were available for the USA!

They make a tiny amount of vintage, and we only received 36 bottles of the 2009 Le Gallais Vintage Brut Champagne. It is a blend of half each Pinot Noir and Meunier from old vines on the property dosed at just 4 grams per liter. It doesn’t need more than that, as this is a real 2009, with ripe power to spare. If you like powerful Champagne, this clean machine is loaded with structure. The texture is supple, the bead perfect, and this full-bodied Champagne will go very well with the best wild salmon.

A toast to you!

-Gary Westby

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Gary Westby