Charlot Tanneaux Rose de Saignee

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Winemaker: Vincent Charlot

Appelation: blend of several clay-limestone plots in Moussy, a village south of Epernay dedicated to Pinot Meunier, Champagne, France

Grape Varieties: 90% Pinot Meunier, 10% Pinot Noir

Making of: The grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed and macerated for around 14 hours on skins. Once pressed, the wine ferments spontaneously in neutral barrels. No malolactic fermentation, the wine rests in barrels on fine lees for about 9 months. Bottled with liqueur de tirage and aged on lees for at least 36 months for the secondary fermentation (prise de mousse), disgorged, and topped up using the same wine, with a dosage of 4g/l (extra brut). 

Personality: a pleasant, easy-drinking, fruity style of rosé, very aromatic and long. Perfect aperitif or with light starters and finger food, like goat cheese

Each parcel is vinified separately in order to showcase its uniqueness. Spontaneous fermentation in amphoras and seasoned barrels; the wines are left to go through malolactic fermentation as they choose (or not). Secondary fermentation in bottles with concentrated grape must, long aging on lees. Little to no SO2, very low dosages (around 4g/l, Extra Brut)

  • Vincent is a true terroir geek: he vinifies each of his 39 parcels separately and releases between 17 and 27 (!) different cuvées each year in order to showcase the unique personality of his highly diverse soils and expositions.
  • These plots are all cultivated in biodynamics, and represent a biodiversity oasis with some 90 species of plants and animals thriving; many of the plants are edible, so a little vineyard snack is never too far away!
  • As his vineyards are tiny (average plot size is a mere 0.1ha), there’s sometimes as little as one barrel (300 bottles) of one wine, and never more than 5,000 bottles
  • Most of the wines decide not to go through malolactic fermentation – liberty that Vincent is happy to give them, as the resulting wines are balanced between richness and acidity
  • Vincent went to winemaking school in Alsace in the early 1990s, along with another iconic French grower in our book, the local trailblazer Christian Binner.

“When I drink wine, I want to taste its terroir – this is what I’m in it for. I want to see the personality of the place where it was born, I want to be moved, to create emotion,” Vincent Charlot explains with so much passion that you suddenly feel the need to get your hands on a bottle of good grower Champagne and drink it, NOW. A passion that’s easy to fall for, especially once you discover the natural richness that he’s the shepherd of: the Charlot estate consists of no less than 39 different plots with extremely diverse soils and expositions. “The heavier clayey soils give wines of exotic, vinous generosity; silex translates into tangy gunpowder notes. And my chalk-borne cuvées, such as the L’Or des Basses Ronces, can transport you to the beach at low tide, so strong is their iodine grip and mineral energy,” Charlot poetically praises the virtues of his variegated vineyards.

His dedication to this mosaic leads him to vinify each parcel separately and release up to 27 (!) different cuvées each year, with quantities ranging from one single barrel (~300 bottles) to 5,000 bottles per wine. In a region where the grandes marques count their nonvintage bottles in millions, Vincent firmly stands on the geeky grower side, releasing only vintage wines. He is the breed of Champenois that reminds you that, although sparkling, Champagne is wine above all–and we love that.

An essential step on this terroir-showcase route is farming: Charlot proudly calls himself “the peasant of terroir” instead of winemaker and all of his plots are cultivated organic and biodynamic. (Only 2% of the Champagne vineyard are farmed biodynamically, btw.) Vincent has grown into this approach gradually, with foundations laid during his apprentice years in Alsace (he was in school with the local natural trailblazer Christian Binner that we also import). There, many vineyards were already organic and covered with grass back then in the early 1990s; when Charlot returned to Champagne and took the domaine (selling grapes to the local co-op back then) over from his parents at the turn of the new millennium, he was looking for ways to harmonize his new finds with the family heritage.

“I have never tilled the soil since then–mixing the layers destroys biodiversity, in my opinion,” he asserts. His trust in a natural balance is so strong that he even avoids seeding the plants himself, save for an occasional lavender or rosemary to “keep the bees happy in summer if there are too few flowers otherwise”. Convinced that the plants are there for a reason, and they allow the grower to read the soil, Charlot prefers to guide his farming by observation and the natural mycorrhiza happening under his vines. 

Charlot wasn’t sold on biodynamics right away, though, he admits; he had multiple training sessions with Pierre Masson, one of the French pioneers of the philosophy, but only fully adhered to it when he saw the results live in his own vines. “I just felt great in my vineyards, witnessing the incredible biodiversity,” Vincent recalls what led him to apply for the Demeter and Ecocert certification in 2010. After some initial disputes with his neighbors over their use of helicopter spraying (not allowed in organics, of course), he succeeded in obtaining the seals and has been enjoying the resplendent ecosystem of some 90 different species ever since: “There’s lamb lettuce, wild mint, forest strawberries, mushrooms, pheasants breeding…” he muses and a vivid image mixing Rousseau’s canvas, an all-seasons farmer’s market and David Attenborough’s documentaries arises in our heads; a late spring / early summer view of Vincent’s vineyard fully backs this fantasy. 

Given his precious natural material, the cellar work is kept to a minimum in order to showcase it: the grapes are harvested manually at optimum ripeness, and then spontaneously fermented, since Vincent believes that the yeast is like a “little mushroom selected by the terroir to express it”. Very often, the wines decide not to go through malolactic: “I don’t know why, to be honest, my cellar isn’t that cold,” Vincent laughs, “but I leave that to the wine and the results are beautiful, with balanced alcohol and pronounced acidity.” The vins clairs spend usually about 9 months on lees in seasoned barrels from Bordeaux and Burgundy: “I always use 3- or 5-year-old barrels, since I’m not interested in getting tannins from the wood. I already have these, perfectly ripe, from my skins and seeds,” Vincent describes.

Once the wines are bottled, the secondary fermentation is started with grape must concentrated by evaporation, mixed with 5 neutral organic yeasts, never sugar. The wines then spend several years on lees – some around four, some up to eight, and after disgorgementthey are topped up with the same champagne and dosed with no more than 4 grams per liter, i.e. falling under the Extra Brut category. Some of the wines are released as “Charlot-Tanneux”, a family label that Vincent uses for wines coming from smaller parcels that aren’t officially certified due to their small size (and proximity to conventionally farmed vineyards of his neighbors) but enjoy the same biodynamic care and minimal winemaking as the Vincent Charlot wines.

The resulting wines in both cases are sensual, serious, and sensitive, all at the same time. Terroir notes, fruit, elegance, energy, acidity, body, creaminess… all the elements necessary for an outstanding wine experience are in poised balance here, and the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts: opening a bottle of Charlot is a highly recommended ritual to enjoy in a big enough glass, with or without food. And preferably with some like-minded friends who will be equally happy spending the night discovering layer after layer after layer of these incredible terroir bijoux, courtesy of Monsieur Charlot.