Champagne Roger Brun
The offices of the Aÿ-based firm of Roger Brun are located in the very heart of the town, adjacent to the 15th century church, in a small haven of peace and tranquility far from the bustle of the busy streets just a couple of hundred metres away.
Brun is a small family firm, with just 6.5 hectares of vines, but what vines - most are premium sites in the immediate vicinity of the city of Aÿ. Before being known by crossword-puzzle enthusiasts, Aÿ was known in the Middle Ages for its noticable quality of wine, not yet sparkling but already appreciated at Royal tables. In the 15th and 16th centuries, kings of France and the most famous sovereigns of Europe purchased vineyards in Aÿ.
The Brun family's association with the Aÿ wine trade began in the 19th century, when as well as being barrelmakers, they made red wine. The original Roger Brun, grandfather of present incumbent Philippe, learnt the art of Champagne making while working for Moët & Chandon in the early 1900s during the phylloxera crisis, and the Brun family have held a passion for Champagne ever since.
The quality and style of the Roger Brun Champagnes was confirmed by Decanter magazine's tasting of non vintage champagnes in August 2003. In a comprehensive flight of 117 wines that included wines from top houses, growers, négociants and cooperatives, the Roger Brun NV brut outscored many grander names. Brun today makes a fine range of wines, mainly white, but also a fabulous rosé which enjoy a fine reputation.
Visiting Champagne? Check out Brun's new <a href="http://www.champagne-roger-brun.com/chambres_en.html" target="_blank">Bed and Breakfast: Le Logis des Pressureurs</a> in the heart of Aÿ.
It's impossible to be closer to the heart of Champagne!</font></p>
Brut Rosé 1er Cru Nature (ZERO DOSAGE) Champagne Roger Brun Aÿ-Champagne COMING SOON AGAIN Ref: 3388021
Once in a while we come across something very special, and this wine is just that! The first time I visited Brun, this wine had not been released for sale, but I was offered a taste of the zero dosage version, which would not normally be offered for the UK market. But this wine was just fabulous and I managed to get hold of a limited amount.
Composition is 90 % Pinot Noir, 10 % Pinot Meunier, from Mareuil/Ay and Mutigny. It's made using saignée - like a red wine, but the maceration is shorter, one or two days instead of the minimum 5 days for red wine production. Vinification is in stainless steel. It's only made in good years, with very mature grapes from old vineyards, and in small quantities. Fruity and intense, crisp and of course very dry, with a long lingering finish. Stunning stuff, very moreish indeed.
Philippe Brun describes it thus:- "Rare! Made the authentic way, direct from harvest.".
Was: £31.80 (Including VAT at 20%)
Champagne Jean Milan, Oger, Côtes de Blancs
Drive south of Epernay through the Côtes de Blancs on the road that passes through the Grand Cru villages of Cramant, Avize, and Oger, on the way to Mesnil, and the premises of Jean Milan are pretty much the first that you come to as you enter the village of Oger. To the left (east) is flatter land, to the right, the vine-covered hills rise majestically above the village, reinforcing the sense of solidity and tradition in these parts.
Today, the house of Milan produces mainly white wines of exceptional quality, but it has a history going back to 1864, when it was founded by Charles Milan to grow grapes to sell to the "Grandes Marques" of the day, such as Krug, Veuve Cliquot, and Pol Roger (who still have a small vineyard holding in Oger to this day.) It was Charles who had dug the underground cellars that were cut into the chalk rocks and which are in use to this day to age wines.
In those days, Milan also operated a pressing facility for the big producers, and a very limited amount of this activity persists to this day. The then head of the family, Henry Milan, and his team, acquired substantial knowledge about the making of good Champagne from this work, and eventually started producing their own wines independently of the big boys. Milan is quite a conservative house in terms of winemaking - very traditional methods such as hand remuage use of a traditional Coquard press, hand-disgorgement, and use of old casks all evidence of this. My contact at Milan is Caroline, who looks after the business today for the 4th generation of Milans since the business was founded. The wines from here are nothing short of stunning; Milan uses 100% Chardonnay for it's wines (except for the rosé) and all the fruit is of the highest quality and is sourced from plots in and around Oger. The Village sits in a natural basin, at a slightly lower altitude than the surrounding villages, and enjoys a slightly higher average temperature and hence better ripeness. The chalky soils and beneficial microclimate mean Oger is regarded as one of the finest locations in the Côtes de Blancs for cultivation of the noble Chardonnay grape, and the terroir in Oger and neighbouring Avize gives a subtle minerality and graphite spiciness to the wines, along with power and weight. Milan's is a small Domaine - it has just 6 hectares of vines, scattered over some 42 plots, aged on average some 33 years. But this is not enough, given the demand for the wine, and to expand, it has been necessary for Milan to acquire négociant status, allowing it to buy additional fruit, which is sourced from trusted neighbouring landowners, but all the vineyard husbandry is carried out by Milan, thereby ensuring 100% control over the quality of the fruit.
The real problem for Milan, and other small growers in these parts, in one of availability of Grand Cru land. Vineyards are tightly held, and rarely come onto the market. When they do, prices are stratospheric, and the Grandes Marques are usually waiting in the wings to snap up whatever they can get their hands on - and land, once owned by a "Grande Marque", is likely to be lost forever to the private market. It is simply very difficult for the small grower to acquire vineyard sites. During my recent visit, Caroline related the story of a small parcel which recently came on the market, where a landowner was retiring. A Grande Marque wanted to get its hands on the site, but the owner, more inclined to keep it in the hands of small producers, subdivided it into a number of even smaller plots, and sold it to several existing landowners.
To summarise: Milan is a top quality family producer in the Côte de Blancs - a real find - producing superb wines of great purity, with graphite-pencil minerality beneath layers of exquisite fruit. Real terroir wines.
Champagne Cuvée Tendresse Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne Jean Milan Oger SOLD OUT Ref: 3388011
A blend of 2002 & 2003 wines, this wine is notable for the liqueur that has been added, resulting in sugar levels of 24g/litre. making it soft whilst retaining finesse and freshness, yet this wine tastes barely sweet - the perfect Blanc de Blancs with a slither of superbly integrated sweetness. Ideal with desserts, or as an aperitif. Try it with foie gras ... simply irresistible! On the nose, notes of wisteria and hyacinth, some brioche; superb on the palate, with a fine mousse, lots of fine fruit, with some acacia-honey. The wonderful label for this wine bears the portrait of a woman, Caroline Milans great grandmother in her youth.
Selected by the "Guide Gilbert et Gaillard des Meilleurs Champagnes".
Was: £30.60 (Including VAT at 20%)
Champagne Pierson Whitaker
This is Champagne production on a truly micro-scale. Didier Pierson and his English-born Wife Imogen Whitaker make a small number of wines from their lovely 19th century Champagne house in the old village of Avize in the Côte des Blancs, just a few km south of Epernay. Total production is currently a mere 23,000 bottles a year, made from grapes grown on their own land, supplemented by some fruit bought from trusted growers. Production is mainly Chardonnay, with some Pinot Noir.
These wines are really delightful, and also represent good value for money.
Pierson Whitaker no longer exists, this is the last of our stock.