Sunday, November 24, 2013

5 Champagne Extends To Cognac



The oldest house under family ownership and management in Champagne is also certainly one of the oldest, if not the, in the cognac region of France:  Champagne Gosset is the oldest in continual ownership and management by a family; since 1584, since before Champagne’s modern-day sparkle was invented, Gosset has owned property and made and sold wine in the Ay/Epernay area of Champagne.
Today that family that owns Champagne Gosset is also a family from another champagne-soil area, Cognac.   The Frapin-Cointreau family must be the oldest also in continual property-owning and brandy-making in Cognac.   Frapin cognac has been collecting property in the most prestigious region of Cognac, Grande Champagne, since 1270.    Today they own over 400 hectares.


When, after four hundred years making Champagne wines, the Gosset family decided to sell their family Champagne house what more perfect union could have been devised than that the oldest house from Cognac would arrive with freshness and eagerness to continue this legacy in Champagne? 
Immediately this newcomer from another traditional house,Beatrice Frapin, set to work to continue a most important legacy in Champagne:  that everything sold as Champagne undergoes its second fermentation in the bottle in which it is sold.  In the early 1990s there was some danger that this was an endangered way-of-champagne making because of?  …what else? … cost.  Many houses had already begun cheating by transferring from magnums into 375 ml. bottles.  But Beatrice Frapin Cointreau, President of Champagne Gosset, with Champagne GH Mumm, went to the governing board, Champagne’s CIVC, and challenged this as against the principal of Champagne.    Beatrice Frapin's and the GH Mumm side won.  Today if a Champagne house produces 375 ml (or “half bottles”) the wine must undergo its second fermentation in that bottle which the customer eventually purchases.    


Champagne Gosset, tooth-by-jowl with Champagne’s Cote de Blancs, their house surrounded by Grand Cru Pinot Noir and Chardonnay Champagne vineyards of Ay, is almost unique in that their house style has always been one that, in order to keep fruit flavors high in their Champagnes, malolactic fermentation is prevented. 


Since 1584 the owners and makers of Champagne Gosset have striven to blend tradition with modernity.  Today the main facility of Gosset has moved from Ay to Epernay, but the Ay house is maintained as the center of aging in deep cool chalk cellars.

Both modernity and tradition underlie the Champagnes produced.   Gosset’s Grande Reserve Brut in its traditional 18th century Champagne bottle, is made of 43% Chardonnay, 42% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier, a modern blend.   But traditionally it is aged for over 4 years before release, yielding a complex and savory champagne, one that has true links to greatness.  The Grand Rose of 58% Chardonnay and 35% Pinot Noir, with 7% still red wines, is a blend which shows the house roots in the Cote de Blancs, yielding a rose Champagne with undertones of exotic spices and richness and floral essence.  But it is in Gosset’s famed Celebris Blanc de Blanc that extraordinary length of palate richness is achieved.    





Though Ay’s vineyards touch those of the Cote des Blanc, these Grand Cru vineyards are divided between Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Given the soil structure that nearby promotes some of the world’s greatest Chardonnay vineyards, the Pinot Noir plantations here often produce wine with white flower fragrances, offering a backbone of Meursault-like glycerin to the elegant black-grape wine.  So it is no wonder, though Champagne Gosset professes to be a Chardonnay style house that their wines have a floral balance between the two great grapes.


Champagne and Cognac share chalky soil which makes the differences in the richness and style of their products.   Several are the links between some of the finest Champagnes and the greatest of Cognacs:  Gosset-Frapin is outstanding for this legacy, the oldest in continual existences in both areas fostered and planted by Caesar’s legionnaires.


Soon Julius Caesar will come to visit.  I promise. 

Madeleine de Jean 24 November, 2013
The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne.