Marie Courtin is not the proprietress-vigneron of the hottest little grow show in Champagne; nor is she the star of our show. Those roles and more all belong to Dominique Moreau. Marie Courtin was her grandmother. But this is not another multi-generational wine lore saga; our story begins in 2001….
In the Aube; then a sleepy backwater Department of the Champagne region where generations of vineyard owners and tenders subsisted on selling their crops to the Grand Marque luxury brand Champistocrats headquartered in Reims. Now it is a cradle to a movement. A movement to something of a Burgundian model, of estate growers escorting their grapes through to the finished wine, and in so doing expressing their grapes, their ground, and their esthetic. The Aube is not alone in this turn about; it is happening all over Champagne. And Dominique is not alone in the Aube- the grower contingent there has other luminaries including Cedric Bouchard, Vouette & Sorbee, Donson & Lepage, and Jacques Lassaigne. But, we digress, our story begins in 2001….
In the Aube; on a hillside of the Cote des Bars; near the village of Polisot; where Dominique Moreau took over a small vineyard of mostly 40-50 year old Pinot Noir (planted by her father-in-law) and combined it with her vision to produce single-vineyard, single varietal, single vintage Champagnes from biodynamically grown grapes- farmed with meticulous care, and vinified au naturel. Native yeasts, no dosage, minimalist intervention at all decision points. This was and still is a sharp turn from the conventional mind-set in Champagne, which is to produce a homogenous product- and plenty of it.
And the pace picked up markedly in 2006, when the visions were first bottled, and became something the world beyond the Aube could share. But they didn’t go far beyond the Aube; there were only 1000 cases or so, and they were mostly intercepted by the restaurants and Champagne bars in Paris. Since then? Well, a modest linear progression of bottlings and growth, and an immodest exponential explosion of consumer knowledge, interest, and demand. It hasn’t hurt that Champagne is by far the hottest sector of the wine market today, and the grower Champagne is the hottest sector of the Champagne market. But Dominique would have succeeded in moribund markets, her vision and skills are indomitable and her Champagnes approach transcendental. Let’s have a look at the line-up today…..
Marie Courtin ‘Resonance’ Extra Brut NV (2009) ($59.95) $49 pre-arrival special
‘Resonance’ is the base of the program here, a tank fermented Pinot Noir. The ever-holistic Dominique says that ‘Resonance’ refers to the balancing energies of earth and sky that affect the creation of a wine from its surrounding terroir. But I’d say that it could equally refer to the harmonic symphony it adds to a glass. The 2008 vintage of this wine was the first to be received in the western USA in quantities above miniscule and we took in an outsized vinopolshare. We were the first to have it, and the last to have it, but we didn’t have it long enough. Conservation of supply was not possible when demand was spurred by Antonio Galloni in The Wine Advocate: “94 points- The NV (2008) Extra Brut Resonance is 100% Pinot Noir from a parcel in Polisot. It is a brilliant, energetic wine endowed with gorgeous richness and depth. Succulent apricots, peaches, flowers and crushed rocks are some of the many nuances that take shape in the glass. Chalky notes linger on the precise, beautifully articulated, eternal finish. The pedigree of the vintage comes through loud and clear. The 2008 Resonance kept getting better and better with air. It is a fabulous wine in every way. I loved it.” And how does the 2009 vintage compare? More complete, more fragrant and more immediately delicious; less acidic, less reserved, and less intense; equally engaging, equally distinct, equally minerale, and equally the best buy in the Champagne market.
Marie Courtin ‘Efflorescence’ Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut NV (2007) ($69.95) $59 special
‘Efflorescence’ is drawn from grapes at the base of the hill- Dominique feels they have greater power and potential. The wine is raised in used Burgundy barrels for a year. For Dominique, “Efflorescence” refers to “something that evolves in perpetuity”. Starting with the evolution encouraged by the small oxygen exchange in barrel, she feels that this wine in particular will show a very different face at each stage of its development in bottle.
Antonio Galloni 93 points “The 2007 Extra Brut Efflorescence (100% Pinot Noir) is at first rather cool and inward, then explodes on the palate with great intensity. It is a fabulous wine endowed with tons of persistence and sheer energy. The aromas and flavors build towards the rich, generous finish. This is another fabulous showing.”
Marie Courtin ‘Eloquence’ Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut NV (2007) ($69.95) $59 special
‘Eloquence’ arises from a small amount of Chardonnay on Dominique’s estate. Elegance is as ‘Eloquence’ does.
Antonio Galloni 94 points “The NV (2007) Extra Brut Eloquence is impressive. This is a gorgeous Champagne endowed with extraordinary richness and tons of personality. Waves of fruit flow from this effortless, powerful wine, saturating the palate with notable intensity. A final burst of Chardonnay fruit informs the finish. As great as the Eloquence is ( and it is great) it will be even better in another year or two. Eloquence is 100% Chardonnay from a vineyard in Polisot. The wine was vinified and aged in neutral French oak barrels. It is a stunner of a wine.”
Marie Courtin ‘Concordance’ Extra Brut NV (2009) ($99.95) $79 pre-arrival special
This is the newly introduced top of the line chez Dominique. And she’s yet to share with us what was on her mind to appelle this bottling ‘Concordance’. But perhaps flying very high, above all else; because that is what it does. Dominique, by the way, recommends that all of here Champagnes be served in conventional wine glasses rather than flutes. We’d say that is an option on all but this Concordance, where it is a must. Consider a decanter too. Bubbling Burgundy it is, un voyage- sans limit, sans end. The bubbles are not accidental, but they are incidental.
Antonio Galloni: “These wines represent the height of vinosity in Champagne”
“Tasting with Dominique Moreau. Intensely expressive, emotionally moving wines” Peter Liem