The why, the what and the how of...

Vilmart & Cie

With champagne made exclusively from estate-owned vines, Laurent Champs is fifth generation of the family to head up production at Vilmart et Cie., a grower-producer from Montagne de Reims. The range includes the popular NV “Grand Cellier”, 2014 “Grand Cellier d’Or” and very limited 2011 “Cœur Cuvée”.

The village of Rilly-la-Montagne is situated in the area known as Montagne de Reims which is a few kilometers south of Reims. Vilmart was established in the 1890s by Désiré Vilmart. What started out as a small and humble property has evolved into the gold standard for grower champagnes (that is producers which do not sell grapes to the champagne houses, but rather produce and bottle their own wine). A true perfectionist, Laurent Champs (Désiré’s great-great-grandson) is meticulous in his direction over the entire process of making their champagnes.

Vilmart’s vineyards are spread over 11 hectares and comprising of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. The average age of these vines varies between 35 and 50 years; reflected in the quality of his finest vintage cuvées. Almost all of these are located in the village of Rilly-la-Montagne, with parcels in some of the best sites including Blanches Voies, Grèves and La Haie Barbette.

Since 1989, in the pursuit of exceptional quality, the estate applies natural biological methods to fighting pests by avoiding chemical fertilisers and herbicides. Even tilling of the vineyards is done by hand.

Vilmart produces five champagnes in total. Traditionally in Champagne, the “cuvée” refers to the first 2,050 litres pressed out of four tons of grapes. This is seen as the maximum yield of prime juice. What follows is known as the ‘tail’ and is believed to impart harsher qualities to the wine. Vilmart’s Cœur de Cuvée uses just the first 1,400 litres – literally the “heart of the cuvée,” using grapes from 55-year-old vines. No base wines undergo malolactic fermentation and the use of French oak barriques and foudre are used for maturation of 10 months. The result is an elegant, complex and subtle wine that still maintains its freshness.

Once bottled, wines are then aged for 3-4 years for non-vintage and 5-7 years for vintage. This is followed by riddling and disgorging. The resultant wines make for some of the purest, most cult offerings in all of Champagne.

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