Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes De Montgueux Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs NV
Montgueux is a commune on a large hill seven miles north of Troyes in the Aube. The Aube, located a little more than an hour’s drive south of Epernay, is separated geographically from the three other Champagne subregions. While the region itself is planted mostly to red grapes–Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, the hill of Montgueux with its excellent southeastern exposure and chalky limestone soils (the same soil as in the Côtes des Blancs in the Marne) is planted solely with Chardonnay. The excellent soil (great for acidity), when combined with its location further to the south (promoting ripeness) makes Montgueux a prime location for excellent Blanc de Blancs Champagne.
In 1911, when the official delineations of the wine-growing region of Champagne were first drawn up, they focused on the region of the Marne and excluded the Aube. Even though the Aube is part of the Champagne region, and its capital, Troyes, was once the provincial capital of Champagne, historically much of its grape production was sold to the Grande Marque Champagne houses in Reims and Epernay. It wasn’t until 1927 that, after considerable protest, the borders of Champagne production were expanded to include the Aube. Although a sizeable amount of grapes is still sold and sent up north, there is an emerging movement in the Aube of Récoltant-Manipulants—producers who grow and estate bottle their Champagnes.
Located in the Aube, the southernmost region of Champagne, Champagne Jacques Lassaigne produces intense elegant Blanc de Blancs Champagne in Montgueux, France. The estate encompasses almost 12 acres of vineyards exclusively devoted to the Chardonnay grape. Although historically many grape growers in the Aube sold their grapes to large Champagne houses in the Marne, Jacques Lassaigne took the daring step of bottling champagne himself from his own grapes. His success was also his neighbors’ success. As his reputation grew, other growers in Montgueux, observing his achievements began bottling their own production, thereby improving their fortunes as well.
Emmanuel Lassaigne (Jacques’s son) is in charge now. He makes wines from individual parcels (something that was rarely done in the region when he started the practice), farms without the use of chemicals, vinifies using indigenous yeasts and long cool fermentation and, extraordinarily, hand disgorges every bottle of Champagne himself, eschewing the use of mechanized disgorgement. He choses to do this in order to prevent loss of wine at disgorgement. Remember in last week’s email, I mentioned that disgorgement results in a slight loss of wine from the bottle? This loss of volume is rectified with the addition of liqueur d’expédition or liqueur de dosage. The amount of sugar in the liqueur de dosage determines the dryness level of the finished wine. Because Emmanuel disgorges the bottles by hand, he does not lose wine and is able to bottle the wines without topping them off. Because he does not add dosage, his wines are bone dry.
Les Vignes de Montgueux is Emmanuel’s (for lack of a better phrase) base model. The grapes for this 100% Chardonnay cuvée are grown on nine different sites. Emmanuel uses a small amount of sulfur at pressing to prevent oxidation. The wine is vinified and undergoes full malolactic fermentation. After the first addition of sulfur, no further sulfites are added. It is aged in new and old barrels for 12-24 months before being bottled. The Vignes de Montgueux is pale gold with beautiful fine bubbles. It is crisp and bright with citrus aromas and flavors blending with richer dried fruits, excellent acidity and a long mineral finish. Serve this wine as an aperitif or with seafood and shellfish.