At last, a warm day! Well, at least warmer than previous days, week, months.... All facts, the sun, the longer days and the thermometer's persistent attempts to reach over 10° C, they all try to convince me. Perhaps it is true, it is spring? OK, let's say so. Of course that is a recognition requiring some celebration. Time for a glass of champagne. My choice fell on a bottle of Vilmart Grand Cellier, purchased on site some years ago.
Vilmart is a unique producer. One of the few who ferments and matures their wines on oak. The outcome is elegant, expressive and complex champagnes of very high quality.
The location is the small village Rilly-la-Montagne in the heart of Montagne de Reims. Thus, a bit south of Reims. This is known as Pinot Noir country, but Vilmar has in fact a rather large share of Chardonnay in their wines. The grapes come from 11 ha premier cru vineyards in Rilly and Villers-Allerand.
Vilmart uses large 50 hl oak foudres to ferment and mature the base wine for the Grand Reserve and Grand Cellier champagne. The top wines, Cellier d'Or and Coeur de Cuvée, get the pleasure of spending their first time on 225 litres new Burgundy barrels.
The assemblage is a two step process. First all Chardonnay wine from the different parcels are blended in January. And the Pinot Noirs too. In the next step, during May, the final assemblage of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are made for each cuvée. Bottling, together with "pris de mousse", i.e. the yeast needed for the second fermentation, is made in the end of June. By then we can count to about nine months on oak since the harvest in the end of September.
Then it is time for a peaceful rest deep down in the chalky cellars. Two years for Grande Reserve, three for Grand Cellier and the rosé Rubis, five years for Grand Cellier D'Or and for the fantastic Coeur de Cuvée, six years.
The family owned Champagne Vilmar & Cie was founded already back in 1872, but it was not until the present and fifth generation that maturation on small oak barrells for the top cuvées was introduced. Laurent Vilmart took over the responsibility in 1991 and has established Vilmart as an internationally reputable producer.
Our Grand Cellier Brut Premier Cru, made from 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, had to wait three years in our cellar for the right occasion, i.e. the "warm" and lovely spring evening. I would say that it was three well invested years.
Beautiful light golden colour. Pronounced, developed nose with bread and notes of white flowers, mineral and butterscotch. The mousse fills every corner of the mouth and the palate is wrapped in complex tasty sensations. A lovely, round freshness. Orange, lime, bread, butterscotch and chocolate, complemented with grapefruit and bitter orange in an aftertaste that seems to last forever. This is really the epitome of a beautiful wine.
I noticed that the prestige cuvée Coeur de Cuvée 2004, made of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, is available at the Swedish monopoly right now. And the Grand Cellier can be e-purchased to Sweden from the Franska Vinlistan.
For all of you planning a trip to France, I recommend a visit to Rilly-la-Montagne. And why not pay Swedish Jessica Perrion in the neighbouring village Verzenay a visit at the same time? When Chardonnay is the predominating grape at Vilmart, Thierry Perrion Champagne offers Pinot Noir. It would be an enjoyable exercise to try the two different styles at the same time.