Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Stunning Champagnes of Stephane Coquillette

By Samantha Dugan,
The Wine Country’s Champagne & Sparkling Wine Buyer

"I don't make wine for people who drink champagne just once a year."
--Diane Coquillette

I sat down with Diane Coquillette on my first day back into the shop after a rather grueling “weekend” of deadline pressures and fruitless searches for inspiration and adequate verbiage to express my enthusiasm.  A rather stinky way to spend your days off really, but one I’ve sadly grown far too accustomed to.  I can’t seem to knock out my articles and notes while in the shop, the distractions of phones, deliveries and even the very welcome ones of helping customers; they just aren’t conducive to the kind of writing or storytelling that I’m comfortable doing.  Top that with the fact that I bury myself in panic so deep worrying about being behind that it quite literally chokes the words from my…um, fingertips. 

So needless to say, I was a touch cranky that I’d forfeited my time off to the newsletter deadline paralysis, self-imposed, mind you, but still.
I had forgotten that I had taken an appointment for that Tuesday morning and completely forgotten that it was to taste through the entire lineup of a small grower in Champagne whose wines I had not tasted before.  If there was ever a remedy for cranky, tasting through a line of new-to-me grower Champagne is it.
I have to admit that I tend to be a bit skeptical when tasting through new Champagnes and while Stephane’s daughter Diane was remarkably charming and shockingly beautiful, I was not going to be swayed by that, especially while somewhat cranky.  Our Champagne department is already packed with so many beautiful wines, any wines wishing to join them on our shelves have to pass a pretty rigorous evaluation, mood changing and beautifully stylish French woman notwithstanding. Good enough simply isn’t good enough for my Champagne customers.  I grabbed a stack of paper and hit the tasting room.

Took all of about three wines for my cranky to vanish and in its place there was this excitement and energy.  I had a Champagne evening event coming up the following week at The Wine Country and it would be the perfect time to debut these glorious bubbles!  Very rarely have I been so blown away by an estate that I would bring them in and give them a spot in one of our Champagne classes so quickly; the wines from Coquillette were that good.

Poured both the 2006 Vintage and the Brut Rose at our event and both wines sold out.  See, it’s not just me!
Champagne Stephane Coquillette is located in the Cote des Blancs village of Chouilly and the majority of their holdings are in Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards. Stephane is a fourth generation winemaker in Champagne.  His grandparents established, and father still runs, Saint-Chamant, another Champagne we are wild about, (but are currently out of and waiting for another container from the importer) that produces some stunning Blanc de Blancs.

Stephane’s vision for his own Champagnes was to produce wines for true Champagne aficionados.  These are not wines for the, “Ice it down, serve it really cold in a flute” set.  These wines are far too serious to be treated that way. Drink them as you would any great white wine, not freezing cold as to mask the delicate flavors, and in a wine glass that allows the wine to open up and express all its marvelous complexity.

Couldn’t be more thrilled to offer the wines from Stephane Coquillette to all of you lovers of layered and multi-dimensional wines.

N.V. Stephane Coquillette Cuvee les Cles
Blanc de Noirs Brut, Chouilly, Champagne
You get just the palest bit of pinky orange color here from the 100% Pinot Noir and while beautiful it is the aromatics that killed me. My notes read, “This is the kind of wine that makes you never want to remove your nose from the glass. Each spin revels something new and utterly captivating.” The texture in your mouth is so delicate it’s nearly lacy and the finish leaves you aching for another sip.
$52.99 per bottle

2006 Stephane Coquillette 1er Cru Brut
Chouilly, Champagne
While not labeled as such the 2006 vintage is 100% Chardonnay. When I asked Diane why they didn’t put Blanc de Blanc on the label she told me that the percentage of what they use each year, (when and if they make a vintage bottling at all) varies depending on what the harvest gives them. If the Pinot Noir is better one harvest than they will use some or more Pinot Noir in their vintage cuvee, just so happens 2006 blessed them with glorious Chardonnay so they were able to make a Blanc de Blancs. I have to say I love that, the letting the vines determine what to make rather than try and force something that may not be up to their standards. This 2006 is one of those wines that walks the tightrope between power and finesse. Big, rich and staining fruit mixed with some creamy, buttery, custard-like richness but the bubbles and yeastiness are so elegant and fine. One of my favorite wines in the shop right now.
$65.99 per bottle

N.V. Stephane Coquillette Marie Aimer Grand Cru
Brut Rosé Chouilly, Champagne
Fan of simple and delicate Rose? Well then, this is not your wine. Very wine like in the nose; lots of wild strawberry, anise and something almost like violets in the background. The wine is quite rich on the palate but does not come off in the least bit heavy. This wine drinks like great Burgundy in that way it can fill and coat the mouth but leave you feeling refreshed and ready for another sip. Powerful enough to hold up to meat heavy dishes but refined enough to simply enjoy on its own.    
$69.99 per bottle

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