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Champy Expands Its Vineyards

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jun 18, 2007 2:20pm ET

Weatherwise, Wednesday had been a relatively benign day—warm and humid, without rain. Thursday morning, when Maison Champy director Pierre Meurgey and I visited some vineyards, a light rain was falling.

Meurgey wanted to show me some parcels Champy leased in Pommard Grands Epenots (0.5 acres) and Volnay Taillepieds (1.2 acres), in addition to its estate vineyards in Beaune Champs Pimont, Beaune Aux Cras and Corton-Charlemagne. The estate vineyards have been farmed biodynamically since 2005.

“The interesting thing about biodynamie is that it really emphasizes the terroir," explained Meurgey. "It makes it stronger."

Sunday’s thunderstorms unleashed some isolated hail over Montrachet and the Pommard and Beaune boundary, and Meurgey estimated that about 10 percent of his crop had been damaged. At this stage in their development, the grapes would cauterize, dry out and eventually fall off—a little natural crop reduction, but no major problem.

Although it was wet and difficult to get into the vines to spray (some growers were ready to hire a helicopter to apply a remedial treatment until they could get tractors into the vines), Champy has a little tractor with caterpillar tracks that allowed for a spraying of sulfur and copper. This will keep the mildew at bay, which thrives in the warm, humid weather.

After our tour of the vineyards, we joined Champy’s enologist, Dimitri Bazas, for a tasting of the 2006s. Bazas had organized approximate blends of the various cuvées. Some were still finishing their malolactic fermentations.

Champy director Pierre Meurgey explains biodynamic viticulture in the premier cru Beaune Aux Cras vineyard.

The Beaune Vielles Vignes, from 60-year-old vines, was rich, dense and powerful, with a long finish. The Chambolle-Musigny Les Bussières showed the breadth and richness of its location on the Morey-St.-Denis side. The Vosne-Romanée offered a different expression of fruit, with floral, red berry and spice flavors.

The two premiers crus from Beaune, Champs Pimonts and Aux Cras provide a lesson in terroir. The former was ripe and fleshy, with sweet cherry fruit; the latter was dense and firm, showing mineral notes, greater tension and length. Only a few hundred feet separate them.

There was a big, suave Pommard Les Grands Epenots, with very civilized tannins and a serious, firmly structured Corton, full of spicy cherry and berry notes.

From the Côte de Nuits, the Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots was floral and spicy, very supple and elegant. The Echézeaux, from Les Champs Traversins high on the slope, offered black currant fruit on a charming, elegant profile.

The grands crus from Gevrey, Charmes, Mazis and Clos de Bèze were still finishing their malos, so it was more difficult to get a sense of their quality.

Among the whites, I liked the lively, citrus- and mineral-tinged Pernand-Vergelesses, where the ripeness of ’06 and the west-facing, cooler exposition of the vines is a winning combination.

The Meursault Les Grands Charrons is open, with honey and hazelnut notes, while the Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseignères is more linear and elegant, with citrus tones. The St.-Aubin Les Murgers des Dents de Chien displayed focus and complexity, with citrus flavors, mineral and nice length.

The Puligny-Montrachet Les Chalumaux was all Puligny—finesse and detail, with great length and delineation. The Corton-Charlemagne, from both estate and purchased fruit, was complex and packed with peach, quince and mineral notes and a long, tensile finish.

At lunch Meurgey and Bazas poured a Corton-Charlemagne 1961. A deep, yellow/gold color, it was rich, lush and concentrated, offering aromas of honey and mineral along with coffee and toffee flavors.

Champy’s 2006s show lots of promise. This is a small house whose wines continue to improve under the direction of Meurgey and Bazas.

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