The Forgotten Grapes of Champagne

I was intrigued earlier this month when Wine-Searcher mentioned a Champagne on Twitter that uses 6 permitted grape varieties in its blend. Wine-Searcher – apart from being a wine search engine (on which you can find suppliers, producers and comparative prices) – also has useful information on grape varieties, wine regions, vintages, labels, storage etc.

The Champagne in question comes from the Champagne House Moutard and is named Cuvée de 6 Cépages. The six grapes in the blend are Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Petit Meslier and Arbane. Wine-Searcher also pointed out that Moutard make a rare single variety Champagne from the Arbane grape (Cépage Arbane).

The Champagne AOC has 7 permitted grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris (sometimes known as Fromenteau), Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier and Arbane.

However records show that in the past Pinot de Juillet, Pinot Rosé, Gamay, Sacy (also known as Tressallier), Chasselas, Savagnin Blanc and the extinct varieties Troyen and Morillon were also used.

Pinot Noir can be particularly prone to mutation and in 1919 CIVC (Le Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne) identified 39 varieties of Pinot – each village seemed to have its own slightly different variety.

There are plenty of historical Pinots that are long forgotten: Pinot Vert Doré d’Ay, Pinot de Trépail, Pinot Mouret, Pinot Cioutat, Pinot Liebault, Pinot de Pernand, Pinot Maltais, Pinot Renevey, Pinot Giboudot, Pinot Pansiot, Pinot Carnot, Pinot Cendré, Pinot Crépet, Pinot de Coulanges and more.

The Moutard family have been making Champagne in the small village of Buxeuil, nestled in the Côte des Bar, just outside Troyes since 1642.

At the turn of the 19th century their vineyards were planted with 11 authorised varietals of the time: Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Arbane, Petit Meslier, Gamay, Chasselas, Savagnin Blanc, Troyen and Morillon.

Moutard is one of the rare winemakers to have replanted ancient and virtually extinct varietals such as Arbane and Petit Meslier. Only 2 hectares of Arbane can be found in Champagne and Moutard is the only House to make a monocepage from this grape.

There are a few Champagne Houses that have started to grow these forgotten grapes – Champagne House Duval Leroy created a single variety Champagne in their Authentis range from Petit Meslier.

Champagne L Aubry et Fils in Jouy les Reims produce Le Nombre d’Or which uses all 7 varieties in the blend. Their plantings of Petit Meslier, Fromenteau (Pinot Gris) and Arbane were completed in 1989 to mark the 200 year anniversary of grape growing by the Aubry family.

Le Nombre d’Or Millésimé Version Intégrale is an assembly of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier, Arbane, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The Le Nombre d’Or Sable Blanc de Blancs blends Petit Meslier, Arbane and Chardonnay.

Champagne Pierre Gerbais make a single variety Champagne from Pinot Blanc named L’Originale and Champagne Laherte produce Les 7 which includes all the permitted grape varieties.

Thierry Laherte discovered the forgotten grape varieties in their old plots and decided to recreate a former plot in order to taste a wine of Champagne with the same taste as 250 years ago.

Champagne Drappier produce Quattuor IV, a Blanc de Blancs Champagne, produced in limited quantities, from Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay.

I have read that Champagne Tarlant have planted some Arbane, Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc but I have not found any Champagne as yet being produced from their plot. If you know of any other Champagnes out there using forgotten grapes please let me know!

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