From €21.90, £25, $32.98, 36.50 Swiss francs, CA$54.99, Aus$59.95, 5,285 yen, 4,400 roubles
Is there a wine store in America that doesn't sell this stunning bargain grower's champagne? To judge from the dozens and dozens of US stockists listed by wine-searcher.com, I guess not. Lucky Americans! But the wine is also available throughout Europe (including Russia and, especially, Austria), in Canada, Australia and Japan, and in the UK from The Wine Society and Vine Trail. The wine is widely available in half bottles, too.
I included an enthusiastic tasting note on the cuvée of this wine based on the 2009 vintage in my most recent roundup of growers' champagnes but I happened to re-taste the one based on 2008 last week and was reminded just how good it is, and it is far from expensive. Chartogne-Taillet are very good at giving maximum information about each bottling on their back labels so you can easily check out which wine you are tasting and will see the varietal mix spelt out. The Chartognes have no rigid formula for the blend. Usually Pinot Noir predominates but sometimes, as in the blend based substantially on 2010 that Vine Trail currently list in the UK at £25.50, Chardonnay predominates. I have yet to encounter a disappointing example of this satisfying blend designed to express the character of their vineyards.
Although they make a dizzying array of single-vineyard champagnes, Cuvée Ste-Anne is this fine house's non-vintage blend and I think we can deduce from its wonderfully wide distribution that it is made in relatively large quantity. But Philippe and Alexandre Chartogne have only 12 ha of vineyard, on the hillsides above the village of Merfy just north west of Reims, once highly rated for champagne production but inconveniently close to a World War I battleground. Marcel Orford-Williams, champagne buyer for The Wine Society who are just moving from the 2009-based cuvée to the one based on 2010 at £25, points out 'There's a Commonwealth War Grave cemetery nearby and ploughing can still be risky business. This is a fabulous estate, meticulously cared for with wines fermented separately by grape variety and by terroir and with increasing use of oak. The wines are light, bone dry and deliciously fruity. Perfect aperitif champagne. The Chartogne family is at the forefront of the movement to rejuvenate the reputation of the region with small, high-quality parcels of single-vineyard wines, further refined by the increasing use of barrels.'
The Chartognes rely on the unrivalled counsel of Claude and Lydia Bourguignon to analyse their soils and decide on their individual vineyard bottlings. In the cellar they are admirably cautious about the amount of dosage added, often as little as 4 g/l in Ste-Anne, so the wine is particularly racy, appetising and dry. You can find out much more from the usefully informative bilingual www.chartogne-taillet.com. The image top left and the geological profile below are taken from this site.
It is confusing that the name of this wine is always the same, even though the blend varies considerably. (See my whinge Fizz and fortified – more information please!). But at least the back label of this wine reveals all, unlike most grandes marques. See Champagne – a wine or a brand?