Champagne Pierre Gimonnet et Fils
The Gimonnet family has been growing vines in Champagne since 1750. Pierre Gimonnet, for whom the estate is named, began making wine in the village of Cuis in 1935; today Pierre’s grandsons Didier and Olivier are in charge of the estate. Of Gimonnet’s 28 hectares of vines, 11 are in the grand cru villages of Cramant and Chouilly, and another hectare of grand cru land in Oger was purchased in November of 2004. The remaining 16 hectares are all in the premier cru village of Cuis, except for two hectares in Vertus purchased in 2008, plus half a hectare divided between Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. Didier Gimonnet believes that the preservation of old vines is crucial to maintaining the high quality of his wines, and the average age of his vineyards is 35 years. In the grand cru parcels, 70 percent of the vines are over 40 years old, and there are two parcels, totaling an entire hectare between them, of remarkably old vines in Cramant: one in “Fond du Bâteau,” planted in 1911, and the other in “Buissons,” planted in 1913.
Despite owning a high proportion of grand cru vineyards, Gimonnet refuses to make a cuvée exclusively from these parcels, as he feels that the old vines would result in too much strength and intensity. “I am against ultra-concentration,” says Gimonnet. “I prefer balanced wines, with a lot of finesse and elegance.” Cuis, with its freshness and acidity, is seen as the ideal counterpart to balance the depth and richness of the grand crus, and all of Gimonnet’s vintage Blanc de Blancs combine these three villages in some proportion.
For similar reasons, Gimonnet uses no wood in the cellar, as he feels it would overpower Chardonnay’s intrinsic delicacy. All parcels are vinified separately to preserve their distinct identities, and both primary fermentation and malolactic take place in stainless steel tanks. Since 1982, a portion of the reserve wines have been stored in 750ml bottles rather than in tank, with the addition of a few grams of sugar to create a hint of pétillance that keeps them very fresh. "When you conserve the wine in bottles rather than tank, you don't have the same evolution at all," explains Gimonnet. "In tank, the wine oxidizes much more rapidly. In bottle, we conserve part of the non-vintage blend with four grams of sugar [and a little yeast], and the wine stays much fresher for a longer period of time. Also, the lees nourish the wine, giving more complexity.” Since 1997, Gimonnet has opted to use the base blend from a given vintage as reserve wine rather than keeping individual parcels or villages separately, and he feels that this has improved the overall consistency and complexity of the Brut, N.V.