Our First Bottle of the Year - Coteaux Champenois
To celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Horse, our team decided to open up one of the most beautiful wines in our personal collection—the cheekily named Bouzy Rouge 2009—a Coteaux Champenois by Benoît Lahaye, one of the few idealists still producing this captivating wine. Produced biodynamically, it opens up slowly to reveal warm cherry notes and a caress of violets, forest floor, and minerals, with just the gentlest touch of vanilla.
Sound familiar? If you are a Burgundy lover, then perhaps you might have noticed a few tell-tale characteristics. Coteaux Champenois is non-sparkling Pinot Noir from Champagne, and at its best it is an ethereal wine of transparency and vibrancy. But since Pinot Noir needs a bit of warmth to ripen well and the region of Champagne is so much colder than the Côte-d'Or, winemakers have to choose the hottest and best vineyards in villages such as Bouzy, Ambonnay, Aÿ, or Cumières to achieve noteworthy Coteaux Champenois.
When made well, the result is Pinot Noir with the damp earthiness of a Pommard or even a Brouilly from Beaujolais, and the silky texture of a Chambolle-Musigny or Volnay. These are wines made for drinking and cellaring, not collecting. But a wine like this gives us far more joy than the lifeless trophies that every "wine lover" feels pressured to love.
Because wines like these are made with real passion.
Every grape that goes into Coteaux Champenois could basically have been used for sparkling rosé, which is constantly in demand and almost guaranteed to sell. However, there are winemakers in France that still produce wine out of desire rather than simply for commercial gain; Coteaux Champenois is an important part of the history of the area—sparkling Champagne as we know it has only been produced in the region since around 300 years ago. Without winemakers like Lahaye, Egly-Ouriet, David Léclapart, or René Geoffroy this ancient tradition would fade away into obscurity.
Few others have the financial stability, pride, and ambition to make this wine anymore due to the lack of demand around the world (even in France), but mature Coteaux Champenois is painfully stunning. I say painfully since with each passing year, I have less and less of this in my own cellar. A single bottle of Lahaye's Bouzy Rouge 2009 remains, and I doubt it will last long now that everyone knows it exists!