Aÿ Grand Cru - Champagne

The Champagne Guide: "Gatinois' generously coloured champagnes are among the finest in this revered village, at every moment retaining exceptional definition and freshness" - Tyson Stelzer

Bettane & Desseauve: This domaine is an absolute priority for the wine lover/connoisseur.

Gatinois Rosé Brut NV Grand Cru - Champagne 
This is based on the “Tradition NV” cuvée (see above). To obtain the rosé colour, 7% of still red wine Côteaux Champenois Grand Cru is blended with 83% of Pinot Noir white juice giving a blend of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay. Only the juice of the first press called "cuvée" is used, which is of the best quality. The wine spends 3 years on lees in the bottle. The dosage is 6 g/l.

PVins notes: The blending produces a medium salmon coloured champagne. GATINOIS’ Rosé is driven by subtle red fruits aromas with super fine tannins and a beautiful freshness on the palate also showing hints of Aÿ's chalky minerality. 

Press: VINOUS - 93
A standout, the NV Brut Rosé Grand Cru from Gatinois is also one of the highlights among this year's crop of new releases. Vinous, rich and intense, the Rosé will appeal most to readers who enjoy bold, racy Champagnes. This Pinot Noir-based Rosé exudes richness, intensity and class. Don't miss it. Disgorged: April 2017. Dosage is 6 grams per liter. Blend 2010/2011/2012. Drink 2017 - 2022.

The Champane Guide 2017 - 2018 (Tyson Stelzer) 95

The estate GATINOIS is located at Aÿ about 3 kms northeast of the town Epernay in the Vallée de la Marne area. Numerous well known “Grande Marque” (brands) are located in Aÿ, but the family GATINOIS remains one of the few growers “Récoltant Manipulant” (RM meaning they only use their own grapes) in the village. The history starts in 1696, following the union between Nicolas LE CACHEUR and Françoise REMY, than follows twelve generations over three centuries. In 1921 Marie MICHEL-LE CACHEUR marries Charles GATINOIS, after WWII, their eldest son Emile GATINOIS with his wife Micheline, inherit the running of the estate. Their daughter Marie Paule GATINOIS marries Pierre CHEVAL who in turn take over the running of the estate in 1980. In 2010, their son Louis CHEVAL-GATINOIS, representing the 12th generation, became strongly involved in the running of the estate proud of his heritage and style of champagnes produced. Louis officially took over the running of the family estate in 2013, his wish is to maintain the philosophy of the house for the future, as the GATINOIS champagnes are an excellent expression of the terroir and tradition of Aÿ

Pierre Cheval passed away suddenly on the 14th January 2016 aged 66 years old. The previous week he had been nominated "Man of the Year" by La Revue du Vin de France. His nomination followed his titanesque work and achievement over 10 years to have the Champagne region officially listed as World Heritage by UNESCO on the 5th July 2015. He became known as Monsieur UNESCO during the long process for his devotion to the project.

The size of the estate was increased over the centuries to reach 7.20 ha of “Grand Cru”, with 1 ha planted in Chardonnay and 6.20 ha planted in Pinot Noir. The GATINOIS estate is made up of 27 parcels, all facing south on slopes and hilltops overlooking the Marne River in the distance. Each parcel is about 0.26 ha in size with vine averaging 20 years of age. The best two parcels of Pinot Noir planted in 1954 are reserved for the vintage cuvée “Millésime”, except when the vintage is exceptional they are used to produce a still red wine under the appellation Côteaux Champenois Grand Cru. The chalky bedrock seems to be very well suited to the Pinot Noir as it is provides good drainage and hydric benefits especially during the hot summers. The grapes from the younger vines are sold to some champagne houses such as Bollinger. The approach of the work in each parcel is like looking after 27 individual gardens with each plot having a name “lieu dit”: Chaufour, Le Han, Valmon, Bonotte etc… The reputation of GATINOIS starts in the vineyards with meticulous work and care of the vines to produce high quality fruit, as Louis’ father said “you must be proud of what goes in the press”.

Since taking over in 2010, Louis has kept the winemaking and sytle of Gatinois' tradition. His own little touch has been to increase the small portion of Chardonnay in the blend for the cuvée "Tradition" and a touch for the vintage. The grapes are hand-picked, a first sorting for quality grapes is carried out in the vineyard and a second on arrival at the cellar. A new vertical oak press purchased in 1984 with a 4,000 kg capacity assures a slow and soft press extracting 25.50 hl as per the regulation for the first press. Only the juice of the first press called "cuvée" is used, which is of the best quality and since we are mainly dealing with Pinot Noir a second press would add to much colour to the wine due to prolonged skin contact. After the fermentations and the ageing in stainless steel vats for 6 months, the wine is bottled the following Easter. Bottle ageing varies for each cuvée: the "Tradition" will take 2 years, the "Rosé" and "Réserve" 3 years and for the "Millésime" (vintage) 4.5 years on lees. GATINOIS is so entrenched with tradition that the “remuage” (riddling) during the ageing, the disgorgement and labeling of every single bottle is still done by hand, that's what I call a grower's champagne “Artisanal”.

The GATINOIS style is a blend of predominantly Pinot Noir giving a fleshy structure complimented by the Chardonnay to bring that little extra freshness and finesse. The dosage for the range is low at 7 g/l which is defined as “Brut” and 6 g/l for the "Rosé" which defines it as "Brut to Extra-Brut". No oak barrels are used at any stage of the winemaking process as the emphasis is to express the terroir and fruit of the Aÿ Grand Cru at its best.

Since all the grapes used to make the champagne GATINOIS are from their own vineyard within Aÿ, a Grand Cru terroir, the mention of “Grand Cru” is inscribed on the label of each cuvée. A small amount of bottles are produced each year from 45,000 to 50,000 depending on the vintage's yield which averages around 65 hl/ha. The different cuvées produce on average: "Tradition" 30,000 - 35,000 bottles, "Reserve" 8,000 bottles, "Rosé" 5,000 bottles and "Millésime" (vintage) 5,000 bottles when a vintage cuvée is produced.

A 360° tour of Champagne

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The Champagne appellation is about 150 kilometers north-east of Paris. The appellation area was difined in 1927 and declared an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) on 29 June 1936, representing about 34,000 hectares today. The three traditional grape varieties in the making of champagne are the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and the Chardonnay. Only 17 villages out of 318 have a ranking of “Grand Cru” for their high quality terroir, while 42 villages have a “Premier Cru” ranking.

The region has a long history of viticulture as the Roman Legions of Julius Cesar were involved in the spreading of the vineyards in the Champagne region. Later religious orders such as the Benedictine monks were very much involved in the management of the vineyards and winemaking. One monk in particular, Dom Pérignon from the Abbey of Hautvilliers, became famous for his work at the Abbey’s cellar from 1668 to 1715 in the development of the Champagne wines.

There are three major producing areas in the Champagne region: Montage de ReimsCôte des Blancs and Vallée de la Marne. Two other producing areas are located further south: Côte de Sèzanne and Côte des Bar. The chalky-limestone terroir seem to suit the Chardonnay remarkably, especially demonstrated by the Blanc de Blancs Champagnes (100% Chardonnay) produced in the Côte des Blancs area south of Epernay. As for the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier their favorite terroir is a mixture of clay, sand and alluvial deposits, which is predominant in the Vallée de la Marne area.

Amongst the Grand Cru villages, Aÿ is famous for the quality of its Pinot Noir and is considered to be the best "Grand Cru" vineyard for the Pinot Noir grapes. Its reputation dates back to the 16th century. It is also one of the two Grand Cru vineyard of the Vallée de la Marne area. Its vineyards face south-southwesterly, giving the vines an ideal exposure to the sun for the fruit to reach an excellent maturity in this cool climate zone and as the vines are planted on slops they have the benefit of an excellent drainage.

The Champagne region has two major distinguishing features: it has a northerly latitude of 49° which is the limit of vine cultivation and a dual climate that is subject to oceanic and continental climatic conditions. The region's northerly location means a cold climate and harsh weather conditions for the vines, which are planted at the northern most limits of their cold tolerance. The average annual temperature in Reims and Epernay is just 11°C and the average annual hours of sunshine is barely 1,650 compared with 2,069 for Bordeaux. The oceanic influence brings steady rainfall, with no significant variations in seasonal temperatures. As for the continental influence, it ensures ideal levels of sunlight in summer, but it also often brings devastating winter frosts. This dual climate provides the region with near-ideal rainfall conditions which is essential for growing quality grape.