The vineyard is hidden by the last houses of the village. Accessible only over a small path, once you have reached it, the view is breathtaking. Facing south, it dominates the hills and valleys of Cramant and Avize, where hundreds of pickers are harvesting Chardonnay, during these late September days, the white gold of the Marne region. It’s practically the only grape variety grown at the Côte des Blancs (literally the white hills), whose world famous vineyards stretch out over 3000 hectares south of Épernay.
Grown without use of weed killers, exclusively hand picked and sorted, the grapes are brought to the cellar in small cases of 40 kilos and pressed in a traditional basked press. Nathalie likes to pick her grapes as early as possible, when sugars are low and the berries full of fresh and crispy taste. Too much ripeness could make the wines heavy and thick.
After pressing the grapes and clarification of the must, fermentation is done in 300 litre oak barrels at low temperatures.
“Wines from Cramant have very straight character with lots of minerality. The oak wood gives smoothness and a velvety texture, but you should be careful not to make them taste fatty. The wine should always dominate the wood.”
To make her wines even more authentic and complete, Nathalie uses oak wood from Mesnil sur Oger and orders her barrels from Jérôme Viard, the last cooper making traditional champagne barrels.
After the secondary fermentation in bottles, the wines stay on lees for at least three or four years, according the evolution of their taste. Nathalie prefers to propose her wines only when they have reached full maturity and are ready to drink.
“I love natural cork, as it allows my wines to continue their life and ripening. But I do not know how they behave in other people’s cellars. In addition, I am only adding very small amounts of sulphites, being very sensible to this product myself. I thus recommend drinking my wines within two or three years after purchasing them, to be sure you will enjoy them!”
After disgorging and minimum dosage (with a 100% Cramant wine), the wines are finally ready to be drunk. But when and with what kind of food? Here again, Nathalie has lots of ideas. You should start for an aperitif, “as your palate is fresh and very attentive for the wine”. Continue with some delicate recipes, like a scallop Carpaccio or even a roasted poularde – without cream or sauce!, before taking out old cheese, like gouda, cheddar or parmesan…
“It’s the zest of the old cheese that perfectly matches to the bubbles of the wine”.
After that, no need for a desert. Or maybe just a last glass of champagne…