Extra Brut – Champagne Les Riceys Blanc de Blancs
50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Blanc (locally called “Blanc Vrai”), from a variety of limestone and marls from the Kimmeridgian Jurassic era. The vineyards enjoy the cool and sunny semi-continental climate of southern Champagne, and a moderate altitude of 250 m. The Pinot Blanc is pruned using the cordon de Royat technique, and is blended with single-Guyot pruned Chardonnay, with yields 20% lower than average in Champagne.
The grapes are manually harvested, through several passes in the vineyards and carefully tri, for optimal ripeness. They are immediately brought to the winery and gently pressed (pneumatic pressing). Elimination of the “taille” must, static settling, addition of basic yeasts, natural malolactic fermentation, low addition of sulfites and light filtration after cold stabilisation. The wine is left at least 36 months on the lees and disgorged with a low dosage to preserve its purity. This cuvée offers a chiseled acidity contrasted by generous notes of fruit: mango, plum, lime. The Pinot Blanc brings elegant notes of white flowers, fresh almonds and sweet spice, and a long, mineral finish. Extra-Brut dosage: 5gr/l. 12.5% alcohol.
Sustainability: Certified HVE (high environmental value) since 2015, with organic practices: no weedkillers, soil tilling, partial grassing, organic composts, reduced treatment frequency, no insecticides. Development of biodiversity through the planting of orchards, truffle oaks and honey plants, the mowing of grassy areas late in the year to protect pollination times, and the restoration of local heritage structures (small stone huts known as cadoles).
About the Producer
Owned by renowned producer Bruno Paillard since 1998, this old estate is located in the village of Les Riceys in the Aube. It is the largest producer of the rare, still Rosé des Riceys.
Closer to Chablis than Reims, the domaine is comprised of 47 hectares of hillside, Kimmeridgian-limestone soil vineyards. They are divided into 37 plots, predominately located around Le Riceys, with a few vineyards located in neighboring villages. 43 ha of Pinot Noir and 2 ha of Chardonnay make up the majority of the plantings; however, in the 1.5 ha of “La Géande,” a parcel with a unique microclimate, Blanc Vrai (Pinot Blanc), Beuret (Pinot Gris), Pinot Meunier, Arbane, and Petit Meslier are also cultivated.
The winemaking team consists of General Manager François Lange, who has been with Bonnet since 1977; Didier Mélé, the Vineyard Manager since 1999; and Winemaker Alain Pailley, who joined the team in 1985. Pailley is responsible for the signature house style of fruit, complexity, and balance. He vinifies plot-by-plot and prefers low-temperature fermentation. He eschews oak in order to bring forth the pure aromas and distinctiveness of each plot which a barrel may hide. The Champagnes age sur lie for 3 to 8 years, depending upon the cuvée. After disgorgement, they rest a few months longer so they are ready to drink upon release. All the range is Extra-Brut or Brut Nature, for purity. Total production is 450,000 bottles.
Farming practices: the vineyards have been certified "Viticulture Durable en Champagne” and "Hautes Valeurs Environnementales,” two labels that reward excellency in sustainable practices - only about 30 houses boast that label, which is just one step away from organic farming. As the amount of rain that the area gets would require constantly renewed applications of bouillie bordelaise, the high level of copper would become more detrimental to the soil than a small amount of chemical fungicides not allowed by organic viticulture. For that reason Bonnet chose not to be organic. The rows are partially covered with grass, and hazelnut and rose trees are planted amongst them. The “ Cadoles,” typical sheds made of rocks that were used for protection in case of bad weather, have been renovated. The yields are kept low. Close monitoring of the weather, prophylactic methods and constant attention paid to the vineyards resulted in a drastic reduction of treatments. No insecticide is used, and most of the vineyard is herbicide-free.
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Alain Paillet, Chef de Cave - portrait inspired by Bonnet's newsletter
Winemaker Alain Pailley, General Manager François Lange, Vineyard Manager Didier Melé