Rosé des Riceys
This little known AOC (only 30 hectares planted) comes from a tiny terroir named Les Riceys made up with three close-knit fortified villages named Ricey-Haut, Riceys-Haut-Rive and Ricey-Bas. They are in the Aube département of the Champagne region – closer to Burgundy than to their northern Champagne compatriots. Those villages have the choice between three AOC: Champagne, Côteaux Champenois and Rosé des Riceys.
Rosé des Riceys wines are rosés produced from Pinot Noir. They must reach 10º naturally. They are either fermented in stainless steel tanks for early drinking or in wood allowing longer ageing. They have a distinctive taste known to the French as goût des Riceys. Bonnet is the largest producer of Rosé des Riceys, with 6,000 bottles – total production is 60,000 bottles.
Only produced if there is no rain at harvest time, this cuvée is made from perfectly healthy grains that have a potential minimum alcohol of 11.5%. It comes from “La Forêt”, a 4.2ha vineyard of 40 year old Pinot Noir vineyard located on a sunny hillside, with a uniquely expressive terroir and kimmeridgien soil. Very few other Champagne vineyards have such a vertiginous, south-exposure slope that ensures, year in year out, perfect ripening of the fruit and exceptional potential alcohol. The yields are kept low for maximum concentration. The winemaking process is called “Saignée”, in which the crushed grapes are left to soak with the skins, until the character of Rosé de Riceys is obtained. 12.5% alcohol.
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 45 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, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, Arbane, and Petit Meslier are cultivated. Some trusted winegrowers provide additional grapes when needed.
The winemaking team consists of General Manager François Lange, who has been with Bonnet since 1977; Didier Mele, the Vineyard Manager since 1999; and Winemaker Alain Pailley, who joined the team in 1985. Pailley is responsible for the signature house style of minerality, power, and purity of character. 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 2 to 8 years, depending upon the cuvée. After disgorgement, they rest a few months longer so they are ready to drink upon release. 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.
Alain Paillet, Chef de Cave - portrait inspired by Bonnet's newsletter
Winemaker Alain Pailley, General Manager François Lange, Vineyard Manager Didier Melé