Eric Rodez' Champagne is Fit For A King
It’s a Champagne fit for a King, or even a mayor – at least that’s what Eric Rodez finds himself thinking since he’s essentially filled that role for the village of Ambonnay - when he isn’t tending to his vineyards and cellar, that is.
Ambonnay needs no introduction; it’s Grand Cru in all its glory, and one of the greatest vineyard sites that Montagne de Reims has to offer, producing Pinot Noir. The south–southeast exposition of Ambonnay takes full advantage of the sun’s rays, while the earth there plays to the tune of a broad band of chalky soils (which run about 100 feet below grade) as a sheer deposit of clay and limestone completes the layering. Superb minerality, gracefulness of fruit, elegance… I dig.
Our first introduction to Eric Rodez was his “Cuvée des Grands Vintages” NV and ”Cuvée des Crayeres” NV (both of which are Pinot Noir dominant), and mind you, it was after purchase, not prior. I can honestly say that Rodez’ wines were some of the best that I have been afforded the opportunity of trying this year. You can taste the care and dedication in the making of these wines.
They were focused and pure, rich, expressive, racy, and vinous while showing firmness and poise. His use of oak is absolutely brilliant, (“Cuvée des Grands Vintages” was 100% barrel fermented with no Malolactic) and added to the overall harmony that his wines embrace.
He shows a unique understanding of blending through his play with wines that have undergone Malolactic versus those that have not. I can see him thinking of which child will sing what chorus one day.
He owns 36 plots equaling about 14 acres of which he completely vinifies separately and even further by varietal. All of the work is done in the vineyard, and his farming methods are organic and biodynamic in principle.
There’s no doubt that he learned his way around oak, not to mention blending, from his stretch in Burgundy at Domaine Rapet Père et Fils and at the famed Krug Champagne house. It really is art. He has been quoted as saying, "It is a real pleasure to stand in front of a wide range of samples from a current year to which we'll add numerous wines from previous years. It's the creation of something new, like putting musical notes down on paper. And you're never sure where the melody will go." He adds, "You try to direct it but it's like walking up a circular staircase without knowing where it will lead. I find that incredibly exciting."
And I do as well. Rodez has found a permanent home at Vintry.
Note: His vintage “Empreinte de Terroir” Pinot Noir and Chardonnay will be available in the near future as I have secured a small amount of this single-vineyard single-varietal for Vintry Fine Wines. Stay on me if you want some. – Mike Martin
Peter Liem on Eric Rodez’ wines:
Eric Rodez Cuvéee des Crayeres Brut Grand Cru
“Made of 55 percent pinot noir and 45 percent chardonnay, this is rich and creamy in texture, with a spicy, ginger-like edge to the flavors of citrus, cherry and redcurrant. Half of it is from 2007, with the rest being reserve wines from 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2002, and 25 percent of it was fermented in barrel, contributing to is voluptuous feel. With its harmonious balance and finely delineated length, this is an excellent introduction to the Rodez style.”
Eric Rodez Cuvéee des Grands Vintages Brut Grand Cru
“This cuvée is a blend of multiple vintage-quality wines, of which 2002 is the youngest, representing 35 percent of the total. The rest is made up of reserve wines from 2001, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1993 and 1992; the final blend is 62 percent pinot noir and 38 percent chardonnay, and it was fermented entirely in barrel, without Malolactic. It’s a multi-faceted, intensely expressive wine, showing a polished texture and spicy, honeyed flavors of peach, Asian pear and exotic citrus. It feels elongated and lithe, with a terrific inner-palate resonance and grip, and the aromas expand on the finish with a three-dimensional presence and subtly detailed complexity, persisting with vivid tension and exceptionally long length. While this is already showing superbly well six months after its disgorgement in September of 2010, it indicates the potential for further development, and it’s well worth putting a few bottles of this away for another few years.”
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