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Champagne Gaston Chiquet

Tasting Year


An icon of the central Marne Valley, and the most decent man you could ever meet. Further encomia along these lines can be found in my last catalogue, and Peter Liem writes about Chiquet with his usual precision and insightfulness.

A small note before the bubbles begin.  There was a time a few years ago when I sensed that this was considered something of a fuddy-duddy grower, one whose brilliance had lost some gleam, compared to the sexypants-du-jour and their often strange wines. Today I am hearing of a comeback in regard for these beautiful and admirable Champagnes. Perhaps the market as a whole has grown mature enough to appreciate the durable virtues these wines show? Pretty to think so.


Gaston Chiquet “Tradition” Premier Cru                                      +

(This is the basic NV Brut of the range. It consists of 40% Meunier, 35% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir – as usual. The assemblage: 80% 2014, 20% 2013. It hails from Hautvillers, Dizy, Mareuil sur Aÿ, a tirage of 4-5 years  between 4-5 years; This is the 7/2020 disgorgement; there will also be 11/2020 and 2/2021.)

Please note how much more mature this is than most other NV Bruts, from growers and merchants alike. The commonly prevailing base-vintage is 2017!  The pandemic is only partly responsible; Nicolas has long wished to offer a calling-card Champagne that isn’t brutally young. This wine has always squared the circle between deliciousness and focus, with an articulation of flavors that can seem at first cerebral until you’re ambushed delightedly by all that Meunier pumpernickel.  I both like it, and admire the virtues that underline it.

It isn’t “mainstream” and it also isn’t quirky. Its idiosyncrasy is that of the place it hails from – the little slice of the central Marne Valley, whose wines, at their best, happen to taste like this. You know (or ought to know): “terroir” does not equal weirdness.

The choice of glass is important here. A flûte coddles a small reduction for a few minutes, after which it shows the utmost calligraphy of chalk, while downplaying the Meunier fruit. The MacNeil “crisp and fresh” does the opposite; use it if you’re looking for rampant hedonism. Juhlin is the Solomonic judge in the middle.

I used the Juhlin by itself on the second-look. The Champagne is really something of a miracle, a duet of hedonism and articulation, and you can determine which facets to bring forward by your choice of glass. If you want a hoot, avoid the flûte, and if you want to kick ass, use a bigger glass.

I risk laboring the point, forgive me; but do we want to drink Champagne from a grower who is so certain of his own genius that he seeks to “reinvent” it, or would we rather drink Champagne from a mature grower who seeks only to show how a person can love this precious wine, and what that love can taste like?

I opened/tasted/drank the wine four times over four days, and all it did was improve.


Gaston Chiquet Rosé Premier Cru

(45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Meunier; Assemblage: 89% white wine 2018, 11% red wine 2015 Village:  Hautvillers, Dizy, Mareuil sur Aÿ, Aÿ:  tirage of 15 to 18 months; deg 7/2020 with another in 11/2020.)

I can’t possibly explain why or how, but this wine always tastes like rhubarb to me. If you like rhubarb you’ll love it!  Nicolas finds griotte in it. As a merchant/selector I bypassed this wine for many years, finding it too slight (and not wanting to feed the rosé beast), but Nicolas gave it more heft at one point, and then I realized I had nothing with this combination of gauzy transparency yet powerfully identifiable character. It remains fresh and diaphanous but it has something of the angles of Heidi Schröck’s rosé, not to mention it tastes like something Deirdre Heekin might make at La Garagiste.


The flûte gives a silken definition, and the MacNeil is a riot of fruit and extroversion. Juhlin offers a compromise I don’t really like in this case. I’d taste it from the flûte but I’d DRINK it from the MacNeil.


Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs d’Aÿ  Grand Cru

(This is – ulp – all 2015, deg. 10/2020)

I refer you again to my catalogue, which tells some of the history of this quintessentially farmer-fizz wine, the first-ever all-Chardonnay from the bastion of Pinot Noir that is Aÿ.


My first impression is that ’15 is in its proper place. It’s showing as “atypically herbal” but not annoyingly grassy, though the palate is more “expressive” than the aroma. Considering the wine’s customary warmed-straw character, this ’15 is an outlier. I’ll defer judgment pending retasting, but this vintage doesn’t tend to moderate with time.


On the following day it was much the same. I am aware the growers think I’m far too fastidious about these “green” flavors, and sometimes I see their point – and sometimes I don’t. All I can do is to tell you, I find a flavor in this vintage I feel is alien to Champagne – or should be – and like the ladybug-infested vintage of 2011, this is no ones fault, but I think you need to know that the flavor is there, and then you can decide. 


Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs d’Aÿ, 2009, Grand Cru         + 

(10 years of tirage; deg. 11/2020)


This is the first release of mature Blanc d’Aÿ in (750ml) bottle that I’m aware of. It’s still available in Magnum, as it has been in the past. In effect a kind of “RD” of this wine. It starts out very toasty; it has less dosage than an earlier disgorgement (a common practice in Champagne, where most producers assume the longer the tirage the less RS the wine “needs.” I’m agnostic on this issue; it seems to often be true but not invariably.)


Even with six months post-disgorgement this wine needs time to settle into the glass. It seems to offer every grain possible in a just-barely roasted form. That is its warm generosity, because there isn’t really “fruit” to speak of – but we don’t need to go to Champagne in search of fruit as-such. This wine is cordial and unstinting from all three glasses, like a fresh-woven straw hat left in the sun all day.


And yet! It shows one of the signature flavors of Aÿ: blueberries. Malt may soon check in. The wine grows more sinuous as is sits. This wine holds on to its riddles. 


Or it did for two days, after which it started to taste like an aspect of the Special Club, richly satisfying without landing on any particular fruit association. I found it to be an admirable and fulfilling Champagne.


Gaston Chiquet Cuvée de Réserve, 1er Cru         glug-glug, and   +

(40% Meunier, 35% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir; 93% 2013, 7% 2009;  Hautvillers, Dizy, Mareuil sur Aÿ, Aÿ deg 10/2020)

This began its conceptual life as an homage to Nicolas’ grandfather, by producing a Champagne as he would have made it, roughly one-third of each variety, and longer aging than is feasible these days. An ancillary idea was to offer tertiary flavors at more affordable prices. I don’t know if this has worked, commercially, but I offered the wine when I could.


I’da jumped on this one! It’s really superb, and reminds us of how lamentably immature so many NV Bruts are when first released. The wine is a sunburst of color and savory flavors; brioche, saffron, the greatest apple on earth – the “Cox’s Orange Pippin” – and more than a few nuances of mirabelle and lemon balm. Yet it doesn’t taste antique, it is more modern than burnished, it hasn’t weathered into verdigris; it is properly articulate, but what it’s saying is “Let’s have another dozen croissants!” 


I caught myself swallowing, and stopped in the nick of time. It’s that kind of wine. It also somehow started to taste fresher as day followed day, confounding my expectations. Perhaps those brioche-honey-butter aromas are not as inextricably connected to oxidation as we suppose? I need to learn more about the Maillard Reaction.


Gaston Chiquet “Or Premier Cru,” 2010                                        ++

( 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay from Hautvillers, Dizy, Mareuil sur Aÿ.: Pinot Noir - Mareuil: 30% Charmont and 30% Mutry; Chardonnay - Hautvillers: 7% Colombier - Dizy: 33% Le Haut de Souschienne. Deg 1/2020)


Again Nicolas offers a far more mature wine as his Millésime than nearly any other grower and many other merchants. I still have a few bottles of his wonderful 2008 in the cellar. This wine has always been a unique expression of Pinot Noir, and this ’10 is thoroughly lovely. It is a master class in terroir, and a MASTER CLASS IN THE PROPER DOSAGE. 


One can ask whether such an individual wine is really what we go to Champagne for, and the only possible response is, we need to widen our reasons for going to Champagne, to encompass a wine this stately, this particular, this delicious.


There is an aspect of Pinot Noir that is, let’s say, the opposite of beef. Maybe it’s blueberries, I don’t know. It’s something cool and hidden; it’s shy but when it comes out it’s all melody. This wine and the rosés from Vilmart are the only ones I know that do this ether-of-Burgundy thing, like they awoke an incipient florality from Burgundy and made it into a gleaming ghost.


I’ll make a statement – silly me! This wine isn’t always the “best” wine Nicolas Chiquet makes. That is more often the Club. Similarly, the Cuvée Réserve is a “better” wine than the basic “Tradition” NV. But the two wines that answer the question “Why Chiquet?” are that one and this one. And look, I’m just like you, I want to be pleased, and if a wine doesn’t please me I don’t care what its other virtues may be. But assuming a baseline of being-pleased, then I start to think about what is being said. And what I’m hearing now is, “This is something about Pinot Noir that you probably didn’t know.”

It was no surprise to see it dance with our Copper River Sockeye.


Gaston Chiquet Special Club, 2013                                         ++

(62% Chardonnay, 38% Pinot Noir; 38% Pinot Noir from Dizy 1er Cru (Griboury), 52% Chardonnay from Dizy 1er Cru (30% Cerisières, 22% Crohaut Guillemoinel), 10% Chardonnay Aÿ Grand Cru (Frère & Martin) deg 11/2020 


You may not remember a time when Clos de Goisses was unknown and therefore also vaguely affordable – but I do. I even got to drink it semi regularly, but of course those days are gone baby gone. Still, I have a sense-memory of that supernal Champagne, and I have always thought that Chiquet Club showed most of its virtues in a less monumental form. As this one does.


It’s superb Champagne by any sane reckoning. It’s an exegesis of chalk, it tastes magnificent from all three glasses I poured it into, and compared to the Millésime it is more buoyant, more obviously complex, more classy, and more convincing that we need to think about 2013. This vintage can be slippery-good. Whispery-good.


But Nicolas’ Club has always been anti-varietal, almost anti-analysis if all you want is to identify the puzzle pieces and put them together. The wine won’t let you. It is simply Platonic chalk yet in a form that isn’t forbidding or pedagogical. It is instead a curious sort of elegance. And in this instance, a ceaseless stream of the most ravishing Champagne bliss you could ever imagine.



Gaston Chiquet “Tradition” Premier Cru, Brut N.V.                       ++

Deg. 6/2022. This is usually about 40% Meunier, and it’s a portrait of the variety from this sub-section of the Marne Valley. Meunier has several “types,” from the rye-cracker (Aubry and Dehours) to the sorghum-and-pumpernickel (here especially and also to some degree at Moussé) and when it’s treated respectfully it gives forthrightly lovely results.

This cuvée is not only impeccable; when the contributing vintages are ripe it is exceptionally fine. It shows more varietality from the smaller Juhlin and more down-the-middle chalkiness from the original (and larger) one, but either way it is nearly all of the things we have any right to demand from an NV-Brut.

Nicolas Chiquet was the first grower I visited when I was seriously prospecting for (what would be) my Champagne portfolio. That was 27 years ago, and it makes me indecently happy to say that this wine has improved steadily without changing its basic nature. It’s more mature now, at least when market conditions allow Nicolas to release it when he thinks it’s ready. If you’re reading my Chiquet text for the first time, what this wine gives you is a very high common denominator of precision, detail and sensuality.

Believe me, this is uncommon, perhaps even extraordinary. Those three elements tend to cancel one another out, but here they play nice, and none of them prevails. Dosage is calibrated ideally. The wine can age, and should.

Antonio Galloni recently wrote that the good-guy bad-guy dyad of grower versus negoçiant was dated now, and he is largely correct. With that in mind, I profess my respect for the Brut Imperial from Moët & Chandon, because to make a wine that good in that quantity is a testament to what is possible with industrial craftsmanship. And with that said, Chiquet’s NV Brut is what you wish the big guy’s wine could possibly taste like. Have them côte-a-côte some time – you’ll see.

The second time through, the wine is a little less suave and a lot more chalky. That’s fine with me; I like it both ways. I’m also aware we have sudden-onset summer outside today – two days ago it was in the high 60s and today we have low 90s, which may be why the wine’s more brash and salty. Silly as it may sound, I believe in somatic ambience because it influences both ourselves and the wines we taste.

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Gaston Chiquet Cuvée de Réserve, Brut N.V.                                  +

Deg 4/2022. Its origin is as a tribute to Nicolas’ grandfather, a wine as he would have made it, one third of each variety and with six years or longer on the lees. (In fact it is 40-35-25 PM/CH/PN, and 5 years on the lees today.) It has morphed somewhat over time, and when there wasn’t enough juice to produce it the wine was “suspended,” to the point that Nicolas wondered aloud whether he should discontinue it. I am very glad he didn’t.

This doesn’t seek to be polished. In fact the basic NV is more refined. But what you have here are the stirrings of tertiary flavors, and this is rare in an “NV.” Brioche, mandarin, saffron, these are available directly from the bottle without you needing to spend a fortune or age a wine for years in your cellar.

This is earthy compared to the basic NV. Its Pinot Noir component is aging faster than the Chard (no surprise) and the Meunier (big surprise), resulting in a pleasing rusticity. Yet my own experience is the wine becomes more compact and intricate with a few years on the cork, and while I cannot explain this, I have often been taken aback by the counterintuitive development.

This particular disgorgement is a survey of the orange family, satsumas, a hint of bergamot, a whole lot of the “honey-mushroom” type, alongside nuances of chestnut and even cassis, and an entire platter of toasted brioche. The little Juhlin 2.0 is such a perfect glass for this wine, they should really get a room. Indeed the wine blossoms in both glasses, and once it shakes away the sleepys it is seriously lovely.

It’s also a convincing lesson on the proper use of dosage, which does everything to elevate this wine toward beauty and deliciousness and animation, and which will be deemed excessive by persons unable to wriggle free of the zeitgeist and its distorted tastes. Someone like, I don’t know, me, will delight in the wine’s perfectly dry finish.

It finds a pleasant sumptuousness the second time I taste it, and I am seriously tempted to drink it with the first fresh wild Copper River Sockeye of the season, which I just brought home today.


Gaston Chiquet Rosé Premier Cru Brut, N.V.

Deg 5/2022. The color is darker than before, total cranberry now. People who live in MASS know from cranberry, even if they don’t enjoy them. (I sometimes wonder that anyone enjoys them, oh horror…)

For a long time I resisted this wine, finding it too assertively rose-hippy and vegetal. Apropos of which, this particular wine is influenced by one of the “green” vintages, which adds a curious note to the already available funk. I doubt if it’s ’15, so it has to be ’20, and is (sadly) another argument for approaching this year with great caution.

Nicolas won’t be surprised; he knows I dislike the “green” vintages, but with all the regard and affection in the world, there’s no denying that this wine’s a dud.


Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs D’Aÿ, Grand Cru, Brut, N.V.      +

Deg 7/2022. Usually in fact a single vintage (and the magnum releases are vintage dated), and while a wine like this is commonplace now, when I first saw it in 1996 it was highly radical – an all-Chardonnay wine from the grand terroir for Pinot Noir. He gave it to me to taste blind, and I said it “made me think of an ethereal Bollinger whose mid-section had been removed.”

As I write, I don’t know the vintage(s) here – I’ll tell you as soon as he tells me – but my guess is ’18, and conceivably ’19. In any case, ripe, and in any case, outstanding. I know this wine very well, and this is among the best editions of it I have ever tasted. It’s bread-y and markedly mineral, rather on the dry side, racy and zingy, with an exquisite saltiness. It’s exactly the perfect aperitif Nicolas claims it to be, and yet there is more to it, and after all these years it remains beautifully strange to taste the malt and blueberry of Aÿ abstracted from Pinot Noir.

I discussion could be had regarding the dosage here, but I wouldn’t insist on more, except to say it would add a useful nuance and contribute to the wine’s longevity. But with the wine’s ripeness and tensile strength, I respect Nicolas’ preference for a certain vigor. 

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Gaston Chiquet Or Premier Cru 2016 Brut                                     ++

Deg 12/2021 – the winery is already into the 2018 vintage.

Clearly the estate’s great wine is its Special Club. That is obvious. And yet, this is probably the wine I love most – for two reasons. One, it is a gesture of Pinot Noir with no equivalent I have ever tasted in Champagne, and two, it’s a ridiculous value.

Sometimes a wine is so good it almost pisses me off to write about it. Like now. Can I just tell you it smells like irises and quetsch? Is it okay if I describe its lovely equipoise of vigor and fruit, clarity and seductiveness?

It’s not 100% PN but it may as well be, as it has the most polished reek of PN you could ever fathom. It’s cool, detailed, and delicious, and in effect it is a Champagne that is all fruit, but rather than being “fruity” it offers the sweetness of perfectly roasted red beets. And then there’s the sweetly herbal flavor that shows up in those twenty shimmering seconds of finish right after you….swallow (which I wish I could!) or spit (which, alas, I must).

This is superb Champagne, which could only have come from a grower and which is a radical acting within classical perimeters. It’s both fascinating and drinky. It is also a miracle of conciliation between force and class, between directness and nuance.

What a wine.

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Gaston Chiquet Special Club, 2014 Brut                                          ++

Deg 4/2022. In recent years Nicolas’ Club wines have been more and more remarkable. He might say it began with 2008, but I’d argue for 2009 – though ’08 is probably the greater wine. 2009 had a tendency, at its worst, to be clunky, but Chiquet’s was deft and generous and while it appeared a little ungainly after the laser-light show of ’08, I saw the stirrings of a new degree of polish.

2014 isn’t much discussed. The ones I’ve had have been hard to encapsulate. They seem to have what they need of everything while not thrusting any single thing to our urgent attention.

This is riper and earthier than the ’13. Pinot Noir shows more, notwithstanding its mere 35%. The wine is more adamant, and feels like it has either lower pH or higher acidity. (My sample is colder, because the bottle won’t fit into any of my devices for keeping bottles cold, grrrrr…) You have “exquisite” ones and you have “expressive” ones, and this ’14 entails a kind of force. Indeed it’s like a finer version of the ’09.

If I were still “the Importer” I’d be quick to suggest a vertical tasting of Chiquet Clubs going back as far as possible, because this would demolish the boneheaded assumption that these wines are somehow fuddy-duddy geezer wines. I see the wines as shining examples of superb, un-fussy beauty, albeit this ’14 is a fist of flavor.

Both times I’ve tasted it right after the ’16 Millésime, and I wonder if this has prompted me to a certain obtuseness, because that ’16 is a hard act to follow. This wine is, clearly, more refined, more intricate, and more elegant, more blatantly chalky. The question of whether I happen to “like” it more doesn’t really apply. I’m more emotional over the ’16 and more pensive over this one, and if there’s a contest between knowing and feeling, it comes to a draw.

While I don’t read my earlier notes I do fear repeating them. Some things I remember; I know I’ve described this wine as “anti-varietal” and also like “a miniature Clos de Goisses.” I wouldn’t shrink from those comments but you don’t need to read them again. I am not a birder, but I think of Chiquet Champagnes with much of the same rare pleasure as when I think about living in a world of birds.

There are all kinds of ways to be in the world with wines. One way, and it is quite vivid here, is to realize when a wine, or a winery, has become your friend. You don’t have a crush on it any more; you aren’t examining it and wondering at its virtues or beauties, or both. You’re just friends. It comforts you, reassures you, and makes you want to help and to offer yourself. When I arrive at the threshold of these wines I always feel welcomed. To the extent I retain a conscious thought, it would be do love your company.

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