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Champagne Pierre Gimonnet

Tasting Year


It’s a sizable estate, as growers go – 28 hectares at last count – and the assortment of bottlings can seem to sprawl. I’ll try to organize it for you.

There are the non-vintage cuvées, consisting of the following:

  • A “regular” NV Brut from Cuis. It’s also available in halves and magnums but those assemblages are different from the 750ml.

  • An NV Extra Brut, also not the same assemblage as the Brut.

  • Another NV Brut called Belles Années, which is a little more mature (and also a little less complex) than the regular NV Brut

  • A mono-communal bottling from Oger.

  • A Rosé.


Then we have the vintage-dated wines, to be distinguished from the official Millésime. These consist of:

  • A lower-pressure wine called Cuvée Gastronome.

  • A zero-dosage wine, often available in several vintages at a time.

  • A wine called Paradoxe, with red grapes in the blend.


The standard Millésime, which is called Fleuron. It is available in its current vintage and also in a library release – these are 2014 and 2006, respectively.

Finally the Special Club(s) and Magnums, which currently consist of:

  • Special Club Chouilly 2014

  • Special Club Cramant 2014

  • Special Club Oger 2015

  • Special Club 2014

MAGNUMS are currently a Cuis NV Brut, and a trio of so-called “Millésime de Collection, Vielle Vignes de Chardonnay,” consisting of 2008, 2009 and 2006



There’s a lot of wine, and it will be three days before I’ve opened them all, during which time I’ll also be retasting the ones already opened.

I had the joy of tasting with Deborah Hansen on the first day. We studied the wines quite calmly together. I’ll refer to a few of her observations, and I encourage you to read our conversation posted here.

Once again I direct you to my last catalogue (2019), available from this site, for details about the man and the estate. I consider him one of the titans of the Côte des Blancs, and among them he is the great classicist. Yet he is also full of surprises of late.

One of his sons has been working at the estate for a year and a half, and he appears to have prompted his Dad to make no fewer than three Coteaux Champenoise from the great 2020 vintage. They’re all from Cramant parcels, two of them done in barrel and one in stainless steel. And this is alongside five Special Clubs. I say this not only to “report the news” but also to indicate that even a classicist can be curious, can be open to experimentation, within the margins of that which is SENSIBLE.

Champagne Gimonnet is successful. So much so, that if there is a common “issue” with the wines it is that they are shipped very soon after disgorgement to feed a robust demand. Whenever I’ve drunk bottles of Gimonnet with sufficient time on the cork, I’ve found them not only different but also markedly better, as if the fresh disgorgements are colicky newborns and then a couple years later they’re happy giggling toddlers. One doesn’t really “know” Gimonnet by tasting the brash young wines.

A lot of this year’s group were 2014s. I never really got a grip on that vintage, other than to infer it would have been good if Chablis and Côte d’Or Chardonnays were any sort of guide, as sometimes they are. I reached out to Peter Liem for elucidation, and Peter said:

“I've been a big fan of 2014 for at least a couple of years now. It's a vintage that passed largely under the radar, falling in between the magnificence of 2012 and 2013 and the weirdness of 2015 and 2016, and I felt that nobody paid much attention to it for a while (including me). Even when asking winemakers about the growing season or the harvest, some would struggle to remember anything defining or significant about it, simply calling it "normal". But the wines just get better and better. Maybe chardonnay has an edge, I don't know. The black grapes are really good too.”


I’d written to Peter…. I love their minerality and sedateness and this kind of introverted articulacy whereby there’s not a ton of fruit but there’s a ton of all the other flavors, in a yielding texture and a lapidary transparency.


And Peter replied:

“ I like the idea of sedateness and introverted articulacy. I think that's apt. I've always felt like it's somehow pointed downward, towards the earth—not flawed earthy like 2005 or 2011, but earth as an element, deriving its power and character from earth forces, as Nicolas Joly might put it, rather than, say, 2004 which seems to me to be elementally of air in its litheness and lift. So far, the trio of '12, '13 and '14 is my favorite that I've ever seen (I liked '88 and '89 but strongly dislike '90), and I love that the three are so different in character while each is so compelling in its own way. And like 2014 Chablis, the wines are delicious now yet they seem like they'll have a lot more to say in the future as well.”


Didier Gimonnet himself has these thoughts about 2014: “2014 is an incredible vintage. I am in love with this vintage because it is exactly what I expect for my wines. It is not a specific minerality.

It is simply the balance we expect . No exuberant wines, but as you always told me ... « I prefer harmony and balance to intensity and concentration ». 2014 is like this, means it is a question of TEXTURE: nuances and salinity …. Sometimes, I am thinking I prefer 2014 to 2012....”


Maybe it’s exactly that non-specific minerality that makes ’14 so satisfying. It is certainly well-spoken and cordial, and rich in all the things other than hedonism.



And with those lovely thoughts to guide me, into the breach I go. 


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils “Oenophile” non-dosé 2014

Tirage April 2015, deg. 12/2020. This is “showing” very well, and seems to indicate a certain generosity is available among the 2014s . The wine has some of the same elements as Glavier’s Hakamaiah, the discretion of “fruit” as-such in favor of chalk, straw, crust and mineral. And chalk chalk chalk! A markedly successful edition of this wine, with a really fine finish, utterly streamlined but neither stark nor austere, with the angular seductiveness of a perfect meringue.

On day-2 with the mousse a little more sedate, the wine is quite a Gimonnet paradigm, lemon and straw and sea-spray. I’m not a lover of non-dosé but Gimonnet is one of the very few who always seems to get it right. And all it does is improve, day to day, so in the unlikely event you don’t finish it upon opening, your appalling moderation will be rewarded.

Didier reveals a secret. “About the Œnophile brut nature 2014... what I like is that you cannot detect there is no dosage....

And I can imagine why you like it... in fact it is not the ‘Fleuron’ with no dosage , but the ‘Gastronome’ with no dosage. Incroyable!”


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils “Oenophile” non-dosé 2015

(deg. 12/2020)  Look, I’m on record as having a massive angry bee in my bonnet over Champagne with aggressive grassiness. 2015 was that kind of vintage, and so I dislike it. From a narrow flûte this wine is acceptable, and it may well broaden and mellow with a year on the cork, and if you’re less persnickety about this grassy thing (bearing in mind it would be hard to be more persnickety than I am) you might find “herbal” what I find pyrazine-y; you might note aromas of pea-vine or mizuna and even soursop, and you’re within your rights to think I’m just a pill. 

Didier himself insists the vintage is perfectly okay if you harvested late enough to avoid the “green core” (my phrase, not his) that afflicted most of the wines.  I STAND BY WHAT I WRITE, and I also repeat that I might well be oversensitive, and that you should consider that possibility.


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils “Oenophile” non-dosé 2008

(Deg 1/2021, RS (without dosage) is 1.5 g/l. Purple-lilac aromas as part of a secondary symphony, ’08 exposed, one could say. Though there are fields-and-forests of flavor here, it is also more naked than the ’14. The MacNeil mitigates this somewhat but also presents a sour finish the Juhlin suppressed. These components are more fascinating than the ‘14’s, but there’s a certain strife in play also. ’08 with its acidity is making some demands. Follow this guy.

I think two things are apparent. One is that non-dosé Champagnes have a shorter shelf-life – this one is tasting like it’s on the down-slope – and the other is that 2008 is a vintage whose entire story is yet to be told, and when it finally is I think it will surprise us. I say that because I liked earlier disgorgements of this wine, and I don’t like this one. The acids are kinda frantic and the fruit is kinda tired. Time on the cork may benefit this irritable critter


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Brut Extra N.V.

2015-base, deg 12/2019, dosage 4, and this one is a misfire, between the vintage’s grassiness and the inadequate RS, but the estate can be forgiven for making a cash-flow wine. Deborah Hansen, with whom as you know I’m tasting, doesn’t taste the pyrazine at all, and she’s a tasters who both receives and loves it. “Gypsum and petrichor” she says. Dear reader, let’s just establish that she’s the one you should believe!

On day-2 the grassy note has retreated to an almost agreeable nuance, and the wine shows the pleasant asperity of sorrel. It’s not my preferred idiom but it avoids being shrill, and I respect it more than I did yesterday.


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Brut Extra N.V.

(now 2016-base, reserve wines back to ’12, deg. 12/2020)  Oh I do like 2016. The moment it entered the NV blends it improved them. The vintage wines should be lovely. And this wine is lovely too, on entry and much of the way through the palate, and it’s only at the end that the finish is clipped by the dearth of RS. It’s much better from a wider glass; the MacNeil “crisp and fresh” is ideal.


That mirabelle fruit is seriously charming. The length is impressive, as is the tertiary note of iron. This succeeds in a difficult genre.


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Cuis 1er Cru Brut, N.V.                       +(+)

Majority 2017, deg 12/2020, and immediately that ripe almost exotic fragrance of ’17 shows. It’s a Gimonnet classic, jasmine and brine and lemon balm, racy (due to fresh disgorging); this will become more sedate over time, but in any case this is also a master class in the value of the proper dosage.


Just look at the technicolor finish! It’s almost ludicrous to obtain this quality at the basic NV level.


And it’ll spoil you from the MacNeil glass.


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Cuis 1er Cru Brut, N.V. MAGNUM   ++

(A different blend, 2016 back to 2012, deg. 9/2020)

It has the cerebral approach of the immature magnum, yet it clearly offers another kind of complexity than the bottle. If the bottle is driven by leaf the magnum is driven by steel. In the fullness of time the magnum overtakes the bottle, not by a little but by a lot – but how many of us give them the “fullness of time” these magnums demand?

That said, this wine is…nascent, incipient; it isn’t encased in a carapace of iron, it isshowing itself, and I think it’s about two years from its peak. Yet even today it’s a formidably complex glass of Champagne, and a real Statement of the potentials of Cuis. Plus you will bamboozle your bubblehead friends when you pour it blind for them; “What Tête de Cuvée is this?” they will ask, and you can summon up every bit of smugness you usually need to quash, and tell them “Nope, it’s just a normal NV Brut from a good grower. A really good grower…”


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Seléction Belles Années, N.V.

(50% 2017, the balance is every vintage back to 2010 with the largest proportion being ’14. Deg. 9/2020) 

This is in effect an NV of the Cuvée Gastronome (which is between disgorgements and wasn’t included among the samples), which means two things, lower pressure (4.5) and some Grand Cru in the assemblage. It’s always tasted more “ready” than the regular NV, with more of the brioche/saffron/malt flavors than its more aerial sibling. There’s a lot of charm here, in a relatively mainstream, approachable style.


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Oger Grand Cru                                           +

(2018 dominant, deg 7/2020 which means a very short tirage)

Okay, so – Oger. Smoky, leathery, more “tans and russets and browns” and fewer “silvers and greens and whites” than the Cuis/Cramant/Chouilly neighborhood. Despite its immaturity it works – and works wonderfully. If Gimonnet in general makes you think of walking into the bakery at 4am and smelling all the yeasts and doughs, then the Oger is like walking into that bakery at 7:15am and most of the breads are done or nearly done, because the doors will open in fifteen minutes and the place better smell gorgeous.

On day-2 it’s like a liquid puff pastry. There won’t be a day-3, cuz’ I’m taking this guy to the dinner table tonight. I was truly sad to see the end of this bottle!


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils “Fleuron” 2014                          +(+)

(This is the regular Millésime, named “Flagship”; deg 12/2020, it is the first vintage since 2004 to have no fruit from Oger) 

I looked over Didier’s info-doc for this, and the man has buried such a gem of wine wisdom I want to make it more conspicuous. If you love wine, please memorize this: “A great wine is a balance  between structure, fruit, elegance and finesse, freshness and minerality.”  Note the absence of such terms as “Intensity, power, strength, concentration,” all those words that tell you how much instead of what flavour.


Considering the linear silky language of Champagne Gimonnet as a whole, the Fleuron cuvée is relatively robust. It wears its vineyard boots. I like it best in the cerebral vintages, but I always like it. This is the first wine to really crave more time post-disgorgement, but the quality of the fruit is such that there’s danger in underrating it. Yet it’s another key now, more brown-bread and honey-mushrooms and 5-spice. If Gimonnet in general is silvery, white and green, this wine is russet, Satsuma, not exactly intense but adamant


But – patience!


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils “Fleuron” 2006   glug-glug-glug  and +

(deg 1/2015, held back in bottle, currently on the market)

You have to like a year like 2006. It was relatively “simple” and quick to mature, yet it has a strange staying power at least among the Chardonnays. This wine lets you into the sanctum of mature Champagne ambience without having to wait 40-50 years. 


And it’s just a wonderful thing to drink, right now. Like a gelato of satsumas with bubbles.  MacNeil’s glass was almost too much for it so I switched back to a flûte, and got to lust over all that cornbread and honey and purring availability. It’s the open-armed embrace of greeting, from a friend you know will make you laugh and laugh before the night is over.


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Special Club, Chouilly Grand Cru 2014   ++

(entirely the lieu-dit Mont Aigu, vines planted in 1951 and 1991, deg. 7/2020) 


This great believer in the blending art, that the whole of a blend exceeds the sum of its parts, couldn’t help being curious about what-if…? Thus we have mono-communal (and in this case mono-vineyard-site) Special Clubs, “The exceptions that prove the rule, “ as our hero explains.


As a rule I think Chouilly is among the “lesser” Grand Crus, but if there’s great terroir to be found in this commune, it’s in the Mont Aigu lieu-dit. If Cramant is a stirringly intricate mosaic of green, Chouilly is like sweet spring turnips, haricot verts, shiso. You can see its place in the chorus, even as this wine is compellingly expressive and forthright. And it’s good we get to taste it. I don’t find this a “complete” wine so much as a fascinating element and a statement of significant individuality, of self-ness.


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Special Club, Oger Grand Cru 2015

(deg 7/2020)

I’m a little bit wary on approach; 2015 and all. And I confess it still bothers me. Here’s where a narrow glass does good; my flûte brings out the jasmine and white flower and suppresses the grassiness. (Deborah wrote “tarragon,” which is reasonable, if one wishes to taste that in Champagne….) This is big, concentrated wine, in a sort of mortal combat with the vintage, and at least on this occasion, it’s a draw. With another look two days later I see no reason to change my mind.

I also have to ask whether a vintage like this one is played false by the modern Zeitgeist for ever-drier Champagnes. This one has 4 g/l of dosage, typical for Didier’s Club, and while it would have been truly strange to bottle it with, I don’t know, 7 or even 8 grams, I wonder if it would have taken what is raspingly grassy now, and made it charming in an exotic herbal manner. Yes of course, if the sky fell we’d all catch sparrows, but I think this is a question worth posing.


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Special Club Cramant Grand Cru, 2014 +++

(deg 7/2020)

Oh wow, this is a beautiful aroma! Should you ever wonder “what’s the big deal about Cramant?” this wine has an answer for you. It has the linear articulacy of Riesling – of outstanding Riesling – as though there was Clos Ste. Hûne in Champagne, somehow. A sylvan, forest-bathing complexity carried on a stream of fluid bliss. No desire is left unfulfilled, and I don’t know how young Blanc de Blancs improves on this.

Didier himself feels that Cramant is one of the (very) few communes in Champagne whose wines can stand alone, adding….” this unique expression (of a village) is a question of Texture. Cramant is delicate, silky and creamy... so deep and complex and in the same time easy to drink....  You are true : archetype.”


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Special Club 2014                       +++

(deg 9/2020)

An icon wine of the Côte des Blancs, always. This is more inferential and enveloping compared to the more sizzly linear Cramant. More “vinous” one could say. It’s another kind of meaning; one directs itself at you and the other encases and surrounds you. When you get just-overripe mirabelle plums, the kind you have to baby in your hand to keep from crushing them…like that. This wonderful marmalade quality persists into the first finish, which then does a peacock’s tail broadening into even fuller complexity – but then does something even cooler and yields to a whole that’s not only more than the sum of its parts – it runs away from the sum of its parts! It makes camp across a border. Sometimes, with wine, it’s not about the pieces any more, but the thing that emerges from them, and what that thing is, cannot be named, explained or depicted. It’s just a way we can melt into gratefulness.


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils, Millésime de Collection 2009 Vielle Vignes de Chardonnay  MAGNUM     + 

(the Club blend from ’09, deg 1/2021)


A brilliant wine in the making; very recent disgorgement is splashing icy waters over it. A grownup wine, showing what I’ve always thought ’09 would do, slim down, show its chalk, all in a matrix of seamless acid-balance – unlike the sexy-pants 2008s, which can assert their acids in challenging ways. I love ’08, but I’m upending the conventional wisdom to say, drink ‘08s while you wait for the ‘09s, which are the classic slow-and-steady-wins-the-race group of Champagnes.


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils, Millésime de Collection 2006 Vielle Vignes de Chardonnay  MAGNUM

(Deg 9/2020)

It feels somewhat metallic, the way cooked bottles can feel. The broader glass accelerates the shedding of that note to let the fruit emerge. Not that there’s very much fruit in this particular bottle; Deborah (correctly) says shiitake, cardamom, earthy elements. I don’t think this is an honest showing for a wine I’ve tasted several times before. I’ll revisit, but we’ll see…

Two days later, I’m feeling that this wine is attenuated in some way. I’m certain it isn’t cooked, but mildly cooked wine tastes like this. But another part of me thinks, I’m not catching this on the way down, but actually on the way up, because I’m receiving a truly crazed signal of something like a splash of Chablis and a splash of Arbois Savignin in the same glass. There’s no “fruit” to speak of, just allspice and baies rose and this completely weird vetiver note, as though it were an RD from Gobelsburg – which by the way is a compliment!


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Millésime de Collection 2008, Vielle Vignes de Chardonnay MAGNUM

(deg 1/2020, it’s the same assemblage as the Special Club but vinified exclusively in magnum.)


Alert readers will have sensed a note of skepticism in my view of 2008. Let me explain. It is clearly an outstanding vintage, with loads of truly superb wines, and its final truth is yet to be told. Of course that is true of any collection of wines that can age for decades, and it is true here.

I’m not exactly skeptical, but I’m hedging my bets.  Wine people are wont to get excited by young vintages with a lot of action, mojo, dynamism, vigor, and often these elements are driven by acidity – and we like acidity. I was as blissed out as anyone, tasting these wines on first release. Later I started to question; should we really be waiting for these wines, or are they as lovely as they’ll ever be right now, in their youth? Because in my experience, acid-driven vintages often age poorly, even when they seem to have enough concentration. How many so-called great vintages must we withstand – 1990, 1996 as dramatic examples – before we challenge the hypothesis that high acidity confers a long life? Those vintages aged into an unseemly chasm of chaos, with still-steely acids on one side and decadent expiring fruit on the other – not every wine but too damn many of them – and yet we risk repeating the error because we keep chasing the axiom of acid.

I have the 2008 Gimonnet Club in the cellar, and when I open a bottle I am richly fulfilled, and certain that I needn’t be disappointed that it might have gotten even better. That said, if the vintage has a chance at the greatness predicted for it, a Gimonnet Club magnum would seem to be exhibit-A. So – opened and poured, and……turbulent and compelling and in a tantrum of disequilibrium and starting to issue a savagely beautiful yawp in the glass, and it is clear that it’s an importantwine, and for me it’s a coin-toss whether it will become a great wine.


Pierre Gimonnet et Fils “Rosé de Blancs” N.V.  glug-glug-glug and +

(Based on 2018, deg 12/2020, 95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir from Cumières, I surmise from Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy…)


Clearly the idea here is to offer a rosé for people for whom rosé can be too rich or too vinous. Gauzy. And this ridiculously tasty wine succeeds completely, but not in the way its maker may have intended.

First there’s 2018 and its ripe fruit flavors. And then there’s Cumières, which perfumes the living hell out of this wine even with just 5% of the blend. Sleek it certainly is, but there’s nothing ethereal about the fruit! Indeed it shows how to have delicacy without the flavor wisping away at the first suggestion of breeze. There are miracles of searching complexity and miracles of deliciousness that doesn’t pander – complicated bliss versus simple bliss, one might say. And I’ll take my blisses as I find them, danke.


Listed in the logical sequence, but tasted in separate flights each of which went bottom-to-top – to avoid bunching all the top wines together in one sitting.


Brut Extra, Extra Brut 1er Cru, N.V.

All Cuis, based on 2017 with reserve wines 2015-2010, disg. 7/21/2021. Diam cork.


While I have struggled with this wine in the past, here the 2017 fruit pulls it out from under its usual angularity – that plus 20 months on the cork. (Whether this is the currently available cuvée for sale in the U.S. I do not know.)

Compared with the laser-precision and pointed attack of a (superb) grower like Suenen, Gimonnet’s wines all convey a kind of tact. They are comparatively discreet, as part of a generally quiet cordial nature, within which many universes of nuance can be seen. This wine has most of this estate’s cardinal virtues, compromised only by a finishing sourness that certain drinkers will relish.

Gimonnet’s are wines of the shade of a bright day, such that your eyes are relieved to get out of the glare, and the shade is like a balm. They speak in what we call “inside voices.” And they have a great, great deal to say.

It has the Cuis coolness and the basmati starchiness and fragrance, along with apples and ginger; indeed it has everything there is to cherish about these lovey Champagnes – except seamlessness, which apples to my sense of a wine’s balance. Didier will be surprised, but I wonder if this wine isn’t dry enough. But it knits nicely together in the MacNeil Crisp & Fresh glass.

So it’s a pretty good edition of this wine, but I remain baffled that anyone would prefer it to the “regular” Cuis NV.


Cuis 1er Cru, Brut N.V.

The back label has a figure missing, so I don’t (yet) know the base-vintage; disg is 12/22/2021, so it could be either ’18 or ’17, going back to 2010. Diam cork.

I know it isn’t precisely apple-to-apple, but the difference in sweetness between this and the Extra Brut is just TWO Grams per liter. And of course it tastes drier than the XB because the sugar is better balanced and melts into the wine. Tasting it my guess is it’s 2018-based, only because of its immaturity, that piqued quality that says a Champagne is too young.

It has in fact a magnum-like profile, the excessively cerebral strictness of a young Mag. It also has atypical force for this wine, which always shape-shifts with air and/or bottle-age. The finish shows the ghee-butteriness that reminds me of an aspect of the Fleuron flavor.

Here’s what I need to do before I die; taste a range of eight to ten bottlings of this cuvée with at least five years on the cork (if not longer), because no other Champagne that I know is as misleading as this is in its first youth. But I’m persuaded that this rendition will always be markedly roasty among its peers, and that the few years I hope to convince you to wait for it shall deliver three times the quality you paid for.

Some of that is in evidence on my second look, three days later. But, classically, this youngster has two disparate pieces that don’t join, a roasty ripe-fruit savor that appears early in the finish, and a spiky steely note that comes after. The fragrances are encouraging, and I continue to feel this beauty is simply finding its way. If you drink it now, use a “white-wine” glass to bring its low notes and mid-plate mineral forward.


Cuis 1er Cru, Brut N.V. MAGNUM

Multi-vintages from 2017 back to 2010, disg. 12/2/2021, diam cork.

It has the “young-magnum” nose. You know what I mean; steel and snarl. Yet the palate is another thing again. It is, in short, the reason for cherishing magnums. But it’s so striking, the difference. This time I tasted the Mag right after the bottle; as far as I can see the wine is the same in both. But this one smells like it was bathed in the Urgestein twang of Wachau Rieslings. Little fruit to speak of, just pepper-pepper-pepper.

It isn’t shocking the vessel size would act upon a wine’s development, and while they are never identical (Mags and 750s) they do converge a bit more closely over time. The Magnum will always be more complex, more mineral, more tangibly structured, and correspondingly less fruity and less (positively) oxidized.

I think all Champagnes should be bottled in Liters. That’s what I think. A bottle is never enough and you gotta wait a freaking decade for a Magnum. Just sayin’.

That doesn’t mean this one is flattering, at least not yet. But it offers an entirely different key signature and register than its brother in the 750. It is a riot of chalk and blatant mineral and sel gris pestled to dust. The texture is currently quite strict, but we know that will change. What’s really striking is the way the larger format completely alters the will and nature of the wine, as if it had distilled each scintilla of chalk into a sharp point of expressiveness.

Fruit tends to follow, but I shy away from assuming I know how any given wine (or bottle) will develop. Keep this a few years and then yell at me if I was wrong. A pleasant herbal note arrives on my second sampling. When this is mature it may have a few delicious secrets to tell us about Cuis.


Sélection Belles Année, Brut 1er Cru N.V.                                          +

Remember this is in effect an “alternate” NV, described as multi-vintages, mostly 2019, disg. 2/9/2022. Diam cork

One feels bullish about ’19! You have to love that toasted-brioche fragrance and a flowering-fields thing that resembles certain elegant Grüner Veltliners.

On the palate, well, you  have something to consider, because this is the freshest disgorgement of all the wines I’ve tasted thus far and yet it’s the most available and gracious to the drinker. It has to be a question of blending, unless ’19 is exceptionally affable. 

I don’t remember a better version of this wine. It flips the script, putting fruit and savors front and center and minerality and citricity at the back. In that sense it presents as less “grower-y” but you’d have to wonder what negoç could possibly create such a deft and particular NV. Still, to refer to fruit is even misguided because what it actually shows is a warm spicy savor; brown butter and cardamom and nutmeg and Reggiano.

In short, it’s a multi-dimensional wine that’s interesting but not demanding. The finish is lovely and long. The dosage – in the extra-brut range but not so labeled – is ideal. It’s a Gimonnet wine that needn’t be studied, a simple pleasure that is by no means simple.


Gastronome 2018 1er Cru                                                                    +

39% Cramant, 24.5% Chouilly, 3% Oger, 33.5% Cuis and Vertus; disg. 10/12/2021

Often the passionate introvert of the lineup, and the most particularly mineral in its profile, the ’18 vintage has delivered unusual torque and fruit. No problem with that!

This is simply beautiful Champagne. It isn’t quintessentially a beautiful Gimonnet Champagne, yet it couldn’t be anyone else’s either. 

I’m forming a tentative hypothesis about ’18 Chardonnays; for all the fruit they provide, they also carry quite a phenolic kick on the finish. (This was also true of the German Rieslings, for what it’s worth.) And for whatever reason, probably temporary, it’s the Chouilly that shows most


expressively here. But my goodness, this offers nearly everything there is to adore about Blanc de Blancs Champagnes – and we all know that the true bubble-heads love BdB above all others.

I’ve written tasting notes for at least twenty five editions of this wine, so I’ll spare you the detailed associations. You’ll get the special kelpy-osmanthus thing from oolong teas, the heirloom apple and the yuzu, and from ’18 we get cardamom and tangelo. But most important, you’ll have a deftness and a confidence and an egolessness that shows a wine comfortable in its skin and a grower who really has nothing to prove any more.

My wife has known Gimonnet Champagnes as long as I have, and I poured us a couple small glasses while dinner was cooking last night. She agreed that the wine was “ridiculously good.” The kitchen was fragrant (we had brown basmati, trumpet mushrooms and cauliflower cooking, three burners burning) and it would have been easy to slug-and-glug. But one sip and we just shook our heads – what a gift this wine is!

For all that it’s an unusual Gastronome, I adore it and find it reassuring, that such a cordial and fetching creature still walks the world.


Oenophile Non Dosé, 1er Cru, Brut Nature, 2016                           ++

70% Grand Cru (Cramant-Chouilly-Oger) and 30% Cuis, disg 10/2021


This has appeared or will soon appear on the market, as the (upcoming) 2008 is nearing its end. It’s relatively fresh for this cuvée, but I do like ’16. And Didier is one of the few to have the touch with zero-dosage wines.

Put it this way: Everything that’s exposed here is something you’re glad to see naked.  He makes it look so easy you have to lament how few people seem to be able to do it.

It’s not like ’16 was ripe and fluffy. It was tensile and thready, with acid-driven tree fruit (mirabelles mostly) and a general lack of hedonism. But here we enjoy an umami-driven balance and a wonderfully toasty tertiary finish – the influence of the Grand Cru is evident – and finally some ineffable thing that’s pure Gimonnet, a place where nothing is ever brash or obvious, even the things we like, such that there’s a soft focus herbal-mineral-citric interplay that’s always expressive yet never shoved in your face. “Dude, look at my amazing minerality! Check out my focus!! Feel your pupils shrinking? I am the shit!!”

If you ever ask yourself the question, what kind of company is this wine keeping me, with Champagne Gimonnet the frequent answer is, the best possible kind. Clearly it has a lot to say, and clearly it refrains from yacking about itself. It settles you. I find I am reassured that a wine exists that’s so grown-up without being rigid and dour. It’s also a Champagne made for west-coast oysters, which happen to be my favorites.

I confess I challenged myself, and the wine, to prove that I hadn’t been seduced somehow. I’ve always liked this cuvée, but never this much. But nope – it’s all that.


Oenophile Non Dosé, Brut Nature, 1er Cru, 2008                         ++

A striking 76% Grand Cru, with 14% 1er Cru (both Cuis and Vertus), disg 10/18/2021

Didier is a believer in 2008. One sees why!

Mind you, twelve years of tirage will do good to a lot of Champagnes, but this is in fact a masterpiece. It’s more starched than the ’16, less congenial, but concomitantly more profound and impressive. I wish I had it in my cellar – both of them, actually.

I have a decidedly minority opinion about ’08. Eventually I may be revealed as a fool, but I truly do not think so. (And I just drank a bottle of 2008 Krug, a great Champagne, and the echo of that masterpiece doesn’t quite efface my suspicion that we misunderstand 2008 because it is so impressive. It seduces us away from reason and precedent.)

Mind you, this tangent mustn’t obscure what a superb wine we have here. And there are many ‘08s like it – superb. Misleadingly so, I think. Vintages like ’08 scorch your soul, passionately, but the ostensibly simpler vintages like 2009 go the distance. I learned this lesson back in the 90s, when I insisted that Germany’s ‘96s were profound, whereas the 1997s were simple in comparison. Only Rudi Wiest extolled the virtues of ’97, and I thought he was nuts.

He wasn’t nuts, he was correct. To geek out over minerality or the dubious dynamism driven by acidity is a symptom of an immature palate. Great vintages always live farther from the edge. And a youthful serenity can be trusted. End of sermon.

I’d have to drink several hundred non-dosé Champagnes to locate two as marvelous as these are. This one is for lovers of Chablis of the old school, wiry and raw boned and salty and drier than dry. Charm? We don’t have no stinkin’ charm.


Oger Grand Cru Expression d’un Teroir, Brut, N.V.                         +

In fact all 2019 (!), disg 11/17/2021, from four lieu dits identified on the back label; diam cork


Of all the communes in the Côte des Blancs, Oger is the one that feints most vividly towards White Burgundy. This ’19 seems tailor made for it. The toasty generosity of the year, the toasty generosity of the terroir – it’s almost too good.

Yet it’s a Champagne that gives a robust pleasure that’s overt and generous, but is it as simple as it seems? I don’t think so. But you have to think about it when you’re tasting, as it’s easy to be seduced by its hale and giving nature. Pause a moment before the finish, and you’ll find two lovely stanzas of minerality that echo into an ethereal and deliberate coda. The wine has cling. A wine as generous as this canindeed be smart, and it only seems easy. In the several years this cuvée has existed, this is the best of them.

Here’s an anomalous notion. In a certain way, Oger answers Didier’s curiosity that led him to create a Pinot-driven wine like the “Paradoxe.” It is truly an Other compared with his home-terroirs of Cuis-Chouilly-Cramant, yet it bends to his bidding, or he bends to its.


Fleuron, 1er Cru, Brut 2017                                                          ++

The “regular” vintage wine; 72% Grand Cru, 28% 1er Cru, disg. 10/18/2021

It’s the exotic in the range, all Satsuma and persimmon and a curious sort of floweriness that presents as lychee and rose, but not exactly the way Gewurztraminer does.

The best way to say this is, it’s a kick-ass vintage of Fleuron. The aromas do not prepare you for the swollen attack on the palate. But it isn’t aggressive, just generous and extroverted and tangible.

Didier has reached a point in life where his grown kids are working at his side, and you can imagine what that’s like. Relief: they’re here. Tact: they have to find their own ways and try their own ideas. Pride: But the old man has a few more tricks up his sleeve. I mean, how could anyone drink this Champagne and think “Well thatneeds to change…?’ 

I find it moving, when you taste from an estate that is clearly in-the-zone, but what seems clear now is a through-line from Belles Année to here, as if this wine is the older sibling of that one. It has the element chefs call “caramelization,” when a Maillard reaction occurs (as best I understand it), and it also has actual fruit, apricot and plum.

In the end it has a thing I can only describe as an ether of honey. It’s spicier and more vertical from Juhlin 2.0, and I could imagine if you had it from, say, a Jamasse glass it would be like a potion of malt. (If this seems geeky to you, the question of what’s the “proper” glass for Champagne remains debated, and no consensus has emerged. The “Jamasse” glass was crafted by the sommelier at the Crayères in Reims, and its effect is to flatter whatever’s served in it.) 


Special Club, Oger Grand Cru, 2015                                               

Disg Oct. 2021, contributing lieu dits appear on the back label.


2015, to refresh your memory, was the curious ripe-yet-green vintage that presented…not exactly pyrazine notes (this was no 2011, thankfully) but sweet-green yuzu notes atypical (and thus unwelcome) in Champagne. The question is, what will happen to this vintage over time? The deeper question is, can we accept these aromas and flavors in “Champagne?”

That accounted for, this Oger seems pretty damn classic at first glance. That impression, though, is fleeting with repeated sampling. The power of ’15 is present and the green of the vintage is a nuance I must confess is almost pleasing. “Almost.”

It shows more in the Juhlin 2.0 (which exaggerates everything, usually beneficially), but even then it isn’t annoying. The regular Juhlin gives us a wonderfully mineral wine, even despite its assertiveness. It has the easy authority a Special Club should have. I’d disagree if you insisted my sense of what Champagne “should” taste like is overly narrow – I know where to find green flavors whenever I thirst for them –  and I’d respond that you’re blurring lines better left clear and focused.

If “brioche” is a typical descriptor for Champagne, then Oger shows toasted brioche, and that is so expressive here, astride its minerality, that the vintage greenies are almost completely subdued. And yes, there’s that word almost again.

I tasted it again right after the other Oger, and this time its green notes were more present. 2015 is not ’11 – which is to say it’s not appalling – but it is abnormal, and while I’m pleased with its unlikely successes, I won’t mind seeing the back-end of it.


Special Club Chouilly Grand Cru, 2015                                              +

100% Montaigu, a superb climat with (in this case) vines planted in 1951 and 1991, disg April 2021


This is one of those wines that throws you back to the starting gate. I had sometimes questioned whether Chouilly was really a stand-alone commune, and I’ve certainly fussed enough about 2015. Yet – here we are. A wine that works superbly, with its green nuance.

From the Juhlin 2.0 it’s like a Champagne to which 10% of really herbal German Riesling was added. The regular Juhlin suppresses the herbal thing and highlights a really complicated minerality, amazingly precise and graphite-like. In fact you can essentially choose your Champagne depending on the glass you use, and in this case I’d opt for hedonism rather than strict analytics.

If you seek to understand Chouilly, its apple/melon (tart) fruit and its “solid” minerality – different from the dust-and-scree mineral we find elsewhere – this is an excellent place to start.

It should be said, the “green” element of ’15 can be suppressed or exhibited depending on your tasting sequence. On my second run-through I’d had eleven wines prior-to, and the last one was the regular Club, and perhaps that’s why this presents greener than it did the first time. The ’15 vintage is like going to a concert where you don’t have the best seats and the sound balance is askew – but the band is fantastic.

I also observe that the ‘15 greenness can be mitigated with (excessive) dosage, but here the balance is ideal.


Special Club Cramant Grand Cru, 2015                                         ++

The four lieu-dits are identified on the back label; disg. 10/2021.

Last year I wrote about the existential distinction between this single-commune wine and the multi-commune (regular) Club, so I won’t repeat it here. Didier liked it, which touched me.

’15 is, of course, another matter, and you have to account for its proclivities. (In contrast you could taste the ‘14s “pure,” as it were, but now we have to see to what degree the challenge of ’15 was surmounted – if it was.)

Okay, there are roughly four threads in this skein. One is the special “green” nature of Cramant, its matja/yuzu edge. Another is the concentrated minerality of the commune. A third is the resemblance to certain German Riesling. And a fourth is the ’15 grassiness, which in this case calls to mind the aroma of “jade-pearl” rice, a short-grained rice infused with bamboo extract. (It’s tasty, we cook it all the time.) I’d say that if you’re willing to accept a somewhat atypical Champagne that tilts toward Riesling-ness, you’ll be happy here.

Me, I am very happy; the wine gets better and better, and the tarragon nuance of Cramant is just exceptionally vivid. The finish is herbal with a lashing of mineral; it lingers like the finish of a Taiwanese high-elevation oolong. And I must say, the 2015 character isn’t something that needs to be “excused” here; it’s something that works as part of the wine – an unusual element, yes, but not unwelcome. One could argue that a certain green element is part of Cramant, and in this case it is merely emphasized, not inaccurate. In any case, of the trio of ’15 Clubs, this one makes the most “sense,” recognizing that the blended wine (keep reading) has huge secrets in reserve.


Special Club, 2015

60% Cramant, 26% Chouilly, 14% Cuis, disg. 9/6/2021

Leaving aside the question of the whole versus the sum of the parts, this is less evolved than any of the three mono-commune wines, as though the parts are skirmishing. I have a sense of the mysterious vinosity of the usual Gimonnet Club, incipiently present and struggling to emerge., deep and creamy and salty and with the demi-glace richness one finds, miraculously, in the finale of this gossamer creature.

A chorus singing is fundamentally a chorus singing, more than an agglomeration of voices, but rather a single voice, a unity wherein the individual voices lift and then dissolve. Even so, I’m not sure this will be one of the great Clubs, but I am sure that there’s more here than meets the immediate palate. Thus we watch and wait.

Indeed a few days later the wine begins to explain itself. But I know it from many vintages, and this is one of the least scrutable. The Juhlin 2.0 is both the best and worst glass for it, showing both the inherent vinosity but also the sweet-sour scuffle at the top. But oh, I hope to live long enough to sit with Didier, years from now, and taste this wine culminated, and agree “It took long enough for this bastard to come around, but look at it now…”

It was the most vexing and suggestive of them all. Tasting it for the fifth time (having also sipped it more than once) I used my widest actual-flûte, to preserve such mousse as remained and to suppress oxidation. At first there was actually a reduction in that sample, which vanished in half a minute. What remained, damnably, was amazing expressive minerality and a sensible alignment of its components, though it was still inarticulate in some ways. Pity the jury that has to decide this case!


Millésime de Collection 2009, Vielles Vignes de Chardonnay MAGNUM                        +

60% Cramant and 24% Chouilly Grand Crus, and 16% Cuis 1er Cru (from the lieu-dit Croix Blanche, disg. 1/2021

Champagne icons. An overused term. But not here.

In many ways the smell of ’09 is the smell of Champagne. That may be why I trust it as much as I do. My every instinct is, this vintage will make fools of anyone who thought it was “simple” and wouldn’t age. 

Here in the magnum it reveals its mineral undercurrent, and is a portrait of graciousness, undergirded by the usual magnum energy. It also reveals a parsnip-y sweetness I hadn’t noticed before in ‘09s. The angularity is unsurprising; the orange-peel mid-palate flavor is striking.

THIS ENDS the note for the first encounter. There will be more to unearth over the days.

Except in many ways, there wasn’t. This wine remained fixed and stable, always good, with its pliant structure and firm unfussy fruit. The word “fine” applies here, as does “reliable.”


Rosé de Blancs, Brut, N.V.                                                                   +

Base 2018, 95% CH, roughly half-half between Grand and 1er Cru, 6% Bouzy PN, disg 11/3/2021, diam cork

Didier’s non-rosé Rosé has often been helplessly charming. It’s hard to fathom the effect a mere 6% of PN can have, but stepping back a bit, a Côte des Blancs grower seeking to have a quicker-selling wine can easily be forgiven for making Rosé in a white-wine locality, and there’s now a sub-species of Champagne Rosé based fundamentally on white. Thus the questions: What does it add, and how good is it?

This one’s started out peevish even with 14 months on the cork, as opposed to the knee-buckling prettiness of last year’s. After a couple days, one’s knees were tempted to buckle once again.  I deleted most of my original text – but bear in mind, if you own it, it could seem a bit austere when you first pour. It has that “Magnum” thing of suppressed fruit and exaggerated stiffness. The MacNeil glass seeks to dissolve the asperity and partly succeeds. It seems odd to counsel patience for a wine with 14 months on the cork, but I let my samples rest for 10 weeks before I’m broaching them, and this wine simply isn’t eager to be  smashed into.

Except that it most definitely was, after a couple days. Champagne can be a mischievous little fiend, and it won’t do to judge it in the nano-second after its poured. For sheer prettiness this rivals some of Arnaud Margaine’s most fetching Rosés.


Rosé de Blancs, Brut, N.V. MAGNUM                                                +

This is assemblage 191, versus 208 for the above; it’s based on 2016 (as opposed to 2018), disg 9/18/2020 with similar proportions to the above.

Reading between the lines, Didier must have sussed he had something noteworthy here, in order to bottle Mags. With one sniff, his instinct makes sense. For this is a fetching and fascinating fragrance, and it leads to an equally lovely and only slightly immature palate.

I was watching the film Petit Maman a few nights ago, and was struck by how perfectly apt the music was to the dreamy drama. So many times a film score seems cloddishly designed to wrench your emotions into whatever the director wants you to feel, and it is rare when the music and the drama understand each other. I bring it up because, this is a musical wine but not (yet) an “emotional” one. It is significantly vinous and complex, as well as evanescent and aerial, and one wonders what its destiny may yet be.

To be clear, it was (in my Boston parlance) wicked smaht to bottle this in Mags. Something extra resides here. I try to stay clear of the business of predicting exactly how a wine will develop and precisely how good it will be, but even now there is a kind of tantric accord between the CdB minerality and the Bouzy fruit, and it teases with suggestion. And it strikes me, tasting this, how Gimonnet’s wines have an easy kind of grammar and a restrained lyric sense. There are riskier wines. There are more overtly “thrilling” wines. But I wonder about the quiet depths I see here; do they have an equivalent in Champagne? They’d have to, it would seem, but when I look for wines like these I find my mind a blank.

Jazz is about chops, right? It’s about players playing, and the audacity of their virtuosity. It’s exciting when they go for it, yet there’s a different kind of virtuosity, when a player resists the display of chops and plays what the music asks for. Sometimes it asks for chops! Other times the notes obscure the view. What I taste in a wine like this, and in many of Gimonnet’s wines, is what I might call “Play the notes that matter.” Sometimes a lot of notes, sometimes a few; sometimes at high volume and other times not. These are not wines for children. Neither are they wines for “experts” or intellectuals, but simply for people who taste (and drink) thoughtfully and calmly.

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