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Images and Words: T.B.Riley
November 2022

On Thursday June 30, 2022 I belted out of Paris on the TGV to Reims in the Champagne- Ardennes. Keeping up the pace and excitement I hired a little car at the train station and zipped down to Ambonnay. Much too zippily according to the Gendarmerie. I discovered two months later I had been doing the old ‘l’excès de vitesse’ (Don’t speeding fines only happen in Australia?).


Needless to say, I was on time for my ‘9:30am sharp’ appointment with Thiebaud Brémont. Thiebaud came at 11am sharp. That did not matter however. Mathilde instead sent me on a little drive around the Grand Cru vineyards of Ambonnay - the most coveted Pinot Noir earth on the Montagne de Reims. Well there is a thin layer of earth on top of meters of what is essentially pure white chalk, and it’s absolutely beautiful.



For those of you who kindly sampled some Bernard Brémont Champagnes that we brought in last year*, you will have tasted this chalk. Thiebaud’s just and clever handling of his vineyards and wine means you get to taste an almost clinical transference of this magical Grand Cru terroir in all its mineral majesty without the caste of a winemaking ego overshadowing it or other faults played off as ‘character’.

After a little tour of the hand-cut chalky caves we made this year’s selection from the piddly amounts available. Here I remind you that Champagne is biiiig but only 9% is Grand Cru and Brémont’s slice of that is tiny but very superior indeed, nestled amongst the most illustrious cru’s of the old great houses). We took 504 bottles of the pristine Brut NV which you may now be familiar with and a wee 48 bottles of the very mealy and toasty Vintage 2015 Pinot Noir- Chardonnay (2015 was a particularly strong Chardonnay vintage with powerful citrus notes). Then I sampled a few oddities for the nerds. I took just 12 bottles of ‘Extra Brut’, a very low dosage, super-duper dry version of the Brut NV which makes a particularly brisk aperitif and really puts a microscope on the soil and the fruit flavour. Then, something very cool, a dry red (not bubbly) Grand Cru Pinot Noir referred to as a ‘Coteaux Champenois’. The 2019 vintage saw sufficient ripeness acquired from the sunny slopes of Ambonnay for Thiebaud to make a table wine, and it is an unexpectedly muscly and spicy Pinot Noir that has a kirsch-like sweetness to it, an unusual treat!



After a few happy-snaps I left Thiebaud and Mathilde for a sausage, chips and a Brut Rosé at a sports bar in neighbouring Bouzy before making my way more sedately back to Riems. I have not yet paid the speeding ticket and am open to advice on whether I should bother (?)


* Brought in with the kind assistance of the most sensorially acute sparkling winemaker Mr Charles Hargrave - a good friend, old boss, mentor and one of Australia’s oenological treasures.


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