With the recent arrival of the Stéphane Coquillette’s Brut Zero Blanc de Noirs Cuvée Les Clés, we decided to take a closer look at the style and how it is evolving in the modern Champagne market. Brut Zero is a wine that is made by not adding any sugar during the dosage process, resulting in a wine that is not sweetened before bottling, with a maximum residual sugar level of three grams per liter. This allows for the wine’s natural acidity and minerality to be highlighted.
This style of Champagne is particularly popular among wine enthusiasts who seek out dry, complex, and bracing wines. It can be a great pairing for foods with high salt or spice content, and also as an aperitif. Because of the lack of sweetness, it represents an excellent way for producers to showcase their terroir and their grapes. Brut Zero is the ultimate in transparency.
The history of Brut Zero stretches back further than you may expect, with Laurent-Perrier selling a “Grand Vin Sans Sucre” in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Its popularity has since waxed and waned, but has been growing in the past decade or so. Part of the reason for this is that consistently rising temperatures in Champagne allow for riper grapes, even with earlier harvest dates. This ripeness helps soften the strict nature of the drier wine, making for a more palatable drinking experience. Though it represents only a tiny portion of the overall production of Champagne, Brut Zero is a remarkable expression of this region, well worth seeking out.
The Stéphane Coquillette Brut Zero Blanc de Noirs Cuvée Les Clés is 100% Pinot Noir from fruit that is entirely from the Grand Cru village of Aÿ and is aged for at least three years on the lees.
Stéphane Coquillette is a fourth-generation winemaker in Champagne. His late father, Christian, ran Saint-Chamant from 1950 until 2020, and he encouraged his son to start his own estate when Stéphane was 25. Though mentored by his father, Stéphane developed a very different style of expression at his own house, creating fresher, drier Champagnes, primarily from Chouilly (Grand Cru), Cuis (99% 1er Cru) for Chardonnay, and d’Aÿ (Grand Cru) and Mareuil/Aÿ (99% 1er Cru) for Pinot Noir. Meticulously committed to organic practices, Stéphane avoids herbicides at all costs. Farming is done by hand, including trellising and pruning, which helps avoid disease and allows for a healthy crop. With more than 10 different parcels, he produces several single-vintage and single-vineyard Champagnes — a rarity in this region — and all his wines are small-production. Stéphane Coquillette Champagnes are characteristically precise, fresh and lively.