In his highly-anticipated book, Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region, Peter Liem profiles the famous region and its wines by examining the varied terroirs that make these sparkling wines among the most iconic the world over. Liem, co-founder of La Fête du Champagne and creator of ChampagneGuide.net, showcases the people and the places that create these stunning wines. In the section of his book that focuses on the Côte de Blancs, Liem zeroes in on Cramant and one of Champagne’s most highly-regarded estates, Diebolt-Vallois. Below is an excerpt from this upcoming book, which will be released on October 10, 2017.
Cramant lies just to the south of Chouilly, its vineyards curving along the southern flank of the Butte de Saran before joining the main portion of the Côte des Blancs’ long, east-facing slope. This creates a large amphitheater open to the east, with gentle slopes composed of varying levels of chalk and clay that are bathed in sun for most of the day, and it’s here where Cramant’s best sites are located. Toward the plain, the vineyards of Cramant eventually give way to those of the village of Oiry, where the flat, chalky terrain produces tense, minerally wines.
One of the most significant estates in Cramant is Diebolt-Vallois, established in 1960 by Jacques Diebolt and his wife, Nadia. Now in his seventies, Diebolt is an elder statesman of the Côte des Blancs, welcoming visitors to his estate with a gracious demeanor and the rough hands of a winegrower. While much of the daily duties of the estate are now handled by his son, Arnaud, and daughter, Isabelle, the elder Diebolt is still very much present, and it’s a pleasure to taste with him amidst the barrels and tanks of his winery.
Diebolt owns an impressive array of parcels in the great amphitheater of Cramant. The best of these were once used to make his multivintage Cuvée Prestige, yet he wanted to do even more to highlight the local terroir. In 1995, he created a cuvée called the Fleur de Passion from grapes exclusively sourced from his oldest Cramant vines, all at least forty-five years of age. Unlike his other wines, which are vinified in tank, he fermented and aged this wine in secondhand barrels while strictly avoiding malolactic fermentation. The result is a complex, multifaceted wine, demonstrating both concentration and elegance, and a reference point for pure Cramant champagne.
“I always remembered the wines that my grandfather made, and I wanted to return to that,” Diebolt told me. “My wife and children didn’t want me to make it. They said, ‘Oh, this kind of wine is for old people. Nobody today will want to drink it.’ But I was stubborn and made it anyway.”
CREDIT: Reprinted with permission from Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroir of the Iconic Region, copyright 2017 by Peter Liem. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Photography copyright 2017 by Gentl and Hyers