NV Vouette et Sorbée Blanc d’Argile Blanc de Blancs14214
WINEMAKER: Bertrand Gautherot
REGION: Champagne, FR
VITICULTURE: Certified Biodynamic
Within the cold, west-facing, Kimmeridgian limestone-rich lieu-dit of Biaunes, there is a small plot of Chardonnay that Gautherot planted wild: without preparing the soils and amongst the native vegetation (a totally crazy idea). The Côte des Bar is overwhelmingly planted to Pinot Noir, but in 2000 Gautherot chose Chardonnay. He used massale cuttings from Anselme Selosse’s vines (in Avize) and Vincent Dauvissat’s Valmur Grand Cru vineyard. This plot has become the base of what Antonio Galloni calls “one of the most beautiful and distinctive wines in Champagne.” The vines here yield only 15 to 20 hl/ha each year—one of the keys to the intensity on offer. The 2018 and 2019 wines also took in some Chardonnay from Fonnet—from 2020, upcoming vintages will also take in Chardonnay from the Vouette vineyard, which was previously planted to Pinot Noir but was replanted to Chardonnay several years ago. Fermentation for this wine was wild and took place in used 500- and 600-litre barrels, with a small portion of fruit fermented and raised in Georgian amphora (see Textures). As with the Fidèle, this wine spent roughly 15 to 18 months in bottle on lees, before being disgorged by hand with zero dosage.
Parting ways with his local co-op due to his decision to embrace organics in 1993 (certified biodynamic since 1998), Bertrand Gautherot’s approach has always been at the cutting edge for his region. All his wines come from a single harvest (noted by the ‘R’ and number on the back label), except for the Fidèle cuvée, which sees a small addition of between five and 10% reserve wine from a perpetual blend started in 2001. This wine would be eligible to be called a vintage wine in any other region. These are all complex, textural, incredibly mineral wines made with low (or no) sulphur and without a drop of dosage. They are wines that result from low-yielding hillside vineyards, intense, ripe fruit, limestone-rich soils and a farmer whose heart lies in his vineyards.
A visit here is always a lot of fun and yet so thought-provoking. It’s a domaine constantly experimenting and pushing boundaries—Bertrand has a high level of passion, single-mindedness and seemingly insatiable determinism. Despite several years with terribly low yields (the 2021 harvest was down 80%, primarily due to frost), Bertrand is enthusiastic about the future. Importantly, alongside the likes of Agrapart, Egly-Ouriet, Larmandier-Bernier and Selosse, this is another great grower where the next generation has returned. Bertrand now has his daughter Héloïse working with him, bringing fresh energy and new ideas. There is so much innovation happening here (even some that we cannot speak about) that it’s hard to keep up.
The winemaking here abhors any manipulation in the cellar. Gautherot uses the traditional Coquard press and the juice is transferred into oak or amphorae via gravity rather than being pumped. Primary fermentations are always carried out with natural yeasts, and riddling and disgorgement are done by hand. The wines are bottled without fining or filtration and without dosage.