It is a house of winemakers, Chassenay d’Arce, a champagne-making cooperative that brings together 130 families in the southernmost reaches of the northernmost wine-making region of France, Champagne country’s Côte des Bars in the Aude administrative region about 60 miles from Epernay. The Arce Valley is in the very southern most reaches of Champagne country near Burgundy with a very specific good earth, specific to the Côte des Bar that was once covered by the sea. Here a dark, unique layer of marl soil is found dating from the late Jurassic period, a soil named Kimmeridgian. Marl is an earthy material, rich in clays and silt imparting a unique quality to the grapes that grow in it. In the Côte des Bars the vineyards are entwined with forests and the majority of the steep vineyards face south or southeast. Here the dominant grape variety is the Pinot Noir and the sun confers upon it fruity and delicate savors.
Chassenay d’Arce has the largest vineyard of all of the cooperatives in Champagne with 315 hectares (778 acres) stretching out over 12 villages. The cooperative’s champagnes are aged for at least three years and often as long as a decade. The Gourmet Gazette recently had the opportunity to taste the exceptional range of the cooperative’s champagne followed by a creative and harmonious pairing of champagnes with brightly flavored dishes from the Parisian restaurant Esens’all and its daring chef Laurent Pichaureaux, who has pioneered organic cooking.
The house’s Essentielles collection, which includes a rosé version, are champagnes predominantly made with the Pinot Noir grape variety blended with the other historic champagne grape varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. Pinot Noir, the emblematic grape variety of the Côte des Bars offers a refreshing pause for champagne at anytime. While the Caractères collection presents two surprising single grape variety champagnes, the Blanc de Noir 2012 vintage made with 100% Pinot Noir grapes and the unique Pinot Blanc 2012 vintage made with 100% Pinot Blanc grapes. The Pinot Blanc 2012 was served with a carrot marinated in olive oil and accompanied by a powerful smoked eel and trout eggs. And it held up perfectly. Meanwhile the Blanc de Noir 2012 was served with a chicken from the great poultry producing region of Bresse, dressed up with an emulsion of candied black garlic and butternut squash.
The house’s exceptional champagnes emerge from the Confidentielles collection with Confidences Brut 2009 which is predominately made with the Pinot Noir grape variety. The pink version, our favorite, the Confidences Rosé 2012 is predominantly Pinot Noir as well but offers a healthy percentage of Chardonnay (11.7%) giving it a special taste that was perfect with the roasted pear which became sweet and savory as it was served with curcuma and a sesame and poppy wafer. Chassenay d’Arce has also brought out an organic champagne in its Authentiques collection, the Bio Brut Nature, a 100% Pinot Noir champagne. You can visit Chassenay d’Arce and enjoy a tour of the cooperative’s headquarters and facilities, a tasting or book a tasting one of the local restaurants.
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette
11 rue du Pressoir
10110 Ville-sur-Arce, France
33 (0) 3 25 38 30 70
12 Rue Dulong
75017 Paris, France/+ 33 (0)1 42 27 66 71