I was blown away by this rich, distinctive Blanc de Noirs from Ulysse Collin. It’s sensational, and it has a good back story.
Olivier Collin’s family had been farming vineyards from their base in Congy since 1812, but were renting out their 8.7 hectares of vineyards to a negociant. But Olivier wanted these vineyards back: he felt he could do someting special with them. So he began studying law (useful for getting the vineyards back) and winemaking. While he was studying, he also worked as an intern with Jacques Selosse, who he admired.
In 2003 Olivier got back the first 4.5 hectares, but because of the difficult season he had to sell all the grapes. In 2004, healthy yields meant he could finally start making his own wines. Inspired by Selosse, all his fermentations were in oak (they still are; since 2001 he has some foudres as well as the smaller barrels to play with). In 2005 he got back the remaining 4.2 hectares.
The vineyards weren’t in great shape when he began farming them, and so he has been concentrating on working on soil health. But he isn’t organic, because he doesn’t like using copper. The mildew pressure is high in Champagne, and if you use copper, he maintains, then you damage the soil microbes. He also thinks that copper thickens the skins of the grapes, and can lead to some bitterness in the wines.
Between 20 and 40% of the wines each year are kept back as reserves. The barrel ageing of the base wines has crept up from 10 months in 2004 to 13 months in 2006.
This cuvee is a Pinot Noir from a 6 hectare lieu dit called Maillons, which has heavy clay soils over chalk. Olivier owns 2.5 hectares here, and his vines average 40 years old. It’s a truly amazing wine, with lots of personality.
Champagne Ulysse Collin Blanc de Noirs Les Maillons Extra Brut NV France
This was disgorged in March 2012, and it’s based on the 2008 vintage. A full colour, it has a rich nose of nuts, marzipan, ripe apples and toast. The palate is powerful and spice with concentrated citrus fruit and rich toast, wax and marzipan characters. Dense, complex and lovely. 94/100
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