Champagne Roots Run Deep
This stunningly complex, full-flavored, toasty, chalk-infused Grand Cru Champagne from Reims at this level of quality is a rare find. Nowhere does “Réserve” mean more than at Champagne Barnaut. From mostly south-facing slopes on the Montagne de Reims, the Barnaut “Grande Réserve” Brut owes its gorgeous complexity to the fruit culled off estate-owned vineyards in the Grand Cru villages of Bouzy, Ambonnay, and Louvois by fifth-generation grower-producer Philippe Secondé; it was disgorged in June 2016.
Barnaut’s tradition is best summed up by the Grande Réserve Champagne itself. The 100% Grand Cru fruit is hand-sorted and pressed in vertical presses. The wine is blended in the same proportion — two-thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay — as by Edmond Barnaut in the original cuvée. Young wines from chalky, mineral-infused Montagne de Reims fruit add backbone and freshness to reserve wines from the founder’s century-old solera.
But get Philippe talking about the history of Barnaut, and you realize how seriously he takes his role. The fifth-generation head of a Champagne house that now farms 28 Grand Cru acres in the Grand Cru villages of Bouzy, Ambonnay, and Louvois, is the steward of a brand that began in 1874. In charge since 1985, he is the man who modernized and expanded Champagne Barnaut while keeping its traditions intact.
Tasting at lunch with Philippe Secondé feels like anything but work. The fifth-generation winemaker is funny and affable, and as he pours his strawberry-hued rosé or slightly-sweet Cuvée Douceur around the lunch table, he could almost be mistaken for a man who is just having fun.