Champagne Lancelot Pienne – A Profile

Among small single estate champagne producers, the Côte des Blancs already has its established superstars.  The wines of Selosse, Agrapart, Diebolt-Vallois and Péters are internationally established as stars, at least amongst the champagne cognoscenti.  But it will come as no surprise that there is a host of high quality producers who are not so feted but should be much better known.  Champagne Lancelot Pienne is one of these and the surprise to me was that these wines are not yet imported into the UK.  They deserve to be.  I have tasted these wines on two occasions in Champagne with the producer and again recently in London.  I recommend them.

This grower (a single domaine that buys no grapes but makes wine only from their own land, registered as an ‘RM’ or ‘récoltant-manipulant’) owns 8.3ha and is based in grand cru Cramant.  Three hectares are planted to Chardonnay in Cramant, Avize and Chouilly (all grands crus) three to Pinot Meunier and two to Pinot Noir.  The black grape plantings are in the Marne villages of Boursault, Moncy and Monthelon.  Some 80,000 bottles are made annually and no grapes are sold off to the négoce.  About half of the production is exported with the USA California the biggest market, then Italy, the Benelux and Japan.

Gilles Lancelot has run the estate since 2005 with his wife Céline Perceval.  I presume their table at home is the right shape, but even if not, the Arthurian legend continues in the naming of two of the wines listed below.  The roots of the domaine stretch back to the early 1900s when a Jean-Baptiste Lancelot farmed land in Cramant but also worked as a winemaker for Mumm. His son began to make champagne.  In the 1960s one of the Lancelot sons married Brigitte Pienne from Chouilly and the two estates merged with the double name.  Gilles is their son and a highly trained oenologist and winemaker.  The champagnes here were lauded by French critics Bettane & Dessauve in 2009.

Viticulture and winemaking here is painstaking, with careful limitation on the use of chemicals in the vineyard through lutte raisonée, an approach that monitors vineyard conditions closely so that spraying against mildew in particular is reduced to the absolute minimum.  The wines are made in stainless steel and enamelled concrete tanks but invariably are held on fine lees for an extended period of six to eight months.  Malolactic is done on all wines.  This approach retains striking freshness in the wines but they have a good succulence and length from the lees and malolactic, a balance which it seems to me, especially favours the Blanc de Blancs styles from this house more than the wines from other grapes and districts.  The more premium wines in the range all receive four years of ageing on second lees in bottle.

Two entry level champagnes are made, a Cuvée Tradition NV and a Cuvée Sélection NV, the main difference being that the latter is aged a further year on lees in bottle, four years in total.  Both are about 60PM 25CH 15 PN and sound wines for early drinking. A Cuvée Pétale de Rose NV rosé is also made from the addition of 8-10% Bouzy still wine to the Tradition vins clairs.  The 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc wines are a step up here.  There is firstly a Cuvée Blanc de Blancs NV which is made mainly from grands cru plots on the Côte des Blancs but sometimes supplemented with Chardonnay from elsewhere in their vineyards.  It is 80% of the base year, currently 2008 with the reserves blended in a perpetual ‘solera’.  There are then two Cuvée de la Table Ronde Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV wines made in Brut Nature (0g/L in this case) and Brut (about 8g/L) versions, selected from Cramant, Avize and Chouilly, again some 80% from the base year.  Finally, at the top of the range, two vintage wines are made: Cuvée Marie Lancelot Grand Cru Cramant, drawn only from the single grand cru and Blanc de Blancs, currently 2006, and Cuvée Perceval, a blend of 50/50 Chardonnay from Cramant and Pinot Noir from the Marne parcels.

Wines Tasted 

Cuvée Sélection NV  Tasted 05.12  Well blended ripe fresh fruit with appetising creamy development.  Precise and clean.
Cuvée Blanc de Blancs NV  Tasted 05.11, 05.12 in Champagne and 10.12 in London.  Really fresh and lifted with a touch of aldehyde complexity.  Round and complete.  Chalky and creamy coffee power of Cramant.  An attractive exotic note – from cool fermentation? About 8g/L 
Cuvée de la Table Ronde Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV  Tasted 05.11, 05.12 in Champagne and 10.12 in London, in 0g/L and 8g/L dosages.  Quite a generous expression of Cramant rather than starkly mineral, succulent and lemony and lily notes but well balanced.  Good.  The zero dosage version seemed to have more length and precision, would be a terrific match with seafood.


Champagne Lancelot-Pienne
1 place Pierre Rivière
Tél : 03 26 59 99 86
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