Champagne Corbon – A Profile

Under the radar does not quite describe this up and coming Avize single champagne estate. Suffice to say it is on the horizon of the global coterie of domaine champagne watchers. Everyone I have shared the wines with has been mightily impressed. Guides and previous profiles list the producer as ‘Claude Corbon’ but this is out of date since Agnès Corbon, Claude’s daughter, changed the name with the blessing of the family after she took the reins from her father in 2006. He happily and proudly works with her, and the new name projects the whole family. More importantly she has raised the quality of the wines, making them more intense, elegant and longer in the mouth.

While she grew up in Avize, Agnès Corbon made a detour involving the UK and Alsace before returning home. She relates that in her early 20s she worked as an au pair in Sheffield in the summer months. She qualified in France as a Technical Packaging Engineer and then worked for Unilever in Crawley, Sussex. She claims this is how she ‘developed an ongoing interest in Delia Smith, Jeremy Clarkson, Clotted Cream, Scotch Eggs and Katie Price’.  Back in France in 2000 she worked for Mars near Strasbourg, often visiting Slough (bliss!).  She says ‘Eventually in 2004 I realised I wanted to make wine back home, so I did a course in oenology with Jean Schaetzel in Rouffach, Alsace. She was back in Avize for the 2005 harvest.

The family own 6ha of vines, 2ha of which are in grand cru Avize on the Côte des Blancs. However, the operative scope of present domaine production under Agnès Corbon is some 15k bottles per annum as her brother sells all the grapes from his 3ha portion to thenégoce and a slice of the rest of harvest is also sold. In Avize parcels are owned in thelieux-dits of the lower slopes below the village: Les Maladeries, Le Chemin de Chalon, La Fosse aux Pourceaux and Les Terres de Maladeries, surrounding the family home and winery. The rest of the vines are in the Marne, in Vandières, Verneuil, Vincelles and Trélou-sur-Marne. Agnès is gradually moving to cultivating the ground and phasing out herbicide and persticdes as much as possible. The wines here are not filtered or fined and SO2 additions are low. The wines stay on lees in bottle a particularly long time, five years for even the basic cuvées. Champagne Corbon is a founding member of the new (2015) Des Pieds et Des Vins grouping of single estates in Champagne.

Four separate cuvées are made. There is a zero dosage Absolument Brut NV which is 50% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir and 25% Meunier, presently (2015) based on 2007 plus some 2005 and 2006 kept in ‘solera’, a proportion of that in 30 hl oak foudres. It was bottled in 2008 and disgorged in February 2015, therefore six+ years on lees. Dosage ’0′ g/l. 50% of the Chardonnay is from Avize, the rest Marne. Next is Anthracite Brut NV(there were colliers among the ancestors!) which is the same wine with 5g/L of dosage, making it technically an Extra Brut style. This wine was previously labelled ‘Prestige Brut’.

The Grand Cru Avize Millesimé, as the name can only mean, is 100% Chardonnay from Avize and a vintage wine is generally made each year. There is complete ‘used barrel’ fermentation and some 6-7 years of ageing on lees. Currently about 6g/L of dosage. Agnès is experimenting with ageing under cap or cork and agrafe for this cuvée. The ‘de luxe’ cuvée is Brut d’Autrefois NV. This is 95% from old Avize Chardonnay vines planted in 1962 and some 5% of Pinot Noir from the Marne. Half of the cuvée is taken each year from a ‘solera’ type perpetual cuvée kept in 30hl foudres and the other half is from the new harvest which also tops up the solera back to 100%. About one third of these wines are aged in barrel for a year and bottling of the complete cuvée is a year later therefore than normal.

These are quite individual and expressive wines, showing a brilliant streak of freshness alongside clever winemaking to give depth and ageing complexity.

Tasting

Absolument Brut NV In 04/15, Champagne. Quite unexpectedly full and round but with a long tail of attractive slightly aldehydic complexity and a filip of straightening dry citrus on the finish.  Very refreshing.  Tasted soon after: Nose all lily and mild honeysuckle; taut and lean but sense of full substance. A very dry lemony and pithy, sherbet note. Stark but very appealing and solid, magnetic build in the mouth.  In 06/15, tasted by Jancis Robinson: Quite a sweet nose belies the name of this wine. Very tiny bead. Clean finish and tastes off dry.  Lots of life and density. Almost rich! Long. Super-clean finish. Really exciting tension. Good Value. Drink 2014-18 17/20

Anthracite NV In o4/15, Champagne. The same proportions as the Absolument, in fact the same wine with 5g/L dosage. Real charm with an icy smile, very elegant and lithely muscled, stepping out.  Peach anf citrus together, crunchingly succulent and crystalline.  Jancis Robinson: 06/15  Very pale, sold and lemony. Doesn’t actually seem any better than the unsweetened version. Not at this stage anyway. Zesty. Well made and if anything less integrated than the Absolument Brut.  Drink 2015-19
Grand Cru Avize 2004 In 04/15, Champagne.  Concentrated and intense, with a teense of toffee oxidative and nutty influence now. Long and satisfying. 6g/L d/g 02/14    In 07/15. Pale; wet chalk nose. Putty and lemon. A touch dull on the mid-palate, but really opened out to finish lively and growing in flavour.  Lovely compact structure like so many 2004s.
Grand Cru Avize 2009 In 04/15, Avize. A forest aromas nose and lemony start, then smoke, vanilla and spice. Real intensity with a very long and extended finish. Light and lemon oil end.  Beguiling but such a baby. 5g/L  The same cuvée kept under cork and agrafe was more advanced and drinking will, with smoother round edges. The reaction of wood and wine had happened more quickly. Prefer the first but the second is all pleasure now.
Brut d’Autrefois NV in 04/15, Avize:  Long and complex and all lemon-butter. There is wood influence but giving burnished and mild forest smoulder but a very finely drawn outline structure to the wine which is alive and very self-supporting and bracing yet. Impressive champagne.
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Champagne Corbon
54 rue Jean Jaurès
51190 Avize
0033 3 26 22 36 50
http://www.champagne-corbon.fr/
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