Everyone knows the main “Grande Marque” houses but what few realize is that the majority of vineyards are owned by individual growers. A great number simply on-sell the grapes to the Champagne houses or co-operatives, however there is an expanding group of producers who are retaining some of their crop and vinifying their own wines.
Monsieur Cheval-Gatinois is one such producer. The owner of a Grand Cru vineyard, beautifully sited on the steep slope above the village of Ay, his total production is only 525 hectolitres / annum. Half of this goes straight to the Grande Marque Bollinger, the remainder being reserved for his own cellar. This equates to less than 3000 cases. After secondary fermentation, the wine is given between 3 and 5 years on lees before disgorgement. It is rare to find what can truly be described as a labour of love. This exquisite nectar, is a classic demonstration that big companies aren’t always better in Champagne.