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At Chambers Street Wines we are blessed to work with an array of dedicated and talented growers. Careful work in the vines (mostly organic or biodynamic) and cellar (mostly non-interventionist) produce wines that, in addition to being delicious, seem to offer deeper dimensions of terroir expression than other wines of their appellation. That they are able to do this regularly, often transcending vagaries of vintage, is more inspiring still. One such grower is Pascal Agrapart from Avize in the Côte des Blancs, whose Champagnes are inspiring for their harmoniousness, clarity, and consistency.
With 62 parcels mostly spread across the grand cru villages of Avize, Cramant, Oiry, and Oger (per Peter Liem on his excellent website ChampagneGuide.net) Pascal Agrapart farms his vines conscientiously, avoiding herbicides, pesticides, and choosing to till the soils to encourage the roots to go deeper. In the cellar he ferments in a combination of tank and wood, with the vintage wines seeing significant time on the lees. The resulting Champagnes are deeply mineral and display great distinction between individual cuvées. All are nervy, balancing power with precision, with great expression of soils and subsoils, be they chalk, clay, or a combination thereof. This transparency shows across the entire lineup, from the generous non-vintage 7 Crus which is made up of Grand Cru Chardonnay from parcels located across the seven Côte des Blancs villages where Agrapart has vines, to Venus, a cuvée derived from a single 300-meter-square parcel of old vines in Avize that is profoundly lean, chalky and taut. For lovers of terroir and Champagne, Agrapart produces Champagnes that are immensely compelling. -John McIlwain
While Champagne is on occasion dismissed as a wine without terroir due to its history of blends, the multiple stages of fermentation, and a prise de mousse that relies on the addition of sugar or MCR, Pascal Agrapart's Expérience is solely comprised of grape juice with just a modicum of sulfur. The vin clair is a barrel selection of 2014 Minéral and Avizoise fermented with native yeasts, and the secondary fermentation begun with grape must from the 2015 vintage and cellar yeasts. The wine is aged under cork and bottled without dosage. This cuvée is a particularly vinous expression of Champagne, where terroir and grape have an articulate dialogue. John McIlwain
Comprised of grapes from all seven villages in the Côte des Blancs, where Agrapart has vines, 7 Crus is a blend of two vintages, aged partially in barrel, partially in tank. The wine is fermented with native yeasts and aged on the lees for three years before release. The nose is redolent of lemon blossoms, orange oil, wet stone, and chalk, while the palate balances orchard fruit flavors with racy acidity, sapid minerality, and a richness derived from its élevage. And while this is produced in greater volume, 7 Crus is a Champagne that ages beautifully and is worthy of space in one's cellar. John McIlwain
Terroirs is a blend of Chardonnay from multiple parcels like the 7 Crus cuvée, but from older vines planted in mid-slope chalk and clay soils and aged longer on the lees, with some barrel-aged reserve wine lending another layer of complexity.
Minéral is a vintage-dated blend of Chardonnay from two particularly chalky lieux dits within the grand cru villages of Cramant and Avize, with the grapes from Bionnes (Cramant) vinified in demi-muid and Le Champ Bouton (Avize) vinified in tank and blended in equal parts. John McIlwain
From clay and limestone soils of grand cru parcels of Les Robarts and Les Gros Yeux, at the top of the hill in the village of Avize. 50+ year-old vines. The clay-dominant soils lend depth and breadth to the wine vs. the chalkier Minéral bottling.
Sourced from a small plot within La Fosse, planted in 1959, Vénus is named after the draft horse that plowed the vines. The soils are exceptionally chalky relative to the soils of other parts of Avize which have more clay, per Peter Liem. Aged under cork rather than crown cap and bottled without dosage, Vénus is profoundly mineral and a study in chalk, with the old vines' deep roots preserving that sense of terroir even in warmer or 'off' vintages. John McIlwain