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There's something inspiring about the wines of Champagne Georges Laval made by the ebullient Vincent Laval. Sure, the wines are delicious, precise, and substantial, but they have an inner vibrance deriving from their distinct terroir and longtime natural viticulture. If anything, the Champagnes could be described as self-assured. The Lavals have been farming organically since 1971, trading parcels with their neighbors along the way to craft larger contiguous blocks to facilitate this. After meticulous selection at harvest the grapes are pressed in a traditional 2000kg Coquard vertical press. The vins clairs are fermented with native yeasts, aged in barrels, bottled with low sulfur and typically without dosage.
The south-facing, ampitheatre-shaped village of Cumières located on the southern slope of the Montagne de Reims, overlooking the Marne River is something of a sun trap and is often the first village to begin the harvest.
The Laval wines reflect this warm microclimate with mouth-filling, beautiful fruit, tempered by incisive minerality derived from the old vines and organic farming. This ripeness allows for bottling without dosage without sacrificing charm or length on the finish. Barrel-aging also adds a light oxidative burnished note to the wines lending further complexity and nuance to their wines. The non-vintage Cumières 1er cru Brut-Nature derives from the low-yielding 2017 vintage. And though it is essentially his basic wine, there's nothing simple about this with the hallmark village ripeness and suavity married to an incisive mineral core. The single parcel Les Chênes blanc de blancs, located at the bottom of the slope on the eastern portion of the slope where the chalk is closer to the surface, displays beautiful tension between ripe orchard fruit and citrus notes, and a powerful driving mineral core. Likewise the old vine Pinot Meunier from Les Hauts Chèvres upslope on the western end of the village boasts magnificent succulent fruit, undergirded, with a serious earthy character that speaks to its clay soils. Each is is a fascinating picture of place, and imbued with incredible detail and radiant energy. John McIlwain
Vincent Laval's wines are simply outstanding. Located in the warm village of Cumières in the southern Montagne de Reims, this Domaine is so tiny that, without a tip-off, you'd never know it existed. The Lavals have been farming organically since 1971, making their Domaine one of the longest standing organic Domaines in the region. Their "basic" (though, trust us, there's nothing basic about it) Cumières is generally 50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (with some Meunier in 2017). The grapes are harvested very ripe. enabling the wine to find balance without the addition of a dosage. We can't find the words to lavish sufficient praise upon this wine. The bubbles are perfectly fine and creamy, the aromas rich, earthy, and pretty, the palate broad yet chiseled, and the finish mouth-coating and minerally.
If ever there were an argument that portions of Cumières merit Grand Cru status, Laval's Les Chênes makes a convincing case. The amphitheater-shaped vineyard is something of a sun trap and produces Champagnes of power and precision in Vincent's able hands. Made up of 100% organically-farmed Chardonnay from the eponymous lieu-dit on the eastern side of the village (near the bottom of the slope down by the river), where the soils are chalky rather than the clays of other portions of the village. This is a particularly powerful blanc de blancs.The 2016 has a pale lemon yellow robe with a frothy mousse and ultra-fine bead. The nose is inviting with pretty apple blossom, lemon oil aromas with a wisp of minty herbaceousness. The palate is incisively chalky, with a deep stoniness forming the core of the wine with layers of orchard fruit and citrus peel flavors shimmering above. This has fine grip and drive and enough brio to make for compelling drinking now, but don't hesitate to age for 10 or more years, as tastings with Vincent have shown that les Chênes is a particularly long-lived wine and a magnificent expression of singular terroir. John McIlwain
Vincent Laval's Les Hauts Chèvres Blanc de Noirs bottling comes from a parcel on the western portion of the slope of Cumières. Formerly comprised of Pinot Noir from very old vines (which have since been replanted), the wine is now made from venerable Pinot Meunier vines planted between 1931 and 1947 in the same lieu-dit. The 2015 Les Hauts Chèvres displays a pale, faintly peach skin robe. The nose offers aromas of stone fruit, salted plum, sea shell and wet stone. The palate is concentrated and rich with red fruits underlain by an umami earthiness and firm mineral core, carrying thru in the long, involved, sapid finish. One could call this a "serious" Pinot Meunier, without the sometimes unbridled character the variety sometimes displays, due to the old vines and longtime organic farming of the dedicated Laval family, but that would understate the sheer deliciousness of the wine, which should only grow as the structural and fruit elements knit. John McIlwain