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Though it’s a bit of a truism at this point, for a region dominated by big houses and co-operatives, the grower revolution in Champagne over the last 20-30 years is still remarkable as the new generation(s) continue to improve and refine viticulture, explore individual terroirs, and expand on the possibilities of the wines. The forebear of this is certainly Anselme Selosse, whose bottling of specific parcels and perpetual cuvées inspired dozens of growers and still bears fruit today with young Champenois as they take over their families’ vines and cellars.
One of the brightest young stars is Flavien Nowack who seems to be endlessly curious as well as fantastically devoted to terroir. I first tasted his wines and vins clairs at the Des Pieds et Des Vins tasting in Reims, where he not only distinguished himself with the character of his wines, but by also showing the unfermented grape must alongside his vins clairs and finished Champagnes so one could taste the terroir from base material to final wine. His friends and colleagues in the Pieds et des Vins group Agnés Corbon and Sébastien Mouzon describe him as a man who is as driven to explore the history of Champagne as he is inspired by the terroirs of his family’s parcels on the right bank of La Grande Vallée de Marne.
Located in Vandières with vines Châtillon-sur-Marne, Champagne Nowack has roots dating back to 1795 (per Peter Liem’s indispensable ChampagneGuide.Net). The family began grape farming in 1850. Flavien started making his own Champagnes under Domaine Nowack while converting the vineyards to organic viticulture and bottling individual parcels. His primary fermentations are with native yeasts, in vat and barrel without chaptalization. The secondary fermentation (prise de mousse) is with grape must rather than selected yeasts and liqueur, and the parcellaires are aged under cork, rather than crown cap. Extended lees-aging results in an ultra-fine bead and lithe palate. And in a shocking twist, in his sulfur-free bottling Les Arpents Rouge, the vin clair is not topped off and allowed to develop a voile or flor much like the oxidative whites from the Jura. The resulting Champagne is a fascinating, savory wine with great umami character to accompany the red fruit and citrus oil flavor profile. It’s been a great pleasure enjoying Flavien’s growth and we are delighted to feature his wines. John McIlwain
*Wines arrive June 25
Flavien Nowack's Extra-Brut S.A. (Sans Année) is comprised of 60% Pinot Meunier and 40% Chardonnay farmed biodynamically in the village of Vandières in the Marne. The base vintage is 2018 with 40% reserve wines dating from 2012. Initial fermentation is with native yeasts and the vins clairs are aged in tank and oak. The nose offers pretty aromas of pear skin skin, salted plum, and wet stone. The palate is medium-bodied and buoyant with orchard fruit and spice flavors undergirded by a fine bead of pungent minerality. John McIlwain*Pre-arrival, wine arrives 6/25.
100% Pinot Meunier from a single plot towards the bottom of the slope in Chatillon sur Marne, planted in 1965, biodynamically farmed. The soils are sand and clay limestone over marl. The vins clairs were aged in a combination of barrel and tank, secondary fermentation under cork, aged for 30 months on lees.It’s such a delight tasting the wines from growers whose progress you’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy bottle by bottle, year by year. Especially when it’s a grower a talented and seeking as Flavien Nowack. The 2017 La Fontinette (Parcelle-Autre Cru) Pinot Meunier is a Champagne combining lush fruit and subtle, but striking earth notes. The robe is a faint peach hue, the mousse is soft and frothy, boasting an ultra-fine bead. The nose offers aromas of stone fruit, orange skin, citrus blossoms. and bicuit. The palate is inviting and juicy on the attack with balancing orchard fruit flavors, hints of sweet spice and peach nectar flavors enrobing a taut and nervy core with a lip-smacking, expansive, stony finish. John McIlwain*Pre-arrival, wine arrives 6/25.
100% Pinot Noir planted in 1983 from a southeast-facing plot comprised of sandy soils in Vandières on the right (northern) bank of the Marne River. The vin clair is fermented with native yeasts in vat and barrel without undergoing malolactic, the secondary fermentation is under cork. *Pre-arrival, wine arrives 6/25.
100% Pinot Noir planted in 1983 from a southeast-facing plot comprised of sandy soils in Vandières on the right (northern) bank of the Marne River. The vin clair is fermented with native yeasts in vat and barrel without undergoing malolactic, the secondary fermentation is under cork.
*Pre-arrival, wine arrives 6/25.
100% Chardonnay from a southwest facing parcel comprised of sandy limestone soils in Vandières on the right bank of the Marne. Farmed biodynamically. Fermented with native yeasts, aged in a combination of vat and small barrel, secondary fermentation is under cork, with prise de mousse done with grape must rather than liqueur. *Pre-arrival, wine arrives 6/25.
Perhaps the most distinctive in a lineup of compelling Champagnes, Les Arpents Rouges is a single parcel wine comprised of Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, grown in clay-sandstone soils toward the bottom of the slope in Vandières. The grapes are farmed organically, and aged in barrels without sulfur or ouillage (topping up). The prise de mousse is done with grape must and the wine is bottled without sulfur. The resulting wine is umami-rich in character and utterly fascinating.