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The center of gravity in Champagne skews decidedly northward. Montagne de Reims, La Valée de Marne and Côte des Blancs are spoken of more frequently and likely more glowingly, than Sézanne, Montgueux, and Côtes de Bar/Aube. But there’s serious terroir in those hills and valleys of southern Champagne if you look. It’s no secret that some of the most compelling developments in Champagne are coming from the Aube. The area has a long history with a fame derived from its still red wines and even a game-changing rosé grown in the marls and Kimmeridgian limestone soils, which have more in common with Chablis than the Marne or Montagne de Reims.
This Rosé des Riceys—from the village of the same name straddling the border of Champagne and Burgundy—is made in tiny quantities by a handful of growers only in warm vintages. Famously a favorite of the Sun King Louis XIV, this has more in common with a red wine than most rosés. First, the wine is intended for cellaring; typically it is released after a long élevage. A master of the genre is vigneron Olivier Horiot and his wife Marie, who not only producebtwo single-vineyard Rosé des Riceys, but luminous Champagnes, startlingly mineral Coteaux Champenois whites, and deep-pitched Coteaux Rouge. And today we have all on offer in large format bottles from multiple vintages and ranging from ready to drink to perfect size to lay down.
With family roots in vine growing dating to the 1600s and a father and grandfather who sold their grapes to the cave cooperative, Olivier Horiot decided to vinify independently as well as work organically with some biodynamic methods. Blessed with established vines in distinctive terroir, Olivier initially decided to make only Rosé des Riceys and Coteaux Champenois before complementing the still wines with sparkling wines in 2004. With 8 parcels of different terroirs, Olivier decided to bottle some separately: south-facing En Valingrain’s lighter marl lends more precision and finesse, while the heavier clays and eastern and south-eastern exposure of En Barmont contribute more richness and generosity. And though Rosé des Riceys is already a somewhat esoteric wine, bottling two different cuvées shows Horiot’s commitment to terroir. Further we a pleased to have a limited number of the Horiots' Coteaux Champenois Blanc (Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc) as well as their excellent Coteaux Rouge (Pinot Noir) John McIlwain
A super-cuvée from the parcels En Valingrain and En Barmont. Made only a couple of times.
If the Rosé des Riceys from En Barmont is generous, verging on sensuous in nature, En Valingrain offers more linear, bordering on cerebral, pleasures (both are fantastic, I hasten to add). A pale light garnet robe, with hints of copper on the edges; the 2012 En Valingrain displays high-toned red fruit aromas, wild strawberry, cranberry, and rose hips, with a hint of brambles in the background. With air, the nose becomes more perfumed with pretty notes of wild roses, tangerine peel, and sandalwood. The palate is a bit reserved, in comparison to En Barmont, but has a fine mineral core and nervosity with wild strawberry and red cherry flavors giving way to a pungent earthiness. The finish is long and linear with an admirable persistence. Decant now or cellar for a few years to allow the elements to integrate. This is a lovely wine in the making and a fine expression of Rosé des Riceys! John McIlwain
Bruised strawberry, red flowers on the nose. Dusty sweet flower petals. Tangy, sour apple, apple peel, tangerine peel. Long chalky finish.
Effusively floral on the nose. Morello cherry, black tea, lean coiled on the palate. Nervy and mouthwatering on finish.