Touring the vineyards with Vincent Charlot is a truly unique experience, more akin to walking the forest with an ancient medicine man than a typical vineyard tour with a vigneron. His knowledge of each of his parcels is remarkable, well beyond the soils, grapes and rootstocks, and down to the littlest patchwork flora that Vincent has planted as cover crop. He encourages indigenous plants between vine rows and also seeds assorted herbes, grasses and legumes.
Officially, Charlot practices organic and biodynamic viticulture. However, leaving it at that would be a serious understatement! His knowledge of the plant world, and the interwoven relationship between grape vine and the various plants that surround them goes beyond just about any “natural” viticulturist. To Vincent, when there is a healthy and balanced environment in the vineyards, maladies can be handled naturally and homeopathically. In fact, he grows and prepares most of his own biodynamic preps, including some that he has experimented with and developed uniquely at his property. Interestingly, Charlot does not believe in plowing, but rather feels that the proper cover crop can provide more than ample aeration to the soil as well as competition for the surface roots. This in turn helps send the vine roots down deep into the underlying bedrock (“where the real terroir lives!”).
Charlot took over his family domaine in 2001. His four hectares of vineyards are located in and around the village of Mardeuil, just west of Epernay. The majority of his holdings are planted to Pinot Meunier, though he also has some beautifully situated parcels of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which he often vinifies separately. Obviously, everything is worked laboriously by hand, including at the harvest.
In the cellars, the grapes are pressed and fermented in used oak barrels with indigenous yeasts. Bottling occurs without fining and filtration, and malolactic fermentation is inhibited to provide additional freshness and delineation. Like many of today’s more progressive Champenois, he prefers to keep dosage levels extremely low.
Total production is a mere 2,500 cases per year, which he sells under two different – though closely related - domaine names. Champagne Charlot-Tanneux are his entry-level wines which he makes from a blend of parcels, whereas Champagne Vincent Charlot includes his “Cuvées Parcellaires” (or single-parcel) wines that are produced only in the best vintages and in very small quantities.
We are extremely pleased to have discovered this truly remarkable Artisan-Vigneron who has remained well under-the-radar in the Champagne world! His complex, vinous, and naturally-rendered Champagnes will most certainly dazzle the most die-hard bubbly fans…