The boutique Champagne house of Gatinois is located in the lovely village of Äy in the Vallée de Marne. Äy is probably best-known as the home of such famous Grandes Marques as Bollinger, Gosset and Deutz, but it also boasts some of the best small grower-producers as well, and foremost among them is Champagne Gatinois. Äy is one of the most important villages in all of Champagne as its vineyards are all ranked as Grand Cru and it is considered one of the very top sources for Pinot Noir in the region.
The current head of the house is 12th generation vigneron Louis Gatinois, who recently took the helm and oversees just over seven hectares of family-owned vineyards in Äy. For many years the family primarily made its living as grape growers, with much of its production earmarked each year to be sold to the Grandes Marques. Louis Gatinois continues to sell a portion of his crop to the big houses, including Bollinger, but with each passing year he is bottling more and more for his own label. Pierre Cheval-Gatinois, Louis's father, was the quintessential Champenois traditionalist and spoke out repeatedly about the potential pitfalls of using new oak in the fermentation and elevage of Champagne, which has been gaining adherents amongst several of his fellow grower-producers in the region.
Marked by black cherries and earth, the Gatinois profile is deeply reflective of Pinot-centric blends from the village of Äy. The lineup begins with their lovely, full-bodied NV Brut Tradition, made of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, and aged sur lattes for three years prior to release. While it routinely drinks well on release, it possesses the capability to age well for twelve to fifteen years.
In top vintages, Louis Gatinois also makes a Brut Millésime, which is made with the lion’s share of the family’s production of the special Pinot Noir clone known as "Le Petit Pinot d’ Äy," which originated in Äy and is considered among the finest in all of Champagne, producing finer, more complex and often longer-lived wines. The lineup is rounded out with their beautiful NV Brut Rosé, which is made from 90-100% Pinot Noir, a small percentage of which is still red wine from a small block of 70 year-old Pinot Noir vines. It is a classic Äy rosé: deep, full-bodied, pure and utterly refined, with notes of wild strawberries, red currants, wheat toast and a lovely base of soil.
All in all, Gatinois is one of the up and coming superstars in grower Champagne with their consistent excellence across the board. The Champagne house is quite small, only producing 3,300 cases of bubbly each year, making it well worth the effort to seek out the current releases soon after they cross the Atlantic.