Champagne, France

At a Glance
  • The Grand Cru village of Aÿ is home to some of the most lauded Pinot Noir in the region, which the Gatinois family has been growing since the 1600s.
  • Eleventh generation Louis Gatinois sells a portion of his crop to the Grande Marques, specifically Bollinger, but with each passing year he is bottling more of his production on his own.
  • Gatinois has a reputation for excellence up and down the hierarchy. Their Pinot-centric blends strike a beautiful balance between power and elegance, fullness and focus. 

The boutique Champagne house of Gatinois is located in the lovely village of Äy, in the Vallée de Marne. The town of 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-récoltant 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 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 Bollinger. Louis Gatinois continues to sell a portion of his crop to the Grande Marques, including Bollinger, but with each passing year he is bottling more of his production on his own. Pierre Cheval-Gatinois, Louis' father, was very much the Champenois traditionalist (with his family dating back eleven generations as vignerons in the region), 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-récoltants in the region.

The Gatinois house style of Champagne is classic for wines produced primarily from fruit from the village of Äy, as they rely heavily on Pinot Noir in the blends for all of the various Gatinois cuvées. The lineup begins with their lovely, full-bodied NV Brut Tradition, made of ninety percent Pinot Noir and ten percent Chardonnay, all hailing from the family’s own Grand Cru vineyard in Äy. The wine is aged for three years prior to release, and while it routinely drinks well on release, it possesses the capability of aging well for twelve to fifteen years. 

In top vintages, Monsieur Gatinois also makes a Brut Millésime, which made with the lion’s share of the family’s production of the special Pinot Noir clone called 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 60 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 the house of Gatinois is one of the up and coming superstars in grower Champagne with their consistent excellence across the board and Louis coming into his own as a winemaker. The Champagne house is quite small, only producing 2200 cases of bubbly each year, making it well worth the effort to seek out the current releases soon after they cross the Atlantic.