One tasting this time: the range of champagnes made by the Serge Mathieu champagne house, one of the Côte des Bar’s leading small growers and producers, renowned for extremely fine champagne. Such an interesting tasting, kindly hosted by Christopher and Marigold Davenport Jones at their home.
We first had the unusual opportunity of tasting examples of the appellation Coteaux Champenois 2011: one white, one red from Bouzy (Louis XIV’s favourite wine), covering almost the same area as for the sparkling Champagne production. These still wines tend to be light-bodied with high acidity. Production is small, because there is far more profit in using the grapes for sparkling wine. The wines are quite expensive, and although perfectly acceptable, particularly the reds from Bouzy, they can be regarded as something of a curiosity rather than good value.
The Mathieu family has grown grapes in the Côte des Bar, the major region in the Aube, since the 1700s. Champagne producers further north used to look down on the Aube – it was excluded from the appellation at first – although many Grandes Marques have always bought in Pinot Noir grapes from local growers to blend into their champagne.
Like other growers, the Mathieu family always sold all their grapes, until 1970, when Serge Mathieu, working with his father, produced their first bottles of champagne. Since then, production rapidly increased.
Serge’s daughter Isabelle married Michel Jacob, from a neighbouring village. Between them, they have considerably expanded the business. A large percentage of the annual production is now exported.
They are constantly developing biodynamic, eco-friendly techniques of farming and investing in new technology. They carry out extra cellar-ageing for all the range, for three to five years before release, which facilitates low dosage levels, helping to preserve the pure fruit aromas and flavours. ‘Dosage’ is the addition of a sugar solution to replace the volume lost by dégorgement (the process of getting rid of the sediment before finally bottling and sealing).
The tasting demonstrated well their different styles of champagne.
Serge Mathieu Tradition Brut NV
Entirely Pinot Noir. Very dry. Ripe, rounded flavours, of plums, full bodied and good length. Three years bottle age. Dosage: 8.6 gr/l .
Serge Mathieu Extra Brut Tradition NV
Also 100% Pinot Noir, but with a dosage of 5 gr/l (the wine must have less than 6 gr/l to qualify as Extra Brut).
Serge Mathieu Cuvée Prestige Brut NV 12%
70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. Fresh, clean, lively and more delicate than the previous wines, thanks to the Chardonnay. Four years ageing. Dosage: 8.6 gr/l.
Serge Mathieu Brut Select Champagne
80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir. A delicate, restrained bouquet. Refreshing, with nice acidity and good depth. Medium to long finish. Dosage: 8.6 gr/l.
Serge Mathieu Champagne Brut Millésimé 2009
100% Pinot Noir. This vintage champagne was aged on lees for at least 5 years, and one more year in bottle before release. Fresh tasting, acidic. A nutty, biscuity, creamy tasting champagne. Good structure, balance and length. Dosage: 6gm/l
Serge Mathieu, Brut Rosé
90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay, with some red wine from the estate added for colour and complexity. Only a small quantity is produced. Salmon pink in colour with aromas of raspberries, strawberries, even pomegranates. Plenty of fruit flavours, full-bodied, lively and crisp, bone dry. Dosage: 9.5 gr/l
Serge Mathieu champagnes are often described as elegant, charming and delicate, “ethereal, artful and delicious”; “wines of character and refinement”; qualities epitomised by this delightful tasting.