Jiles's Blog

Who Am I?

17 years spent living and working in Champagne has allowed Jiles to build up a vast amount of knowledge about all things bubbly as well as a very extensive network of contacts, especially amongst the smaller and less well-known champagne makers whose champagnes will probably amaze you with their quality and diversity.

A job as area manager for Asia and Australia with Moët et Chandon was what first drew Jiles to Champagne after completing an MBA in Luxury Brand Management at ESSEC, a prestigious business school just outside Paris.

After nearly 9 years at Moët Jiles moved back to the UK where he started one of the first online businesses promoting and selling grower champagnes,

However the draw of ‘The King of Wines and the Wine of Kings’ once again proved irresistible and another 8 year stay in Champagne was the result. During this second stay in Champagne Jiles worked with the Syndicat Général des Vignerons de Champagne as an accedited consultant for small, independent champagne makers before setting up his own consultancy.

Jiles now spends his time between England and Champagne.and puts his knowledge and contacts to work helping wine lovers everywhere learn more about champagne and helping businesses and individuals to create their own private champagne brand.

He is the author of two books on champagne, several concise guides to champagne  and is the creator of an online champagne study course called My Champagne Expert

 


 

Terroir Tracker - Chavot-Courcourt

Church-at-Chavot-300If you’ve ever been to Champagne the chances are you noticed the church in Chavot perched on the top of a rise about 3 kilometres south west of Epernay and overlooking the valley of the little River Cubry. The church can be seen from far away and is something of a local landmark.


The history of Chavot (old name Chavost) goes back a long way, at least to Roman times and archaeological digs have shown that 1,000 years ago there was a wooden fort and look-out post on the top of Mont Félix just behind and slightly above the location where the church now stands.


In 1852 the next door village of Courcourt asked to be joined with Chavot and since then the two communities go under the joint name of Chavot-Courcourt.
Today Chavot-Courcourt is one of the 10 villages, plus Epernay, that make up the sub-region called Les Coteaux Sud d’Epernay that bridges the gap between La Côte des Blancs to the south and La Vallée de La Marne to the west.


Coteaux-sud-map-extract-300The vineyards in Chavot-Courcourt are situated in an arc and are west / north-west facing in Courcourt and north / north east facing in Chavot giving rise to a complex variety of soils. Of the 125 hectares just 6 hectares are planted with Pinot Noir and the rest are split roughly equally between Chardonnay and Meunier.

The top soil contains more clay than in La Côte des Blancs and less than in La Vallée de La Marne, consequently champagnes from Chavot and the surrounding Coteaux Sud d’Epernay area have a profile that is a cross between the two larger areas with more roundness to the Chardonnay than you would find in La Côte des Blancs and more minerality in the Meunier than in the neighbouring Marne River valley.


Chavot is home to some 80 vine growers but few brands of any fame with the exception of Laherte Frères, a small récoltant manipulant producing excellent quality wines. Chavot also boasts a bustling cooperative.

Terroir Tracker - Cuisles

Entrance-to-Cuisles300You can be forgiven if you’ve never heard of Cuisles, let alone visited it. It’s a little village hidden away in a valley leading off the main valley of the River Marne and despite its château and its long history Cuisles has never been anything more than tiny (mind you there was a period between 1793 and 1851 when the population ‘exploded’ by   63% … from 152 to 248 people) and today there are still only some 150 inhabitants. Despite its size however, Cuisles is well worth a second look.


Cuisles-factsThe 33 hectares of vines, almost all of which are planted with Meunier, are all situated on a single, broad and rather steep, south-facing slope that runs behind the village and looks down on the houses below and on a stream called Le Ruisseau de La Maquerelle which runs into the Marne at Chatillons-sur-Marne a few kilometres away.


Hillsides-at-Cuisles300Many years ago there were two brick and tile factories in the village which gives a clue as to the nature of the soil.  Underneath a covering of top soil is a layer of sand and clay and at about 75cm down there’s a layer that is predominantly argilo-calcaire: a mixture of clay and limestone that drains well but which, unlike the purer chalk soils of many other areas of Champagne, retains very little water underground.


This can be a problem especially when combined with the mysteries of micro-climate. The Vallée de La Marne is not generally thought of as an area lacking in rain. Typically you can see clouds blowing in from the west bringing rain and sometimes spectacular storms rolling down the valley and drenching the vineyards. Strangely enough though Cuisles, tucked away in its little vale perpendicular to the Marne, gets 25% less annual rainfall than the villages actually on the river. To make matters more complicated the rainfall in Cuisles has fallen another 25% since the construction of the Paris- Reims motorway some 20 kilometres away to the north.


All in all the quality of the soil in Cuisles is poor but vines do well on poor soil and Meunier seems to thrive in this little enclave and there’s a finesse and purity to the wines that compensates for the generally low yields.


Illite300To-Cuisles350However, what’s unusual about Cuisles and the two or three neighbouring villages is that between the layer of sandy soil near the surface and the chalky-clay lower down there’s a layer of green clay called Illite. This is the same type of clay that is used extensively as a natural ingredient in cosmetics and in beauty treatments.


The Illite clay retains water better than the chalky-clay and is rich in nutrients. If you were to cut a cross section through the vineyard you’d find that most of the roots of the vines are concentrated in this layer of green clay.


Thanks to this unusual combination of soil and micro-climate, Meunier wines from Cuisles can truly be said to be ‘champagnes de terroir’. They have a mineral quality that is rare in other Meunier wines and, contrary to what is sometimes said about Meunier, they have good ageing potential.


Champagnes from Cuisles that are eminently worthy of note are Champagne Moussé Fils, a member of the prestigious Club Trésors de Champagne and the maker of the first 100% Meunier to receive the Club’s seal of approval and Champagne Huecq, situated just a stone’s throw away in rue Eugène Moussé.

In case you are wondering, Yes, the two families are related. After all, there are only 150 inhabitants in Cuisles Smiley-Face1

2015 Harvest at Champagne Moussé Fils

Cédric Moussé is pretty pleased with this year's harvest. In this one minute video he'll explain why

2015 Harvest in Champagne - Video review

Off To A Good Start

Every year there are choices to be made by the champagne makers:

If the weather is good the question is 'Do we start picking whilst the sun is shining or do we wait to see if the grapes ripen even more?'

If the weather is poor the question is ' Do we wait to see if the weather improves and the grapes ripen a bit more, or will the weather get worse?'

In the short video below you'll find out what has been going through the vignerons' minds in the first few days of the 2015 harvest.

Terroir Tracker - Cumières

CumieresCumières facts

Region : Grande Vallée de La Marne

Premier Cru

Vineyard area: 171 hectares

Pinot Noir: 92 Hectares

Chardonnay: 47 hectares

Meunier: 32 hectares

Many years ago, back in the 17th century before champagne had become popular, the Champagne region was best known for its still wines, particularly red wines. One of the centres of production was Cumières and Cumières Rouge is still produced to this day although it’s something of a curiosity that is rarely found outside Champagne.

Cumieres-sign300View-over-Cumieres300The vineyards of Cumières are rated as Premier Cru and lie just at the very entrance to the main valley of the Marne River. Just a few kilometres beyond Cumières you enter into the heart of the Marne valley where Meunier reigns supreme but in Cumières itself Pinot Noir is the most widely grown grape varietal in the village, but both Chardonnay and Meunier are grown as well.

Cumières sits on the north bank of the river Marne just 2 or 3 kilometres west of Epernay. A trip on the river by paddle steamer provides an original and enjoyable way to enjoy the peaceful landscape.

Whilst the village ‘ dips its toes’ so to speak, in the waters of the river, behind the village is a broad and steep, south facing slope where the grapes can ripen in the full warmth of the sun. Consequently Cumières is regularly amongst the first villages to start harvesting and this year (2015) is no exception – picking started in Cumières on September 3rd and only 4 villages, out of well over 100 in the Marne départment, started earlier.

Paddle-steamer300Amongst the many small brands in Cumières Georges Laval (organic) and René Geoffroy are particularly worth mentioning. Georges Laval is hard to find hidden as it is behind a big yellow door with no sign in the tiny Rue du Carrefour. Geoffroy moved their offices to Aÿ a few years ago their vineyards and perhaps the heart of the brand also, are still in Cumières.