2011 Vilmart & Cie "Coeur de Cuvée" 1er Cru Champagne
Coeur de Cuvée is Vilmart & Cie's Tete de Cuvée, or top bottling, and consistently one of my favorite Champagnes. 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir
"Founded by Désiré Vilmart in 1890, the Vilmart et Cie Estate has produced their own wines since the very beginning. Taking over the reins in 1995, Laurent Champs is the fifth generation to run this outstanding 11-hectare estate in the Premier Cru of Rilly la Montagne. Spread over only 12 parcels, Laurent’s dedication and his life’s work can best be seen walking through his impressive vineyard holdings.
‘Coeur de Cuvée’ refers to the center (or “heart”) of the traditionally four-thousand-kilogram press, which Laurent still employs. From a pressing of four thousand kilograms of grapes, a yield of 2,550 liters of juice makes up the cuvée. For ‘Coeur de Cuvée,’ only this center 1,400 liters – referred to as the “coeur” or “heart” – of the cuvée is used. (Traditionally, this is why barrels in Champagne were 255 liters – one pressing would produce exactly 10 barrels of wine.) The must is fermented and raised in 1-3-year-old barrique from Damy for ten months; like all of Laurent’s wines, it does not go through malolactic process.
“We use cover crops in 7 of 9 rows as a rule and do extensive soil work to keep the vines and the soils healthy,” Laurent says, standing at the top a hillside vineyard. “You see, the aspect of the vineyard in Champagne is very important. Most of the vineyards here in Rilly are facing north or east. It is only here that we see a perfect south facing hillside.”
Laurent is adamantly a vintner first, before he is a maker of Champagne. “We do wine first, then afterward we do the Champagne,” he says. Looking back on over twenty years at Vilmart, Laurent speaks about his wines clearly. “For me, Vilmart is about precision, emotion and an experience. Drinking wines should be an experience that draws people together, and I hope, evokes emotion. For sure, my wines have a specific style, and through the many years of making wine, I think that we have a recognizable feeling. My wines should be a human experience first.” -- Skurnik Wines, Importer
"The 2011 Coeur de Cuvée is gorgeous, especially within the context of the year. Translucent and airy, the 2011 is a Champagne of real elegance. Sage, mint, dried flowers, orchard fruit and lemon peel all grace this super-expressive and pretty Champagne. These 60-year-old vines handled the challenges of 2011 well. Harvest took place in August, which after 2003 and 2007, is not as freakishly unusual as it would have been a generation ago. The 2011 is undoubtedly terrific. Even so, I would not push my luck on aging given the inherent fragility of the year. 93 pts" -- Vinous