Best buys | Champagne Agrapart grand cru blanc de blancs ‘Terroirs’ extra brut

Best buys

Champagne Agrapart grand cru blanc de blancs ‘Terroirs’ extra brut

We’ve got so used to thinking of champagne in terms of big brand names it’s easy to forget that it’s a subtle and complex wine, a fact of which I was reminded by a small tasting of Agrapart champagnes put on by the Bristol-based importer Vine Trail this week.

Agrapart is what’s known as a ‘growers’ champagne - i.e. a range made by the guy who grows the grapes rather than assembled from wine from several growers as is the norm with the bigger houses. Agrapart is based in Avize in the Côte des Blancs and has a 9.75 ha estate including 62 parcels of vines the majority of which are in the grand cru villages of Avize, Cramant, Oger and Oiry.

Although this is not the cheapest champagne in their range it’s only a couple of pounds more than the basic NV and for that you get a beautifully crafted, fresh-tasting flavourful champagne that I think knocks spots off many of the better known brands that are available at that price.

Although the Agraparts don’t describe themselves as organic and biodynamic they do effectively work their vineyards that way - including using horses to plough the vineyards. As the Vine Trail website puts it:

"They feel that it is important to work according to natural rhythms and sensibilities. No chemical pesticides or weed killers are ever used. Pascal attaches great importance to the proper technique and timing of pruning to control vineyard maladies. Some homeopathic treatments also used in the vines to control pests."

Only a small dosage of 5g per litre is added which admirably preserves the freshness and elegance of the wine. Pascal uses natural yeasts and bottles the wines without fining, filtration or cold stabilisation, 25% of the wine is aged in demi-muid wooden casks then the final blend spends 3 1/2 years in the bottle. SO2 is just 50mg per litre. (Full marks to Vine Trail for being specific on all these points in their admirably lucid and detailed technical sheet.)

I think this makes a fantastic champagne to drink on its own but if you were minded to drink it with food I'd be thinking of fresh and lightly cooked seafood such as crab or sole goujons or a few warm gougères to nibble on.

You might think it’s a bit random to write about champagne at the beginning of March but this type of growers’ champagne sells fast, particularly at £27.92 a bottle (the ex-VAT price. £33.50 after tax) and I know the Vine Trail trade tasting is coming up on Wednesday next week. If you’re a champagne fan try to lay your hands on some. Bibendum appears to have a limited amount too as do D & M wines in San Francisco.

* PS There’s a rather useful list of recommended restaurants, hotels and wine shops in the Champagne region on the Agrapart site. Probably the ones that stock their champagne but that’s a recommendation in itself.

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