The SOMM Journal

August / September 2018

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{ } 69 vines sit just above the facility on the top of the hill. There's even a small castle on the property dating back to the 1880s: After being fully refurbished, it now houses the restaurant La Table du Château Gratien, which opened last November with a Michelin-starred chef at the helm. "We are one of the few cellars in the world where you go 'up' to the cellar," Dupré said as we tasted two current releases from Gratien & Meyer. "In the old days, a stable of eight horses carried the barrels up." Dupré elaborated on the brand's history, noting that Alfred Gratien was only 44 when he suddenly died in 1885. After his widow sold the winery to Jean-Albert Meyer, the Champagne house was named in Gratien's honor. "We've been pro - ducing Crémant in Saumur for about 40 years," Dupré said. "About ten years ago, we saw the trend for Crémant rosé in the French market, but we waited until the time was right to put our own mark on rosé Crémant." That time came about five years ago, and from what I tasted with Dupré at Mourad, the company has succeeded in producing beautifully intricate and delicious Loire sparklers. The rosé—a blend of mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay—is about as rich and layered as they come at an SRP of $16. But how are they able to produce such exquisite and finessed sparklers at an accessible price point? The secret, according to Dupré, lies with one element of the production process: the liqueur de tirage. "We purchase 50 percent of the must and fermentation takes place in stainless steel, but we barrel-ferment our liqueur de tirage, which contributes incredible complexity," Dupré ex - plained. I prodded for more details, but Dupré didn't want to give away the farm. Regardless of the details, the result is evident in both the Brut and Rosé Crémants, which offer a subtle, toasty brioche character on the finish. For Gratien & Meyer's white and rosé offerings, half of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation, lending a richness to the palate; after nine months in barrel, the winemakers blend and bottle this portion with the barrel-fermented liqueur de tirage, aging the rosé for 18 months and the whites up to two years in bottle. The final step is adding the liqueur d'expedition to balance out the acidity (the wines average 9–13 grams of sugar per liter). Portfolio "Jewels" Make Their Mark In 2015, Mionetto USA became the sole U.S. importer of both Champagne Alfred Gratien and Gratien & Meyer Crémant. "Gratien & Meyer and Alfred Gratien, owned by the same family that owns the Henkell & Co. Group, are the jewels in our portfolio," says Enore Ceola, Managing Director of Mionetto USA. "It made perfect sense for us to start developing these brands as our organization develops and is capable to handle multiple projects and seg - ments within the sparkling wine category." That same year, Florence Haynes, a notable winemaker with deep ties to growers throughout the Loire Valley, was brought on to make the wines. "Florence spent eight years consulting for cooperatives in the Loire Valley, and we knew her to fight for rigorous stan- dards in the vineyards," Dupré said. "When we brought her on in 2015, she wanted to make her mark on rosé." He's clearly grateful for her connections. "Growers are faithful, but they have to be tamed— even ones we've been working with for more than three decades." Dupré said. "But Florence really is involved in the vineyards, and thanks to her work with our growers, our grapes are picked at optimal ripeness. We want lower alcohols so that with the second fermentation, we're not increasing it too much. To make good wines, you need good grapes: It's that simple." Gratien & Meyer even pays growers to replant Grollot and Chenin grapes if they're not "well- adapted," as Dupré puts it; in their place, they're planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Longtime buyers should note the label change with the current release of Crémants. "We really want to make it obvious that Champagne Alfred Gratien and Gratien & Meyer are sis - ter wineries," Dupré explained. The new front label of the Crémant bottlings now matches the elegant crown of the Champagne house, effectively drawing that distinction. Both the Gratien & Meyer Crémant de Loire Brut and Rosé are available in the U.S. market and, in this author's humble opinion, would make for exceptional by-the-glass place- ments—especially considering they'd hit at roughly $13–$14 per glass. Tasting Notes Gratien & Meyer Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé NV Fifteen- day skin contact and 18 months of aging on the lees. Beautiful pale-salmon color with delicate beading. Bright and fresh nose of wild strawberry, cantaloupe, and sea spray. A beautifully frothy mousse gives way to terrific minerality, unfolding in layers of white peach and melon on a red berry-infused, bright-acid finish with a subtle brioche after - thought. 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Chenin Blanc;12g/L Gratien & Meyer Crémant de Loire Brut NV Aged two years on the lees. Green-gold with delicate beading; fresh lime citrus and mineral aromas. Velvety with a generous mousse cut by vibrant, mouthwatering acidity. A rich mid-palate of lemon cream, lime zest, and saline minerality gives way to an elegant finish tinged with a subtle brioche note. 40% Chardonnay, 40% Chenin Blanc, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Pinot Noir; 12g/L

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