The vineyards of Merfy, seven kilometers north of Reims, lie on the southern slopes of the Massif de Saint-Thierry in the Montagne de Reims. These slopes were planted shortly after the arrival of the Romans and monks of the neighboring Abbey of Saint-Thierry expanded the vineyards in the 7th century. By the 9th century, the vines surrounding the abbey represented the single largest concentration of vines in Champagne and the wines from Merfy earned a great reputation and found their way to the Royal table.
Today, Chartogne-Taillet remains the only RM producer in the village and under Alexandre Chartogne’s guidance, the wines of Chartogne-Taillet are some of the most sought-after Champagnes being produced. Alexandre worked with Anslem Selosse, who he describes as “my wine father”, returning home in 2006. The first wine that he produced was the 2006 vintage of Les Barres, a very special parcel of ungrafted Meunier, planted in 1952. The soil in this parcel is sand for almost 3 meters before the roots reach the chalk bedrock, allowing the vines “to live in two environments”.
Starting with the very first year back at home, Chartogne was experimenting with special, single parcel bottlings. Today, he produces wines from 8 different parcels: Les Barres, Beaux Sens, Le Couarres, Couarres Château, Heurtebise, Orizeaux, Les Alliées and Chemin de Reims. In each parcel a different variety planted, but Chartogne is adamant about the variety not being important. “It is the soil and the place that is most important. The variety is just the transmission of the feeling of that place” says Alexandre. In addition to the very small production parcelle wines, he produces a Rosé, which he considers to be the wine that carries the biggest imprint of the winemaker, as well as a non-vintage called Saint-Anne, which expresses the different terroirs of Merfy. Ste. Anne is a village wine, and an excellent lesson in just how fine wine from “cru normal” made with expertise and care can be.