Rafflin's Impeccable Grower Champagne
Champagne Hervé Rafflin, a staff favorite we’ve highlighted before, is a tiny estate — even by the standards of the many small-fry growers you find scattered around the region. They produce between just 400 and 1,000 cases of wine annually, depending on what the vintage offers them. They don’t have a marketing department, an instagram account, or even a website. What they do have is Champagne so suave it's almost gluggable, but serious enough to make you stop and contemplate your second sip.
The Rafflins also have time. They've been caring for their plots of vines since 1840. Hervé took over in 2001, adding his 20 years of experience to their nearly two centuries of generational understanding of their land — land they know, love, and cherish. It shows in the precision and delicate expression of their chalky terroir in the glass.
It helps that their terroir is excellent. Their premier cru parcels in villages of Ludes (of Bérêche fame), Rilly-la-Montagne (home of Vilmart) and Chigny-les-Roses all face north. This equals excellent cut, and a linear, laser beam focus, reminiscent of the wines from the nearby Grand Cru of Verzenay, and a real boon in the climate change era.
Keeping holdings small allows the entire production process from vine to glass to remain artisanal and hands on. As of 2021, Rafflin’s vineyards are certified organic. Vin clair is allowed to rest before secondary fermentation and disgorging only happens when the wines are ready to drink.
Though this is Pinot Noir country — some of the world's best Pinot vineyards are here, in the villages of Verzenay and Verzy — Rafflin's holdings are mostly Pinot Meunier. We love our Meunier-based Champagnes; when done well, the grape shows bold black fruits and richly nutty, almost tertiary notes very early in its lifetime. The base-2016 La Nature’l we’re offering today is 100% Meunier done very well, and in a perfect spot with exuberant freshness complimented by the beginnings of those hazelnut-skin notes. Notes of blood orange, red fruits and crushed chalk round out the complexity. Elegant, fresh and saline, this is a wonderfully affordable Grower Champagne option.
Hervé Rafflin, Champagne 1er Cru Extra Brut Pinot Meunier La Nature'l, NV $47.99
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