Aurelien Suenen makes some of the most crystalline and pure Chardonnay with bubbles we've ever found. His vineyards are in the Côte de Blancs, a long north-to-south running escarpment of pure chalk. It faces east, where minerality is nearly a given; exploring each village and vineyard's nuanced expressions provide endless fun to the wine-obsessed (like us!).Until the Grower movement of the last two decades, single vineyard wines were a rarity in Champagne. Of course, Salon has been always been a single vineyard wine, since 1905, and Pierre Péters started bottling Les Chetillons in 1971. Aurelien found inspiration from these star producers and followed suit, leading his own young generation with his site-specific bottlings.To coax the most minerality out of the inherently salty, stony soils of the Côte de Blancs, Aurelien has converted his farming to organics, a challenge in this marginal and wet climate. In the cellar he has returned to using old, neutral barrels, along with old acacia and some concrete tun, allowing the wine to breath and coalesce over the long 6-8 month aging, before the second fermentation in the bottle.Only indigenous yeasts are used, and paired with limited SO2, each barrel continues along its own path; some will complete malolactic fermentation and others will not. All of this just adds to the complexity of every vintage.
Champagne boasts some of the world’s greatest luxury brands with Krug, Cristal and, of course, Dom Perignon. But it’s also home to hundreds of small dynamic producers—farmers who grow their own grapes (often organically) and make (often with natural methods) tiny amounts of pure and absolutely delicious wine that reflect the individual personalities of their villages and terroirs. Toast with these wines, for sure. But also treat them like the great wines they are: taste, drink, explore!