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Dhondt-Grellet, Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1er Cru 'Les Terres Fines', NV

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We call this the "impossible" Champagne because it is 100% Chardonnay from Cuis, whose vines face north and therefore regularly require additional dosage, but D-G makes his with no dosage at all. A nervy, steely treat of a Champagne.


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What used to be impossible in Champagne is now possible.

The man who will guide us towards today’s new frontier is Adrien Dhondt-Grellet. He is only 25 or so, but he was lucky enough to be born into a family that produces Champagne. Better yet, his Mom and Dad made a huge change even before he was born. Back in the mid-1980s, they stopped selling their grapes to negociants and became grower-producers. That may sound commonplace now, but it isn’t really, and it was exceptionally rare back in the 80s.

Adrien is from the village of Cuis. Cuis is in the heart of the Cote des Blancs, so naturally Chardonnay is the grape of choice. But Cuis stands apart from some of the villages that are somewhat better known, like Cramant or Avize, because most of its slopes face north.

Think about that. The whole reason Champagne exists where it does is because it’s at the northern limit of where you can ripen grapes. Historically it’s so hard to ripen grapes there that the local tradition developed of blending vintages to mitigate risk, and disguising the problem with preserved carbonation and added sugar (known as "dosage"). But in Cuis, they make it even harder by facing the vineyards away from the sun!

So, in the old days, Cuis' grapes were used to add acidity and nerve to a blend--and even then the Champagne was heavily dosaged. In fact, that’s still what happens to most of Cuis' grapes.

But Adrien Dhondt-Grellet does the impossible: he makes a wine exclusively from Cuis, and he makes it with no dosage at all. Yes, it is steely and nervy. But it also tastes rich and fully ripe.

How does he do it? Partly it’s through the kind of obsessive, careful, vine-by-vine work in the fields that is only possible when you know you are going to be bottling your own wine and putting your name on it. And partly it's once again thanks to Mom and Dad. In 1986, they started a Solera (or, technically, a perpetual reserve), to which they add some wine every year, and from which they pull some wine every year for the new release. It is one of the oldest such reserves maintained by any Grower in Champagne. There are now plenty of older vintages in the blend -- almost 30 vintages! -- and they are one of the keys to the wine’s richness and complexity.

Professional Reviews

Antonio Galloni

AG 93
"Dhondt-Grellet's NV Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Les Terres Fines 1er Cru is powerful, intense and richly flavored, with plenty of old-vine Chardonnay character. There is a real vinosity in the glass that is hugely appealing. Over time, the wine fills out its broad frame nicely. Although the Les Terres Fines is at times a bit burly, it is certainly not lacking in personality. This is a decidedly masculine expression of Cuis Chardonnay. Lemon confit, wild flowers, almonds and brioche infuse the deeply satisfying finish. The low dosage style works nicely here. The Terres Fines is 70% 2013 and 30% reserve wines from a perpetual reserve that goes back to 1986. Dosage is 0.85 grams per liter." -Vinous

Robert Parker

RP 93
"The NV Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru Les Terres Fines (2015) is based on the 2015 vintage, complemented by some 30% of reserve wines from a solera dating back to 1986, and it was disgorged in April 2018 with two grams per liter dosage. The wine demands some time in the glass to open up, revealing aromas of crisp green pear, fresh brioche, white peach and toasted walnuts. This is followed by a full-bodied, vinous palate that's precise and promisingly tight-knit, with lovely purity and a nicely defined finish, and the ripe fruit of the vintage is manifested more in chewy dry extract than any overt heaviness. Interestingly, the aromatic imprint of this Champagne's solera component is still very subtle, though I suspect it will show its hand more plainly after a few years under cork." -Robert Parker


  • Grape Variety


  • Vintage


  • Size


  • Farming Practice


  • Pair With

    Drink On Its Own , Drink With Poultry

  • Style


  • Sweetness


  • Body

    Light Bodied


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!

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