Tasting with Champagne Ambassadors - Epernay

  • Celia Hay

Champagne has over 16,000 growers with more than 320 houses.

The appellation of Champagne is the home to 16,000 growers with over 320 houses of Champagne. The Grandes Marques are those houses that we know well, but there are many grower Champagne houses who offer exciting wines and add a significant diversity to the appellation.

As part of the ASI Association of Sommeliers 50th Anniversary, we drove from Reims to Epernay, over the Montagne de Reims, for a regional tasting and visit to the home of Champagne at the Abbey of Hautvillers.

The abbot, Dom Perignon is the founder of Champagne and visiting the Abbey of Hautvillers, near Epernay is essential to the Champagne experience and part of the Champagne Moet & Chandon. How nice to then be met with the kiwi accent of Dom Perignon's oenologist, Nick Lane who explained the heritage of this famous wine.

The Grandes Marques of Champagne - those well-known brands who export over of 90% of all Champagne, have global reputations established over centuries. What is interesting to discover are those small, often family-run, houses who have created their own grower labels. They are referred to as Recoltant Manipulant (RM), growers who make and market their own brand from their own vineyards. 


Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte RC, the cooperative that makes and markets Champagne under their own label, provides wine making facilities and technical support to enable many small grower champagnes to flourish. Founded in 1972, it is now the 3rd largest Champagne House behind Veuve Cliquot and Moet & Chandon.

Our visit to Nicolas Feuillatte was followed by an impressive tasting of 50 Champagne Houses including Negociant Manipulant (NM) - who buy grapes from growers and to make and market under their own label as well as Recoltant Manipulant (RM). This also provides a unique opportunity to explore the wines of producers from the Vallée de la Marne, featuring Pinot Meurnier, or from the southern region of Cote des Bar who may use Pinot Blanc in their blends.


The entrance to the cooperative, Champagne, Nicolas Feuillatte is located in the village of Chouilly, in the Cote de Blanc, 10 minutes drive from Epernay. It has an excellent visitor experience tour where you can see through this modern facility and learn how Champagne is made. 

The gyropalatte hold bottles of Champagne upside down, in preparation for disgorgement.  You can just see the lees (sediment) in the neck of the bottles which will be removed and the wine topped up before the cork is inserted and the bottle labelled and prepared for distribution.


With Champagne Vincent d"Astree, from the Premier Cru village of Pierry, tasting here with Annemarie Foidl and Dagmar Gross from Austria. Champagne H Goutorbe is in Grand Cru village of Ay, famed for it Pinot Noir grapes. Here we tasted an outstanding Grand Cru 2010 of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay.

Nicolas Feuillatte's Terroir Premier Cru Champagne. Champagne Eric Collinet is from the small Cote de Bas village of Bragelogne-Beauvoir where the grow 2 hectares of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Temporis is 98% Pinot Noir and 2% Chardonnay.


Faniel Et Fils, is located in Cormoyeux, in the Vallée de la Marne. The Blanc de Blanc and Cuvée Oriane are show how well chardonnay can flourish in this region. Champagne Fleury-Gille is located in the Vallée de la Marne and  the Absolu has no dosage with 60% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier.


Champagne GX Crochet draws grapes from 8 areas over the Côte des Blancs (Cramant, Cuis, and Oiry crus), Le Sézannais and Vallée de la Marne. Champagne Patrick Soutiran (left) Blanc de Noir Brut from the Grand Cru village of Ambonnay presenting wines wtih Champagne Courtois RM from the village Crouttes sur Marne.

Champagne Collard-Picard RM  a new estate established by two families who have long been growers at Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, the Grand Cru village of the Cote de Blanc and celebrated for its chardonnay.

Champagne Colette Bonnet is from the southern region of the Cote de Bas near the city of Troyes. An organic producer and member of the Nicolas Feuillatte cooperative, this flag ship wine included 53% Pinot Blanc and 47% Pinot Noir.


Laura Poinsot of Champagne Poinsot is a family estate from the Cote de Bas with vineyards in the areas of Loches sur Ource, Val Bonneau, Crête de Beauregard and Méhuettes. Their flagship Grand Heritage-Old vines is a blend of 1/3 Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay. Champagne Pierre Laurent is from the Vallée de la Marne and offering a range of styles and blends.


Louise Coulon presents Champagne Roger Coulon. This is an 11 hectare property from the Premier Cru village of  Vrigny on the Montagne de Reims. A family estate into its 9th generation. Champagne Hugues Huttinot, a grower estate founded in 1960 and based in the Vallée de la Marne was an opportunity to taste Champagne made of 100% Pinot Meunier.

Abbey of Hautvillers, home of Dom Perignon


Inside the Chapel of Hautvillers, where Dom Perignon was Abbot and his cellar where he made wine.

Celia Hay

October 2019

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