2000 miles in a Caterham - Day One - Champagne Gosset

As I write this, I am finally over my slight over-indulgence of champagne after a wonderful pairing menu at The Royal Champagne (write up coming soon) and it was time to dip my toe back in. I opened a bottle of Taittinger and accompanied it with a Gressingham whole duck and pancakes, a pairing made in heaven.

When I say this roadtrip was last minute, I mean we booked ‘Le Shuttle’ the night before kind of last minute. However, one thing was for certain, we were finally going to Champagne and we were somehow getting down to the South of France too. James and I, legs out straight and bracing the breeze in the Caterham, set off from a sunny Rutland at the crack of dawn on the 26th July and remarkably we were in a not-so-sunny Calais in time for a baguette. By early afternoon, thanks to the impeccably clear motorways, we’d made it to Épernay. I could not have been more excited. Champagne is and always will be, the epitome of bottled joy. It goes down in history with celebrations as historic as 'toasting the King' it is that important. 

 

I wasn’t prepared for how much of a town Épernay is. For someone who begrudgingly* has to answer the question ‘if you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life what would it be,’ with ‘champagne’ perhaps once a week on a bad month, I really hadn’t grasped the region very well in my head at all. It’s packed in together so well, like a beautiful Cotswold town but made up of Champagne houses. Môet & Chandon loomed impressively onto the street as we rumbled by, I imagined this is how kids feel when they arrive at Disney Land and they see their favourite characters. Pol Roger in real life? What took me so long to get here.

*I know people are just being polite and making conversation with this question but honestly, I am so fickle when it comes to wine that my favourites change daily.

 

We arrive at Champagne Gosset to meet Thibault le Mailloux (pictured above) who has been Marketing & Communications Director for the champagne house for the last few years but in the booze industry the majority of his career. Thibault explains that Gosset is actually the oldest wine house in Champagne. Michael Broadbent comments in his 2003 'Vintage Wine' bible, "How insular the British are, how habitual our choice of vintage brands. Here we have a Champagne from one of the oldest families in the business, producers of wine since 1584, long before bubbles burst on the scene; yet Gosset is not often listed by our merchants and restaurants."

Pierre Gosset founded the house in Aÿ in 1584 and it remained family-run for over 400 years until 1993 when the Renaud-Cointreau family (off of Cognac Frapin) took it on. In 2009 they moved from Aÿ to Épernay which is where we found them. Pierre, the original founder, was, like you and I (excuse the presumption) a hedonist. Perhaps it’s in the Gosset genes as this became the identity of the house, not by style but by positioning. Gosset was to be a serious champagne with gastronomy at its core. What does that even mean you may wonder, well, a lot of champagnes had aperitif or even dessert in mind, so to want to be paired with the main was an incredibly bold goal.

We make our way to the spacious winery in a building reminiscent of the industrial era but much prettier. “There is no malolactic fermentation ever,” Thibault says. “What if it happens by accident?” I ask. “Then we sell the juice,” says Thibault. No malo ever, that’s Gosset. This was to become a theme, no malo, ever. Thibault was the sort of person you wanted to extend the evening with and see what it turned into. I wouldn’t describe him as warm and friendly; he was more the charming and intriguing type. The sort of person you can expect honesty from even if you haven’t asked for it, the best kind.

What is Malolactic Fermentation?  

Malolactic fermentation is where malic acid is converted into lactic acid. It is quite common in wine making and can either be encouraged by temperature control or happen spontaneously. The temperature allows a bacteria called Oenococcus oeni, and some other pals, to eat the malic acid and convert it into lactic acid, like you find in milk. There are pros and cons which really come down to the personal taste of the winemaker. It can be beneficial in perhaps an unripe year where the acidity is a bit too high but it can also take away some of the freshness (also acidity) from a perfect year and make it all a bit samey. You can taste it yourself in wines. Take Chardonnay as an example, if there has been no oak aging and you taste creaminess then voila, this is Malo.

 

After exploring the cellars and inhaling the history of wars gone by, we began the tasting: 

(If you want to skip tasting notes, there is a brief write up about staying in Äy for the night below.) 

Gosset Grand Rosé 

Gosset, coming originally from Äy, have a history steeped in rosé wines (Äy being famous for Pinot Noir.) They make their own blend of red wine from a multitude of reserve wines of Pinot Noir. For the current non-vintage (NV) the harvest base is from 2018 and it has spent 4-5 years in the cellar ageing. The nose is extremely seductive, rhubarb, some spice, almost a hint of cinnamon. Hugely voluptuous on the palate, fresh but depth through the red fruit and that hint of warmth again, really lovely.

Gosset Grand Réserve 

This is the signature wine from the house, it is 40/40 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and the rest is Pinot Meunier. Lovely mouthfeel, hugely food-led wine so it comes across as quite savoury – would love to try it again in a different set up.

Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs NV

Thibault was saying how Blanc de Blancs has become even more fashionable than rosé. This has a really fun nose, some vanilla but real fresh from the pod not the cheap stuff. Stone fruit and definitely pear here, a palate cleanser, there’s still that hint of spicey warmth.

 Gosset Grand Millésime 2015

‘In champagne we only make vintages in special years and the next one is a secret, always.’ So lovely to try this, gives me a complete understanding of the strictly no malo rule. They hold on so tight to the freshness and this is why. With age in champagne you get richness but with this, there’s still so so much freshness (obviously it isn’t that old yet) but still, it’s shining. A wonderful balance and a lovely salty nose.

 Gosset 12 Ans de Caves Rosé

This is one bottle out of just 7000 that they produce. It has a beautiful nose. This is ’12 ans’ so it’s not a vintage but a blend. ‘Blending is the rule, vintage is the exception.’ It means that the wine has been on the lees a minimum of 12 years, proving that champagne can age beautifully. Black pepper on strawberries enormously concentrated, copper coin, quince jelly. Certainly interesting and requires a special occasion where you want to mull over your glass.

Powered by bubbles we made our way to Äy where we were staying for the night. I wouldn’t worry about booking too far in advance if you are making the trip yourself, there are lots of options when it comes to hotels, some large some tiny. We were staying in a very beautiful townhouse. The owners stood out waiting for our arrival in a very welcoming manner, I almost thought they weren’t French. It was holiday season in France when we visited so of course we expected it to be quiet the town to be quiet. It was actually such a treat, empty streets reflected the sun up the Tudor-style architecture, I could have been in Rye for a moment...  The evening was almost too perfect that it didn’t seem real, it felt a little like an abandoned film set. After a bite to eat, my head hit the pillow knowing that a stones throw to my right was Champagne Bollinger, and a little to the left, Champagne Billecart-Salmon, and I wondered if maybe I was just in some sort of simulation.

 

 

 

 


1 comment


  • Thibaut

    This is so, so kind from you! I am sincerely surprised and touched. Glad that you enjoyed your visit at Gosset. Your tasting notes are quite interesting and relevant, too. Enjoy the rest of your journey! Sincerely


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