Region: Côte des Blancs
Grand cru sites in Avize, Cramant and Oiry
Annual production: 3000 cases
Total vineyard holdings: 4 hectares
Vines: 100% chardonnay
Denis Varnier is only the third generation of winemakers at this estate, but grape growing in the Fannière family (Denis’ mother’s side of the family) dates back to 1860. Although the estate is small at just over 4 hectares, Varnier-Fannière’s holdings are impressive, averaging 45 years in age.
Denis’ holdings are in three grand cru villages in the northern Côte des Blancs. He has as much land in Cramant as he does in Avize, with a smaller holding in the village of Oiry. His wines are precise and terroir expressive, in the direction of Avize “graphite”, while also being delicious and pleasurable. They exude class and fastidious detail. For a taste of absolute Avize, taste the Cuvée Saint Denis hailing from a single-site of 70 year-old vines, from the monocru Clos de Grand Pere.
“The Avize slopes are planted entirely with Chardonnay. The grapes from the steep slopes provide better and more delicate wines, but, in blending, the more robust specimens from the relatively flat terrain lower down in the village hold their own. Essentially, Avize produces rather more powerful wines than the slightly more fragrant ones from Cramant or Le Mesnil. . . . The nutty and roasted aromas are not to be found among its neighbors, leaning more to chocolate, leather, and truffles, and improving with age. One often finds a high percentage of Avize Chardonnay in famous prestige Champagnes produced by the larger houses.”
-Andrew Jefford, The New France
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