Region: Côte des Blancs
Grand cru sites in Avize, Cramant and Oiry
Annual production: 3000 cases
Total vineyard holdings: 4 hectares
Vines: 100% chardonnay
Valérie Varnier has taken over the mantle at this estate after the death of her husband and 3rd generation producer, Denis Varnier. After Denis’ passing, Valérie said that there was “no question” about whether she would continue making the wines and she completed her first solo harvest in 2017. 2019 marks her third harvest and the wines on offer this year are finished and disgorged by her, but remain a living part of Denis’ legacy. The estate is small, but formidable. With four hectares of vines, averaging 45 years of age, in Avize, Oger, Oiry and Cramant, this estate has been producing outstanding wines for the last 30 years.
Denis was a believer in old vines and work in the vineyard, something which his wife continues. With young vines “You think the flavors are rich, but in the final wine they’re not.” Grapes are pressed with a traditional basket press and fermented in steel without temperature control. The wines are bottled early and with a lower than average atmospheric pressure, emphasizing their vinous nature. “I prefer the wine to evolve in the bottle rather than in tank, so I try to get as much time in the bottle as possible” said Denis.
“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