Chouilly is the first village East of Epernay at the northern frontier of Côte des Blancs. Simply take Avenue de Champagne and continue till you reach Chouilly.
Back in times of échelle des crus, the village was ranked Grand Cru for Chardonnay and Premier Cru (95%) for black grapes, meaning Pinot Noir. Chouilly first obtained its mixed Grand/Premier cru status in 1985 together with other Côte des Blancs neighbors of Oger, Oiry, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, and Verzy. After the abolishment of échelle des crus in 2010, Chouilly now holds Grand Cru status disregarding the grape varieties.
Chouilly offers a great variety of vineyards, the majority of which are in the southern part and around Butte du Saran hill. The most praised vineyard has always been the East facing Mont Aigu with its gentle incline.
Champagnes Vazart Coquart and Legras & Haas are literally the neighbors. Maisons are on the same street less than 50 meters one from another.
I picked both cuvees from one of my recent favourite vintages — 2013. Both champagnes have exactly the same dosage levels of 4 g/l.
Grand Bouquet label as all the labels of Vazart-Coquart features three geese which Chouilly is often associated with. This cuvee is a blend of just two lieu-dits: Montaigu and La Cerisière. The latter is a small vineyard almost adjacent to the village in the south. Jean-Pierre, the owner of the domain, prefers neutral vessels. He vinifies and matures his wines in steel vats. Grand Bouquet 2013 spent almost 6 years on its lees before being disgorged in January 2020.
Legras & Haas Les Sillons comes from the single vineyard of Les Partelaines in the most Western part of Chouilly area. This is practically the extension of Epernay vineyards. Throughout the years it outperformed other parcels of L&H and thus deserved a separate bottling. This cuvee is elevated in medium-roasted oak barrels. 2013 spent exactly 4 years on lees in the bottle and was disgorged in April 2018.
When compared side by side, Grand Bouquet has a deeper golden-yellow color. Its intense aromatics show a bit more pastry notes and the bouquet is accentuated floral with violets. I find it a signature of the best of Chouilly character. I like the way it exposes the classic cool vintage of 2013.
Les Sillons’ color is pale yellow. I like how oak has integrated with some bottle aging. I tasted this cuvee several times and the first year after the disgorgement it demonstrated distinctive oak flavors which sometimes put me off. But now it’s gentle and charming.
Both champagnes share much in common yet reveal the difference. Chouilly is often described as a riper and richer style of Chardonnay possessing even tropical fruit flavours and creamy softer and round texture. It comes closer to Cramant rather than austere like the grands of Le Mesnil and Avize.
To make it even more geeky, I opened Les Sillons Vin clair 2019. That is a still base wine. It feels exactly like champagne with no bubbles. Floral with amplified and yet pleasant aromatics of oak and prominent acidity. It unmistakably is a wine from the northern climate. That’s fascinating how the second fermentation enriches the wine and preserves its terroir identity.