Still producing great Champagne hundreds of years on, Champagne Gosset
“Gosset is a winemaking name that goes back to 1584 and as such, is the oldest house in the Champagne region. It’s an awe inspiring heritage and one rarely acknowledged since their origins predate the invention of the world’s favourite fizz. Yet back in the 16th and 17th centuries, the red varieties of Pierre Gosset adorned the table of the King of France and were enjoyed alongside the esteemed wines of Burgundy.
“Today the firm is owned by the Cointreau family who by all accounts maintain a hands on approach. Located in the tiny Grand Cru village of Aÿ, 5 kilometres north of Epernay, the house now produces upwards of 1.3 million bottles a year. It’s a big operation but relatively small compared with the annual production of the Grand Marques.
“Although Champagne Gosset own relatively little of the vineyards that produce the fruit for their wines, they work with over 300 growers and are constantly in search of others to improve the overall quality of their brand. Grapes for all three varieties are sourced from most of the Grand Cru villages, which so the claims goes, allows for greater flexibility in vintage to vintage.
“The key thing about Gosset’s Champagne is the deliberate avoidance of malolactic fermentation in the base wines so as to avoid any characteristics that detract from the natural personality of the grape. This in turns leads to a house style that is dry and creamy, full of biscuity notes and alive with prominent, racy acidity.
“As part of the Louis Latour portfolio tasting in London recently, I had the opportunity to taste through their range of current releases, including the 2004 and 2006 Grand Reserves, as well as taking the rare opportunity to look at the evolution of two mature Grand Reserves with dominating vintage components from both 1982 and 1985.
“In addition, I tasted through the three base wines that constitute the current ‘Grand Reserve’ (2007). One rarely gets the chance to taste Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir wines before they have been blended and so analysing these individual components is a fascinating task and one that reaffirms why the art of blending has become so important in Champagne.
“Tasting the base wines in this way gives real insight into the extent to which each grape variety imparts their own characteristics into the final blend. The Chardonnay for example, when tasted separately, exuded abundant green apple and ripe tree fruit flavours, while Pinot Meunier was powerfully aromatic and perfumed. The Pinot Noir, while aggressively acidic, left no doubt as to its significance in providing body and structure.
“The most striking thing about all of the Champagne Gosset wines was the undeniable freshness. There was no sign of oxidation or decline in the older wines, while the current releases were very much examples of clean, modern wine making that places emphasis on striking the balance between fruit, aroma and ensuring that crucial backbone of fresh acidity…”