I sat down with Diane Coquillette on my first day back into the shop after a rather grueling “weekend” of deadline pressures and fruitless searches for inspiration and adequate verbiage to express my enthusiasm. A rather shitty way to spend your days off really but one I’ve sadly grown far too accustom to. I can’t seem to knock out my articles and notes while in the shop, just too many distractions, phones, deliveries and even the very welcome ones of helping customers, they just aren’t conducive to the kind of writing or story telling that I’m comfortable doing. Top that with the fact that I burry myself in panic so deep worrying about being behind that it quite literally chokes the words from my…um, fingertips. So needless to say I was a touch cranky that I’d forfeited my time off to the newsletter deadline paralysis, self-imposed mind you, but still.
I had forgotten that I had taken an appointment for that Tuesday morning, (I am the queen of, “Sure come on by. Oh no, you don’t need to schedule a time, I’m here all day” which of course I never write down…jackass) and completely forgotten that it was to taste through the entire lineup of a small grower in Champagne whose wines I had not tasted before, or if I had it was at one of those massive 100+ wines, sniff, swirl, spit and shuffle on, trade tastings). If there was ever a remedy for cranky, well tasting through a line of new-to-me grower Champagne might be the best dose of, “Quit yer bitching” around, or…it could end up adding another layer to my already crusty attitude. I have to admit that I tend to be a bit skeptical when tasting through new Champagnes and while Stephane’s daughter Diane was remarkably charming and shockingly beautiful, there wasn’t a chance in hell I was going to be swayed by that, especially while somewhat cranky. Our Champagne department is already packed with so many beautiful wines that any newbies wishing to join them on our shelves have to pass a pretty rigorous evaluation from a somewhat hardened wine buyer. Can’t tell you the number of times a rep has told me that they have a line of Champagne that is, “A perfect fit” to my department only to bring me shit like Heidsieck, in its various incarnations, or some co-op bullshit. So yeah, when I sit down with five or six bottles of Champagne in front of me I’m not all twitterpated, in fact I tend to be wearing my, “Bring It” mug. That morning, with Diane’s gorgeous smile beaming at me, her size -2 frame folded perfectly into her seat, meticulously looped and braided scarf resting gracefully around her long thin neck….well let’s just say the 400 pound gorilla in the room was wearing her most fierce, “What now?!” face.
Took all of about three wines for my cranky to vanish and in its place there was this excitement and energy. The first wine was good, really good in fact but I had to do as I always do, ask myself if it was as good, or better than what I already have? See when a customer comes in and asks for a recommendation on Champagne, and that is the one department where a recommendation is almost always needed/wanted, I need to know that I can grab any bottle off the shelf and make them happy. If I bring in something just to fill the, “What do you have that’s new?” spot I know I will just end up saying, “Well this is new but” and sell them something like Agrapart or Saves, assuring them that their money would be better spent there. That first wine while tasty, was frankly overshadowed by the All Stars on my shelf but the second wine….now we’re getting somewhere! Each wine poured for me was better, more layered and profound and as the house style emerged I could tell that these wines were in fact very serious. I not only loved them, I had to have them.
I had a Champagne event coming up the following week, one featuring Blanc de Blancs and Brut Rose, the timing was perfect. Very rarely have I been so blown away by an estate that I would bring them in, and give them a spot in one of our Champagne classes so quickly but the wines from Coquillette were just that good. Poured both the 2006 Vintage and the Brut Rose at our event and both wines had customers whispering, “Could you pull me 2 bottles of that?” while I was still pouring and leading my class. Both of those soon to be All Stars sold out that night. Guess it wasn’t just me….
Champagne Stephane Coquillette is located in the Cote des Blancs village of Chouilly and the majority of their holdings are in Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards. Stephane is a fourth generation winemaker in Champagne, his grandparents established, and father still runs Saint-Chamant, another Champagne we are wild about, (but are currently out of and waiting for another container from the importer) that produces some stunning Blanc de Blancs. Stephane’s vision for his own Champagnes was to produce wines for true Champagne aficionados. These are not wines for the, “Ice it down, serve it really cold in a flute” set. These wines are far too serious to be treated that way. Drink them as you would any great white wine, not freezing cold as to mask the delicate flavors and in a wine glass that allows the wine to open up and express all its marvelous complexity. Couldn’t be more thrilled to offer the wines from Stephane Coquillette to all of you lovers of layered and multi-dimensional wines.
N.V. Stephane Coquillette Cuvee les Cles Blanc de Noirs Brut
You get just the palest bit of pinky orange color here from the 100% Pinot Noir and while beautiful it is the aromatics that killed me. My notes read, “This is the kind of wine that makes you never want to remove your nose from the glass. Each spin revels something new and utterly captivating.” The texture in your mouth is so delicate it’s nearly lacy and the finish leaves you aching for another sip. Was my favorite of the lineup but seeing as I was only pouring Blanc de Blancs and Rose for the event I had to bide my time and wait for newsletter to bring this back-arching beauty of a wine in. Guess who’s buying the first bottle when it arrives? You bet your ass I am.
2006 Stephane Coquillette 1er Cru Brut
While not labeled as such the 2006 vintage is 100% Chardonnay. When I asked Diane why they didn’t put Blanc de Blanc on the label she told me that the percentage of what they use each year, (when and if they make a vintage bottling at all) varies depending on what the harvest gives them. If the Pinot Noir is better one harvest than they will use some or more Pinot Noir in their vintage cuvee, just so happens 2006 blessed them with glorious Chardonnay so they were able to make a Blanc de Blancs. I have to say I love that, the letting the vines determine what to make rather than try and force something that may not be up to their standards. This 2006 is one of those wines that walks the tightrope between power and finesse. Big, rich and staining fruit mixed with some creamy, buttery, custard-like richness but the bubbles and yeastiness are so elegant and fine. One of my favorite wines in the shop right now.
N.V. Stephane Coquillette Marie Aimer Grand Cru Brut Rose
Fan of simple and delicate Rose? Well then, this is not your wine. Very wine like in the nose; lots of wild strawberry, anise and something almost like violets in the background. The wine is quite rich on the palate but does not come off in the least bit heavy. It drinks like great Burgundy in that way it can fill and coat the mouth but leave you feeling refreshed and ready for another sip. Powerful enough to hold up to meat heavy dishes but refined enough to simply enjoy on its own and with fried chicken….fuck.