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Tasting the 2020 Vins Clairs

Isabelle Tellier, Head Wine-Maker of the House of Chanoine Frères, in charge of Chanoine and Tsarine champagnes

Reims, February 2021

The vins clairs tasting season is in full swing in Champagne from December through April. This is the stage in the Champagne-making process during which the vins clairs — the still, non-effervescent wines from the last harvest — are tasted and attentively examined.

The wines are sniffed, scrutinized, tasted, and evaluated, variety by variety. It is an exercise in concentration and anticipation that Isabelle Tellier, Chef de Cave, has been practicing for nearly thirty years with passion and preciseness. A crucial stage, the vins clairs tasting determines the blend of the next cuvées of Tsarine, Chanoine Héritage, and Chanoine Frères Réserve Privée champagnes.

Isabelle Tellier's first impressions

The Chardonnays, which I always taste first, are heterogeneous this year from one cru to another. I note a slight lack in acidity, which may be due to the heat in spring and summer 2020. The exceptional weather caused a hydric stress which interfered somewhat with the Chardonnays' maturing.

The Pinots Noirs are very good. They are really very fine this year. They have body and structure. That is important for Chanoine Frères because the Pinots Noirs play an important role in blending our Chanoine and Tsarine cuvées. The 2020 Pinots Noirs will provide good length on the palate.

As for the Meuniers, they’re good overall; they'll do their job of providing the fruitiness and roundness we aim for.

One specificity of this 2020 harvest is that the red color index of the musts of the red-grape varieties is slightly above normal. The coloration will of course lessen with fermentation, and then during bottling and ageing in the cellars. But we can still expect the wines to be slightly more colored.

A fine trilogy that promises beautiful blends

The 2020 vins clairs taste very good and are easy to taste. They show good balance. The harvest was fine and healthy, and thanks to the grapes' excellent state of health there are no off tastes. This year is well up to standard, and quality is good.

More in general, with a little distance, the years 2018-2019-2020 have been a fine trilogy in Champagne, with 2019 as a high point with exceptional quality.

It all adds up to high quality with a range of good reserve wines, and the trilogy of years promises fine blends for the House's champagnes.”

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