Is Champagne = Champagne? Why does Aurélien Gerbais refer to a Burgundian influence in his family's wines? An inspiration? Much more than that!
© Michel Joly
Domaine Gerbais is located in Celles-sur-Ource, a commune on the Côte des Bar, the southernmost region of Champagne, which for many still flies a little under the radar, but is showing more and more great winemaking talents - especially in the biodyn+ area!
The Côte des Bar used to be associated more with Burgundy. Hardly surprising, when you look at a map, you realize that the distance to the rest of Champagne is the same as to the Burgundian Côte de Nuits! In fact, the Côte des Bar borders directly on the Châtillonais, a northern foothill of Burgundy, to the east of Chablis, known for the production of chalk-dominated Crémant de Bourgogne. The fundamentally different soil composition of the region also characterizes the Gerbais vineyards. When Aurélien himself talks about the Kimmeridge-Era limestone soils of the region, the comparisons "Chablis" and "Sancerre" are justly made.
Following this pattern, the various parcels of the domaine are vinified separately in Burgundian manner. With 18 hectares on partly loamy, partly very barren limestone soils, the domaine has been certified organic since the 1990s. Here you will find old vines of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier, as well as another characteristic of Gerbais: Pinot Blanc, which is only represented on 80 hectares in Champagne and plays a leading role here, with an ancient vineyard dating back to 1904.
Much like his father Pascal, young vigneron Aurélien is an advocate of the puristic. All wines are fermented in stainless steel tanks and bottled unfined and unfiltered. In the cellar, future-oriented and playful experiments are carried out, from fermentation in wooden barrels to spontaneous fermentation and skin contact maceration. Established in 2011, there is a solera system for reserves from each vineyard, so these are all non-vintage, around 50% reserve. The addition of sulphur is also reduced to a minimum. The domaine is clearly inspired by the principles of the natural wine movement, but its style is timeless and fully devoted to the terroir.
With the new vintages, the focus has shifted from a varietal-oriented cuvée to 100% single vineyard bottlings. However, these single-site bottlings are now also single-varietal. Ultra pure! ;)
Five individual lieux-dits from Celles-sur-Ource form the core here, the labels of the wines show playful drawings of the respective vineyards.
La Loge. Blanc de Blanc. Pinot Blanc, Cépage Oublié. A piece of Champagne history with Burgundian flair.
Beauregard. Rosé de Saignée. 100% blood-red macerated Pinot Noir, without still wine addition.
Les Grandes Côtes. Blanc de Noir. Pinot Noir in white dress.
Champ Viole. Blanc de Blanc. Chardonnay. Lean and saline.
Bochot. Blanc de Noir. 100% Pinot Meunier, another rarity. The reserve here only goes back to 2016 because the vineyard was only planted in selection massale in 2010.
For the uncertain, start with the Grains de Celles base line. Gerbais bottles a Blanc de Blanc and a Rosé, both of which are blends of Pinot Noir (50%), Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc (25% each) from different vineyards. 30 months on the lees. Extra Brut, like everything else.
Fed up with sparkling wine? Gerbais also vinify still wines as part of the Apellation Coteaux Champenois. The grape varieties and vineyards change from time to time. At the moment there is Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, vinified in steel, of course.. Stylistically somewhere between Champagne and Chablis.
Finally, an insider tip... With the Cuvée Experimentale, Aurélien goes a little wild every year. At the moment there is a Pinot Blanc with 50% skin contact overnight. The result is a unique wine with mind-boggling structure and a floral, spicy touch. SO fine. Blind tasting final boss...