Alexandre Cattier, CEO and winemaker at the eponymous maison, explains how a deep connection with the vineyards is the key to the preservation of Cattier’s trademark quality and style.
A constant labour of precision and craftsmanship, informed by the love for the terroir and history of Champagne, remains at the core of Champagne Cattier’s philosophy. This approach has been reflected in an ever more granular knowledge of each vineyard.
Setting the standard
Understanding and promoting the health of the vines has long been a priority for Champagne Cattier, one of the first maisons to obtain double certification for its own holdings. ‘Our vineyards have two certifications – Haute Valeur Environnementale (HVE) and Viticulture Durable en Champagne (VDC) – which are the culmination of a journey we embarked on more than 25 years ago,’ explains Alexandre Cattier. ‘This sets the foundation and the standard for what we expect from our suppliers. We work alongside them to ensure they also follow our principles.’
Sustainability and viticultural best-practice are seen as a responsibility but also, quite simply, as a requirement for the production of the grapes that best express the plots they hail from. This purity of expression is in turn essential to the identity of the wines produced by Cattier, defined by a trademark roundness of structure, savoury appeal and sense of place.
Reconnecting with the vineyard
If champagne is ultimately a wine of process and craftsmanship, Cattier is placing a renewed emphasis on the dynamic pulse of the vineyard, following its evolution throughout the growing season. Are the current climatic conditions a threat to the quality and identity of Champagne? ‘So far, we at Cattier have been able to, as we have always done, adapt to the reality of the vineyard in each vintage. We are indeed harvesting earlier and the grapes are incredibly ripe but, on the other hand, we are increasingly precise and aware of how each plot evolves,’ explains Alexandre. ‘We have reconnected with the vine and recovered the way our grandparents worked, spending more time in the vineyard. This gives a level of understanding that allows us to be more mindful and intervene less but in the right moment.’
This mindful approach is echoed in the cellar. ‘We have fruit of outstanding quality from much-loved terroirs. What we look for [in the cellar] is to express each of these terroirs through our cuvées.’ Meunier plays an important role in the structure and savouriness that have made Cattier’s champagnes famous and so recognisable. ‘Our flagship terroirs – Chigny-les-Roses, Rilly-la-Montagne et Ludes – have an average 60% of Meunier, a variety that has less structure than Pinot Noir but a lot more roundness and aromatic intensity. Our champagnes – namely the Brut, which has 50% Meunier in the blend – are very much defined by these characteristics,’ Alexandre confirms. ‘But it is also a product of the terroir itself. One finds this same roundness and intensity of fruit even in our Chardonnays.’
The ability to master the winemaking process in order for it to be a vehicle of this identity, defines the essence of Champagne Cattier. Alexandre refers to increasingly careful pressing and separation of press sections, as well as quick fermentations that promote aromatic complexity while avoiding reduction, as some of the important aspects to achieve this transparency.
In the cellar as in the vineyard, change and evolution are simply the inevitable outcome of more experience and of a renewed commitment to let the terroir and grapes speak for themselves. ‘There are no revolutions. Simply the refinement of what we have and have always done,’ concludes Alexandre.
Champagne Cattier in three flagship cuvées
Clos du Moulin Premier Cru
50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir
Dosage: 5 gr/L
Aged for eight years before degorgement
A truly unique wine from one of only two clos in Champagne: the iconic Clos du Moulin, which cover 2,2 hectares near Chigny-les-Roses, in the heart of Montagne de Reims. A blend of three selected vintages selected for their expressiveness and potential to age, Clos du Moulin is the bottled expression of a plot with a singular history, yielding fruit of recognisable elegance and complexity. Each bottle is numbered.
Brut Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru
100% Chardonnay with 40% reserve wines
Dosage: 8 gr/L
Aged for four years before degorgement.
This has become Cattier’s emblematic cuvée, capturing both the idiosyncratic terroir it hails from and the careful work done in the cellar. The fruit is sourced from Cattier’s nine flagship terroirs on the Montagne de Reims (predominantly Chigny-les-Roses, Rilly-la-Montagne and Ludes), and reveals a Chardonnay of unique aromatic expressiveness and poised structure. Its elegant opulence, particularly in the mid palate, offset by its fresh drive, have made this champagne as recognisable as it is loved.
Meunier Premier Cru 2016
Dosage: 8 gr/L
Aged for five years before degorgement.
A very special cuvée which Alexandre Cattier had long wanted to release, showcasing the renowned and complex character of its Meuniers from Chigny-les-Roses, Rilly-la-Montagne and Ludes, which he describes as having ‘more structure than elsewhere in Champagne, strong aromatic intensity and beautiful roundness on the palate.’ The decision to produce a vintage cuvée further captures the essence of a special vintage, surprising for its verticality and mineral precision, revealing yet another face of Meunier.
Cattier’s full Premier Cru range is available in the UK through Majestic and in the US through Total Wine.