Charles Dufour is an exceptionally talented and hardworking winemaker – I like to refer to him as “the Selosse of the Aube”. He owns 6 hectares of vineyards in Landreville, Essoyes and Celles-sur-Ource. Charles works in the vineyard, does vinification and takes care of the marketing as well. Quite a character! His wines are contemporary and a perfect fit to the gastronomic scene of today. No wonder that restaurant Noma presents Dufour as their house champagne. I was fortunate to know the champagne of his father Yves years before the grand success of Charles.
Since 2013, Charles has been working completely organically without the limitations of the biodynamic methods. He uses special herbal teas to protect the vineyard from diseases and to reduce the usage of copper. Dosage is always restricted to a minimum, only wild indigenous yeasts are used, there is no fining, no filtering and no added sulphur. The wines are practically vins naturels. Most of his wines have a long elevation on old Burgundy barrels from tonnelerie Vicard or large foudres. The bottles rest sur pointe – with the bottle upside down – before disgorgement.
The flagship wine “Bulles de Comptoir” looks like a champagne for hipsters with its trendy label of a guy with a tattoo or minimalist dots but when you taste it you will be amazed by the complexity and certainly the eccentric personality. It has become a true collectable so you have to be fast to buy the new releases. The latest version is “C’est Jolie!” and is very juteux, sappy with a lovely aromatic complexity. It’s hard to dislike this wine. Face B “rosexpress 14” is the rosé wine from this series. It is very bold and robust and doesn’t quite fit into the style.
Les Instantanées series are wines that give instant pleasure. La pulpe et le grain is a trio of champagnes made of the solar year 2009. I have only tasted "part.2" and it impressed me a lot. BistrØtage is the expression of one harvest with the addition of reserve wines (some going back to 1988). It is a wine that reminds me somehow of an early disgorged Selosse Contraste with deep and vinous Pinot Noir, a rustic character and a lot of tension on the palate. The big difference is in the blend, with Chardonnay and a little bit of Pinot Blanc added. This wine is made to be paired with food. BistrØtage 2008 is an absolute masterpiece. Super 4 is a Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay from Landreville with reserve wines from 2000 all the way to 1988 giving that lovely aromatic richness of old reserve Grand Marnier. La Sauvage is another Blanc de Blancs made of 100% Chardonnay also from Landreville. I had the privilege to taste a spectacular 2006 and could take the bottle with me to our B&B to enjoy it in the garden. It is breathtakingly deep, complex, vinous, Burgundian and wild!
In the Aube growers are increasingly aware of the advantages and certainly the quality of Pinot Blanc. I have been pleasantly surprised by the wines of Pierre Gerbais, Piollot, François Diligent and certainly Cédric Bouchard. Charles’ father, Yves, used to make a lovely cuvée named Ligne 79 with vintage 1999 Pinot Blanc. I had tasted this 7 years ago but unfortunately I can’t find my tasting notes. Charles his Le Champs du Clos is an interesting example of what this grape variety has to offer. The 2014 is of course very young and profits from getting a lot of air. I might even recommend decanting it.
Charles is one of the few growers that I know - besides Doyard, Drouilly, Launois, Jean Vesselle, Joël Michel - to make an Oeil de Perdrix (literally partridge eye). This old-school rosé got his name because of the special grayish pink color. His Le Corroy 2014 is undoubtedly the most complex one that I have tasted. It’s an amalgam of red fruits, floral with a perfectly balanced bitterness. It offers lots of gastronomical pairing possibilities.
There are two other single-parcel wines: La Chevêtrée with Chardonnay and Le Haut de la Guignelle with Pinot Noir. Unfortunately those wines are all reserved for Scandinavian market.
Lovely light golden color with a refined effervescence. The nose is complex and inviting with bread, quince, raspberry, white currant and warm tones of caramelized endives, toasted almonds, popcorn and and sweetness of woodruff. After a while in the glass, the aroma evolves to ripe citrus, peach and tamarind. In the mouth this is full bodied but still elegant. On the palate you get peach, ripe citrus with some pomelo, Brazilian chocolate with hazelnut, ripe yuzu and tamarind on the mid-palate. The finish is reasonably long with a crystal clear acidity with of lemon and kumquat topped off with a whiff of kampot pepper. C'est Jolie! bears its name well. I'm a fan!
Intense red copper color. The nose is very elegant and seductive with blackcurrant, red cherry, fried onions, red cherry, fresh squid, French sugar bread with orange and a Chablis-like minerality. After a short while in the glass you get black pudding and scrambled eggs and the typical Dufour rice biscuits. The mouthfeel is fleshy, the bubble less refined and the rather robust taste does not match the nose. On the palate you get cherry, cranberry, beef and yeasty overtones. Long finish with puffed rice cake. This rosé would pair nice with scallops with chorizo and foam of cherry tomato.
Pale straw color with a refined effervescence. Expressive nose of crushed rocks, mango, fresh vanilla, plums, rhum raisin, amaretto macaroon, orange peel, grapefruit, blackberry, licorice candy and green notes of chives, vetiver and eucalyptus. Slightly oxidative in style. After a while it showed lovely citrus fruits. The mouthfeel is focussed but has a lovely creamy mousse. On the palate you get licorice, grapefruit, mango, bramble berry, dried raspberry and an almost cucumber acidity. The finish is long and dynamic with crunchy apple and a complex minerality.
Golden color with a very soft effervescence. Bold nose of sweet lemon, flint, cashew nuts, bourbon vanilla and rustic yeasty overtones. The fruit is a bit muted but the autolytic complexity makes this wine very interesting. On the palate you get dried fruits with marmite on the mid palate. On the finish you get orange with cardamom seeds and mace with the character of a biodynamic Pouilly Fumé with rustic yeasts.
Light golden color with a soft effervescence. The nose seems rather shy showing marshmallow, citrus fruit, roses, cornflower, tamarind and a haze of banana with pear syrup. After a while in the glass it started to become very interesting with saké characteristics. The mouthfeel is soft with just enough concentration. On the palate you get white currant, apple and the saké from the nose but also – incredible but true – sesame oil baked rice on the mid-palate. The long finish shows waffle syrup, puffed rice cake and white pepper. After 6 days, the nose was far from timid with ripe mirabel, elderflower, honey and more pronounced pear syrup. On the palate peanut oil, ripe red apple, mirabel, soft floral honey. and soft speculoos spices. The finish seems everlasting with a fabulous acidity of apple, citrus and mirabel together with warmth of puffed rice cake and toasted macadamia nuts. Quite challenging to find the right food pairing. I was about to give this wine 84 points but retasting it later definitely changed my mind.
Lovely typical Oeil de Perdrix color with a very refined effervescence. Complex but soft nose of pomegranate, orangettes (chocolate-orange), cherry, coppa di Parma, quince, rhubarb, fresia, tomato and a hint of Spanish dark olives. After some time in the glass it showed vanilla pudding, tamarind and a hint of puffed rice cake. The mouthfeel is sappy with excellent concentration and finesse. On the palate you get pomegranate, cherry tomato, quince, a floral hint of daisies and a lovely bitter overtone of squid ink. On the mid palate there is sweet soja sauce. Everything comes together perfectly. The finish is long with pine nuts, acidity of red fruits and puffed rice cake.
Very straightforward on the nose with a complex minerality, crushed rocks, Granny Smith apple, Nashi pear, lime zest together with smoke, Pu Erh fermented tea and dates on the background. After some time it expresses the typical rustic yeastiness and almost oxidative "Selossian (initial)” overtones. Very clean and rather tight in the mouth but when you give it a lot of air it expands beautifully. On the palate you get Nashi pear, Granny Smith apple, lemon zest the tea from the nose and a complex minerality. The finish projects a broad spectrum of citrus acidity. Give it time and it will become marvellous.
No dosage. Made of 50 % pinot noir, 45 % chardonnay, 5 % pinot blanc with reserve wines 2006 and 2007. No dosage. Light golden color with a refined effervescence. On the nose you get nettle and tomato plant, baked apple and pineapple, mature honey (chestnut honey) tones, caramelized endives, roasted pine nuts, fennel, rosehip and soft rustic yeasty overtones. After some time in the glass you get lovely overtones of patisserie, brioche, chocolate, pineapple beignet, toffee, yeast and corn flakes. The mouthfeel is very expansive in a way that it starts clean and becomes vinous and mouth filling. On the palate it shows baked pineapple, frangipane cake, apple and caramel. The mid-palate has delicious floral Ethiopian coffee.On the finish you get nutmeg, corn flakes and puffed rice cake together with playful citrus acidity and a stunning clean minerality. This wine really shows Charles' artistry.
Light golden color with a modest effervescence. On the nose you get rock candy, endives root powder, dried honey, Granny Smith apple, lemon with zest, white chocolate, wax, nutmeg, Selossian oxidation and a complex minerality. After a while it shows woody spices, almost a hint of Ras el Hanout. This wine has juicy fruit and a lovely sucrosity of Manuka honey on the mid palate. Very powerful with a delicious peppery finish. The complexity in the mouth is stunning. I could have sworn that this was Selosse.
Light golden color with a modest effervescence and nice mousse. Light but spicy nose of curcuma, cumin seeds, pumpkin, grapefruit, citrus zest, baking powder and a hint of oxidation. After a while it shows old reserve Grand Marnier and a hint of chocolate and an overtone of raw mushroom.The mouthfeel is surprisingly vinous. I love it how mature flavors are perfectly interwoven while the core flavors are sappy and pure together with a lovely mid palate of pumpkin pie, marzipan and fresh hazelnut. Long spicy finish together with rustic overtones of yeast.
Quite a peculiar first nose of fried chili's, Marseille soap, fresh bed linen and a lot of liquorice candy. After swirling the Zalto glass you get sharp lemon, lime with zest, cold butter and a whiff of cinnamon. A longer while in the glass revealed a more lactic undertone of panna cotta. The mouthfeel misses structure and concentration. On the palate you get fresh Zeeland oyster and young citrus fruit. The finish is acidic and slightly toasted and has dry puffed rice cake. I wondered how this wine would show (with more oxygenation) after 6 days in the bottle. The nose became very volatile (almost ether) and oxidative (reminded me a bit of Vincent Couche champagne), lots of lime zest, complex vegetal notes, much more minerality and a slightly animalic undertone. The razor sharp acidity was tamed a bit but all flavor complexity was faded. I don't think this wine has potential.
Lovely golden color and fat tears on the glass. Rich nose of acacia, chamomile, candied citrus with zest, cured butter, veal stock, baked mushrooms, rustic yeasts, Manuka honey and a whiff of potpourri with a hint of oxidation. After a couple of hours this wine was incredible rich and layered without losing its lovely fruit, mineral intensity and an overtone of Lapsang Souchong smoked tea. Out of a big Burgundy glass it shows concentration, depth and finesse with a deep Meursault character. The aroma expands with a deep rustic animal tone, lovely plums and a hint of pomelo with something undefinable tropical. All those elements reappear on the palate together with a lovely hint of hazelnut, cocoa butter and rice biscuits. The finish goes on and and on. Hunt for this wine!
Dense golden color with a modest effervescence and fat tears on the glass. Lovely mature nose of toast, malt, syrup waffle, apple, tonka beans, rhubarb, turrón and cognac. The mouthfeel is incredibly soft and silky. On the palate you get quince paste, baked apples, molasses, toasted almonds and old Beaufort cheese. On the mid palate you get salty flavors like an old Parmiggiano and a lovely bitter touch of burdock. The huge finish lingers apple, puffed rice and cognac glazed chestnuts together with a mild acidity of lemon and sweet rhubarb.
Made from 100% Chardonnay. Deep golden color with huge bubbles and fat tears on the glass. After a few minutes the effervescence was perfect. Very full nose of fondant chocolate mousse, tonka bean, dried prune, dried apricot, apple beignet, candle wax, toasted sesame oil, earth, fried parsley and green bell pepper. After a while in the glass it smelled like freshly made tiramisu with Amaretto and dry Marsala. The mouthfeel is velvety, not at all what the nose suggests. On the palate we get coppa di Parma, baked apple, dates, straw, cod liver oil, walnut, beech nuts, morels, heather honey, hazelnut paste and a café Liégeois dessert. On the mid palate we have some fino sherry and minerality. On the finish we get burnt caramel and yet nice acidity of citrus and apple. This is undoubtedly the strangest chardonnay I have ever tasted. Still, this wine is spectacularly well composed in terms of balance and the baroque flavors make for a harmonious ensemble.