Terroir & talent

I first tasted Perseval-Farge champagnes at Terroir et Talents, a fair for journalists, bloggers, wine merchants and wine professionals which is now called Les Mains de Terroirs. The wines really stood out with their bold, mature and toasty character. I couldn't wait to discover more!

Isabelle and Benoist are the unassuming yet passionate people of Domaine Perseval-Farge. The domaine is in Chamery, a Premier Cru village in the Montagne de Reims. They produce about 30.000 bottles a year, and they own 4 hectares of vineyards, planted to Chardonnay (50%), Pinot Noir (30%), Pinot Meunier (25%) and a small portion of old vines of the ancestral, less-frequently encountered approved varieties (Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Arbanne and Petit Meslier). They have a new cuvée made from these varieties “Les Goulats”. Unfortunately I was quite disappointed when I tasted it because they launched it premature and without dosage. The range of wines is quite impressive and from the basic NV to the prestige cuvée most of them show that PF-signature of richness and a pleasant hint of oxidation. Almost every non-vintage wine has the addition of oak-aged reserve wines which adds a nice touch of maturity and give the wine character. This is totally my style of champagne: no-nonsense, a l'ancienne. In a way the wines remind me of Déthune (also one of my favorite producers) but the terroir of Chamery gives a completely different complexity than Ambonnay of course.

From the 12 cuvées - including different vintages - that I tasted, 3 of them really stood out: C de Chardonnay is a very unique Blanc de Blancs with a very distinct autolytic character and a huge toasty finish. It’s very different than any BdB I know of because of the sandy terroir. I was particularly impressed with the base 2010. Again that layered sensation of old wine were secondary and tertiary flavors and aromas appear due to the reserve wines (some from as far back as the 2001 vintage) used in this champagne. C de Pinots is made of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It’s complex, seductive, elegant and very affordable too. Cuvée Jean-Baptiste is an exceptional wine! It’s a blend of older vintages. The version that totally blew me away was made of vintages 1999, 1998 and 1996. It has a Krug-like profile with deep smoky tones, toast, roasted coffee beans and an incredible richness while still having concentration and an exquisite purity and freshness along with a huge finish. The blend with 2000, 1999 and 1998 didn’t impress me. Jean-Baptiste is back with the version made of vintages 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2001. It shows lovely mature and roasted tones together with a stunning sea salty minerality and perfect acidity.

C. de Nature is the zéro dosage of the house. It is complex with Kirsch, tobacco, smoke, patisserie and minerality. There’s a lot of tension on the palate with citrus zests and unbalanced acidity. They try to follow the non-dosé trend but for me it just doesn’t fit within their style. The
rosé is one of the only wines at Perseval-Farge that hasn’t been vinified in oak barrels. Isabelle isn’t very fond of it but their range of wines needed a rosé. She states that a true rosé should be made by using the saignée method but this one is a rosé d’assemblage. The version that I tasted leaves many other rosés behind. It is complex, seductive and also quite interesting for gastronomic food pairings. It definitely could please me.

There are - besides Les Goulats - two other interesting single-parcel wines named La Pucelle and Les Spectres. The last version I tasted of La Pucelle is non-dosé and was again a disappointment due to the lack of dosage, maturity and it doesn’t project the richness that I expect from a great Pinot Noir champagne. Terres de Sable is an ode to the terroir of Chamery known for its sandy soil which gives a very distinctive saline minerality. It’s a sappy wine with delicious vine peach, honeysuckle and a complex smoky minerality.

I have a silent desire that they will launch Jean-Baptiste Vinothèque wines with long ageing on the lees and a Jean-Baptiste rosé - a true PF prestige rosé - would be fantastic. They worked hard on their image and the new labels are just fabulous but I hope that the zero dosage and launching premature wines won’t become their trademark.

Tasting notes

C. de Réserve (2012)

78 points

48% Chardonnay, 11 % Pinot Noir and 41 % Pinot Meunier

This entry level wine entirely vinified on stainless steel and doesn’t have the maturity and richness of the other cuvées. . It's a blend of harvest year 2012, 2011 and 2010. Light golden with an elegant effervescence and soft mousse. The nose has lovely ripe apples, pear, mirabelle plum, soft spices, dried fruits and minerality. The mouthfeel is soft and creamy. On the palate you get a reflection of the nose together with red berries a hint of bramble berry and plum. The finish is smooth with an elegant acidity of peach, plum, soft spices and minerality.

C. de Rosé

82 points

55 % Chardonnay, 21 % Pinot Noir and 24 % Pinot Meunier
35% 2012, 45 % 2011, 17 % 2010 and 3 % 2008

Salmon pink color with a refined effervescence. In the nose you get forest elderberry, raspberry red currant, yeast and salted caramel together with a complex mineral expression. On the palate you get the red fruits from the nose together with delicious cherry flavors and Chardonnay orchard fruits. On the mid palate there is cherry tomato and a hint of beetroot. The finish is fresh with citrus and redcurrant with mild spices. It’s a pity that it’s completely vinified in stainless steel. A little touch of oak would add more complexity and more fun. It's still a very pleasant rosé that shows its true potential paired with grilled langoustines or cured ham.

C. de Chardonnays (2010)

87 points with 89 potential

100% Chardonnay
Base 2010 with the addition of reserve wines from 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004 and 2001.

Dosed at 7 g/l. This wine has a luminous yellow golden color with fine bubbles and soft tears on the glass. On the nose you get the sweet scent of shellfish, sugared almonds, acacia honey, condensed milk, pineapple, quince, mandarin orange, cashew nuts and bakery yeast. After a longer while in the glass it showed a deep smokiness, with nougat and toasted almonds. The texture is subtle and creamy but the flavors expand in your mouth. On the palate you get pineapple, quince and citrus fruits with a touch of whisky, orangette, physalis, chicory and bitter almond on the mid palate. This champagne has an exceptional balance. The finish is long and powerful with sharp vanilla and an almost Bollinger-like toastiness.

C. de Pinots (2011)

85 points with 89 potential

50% Pinot Noir and 50% Pinot Meunier.
Harvest 2011 with 25% wines from harvest 2010 and 35% from 2009.

Light golden color with an elegant effervescence. In the nose you get at first minerality and smokiness followed by pear, plum, figs, biscuit with pistachio, unripe peach, redcurrant, milk chocolate and cream cheese. The mouthfeel is quite tight compared to the version with base 2009. It misses a bit of roundness. On the palate you get pear, plum and peaches with a waterfall of acidity from gooseberry and lemon. The finish is quite long with prominent hazelnut and toast. I expected more fruit and complexity. A few more years in the cellar would benefit this wine.

C. de Pinots (2009)

88 points with 90+ potential

60% Pinot Noir and 40% Pinot Meunier. Based on 2009 with 64% of reserve wines from 2007-2006-2004.

Dosage 6g / l. Disgorging: 02/2014. Straw color with fine bubbles and nice tears on the glass. In the nose, we get blueberries, porcini mushrooms, lovely yeast, subtle aroma of sea shells , cinnamon, dried figs, dates with cream cheese and sunflowers. After a while in the glass we get peach with chestnut honey and oak. A fresh nose with lovely mature overtones. The mouthfeel is expansive but still pretty tight. The attack is saline followed by peach, gooseberry, currant, prune, roasted hazelnut and brioche. On the mid palate we get candied ginger and even some piquant Gruyère cheese. The finish is dry and reverberates lemon acids with toasted hazelnuts and zest of citrus fruit.

Terre de Sables (2011)

84 points

50% Chardonnay, 39% Pinot Noir and 11% Pinot Meunier.
Harvest 2011 with 51% reserve wines from 2010, 2009 and 2008.

Dosage of 7 g/l. Lovely yellow golden color with a refined effervescence. In the nose you get citrus oil, yellow raisins, prunes, raspberry, mango and honeysuckle with a mineral undertone of slate, silex, iron ore. It also shows green notes of chlorophyll, flower stems and cardamom. After a long while in the glass it showed red apples and crême anglaise. The mouthfeel is dynamic. On the palate you get an attack of salinity and metallic minerality followed by apple, pear and vine peach with a mild autolytic yeastiness. The finish is quite long with woody spices, soft tobacco and green peppercorns. This pairs wonderfully with oysters.

Terres de Sable (2009)

85 points

5% pinot noir, 50% pinot meunier and 45% chardonnay
Harvest 2009 with 53% of reserve wines from 2008-2007-2006-2005-2001.

Dosage of 6 g/l. Pale golden yellow color with very fine bubbles. In the nose, we get apple, honey, pineapple, nuts, butter, acacia flowers, almond blossom, apricot, petit beurre biscuits, tobacco, toast, sultanas and a hint of sea breeze. The mouthfeel is full and intense. On the palate we get pineapple, apple and ripe juicy peach. On the mid palate you get hazelnut and prune. Everything perfectly balanced. The finish is long with a lip smacking lemony acidity and a tip of sour cream.

Les Goulats 2013

70 points

67% Arbanne, Fromenteau, Petit Meslier + 33% Chardonnay

Pale straw color with a refined effervescence. On the nose you get a smoky minerality, unripe quince and pineapple, papaya and sharp citrus fruit. This wine is tightly wound with a vigorous acidity. On the palate you get white currant, green apple, unripe pineapple, gooseberry, sharp ginger, turmeric and cardamom with cutting metallic overtones. The finish is long but the acidity is lazer sharp and I don’t see how this will improve with more bottle age. I expected something completely different from this wine, things like rich tropical fruit with waxy overtones, an explosion of fruit but instead it all felt rather unripe.

La Pucelle (2012)

68 points

100% Pinot Noir.
Blend of 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.

No dosage. Light golden color with a refined effervescence. On the nose you get unripe apricot, peach, tamarind, ginger powder and almost “biodynamic” oxidative overtones with the character of new oak. This wine is edgy and very tight. On the palate you get ginger, white pepper, lemon and lemon grass and a notion of thai basilicum. The finish is very acidic. I miss structure, balance, maturity and fun. It tastes like a faulty experiment to me. More bottle age will improve the wine but it will stay nervous and unbalanced.

Jean-Baptiste (2006)

91 points with 92 potential.

55% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier.
Blend of 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2001.

Dosage: 5.5 g/L. Lovely golden color with a refined effervescence. Burgundian rustic horse skin, Spanish turrón almond delight, flambéed pineapple, liquorice candy, cuberdon raspberry, crême brulée, prunes, coffee and fresh tones of peppermint and sea shells. After a longer while in the glass it gets very smoky and toasty. The mouthfeel is vinous but at the same time refreshing. On the mid palate you get prunes, bramble berry, the delicious flambéed pineapple from the nose, baked pear, toffee and a hint of mint chocolate. On the mid-palate there is a mild sensation of Rancio and dark heather honey. The finish is long and lingers the flavors together with toast and tobacco. A perfect evening companion. The combination with French blood sausage was just ethereal! This will evolve to lovely cappuccino and truffle. Drink now to 2027.

Jean-Baptiste (2000)

86 points

55% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier.
Blend of 2000, 1999 and 1998.

Dosage: 5.5 g/L. This Jean-Baptiste shows a bright acidity. Lovely golden with a refined effervescence and nice tears on the glass. On the nose you get baked bruised apple, roasted coffee beans, choco toffee, prunes, dried figs, elderberry, bramble, salty biscuits, cedar wood and an undertone of sherry and Banyuls. The mouthfeel is vinous and dynamic. Unfortunately there were also oxidized notes in the taste. On the palate you get toffee, milk chocolate, apple, fig, maple syrup and candied citrus. I do miss flavors on the mid-palate. It has a medium long finish with oddly enough a mild citrus acidity and overtones of baked apple with yeast and toast. I expected a lot more but it's a more than likeable wine.

Jean-Baptiste (1999)

94 points

55% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier.
Blend of 1999, 1998 and 1996.

Disgorged 02/2015. Deep old golden color with very fine bubbles and pretty tears on the glass. Very complex aromatic nose of toasted almond, nougat, preserved apricots, brandy, floral Ethiopian coffee, pistachio, heather honey, quince, smoky peat, incense, potpourri, wax, pineapple and dried figs. The mouthfeel is majestic, mouth caressing and full bodied. On the palate you get mature tones of apple, dried apricots, floral coffee, fig, honey, wax and smokiness. On the mid palate you get zest of orange and burned orange. The finish is immense with hazelnuts, coffee, spiciness of wood and a beautiful acidity of citrus. This is an amazingly beautiful champagne! Drink now to 2022.

Millésime 2007

82 points with 86 potential

43 % Chardonnay and 57 % Pinot Meunier.

Dosage of 4 g/l. Light golden color with medium refined effervescence and light tears on the glass. On the nose you get yeast, reinette apple, madeleine biscuits, almond and ice cream. It seems to be a bit reductive. After a longer time in the glass it showed more complex and mature tones of prune liqueur, blueberry, orange zest, marzipan and minerals. The mouthfeel is vinous with enough body. On the palate you get apple, gooseberry, raspberry and redcurrant with graphite-like mineral tones. The mid palate shows lovely saline notes together with lemon zest and marzipan. The finish is quite long with sharp, pointy wood spices, grissini, toast and lingering blond tobacco, menthol and the acidity of apple. This wine needs some more time to settle down because the wood isn’t balanced. It will be worth the wait.

Millésime 2003

83 points

95 % Chardonnay and 5 % Pinot Noir.

Dosage of 2 g/l.Intense golden color with small bubbles and a nice fat tears on the glass. Lovely rich nose of apricot, baked apple, deep warm yeasts, heather honey, mushrooms, roasted hazelnut, marzipan but with overtones of alcohol. This really shows the overheated vintage. The mouthfeel is rich and silky. On the palate you get a nice reflection of the nose all together with deep bramble and blackberry jam (the typical heat of the vintage) and butter baked forest mushrooms. The finish is rather short and I’m missing a backbone of supporting acidity. Would pair well with quail and cognac sauce.

Millésime 2002

90 points with 92 potential

51% Chardonnay, 37% Pinot Noir and 12% Pinot Meunier. Dosed at 5.5 g/l.Intense golden color with small bubbles and a nice fat tears on the glass. Lovely rich nose of baked apple, yeast, earth, truffle, milk chocolate, mocha and heather honey but also shows nice vibrant peach and mirabelle plum. This is like drinking a sparkling white Burgundy, silky but with a lot of freshness. On the palate you get earthiness, applesauce, mature honey tones and delicious hazelnuts. Lovely long finish with the perfect acidity of candied citrus and stony mineral accents together with mild spices and tobacco. Delicious!

Benoist & Isabelle Perseval

12 Rue du Voisin
51500 Chamery, France
+33 3 26 97 64 70