Emmanuel Fourny (pictured) and his brother Charles-Henry are fifth-generation vignerons, and have been at the helm of this Côte des Blancs property since 1993. The house was created as Albert Fourny by their grandfather in the 1930s, and changed its name to Veuve A. Fourny in the 1950s following Albert’s death. Today it is known simply as Veuve Fourny & Fils.
I consider Veuve Fourny to be grower champagne, even though they’ve been registered as an NM since 1979, which allows them to buy grapes from other family members and friends. An important thing to note is that all of their parcels, whether estate or négoce, are treated with the same care in viticulture and vinification: the Fournys work closely with their friends and family to ensure that their viticulture is of the same high standard as the house, advising on such things as pruning, cover crops and yields, and all parcels are vinified separately to preserve their identity of terroir. In addition, they buy only from Vertus—it’s important to the Fournys that every bottle of Veuve Fourny champagne is pure, single-cru wine. “We want to be specialists of Vertus,” says Emmanuel Fourny. Today they own 8.5 hectares of vines spread over 40 parcels in the village, which account for about 70 percent of their needs; their purchased parcels total another four hectares or so.
Half of the estate’s vines are located in the lieu-dit of Monts Ferrés, on the Mesnil side of the village, and this forms the backbone for the Brut Blanc de Blancs. Blended from three vintages and dosed at just five grams per liter, this brut’s lively, racy energy and prominent minerality give away its origins close to Le Mesnil. The same wine is released without dosage as the Brut Nature—I like the pronounced, saline expression of minerality and the zesty crispness here, and it would be a terrific accompaniment to oysters or other raw shellfish, but it’s a less complex wine than the Brut.
Vertus is unusual in the Côte des Blancs in that there is some pinot noir grown here, and in fact, in the past it was more famous for pinot noir than for chardonnay. Fourny’s Grande Réserve is blended from 80 percent chardonnay and 20 percent pinot noir, and while it is also blended from three vintages, there is a higher proportion (40%) of reserve wine here. In addition, about 10 percent of the wines for this cuvée are aged in oak barriques. It’s a richer, more ample wine than the Blanc de Blancs, sourced primarily from areas in Vertus with more clay. The Cuvée R Extra Brut is named for the Fournys’ father Roger, who preferred to use a little pinot in his blends—it’s a blend of 90 percent chardonnay and 10 percent pinot noir, as his wines often were. Fermented and aged entirely in barrique, it’s always a blend of two vintages, and spends four years in the cellars before release. The backbone of the Cuvée R is the fruit from old vines in a lieu-dit called Les Barillées, on the heart of the mid-slope of Vertus, which gives dense, sleekly powerful chardonnay. If you see a bottle now it will probably be the blend of equal parts 2000 and 2002, dosed at 3 g./l., which balances a rich depth of fruit with floral, complex fragrance and softly spicy, harmoniously integrated notes of wood. The next release, which is 60 percent 2004 and 40 percent 2002, is more nervy and brisk, buoyed by the crisp acidity of the 2004 vintage, and shows complex, vividly fragrant aromas of tangerine, white peach and apple. Not to be missed is Veuve Fourny’s Millésimé 2002 Blanc de Blancs, sourced exclusively from parcels in Les Barillées and Les Monts Ferrés in the heart of the slope (the same terroir, incidentally, as Larmandier-Bernier’s outstanding Terre de Vertus). It’s labeled as brut but dosed at a mere 3 g./l., and there was no malolactic fermentation. Fresh, lively and fragrant, it’s an energetic and complete wine, showing a fine subtlety and balance that keeps it vibrant through the long, citrus-dominated finish. It’s still adolescent now but extremely promising, and worth laying down in the cellar.
Veuve Fourny is imported into the United States by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants in Berkeley, CA, and into the United Kingdom by Thorman Hunt & Co. in London.