Thursday, February 28, 2008

Champagne Veuve Fourny & Fils, Vertus

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.

5 comments:

Steve L. said...

I enjoyed reading about this unfamiliar producer. If I'm not confusing names (a distinct possibility), Larmandier-Bernier practice biodynamic viticulture (and even changed U.S. importers to align themselves better with like-minded vignerons). How about the Fournys? I wonder what differences farming methods might have on these wines from similar terroirs.

Marshall Manning said...

Peter, nice write up on Fourny. We just started carrying these (from Kermit) a few months back, and I really like the wines that I've tried. The Grande Reserve Brut and Cuvee R are my favorites, while the Blanc de Blanc is good but seems a little less precise and a bit softer than I'd expect.

You didn't mention them in the post, but have you tried their Clos Notre Dame, rosé or sec Champagnes? Since I don't get to go on the Kermit trip, I won't get to taste these unless we bring them in.

Also, I keep hearing different blends on the Cuvee R. You say 90% Chard and 10% Pinot Noir, Burghound says 90% Chard, 5% Pinot Noir and 5% Meunier, and Juhlin says that it's 70% Chard, 15% Pinot Noir and 15% Meunier. I know I should trust YOU, but I'm wondering if they do different bottlings for different markets, or if they're all the same?

Peter Liem said...

Hello Steve,

You're right, Larmandier-Bernier is a firm supporter of biodynamic viticulture, and to me this is certainly a factor in the quality and character of their wines.

Fourny attempted trials with biodynamics for several years but lost a lot of crop due to various maladies, and has settled for a more "raisonée" philosophy. I do think that farming methods have an impact on the expression of terroir, although we could debate all day on what the differences might be.

Peter Liem said...

Hello Marshall,

Good to hear from you. Do you know what cuvée of Blanc de Blancs you have? I'm wondering if you have the one based on 2003 -- normally Monts Ferrés produces a very minerally, racy wine.

I didn't mention the other wines because the post got too damn long! The new (1999) Clos Faubourg de Notre Dame will be released this fall, and I haven't tasted it yet. The current rosé cuvée is excellent, with spicy red fruit and plenty of ripeness -- it's dosed at around 5 grams. I never drink sec but the Fournys' sec is a good one, and with only 20 grams of sugar it's at the bottom end of sec (and not that far above some houses' Bruts!) It feels rich and full-bodied rather than overtly sweet, and I'd do it with fruit or cheese rather than most desserts.

Neither Emmanuel nor Charles-Henry has ever spoken the word meunier in my presence. Emmanuel has told me on three separate occasions that the Cuvée R is 90 chard and 10 pinot noir, so I'm going with that until he tells me something different. They only do one bottling, so it should all be the same blend.

Marshall Manning said...

Thanks for the info, Peter. I'll have to check the bottles/cases to see if there's a lot code that includes the vintage. Otherwise, I'm not sure what the base vintage is on the wines we have. I'll make sure Kevin gets some of the Notre Dame, rosé, and the 2002 BdB when they're released.