Champagnes made of pure meunier are rare, but Michel Loriot makes two: his non-vintage Brut Réserve is 100-percent meunier, as is this wine, an old-vine selection from a vineyard called L’Arpent, in the village of Festigny. Loriot has three separate parcels of vines in this vineyard, planted in 1942, 1962 and 1966. He first bottled them separately in 2002, and having drunk an embarrassingly large quantity of that wine, I’m convinced that it’s one of the finest examples of this grape to be found in the region.
The next version is the 2004, which shows the same sense of old-vine intensity of fruit while also appearing distinctly more graceful. It has a noticeably finer texture, demonstrating a lot of finesse for being pure meunier, and it’s strongly marked by its acidity, framing the bright flavors of fresh cherry, pomelo and quince. There’s a curious note of vanilla on the nose that imitates the smell of oak, although this was made entirely in tank — “It’s to fool Parker,” says Loriot. While this is still adolescent and firmly wound-up right now, it promises to develop extremely well, and at this moment I think it has the quality to even surpass the 2002 that I loved so much.
Also, it’s always a pleasure to drink these wines in Loriot’s tasting room, which looks out over the village of Festigny to the vineyards beyond: L’Arpent, where these old vines of meunier are grown, lies on the mid-slope in the middle portion of that rather Corton-esque promontory that dominates the Vallée du Flagot.
Michel Loriot is brought into the United States by several importers, including Bond Street Imports, Charlotte, NC; Bonhomie Wine Imports, South Orange, NJ; and Charles Neal Selections, Richmond, CA. As the 2004 Vieilles Vignes is only just being released here in France, it’s doubtful that it’s hit the States yet, but it’s definitely a wine to keep your eye out for.