If, like me, you gravitate toward drier Champagnes with laser focus, then you will love the wines of Veuve Fourny. Their old Chardonnay vines suck up the chalky essence of the premier cru slopes of Vertus, and their winemaking is all about preserving the magic of their terroir without artifice. They refuse to inoculate, add no sulfur throughout the vinification process, work with very low dosages, and bottle their creations unfined and unfiltered—rare feats in the world of wine, and virtually unheard of in Champagne. No need to wait for the perfect moment to enjoy a bottle; popping the cork on their Blanc de Blancs is a special occasion unto itself!
Champagne Veuve Fourny & Fils is relatively new to the KLWM portfolio, although it has been an active family domaine since 1856. The estate is located in prestigious Côte des Blancs, in the premier cru village of Vertus, giving them the rare opportunity to grow Pinot Noir as well as Chardonnay. Brothers Charles-Henry and Emmanuel sustainably farm nearly nine hectares of vineyards, carrying on the family tradition since 1993. All of their vineyards are farmed according to the same meticulous practices and principles, with each parcel vinified individually. Veuve Fourny produces classic grower Champagne, raising pedigreed fruit, adhering to high standards, and hand-crafting wines that showcase the chalky terroir of Vertus.
True Champagne must not only sparkle, but also must come from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France and be made using méthode champenoise—a process that involves prolonged aging of the wine as well as a bottle fermentation used to add the sparkle to the finished product. Though wine has been made in this region since at least the 5th century, Champagne as we now know is a relatively new creation. It wasn’t until the 19th century that sparkling wine production took hold on a large scale in much part due to improvements in the strength of glass for bottles and the embrace of French nobility of the sparkling wines of the region.
Only three grape varieties may be used to make Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The chalk-heavy soils not only provide complexity and texture to the finished wine, but also act as a natural humidifier thus keeping the vine’s roots warm during colder months of the year. There are grand cru and premier cru designated vineyard areas but unlike Burgundy, there are few lieu-dit vineyards (though in recent years there has been a greater interest in producing vineyard specific Champagnes).
Kermit’s first foray into the region came in 1981 when he began importing the wines of J. Lassalle and Paul Bara—two producers whose wines we still import. In the mid 2000s, Kermit began importing the wines of Veuve Fourny et Fils.
Of Champagne, Kermit says, “You might be surprised to learn that I don’t like a goût de terroir to dominate the taste of Champagnes. If it dominates, you lose finesse. I want some, obviously—but only enough to keep things interesting.”
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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