R17, disgorged May 2020 (magnums R18, disgorged Jan 2021).
Within the cold, west-facing, Kimmeridgian limestone-rich lieu-dit of Biaunes, there is a small plot of Chardonnay that Gautherot planted wild: without preparing the soils, amongst the native vegetation (a totally crazy idea). The Côte des Bar is overwhelmingly planted to Pinot Noir, but in 2000 Gautherot chose Chardonnay. He used massale cuttings from Anselme Selosse’s vines (in Avize) and Vincent Dauvissat’s Valmur Grand Cru vineyard. This plot has become the base of what Antonio Galloni calls “one of the most beautiful and distinctive wines in Champagne.”
The vines here yield only 15 to 20 hl/ha each year—one of the keys to the intensity on offer. The 2017 also took in some Chardonnay from Fonnet (from 2020, upcoming vintages will also take in Chardonnay from the Vouette vineyard, which was previously planted to Pinot Noir but was replanted to Chardonnay a number of years ago).
Fermentation for this wine was wild and took place in used 500- and 600-litre barrels, with a small a portion of fruit fermented and raised in Georgian amphora (see Textures). As with the Fidèle, this wine spent roughly 15 to 18 months in bottle on lees, before being disgorged by hand with zero dosage.
Gautherot was delighted with the 2017 vintage, noting the Chardonnay from this cool terroir was just perfect: ripe, fresh and pulpy. That assessment plays out in a striking wine of superb intensity and drive, with plenty of flesh but also vibrant freshness and a long salty, powdery finish. Blanc d’Argile has been described as Grand Cru Chablis with bubbles—and the 2017 delivers on that promise big time.
“For all its richness, the characteristic Kimmeridgian minerality of the site is amplified as well, feeling forceful and energetic under the velvety fruit, and in its briny, oyster-like salinity, it serves as a poignant reminder that Chablis is just 70 kilometers to the southwest. This is excellent, already so expressive yet potentially even more so with another year or two in the cellar.” Peter Liem, ChampagneGuide.net