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While much of the excitement today in Grower Champagne is being generated by gifted younger stars, the movement has had another very different result: the discovery of a handful of previously unknown, yet wholly original, older growers who’ve toiled in anonymity for the better part of 60 or 70 years, selling only to visitors who knock on their cellar door.
These are the Jacky Truchots and Frederic Engels of Champagne. And, just as with Truchot and Engels, recognition has come so late in their lives that just about all we can do is wish we’d known about them decades earlier.
And for us one of the most compelling of these discoveries has been Madame Fallet in Avize. Now 85 years old, she is universally known simply as “Madame Fallet.” (Whatever her first name is, we’ve never heard it uttered or seen it published. It’s a measure of the respect she’s accorded that “Madame” suffices.)
Madame Fallet has, for decades, made beautifully pure, old school Blanc des Blancs Champagnes from the vines her late husband brought to their marriage. The couple began domaine-bottling Champagne back in 1957, a time when few growers did anything but sell their grapes to the co-ops or Grande Marque houses.
The Fallets worked quietly, avoiding attention, allowing their reputation to quietly spread among private clients who visited their cellar each year for their small allocation. And on his death, Madame Fallet took over without missing a step, always avoiding the spotlight, just as her husband advised her to.
Their wines are always a blend of two successive vintages, fermented in neutral oak barrels, each bottle disgorged by hand and aged a minimum of seven years sur latte.
Two cuvées dominate her output: a NV blanc de blancs extra brut and a NV blanc de blancs non-dosé. Like Dauvissat in Chablis, Madame Fallet issues identical wines under various family members’ names. But while the Dauvissats use two labels (Davissat and Dauvissat-Camus), Madame Fallet releases her wines under four labels! They are Fallet-Gourron, Fallet-Prévostat, Fallet-Crouzet and Fallet M.
Apart from dividing up the profits among family members, these names mean nothing. An extra brut under Fallet-Gourron will be the same as an extra brut under Fallet-Crouzet.
More important is the two harvests that make up the blend. In the time we’ve been buying the Fallet Champagnes, all the wines released have been a blend of two vintages. The challenge is to know which, since the only lot numbers on the labels refer to the label print run!
Trusting that our clients share our sense of adventure, we’ve created packs which includes 3 bottles of Fallet-Gourron Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut from two different releases.
Madame Fallet’s approach is utterly singular, unchanged from that developed more than four decades ago. Then as now, its purpose is to bring the bottles to a perfect state of development before release.
It takes both great fruit and great skill to consistently produce a blend of vintages with the concentration and structure to benefit from seven years aging. The domaine has both in spades: their 75-year-old Chardonnay vines are planted in top parcels long sought after by the big Champagne houses, and their fine touch in the cellar captures all of this great fruit’s potential.
To see Madame Fallet surrounded by the thousands of slumbering bottles in her cold, humid cellar is to have a glimpse into a long life dedicated to artisanal Champagne-making. (Click here for that glimpse). But that sight would mean little if the bottles didn’t contain such beautiful expressions of their great terroirs, enhanced by the extraordinary care taken in their making and aging.
Needless to say, Madame Fallet’s Champagnes are very rarely seen in the U.S., so we are very excited to be able to offer them.
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