Champagne Corbon: 2017 Vins Clairs and Vintage 1984

During our vins clairs visit to Champagne in March, we made sure to stop off at some grower champagne houses to learn about the 2017 vintage from their perspective. The first grower we visited was Champagne Corbon, located in the Grand Cru village of Avize. Here, we met with fourth generation family member and current manager Agnès Corbon, who generously showed us a few vins clairs and a comprehensive range of finished champagnes.

The history of Champagne Corbon dates back to the 1920s, when Agnès’ great-grandfather, Charles Corbon, moved to Avize and acquired his first vines. His son, Albert, had little interest in viticulture, so the company fell quiet for much of the 1900s. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when Agnès’ father Claude took the helm, that Champagne Corbon transformed into a producer of its own right. In 1972, fed up with buyers asking if they could pay for grapes a year late, Claude realised that he could “just bottle it and sell it himself by June”, in Agnès’ words.

In just three decades, Claude led this single champagne estate to be one of the most respected growers in the region. Nowadays, daughter Agnès holds the reins, although Claude still works for the company. After graduating in 1999, Agnès moved to the UK, working in Sheffield and Crawley for a number of years. Finally realising that her life was in Champagne, she returned to France, completed a course in oenology and began working for Champagne Corbon in 2006.

The family currently own 6 hectares of land, 2ha of which are in their hometown of Avize. The rest of their vines are in the Vallée de la Marne, in Trélou-sur-Marne, Vandières, Verneuil and Vincelles. Half of their grapes are still sold to the négociants, the other half are used to produce around 10k bottles of Champagne Corbon annually. They harvest all three grape varieties, however given their location in Avize, Chardonnay is unsurprisingly their dominant grape, accounting for 60% of their production.


Vins Clairs 2017

“Last year was… something,” Agnès said with a characteristic smile. Introducing the 2017 vintage, she told us it was the toughest season since she started making wine in 2006, but admitted that “one really bad vintage every 10 years is not too bad!” Agnès has been cultivating the ground in recent years, has phased out the use of all herbicides and pesticides and none of the wines are filtered or fined. That said, she remains pragmatic about becoming fully organic. “You have to be very brave to be organic in Champagne,” she commented.

We tasted two vins clairs at Corbon. The first was from Avize Chardonnay vines planted in 1992. “Normally quite floral and light, this is instead quite citrusy this year,” Agnès said. The second was another Chardonnay, this time from Verneuil vines planted in 1999. Badly affected by the weather in 2017, Corbon lost 40% of their vineyards in Verneuil to frost.


Chardonnay | Avize | Grand Cru, Côte des Blancs
Smokey and rich ripe lemons. Very reductive right now, smokey, quite good fruit concentration for 2017 and a great chalky texture.
Chardonnay | Verneuil | Autre Cru, Vallée de la Marne
          Very reductive and match strike character. Has plenty of bright lemons and lime, very forward and open, slightly peppery and smokey.

The Champagne Corbon vineyards in Avize




Agnès Corbon discusses vintage 2017 with Simon Stockton and Essi Avellan


The cellar at the house can store 80,000 bottles



Zero dosage Absolument Brut NV based on 2010


Asked for a vintage comparison, Agnès opted for 1984. “That was the worst vintage of my lifetime… but I will show you finished 1984 and what we can still produce in a bad year,” she promised. That said, due to the surprise of 2004 – with its super-high yields, yet generously fruit-forward wines – she is cautious about judging a vintage too early. “Vintage 2017 may surprise us just yet,” she concluded.



Our tasting of the Champagne Corbon range began with Abolsument Brut NV – a zero dosage blend with a proportion of wine from solera, and Anthracite Brut NV (a nod to the family ancestry of colliers) – the exact same wine with a 5 g/L dosage. Both quite full and round with intriguing hints of oak, these are refreshing champagnes and have impressive richness from the solera.

Next was Brut d’Autrefois NV, the cream of the Corbon crop. The 95% Chardonnay content is from Avize vines planted in 1962. Half of the blend is from the most recent harvest and the other half is taken from the solera – a perpetual cuvée started in the 1980s and kept in 30hl stainless-steel tanks. We also tasted an experimental champagne – Cuvée Perdue No2 – which Agnès produced for the first time in 2008 using stainless steel fermentation and then oak barrel ageing. “It was very oaky, so we never made it again,” she said.


Corbon Absolument Brut NV
50% CH, 25% PN, 25% PM | Base Vintage: 2010 | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: November 2017 | Dosage: 0 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 4 Months
Has some great fruit, ripe apples and pear and hints of oak with a creamy character. The solera bring a broad and rich palate of flavours and some tropical fruits. 16/20
Corbon Anthracite Brut NV
50% CH, 25% PN, 25% PM | Base Vintage: 2011 | Lees Ageing: 5 Years | Disgorged: November 2017 | Dosage: 5 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 4 Months
Lots of that oak-like character then you get the lemons, lime and pear and chalk. Great texture and full mouthfeel. Lots of lemon lushness. 16.5/20
Corbon Brut d’Autrefois NV
95% CH, 5% PN | Base Vintage: 2008 | Dosage: 5 g/L
Lovely lees character with sweetness and panettone notes. Dried fruit, nutiness, creamy custard and honey wax. Lovely. 17/20
Corbon Cuvée Perdue No2
34% CH, 33% PN, 33% PM | Base Vintage: 2007 | Dosage: 6 g/L
Wow; the oak is forward with layers of apple and citrus fruits, some creaminess and overall the oak brings a softness making the acidity seem very light. 16.5/20


As we tasted the finished champagnes, we noticed the more recent vintages were closed with Mytik Diam technological corks, which are becoming more and more popular in Champagne as they eliminate cork taint and guarantee bottle-to-bottle consistency. Agnès told us that Corbon switched to Mytik in 2006, making them one of the very first producers to do so. “We have had one instance of TCA [cork taint] in 11 years,” she told us.

Finally, we tasted a range of vintages of the single vineyard Grand Cru Avize Millesimé. As the name suggests, it is a Blanc de Blancs from 100% Avize vines and is generally made every year. It undergoes 100% barrel fermentation using 3-7 year old oak barrels and spends around 6-7 years maturing on the lees. Agnès has been experimenting with ageing under cap or cork and agrafe for this cuvée.

The latest creation is named Les Bacchantes 2009 – “the moustache” – an ode to her father Claude’s facial hair at the time of production. As promised, Agnès showed us vintages as far back as 1984 – the worst vintage of her lifetime. Although it had some oxidation and botrytis character, there were pleasant hints of orange, honey, marmalade and lavender. Rather than to showcase the best of Corbon, Agnès shared this as a lesson in what can be done with difficult vintages. “It is comforting that we made this in 1984!” she added.


Corbon Les Bacchantes 2009
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Dosage: 5 g/L
What a seductive nose! All peaches and has a creamy texture and toast. Loads of citrus fruit and the dosage seems perfect. This is the star so far. 17.5/20
Corbon Grand Cru Avize Millésime 2006
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Dosage: 6 g/L
Very aromatic, lemon, ripe apples and racy acidity is very powerful. Agnes states “Because the SO2 is kept right, this has real freshness.” 16.5/20
Corbon Grand Cru Avize Millésime 1998
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Dosage: 6 g/L
Coffee, smoke & something sweetshop-like. Wow; has some sweetness because the fermentation didn’t complete. Loads of lime and pastry notes. 16/20
Corbon Grand Cru Avize Millésime 1996
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Dosage: 6 g/L
Loads of sherbet and rich lemon notes with lees adding great texture, the ’96 v bright acidity is on the edge of dominating. 17/20
Corbon Grand Cru Avize Millésime 1984
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Dosage: 6 g/L
The ‘worst vintage’ of her Agnes’ lifetime. Lots of honey, marmalade, lavender, coffee and lime. Interesting; still showing freshness . My first 1984! 16/20


We are not currently stocking these champagnes, contact Tim Hall who imports them into the UK

Grand Cru Avize Millésime 1996 – fresh and lively


The full Champagne Corbon range we tasted