Having worked with Essi Avellan MW over the years she encouraged me to taste Alexandre Bonnet Champagne on a number of occasions, each time they stood out; made reductively, no oak, displaying great precision and weight of fruit, there is a real elegance to them. Alexandre Bonnet don’t have a UK agent and therefore I decided to import them myself and this was our first event to launch the champagnes and a unique still wine with its own appellation, Rosé des Riceys. The event took place on Thursday 21st November at Fredericks Islington and was a bespoke 3 course menu paired with 5 Alexandre Bonnet Champagnes with an ongoing masterclass presented by Richard Bampfield MW.
Starter: Smoked Salmon & Dressed Crab with Avocado
Main Course: Slow Cooked Lamb, Lightly Seared, on Green Beans & Jus Plus Confit Potatoes
Cheese Course: Comté & Aged Parmesan
There is always a delicious outcome when you bridge flavours in the food and I was blown away by the lamb and the two roses from AB, one is sparkling, one is still and they both gain more dimensions with the lamb dish.
The History of the Alexandre Bonnet Champagne House goes back a long way in the stunning village of Les Riceys. With three Appellations d’Origione controlee (Controlled designation of origin), The place is unique in the world of winemaking and is an exception in Champagne. It is located in Les Riceys, a magnificent medieval town at the gateway to Burgundy. Though the heart of the region, far away from the watchful gaze of Reims and Epernay, oscillated for many years between Champagne and Burgundy, its 866 hectares of vines eventually became the largest wine growing village in Champagne
On the steepest slopes of Champagne, the Kimmeridgian limestone soil of Les Riceys imparts a unique and renowned flavour on the wines made there creating elegant and complex aromas while retaining a generosity of fruit in the wine. The excellence of its Pinot Noirs has earnt three AOCs: Champagne, Coteaux Champenois and Rosé des Riceys. Domaine Alexandre Bonnet has become the symbol and emblem of this unique terroir.
Over the course of history, the terroir of Les Riceys has been passed back and forth between Burgundy and Champagne. Burgundian in 830, the region was integrated into Champagne during the 13th century, then was again turned over to the Duke of Burgundy with the Treaty of Troyes in 1420. A few decades later it was returned to the Kingdom of France. But the rivalry between Burgundy and Champagne remained. In Les Riceys, the wineries have two entrances. When they were built, one entrance led out to Champagne and the other to Burgundy. So depending on the vintage, the wine was taken out through one door or the other, depending on the advantages of one or the other.
“The head said Champagne, but the heart remained Burgundian.”
It wasn’t until 1927 that the white wines of the Aube region were included in the Champagne appellation once and for all. But the vineyards of Les Riceys stayed closely connected to Burgundy, with the production of the famous Rosé des Riceys. That is when the Aube and Les Riceys arrived permanently in the Champagne appellation. At the same time, in 1934, Lucien Noble planted his first vines. His daughter (the wife of René Bonnet) then his grandsons, Serge and Alain, tended the family vineyards and gave the Domaine its name in 1970: Alexandre Bonnet
Domaine Alexandre Bonnet manages to produce six different types of wine from the same grape variety: Pinot Noir.
One of the Domaine’s champagne cuvées comes from La Géande, a unique parcel in the whole appellation, because it is planted with the seven historic champagne grape varieties (Pinot Noir, Meunier, Chardonnay, Blanc Vrai, Buret, Arbane, and Petit Meslier). Grapes from another Contrée known as La Forêt, are also used to produce four other wines: Rosé des Riceys, Coteau Champenois and two champagnes: a Rosé de Saignée and a Blanc de Noirs. Didier and Irvin believe that the special features of the terroir and the Domaine itself contribute to the wines’ fabulous aromatic palette, producing almost alchemical blends, freeing both the intuition of the senses and the imagination.