Thursday, February 2, 2012

"I don't want to make a good Champagne"

Ralph Adams Cram crafted this undergraduate residence with 
local native limestone. I know its embrace. A Champagne may be based on Chardonnay with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It may sometimes be only Chardonnay; or it may have none. It has always been a matter of style. But where does it come from?

Famously, yet not without justification, Champagne is the one great appellation in our planet's sublimest wine culture to draw from a diffuse if hierarchical array of vineyard sources; and this is changing.

A diversity of metaphor is natural to extract from a concentration of taste, but in Champagne, at last the underlying cépage is being concentrated, from circumscribed clos often bordered by native stone. Great houses - Krug, Billecart-Salmon - are already heavily invested in this approach, which dates from Charlemagne at the hill of Corton, and from Virgil before him. The theory - some would say, the vision - is to portray the land as the origin of its most celebratory metaphor. A reformation is being led by a resolute second-generation vigneron, who has con-ceived of it this way:

"I don't want to make a good Champagne; I don't even want to make a good Chardonnay. I want to make a great Avize," referring to the village domiciling his vineyard. His name is Anselme Selosse, and his wines bear the prénom of his father, Jacques. But more and more, the labels of the region are bearing the unknown names of the little towns, Avize, Ambonnay, not the great négocéant centers of yore, Reims, Ay, or Épernay.

The wine world, and if one may draw the distinction this way, the human world have an ever growing sympathy for this parochialism in viticulture today, and none too soon. I know the embrace of the renascence of origin. When I arrived at college, Champagne was homogeneous, conventionally stylised, averse to idiosyncrasy. The undergraduate residence shown above was domiciling the last class to be composed of "the well-rounded man," and would move decisively thereafter toward "the well-rounded class," a creative perspective on authentic diversification in human characteristics. We would still be awful, but in our own ways.

I'm given a chance to remember my college through an image posted by the newest follower of rmbl, on the charm of the espalier style of horticulture. I'm given a chance to remember originality in wine because an early follower exchanged gifts with me from France. My experience of Champagne and of college have in common many coincidences, but also a motive which is life-lasting: to draw closer to the world, with attention to what it is. One seems to give up a lot of finesse in doing that, but I'm certain it is worth the risk. I love Champagne's new direction as I loved my college's. They teach one to believe in thirst.

Andrew Jefford
The New France
op. cit.

ii  Princess Anne County


  1. In this post veritas...
    I believe that there is no other better requirement for to do something good.
    Nice creed !

  2. Ah, but you do not give up any finesse in pursuing it. À votre santé.