Tuesday Winery Review–Gosset Champagne

Last month, I led a bike trip through Champagne. Before I left on the trip, I tried for weeks to arrange several tastings at numerous Champagne houses. The response was less than overwhelming, and I ended up only lining up two appointments, both on the same day:

Moët et Chandon at 9:30 a.m.

Gosset at 10:30 a.m.

I was rather excited about the visit since even though Gosset is the oldest winery in Champagne (established in 1584!) and I had been to Champagne countless times, I had never been to the house that makes my favorite non-vintage brut. Up until 2009, the whole Gosset operation was about 6km outside of Epernay in Aÿ (pronounced EYE-eee) and they did not seem to take kindly to visitors.

Several summers ago, I decided to stop by the house in Aÿ, unannounced. With the temperature in the mid-30’s Celsius (well into the 90’s Fahrenheit), I rolled up to the house and knocked on the door. Despite the short ride to get there, I was a sweaty mess, decked out in lycra, helmet head in full effect. I parked my bike and walked up to the front door in my cycling shoes.

Just trying to keep it classy.

I ring the bell and wait.

IMG_1779I wait a good long while and just as I decide to climb back down the stairs and hit the road, the door creaks open. I turn and explain, in my best French (I have to say it was pretty good), that I am perhaps their biggest fan and I rode all the way from the U.S. (hence my regrettable appearance) to come to Gosset (the silly, self-effacing humor always gets them).

The man who had answered the door looks me over, smiles, and says:

“We do not normally accept visitors.”

He then closes the door.

I stood there for a while, a bit stunned, thinking he might open the door again and say “Except for you, get in here you knucklehead!”

That did not happen. Disappointed, I eventually climbed back on my bike and made my way up to Reims.

Fast forward to this past summer when I emailed Gosset a few weeks prior to my trip and to my surprise (and joy), I got an appointment at their new location in Epernay. Back in 2009, the company, which had been in Aÿ for 425 (!) years, purchased a property in Epernay. The new property had most recently housed Champagne Jeanmaire and previously Champagne Trouillard, but the house was originally built by mass-retailer Félix Potin to supply his stores with its own champagne. The new property gives Gosset much larger production facilities and storage capabilities (the caves on the property can hold up to 2.5 million bottles).

Gosset

Entrance to Gosset in Epernay

The company will maintain the Aÿ property, but most of the production and day-to-day operations are now in Epernay. It also enables them to welcome visitors in the former Château Malakoff on the grounds.

The day of the tastings, I left Moët a bit early (post HERE), but I was still running late for the Gosset appointment. I had the foresight to bring my bike to Moët and since I only had one flute of champagne there, the only thing slowing me down was the rather large hill in between the two.

I pulled into the Gosset parking lot right about 10:45 where I found two of the clients on my bike tour patiently waiting for me. A few minutes after I arrived, our guide came out to greet us and I instantly recognized him. It was Philippe Manfredini, whom I had met a couple of years prior at a tasting put on by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB). He was at the event, pouring Gosset, and we chatted for a good 15 minutes or so (as I kept drinking the champagne, of course).

Hard to imagine, but he was even nicer as he showed us around Gosset–he took us on a full tour of the facility, from the production rooms down into the caves.

IMG_4249

Stainless fermenting tanks.

Gosset Cave

Gosset Cave

As we emerged from the caves, Philippe led us through several of the Gosset wines, explaining that most of the fruit that goes into the champagnes comes almost exclusively from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards (the two highest designations of quality in Champagne). He also pointed out that none of the wines that goes into Gosset champagnes goes through a malolactic fermentation (the transformation of malic acid into lactic acid), so that the champagnes retain their vibrant acidity (malic acid [think apples] is much more acidic than the resulting lactic acid [think milk]).IMG_4259We started with the Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay). Normally, I am not a big fan of the Blanc de Blancs style, but this was certainly an exception. Mineral and floral on the nose, with a bit of apricot, on the palate, this was quite impressive: balanced and well structured with a depth that I normally do not pick up in BdB. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.

The 2004 Gosset Grand Millésime (55% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir) followed with lighter nose–more citrus and vanilla than red fruit. On the palate, the wine seems like just a baby with bright acidity and minerality, green apple and even a bit of pineapple. The wine is great now, but could use a bit of time in the cellar to develop some more complexity of flavor since the vibrancy dominates. Outstanding. 91-93 Points (Potentially 94-96 Points).

Next came one of my favorite champagnes, the Gosset Grande Réserve (43% Chardonnay, 42% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier), which had a noticeably darker color in the glass than the BdB and the Millésime, with aromas of ripe red fruit and a touch of baked bread. On the palate, I recognized it immediately: those red berries persisted on the palate with great depth. The acidity on the back end held it all together wonderfully and ensured a long finish. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.

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Philippe and the Grand Rosé.

Last, Philippe poured us the Gosset Grand Rosé (58% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 7% Red Pinot Noir). A delicate salmon pink in the glass, but a powerful nose of fresh strawberries. On the palate, those strawberries danced on the tongue, noticeable rounder and softer than the others, but I thought this might be the most versatile of the four–this could handle even the most ambitious of meals. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.

All in all, it was one of the more memorable visits I had ever had in Champagne. We were there for close to two hours and at the end, Philippe even helped us decide on where to have lunch (and he called to reserve us a table as he drove the two clients back to our hotel).

Philippe mentioned that he might be back in Philly this fall for the PLCB tasting once again and I certainly hope that is the case. Not only does Gosset produce one of the finest champagnes, but Philippe is one of the nicest people you could ever meet.

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sparkling Wine, Tasting Notes, Wine, Winery Visit. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Tuesday Winery Review–Gosset Champagne

  1. Cliff says:

    Another very nice post! Very enjoyable.

    Like

  2. d2 says:

    Living vicariously through your posts. I do love Champagne although I’m not sure I could get on my bike after tasting.

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  3. Sounds like a wonderful experience! Kind people can make all the difference in the world.

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  4. Stefano says:

    Very nice review of both the winery and the wines, Jeff!

    Like

  5. I’ll try not to envy you (the green monster is no good for the heart).

    And it’s always wonderful to hear about the nice people in the world, the ones who actually try to make others feel welcome and at ease. Getting on my didactic horse now, let me just say that more people should act like Philippe. And yes, I mean to say should, as in ought to, as in it’s definitely morally superior over arrogance, rudeness and meanness. (I have authorized permission these days to occasionally slip in a didactic paragraph or two, now that I’m a grandmother.)

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  6. What a great experience! I hadn’t heard of Gosset but now I’m going to have to see if I can find any here on the West Coast. The host can make all the difference in the world.

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    • Gosset is by no means huge, but you should be able to find them. the Brut Excellence (their entry level bottling) is OK, but things get serious in a hurry with the Grand Réserve and on up. Be sure to let me know what you think!

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  7. PinotNinja says:

    What a tremendous afternoon and I’m so glad your perseverance paid off!

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  8. Great article – have also read your Moët post too. I’m heading to Epernay for a couple of days early December – any recommendations for Houses to visit? (I’ve emailed Gosset and crossed my fingers 🙂 )

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    • Gosset is certainly a good choice, but I would avoid Moët. Are you going to have a car? If you can get out into the smaller villages, the tastings and visits tend to be more intimate and enjoyable. Shoot me an email if you want a couple recommendations for spots outside Epernay/Reims. jeff (at) the drunken cyclist (dot) com (no spaces, of course).

      Like

  9. Gai says:

    I have tried to research Gosset for some time but your information was great!… We visited Reims last year – this time of year actually – and it was an amazing trip. As a lover of champagne or as they call it here in Australia – Sparkling. We were dining at a great restaurant in Reims when we walked outside and found but the owner of Gosset champagne was sitting with friends enjoying a bottle of Gosset of course!… It was only that I commented on the bottle that we got to find out!…now that was a moment!… We visited 3 champagne houses in 1 day – Bollinger, Veuve Cliquot & Mumm – one of the best experiences of my life…I would like to think that I will get to Gosset one day and the Chateau. I found your article amusing, informative and Reims is a beautiful place to visit – I can just see you cycling through there….oh take me back!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. trung tran says:

    thank you so much for your post, my wife and i are also planning a trip to champagne toward the end of november as well…if you dont mind is it possible to have phillip email address so that we can try our luck? Totally understand if you dont feel comfortable doing it! Thank you so much!! Sante!!

    Like

    • I only now saw this comment which was filtered out as Spam, so sorry to get to it so late (understatement). Philippe is no longer there (he had left before I published the piece), so it would not have been much help. I hope you had a great trip!

      Like

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