Champagne village profile: Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, a premier cru village

Diagram Mareuil-sur-Aÿ 201504Key facts

Located in subregion / area: Vallée de la Marne / Grande Vallée de la Marne
Vineyards and grape varieties: 291.1 hectares (719.3 acres), of which 84% Pinot Noir, 9% Chardonnay, and 7% Pinot Meunier.
Classification: Premier cru (99%)
Noted for: powerful Pinot Noir from southern slopes, neighbour to Aÿ and with wines of the same quality, home village of Philipponnat and Billecart-Salmon.

Maps

The map is linked from Wikimedia Commons, and the geographical information originates from OpenStreetMap. The dotted white area corresponds to the vineyards, and light yellow indicates other open terrain.


Google Maps view with the villages in the Grande Vallée de la Marne highlighted. The grand cru village is in green, and the premier cru villages are in yellow.

Clicking on a village opens a field to the left with a link to the village profile.

Neighbouring villages

West: Aÿ (grand cru)
Northnorthwest: Mutigny (premier cru)
Nortnortheast: Avenay-Val-d’Or (premier cru)
East: Bisseuil (premier cru)
South: Oiry (grand cru), part of Côte des Blancs
Southwest: Chouilly (grand cru), part of Côte des Blancs

Mareuil-sur-Aÿ as seen from the Notre Dame Du Gruguet statue, which is located on a hill in the vineyards to the northeast of the village. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Fab5669, 2016).

The village

The town hall (mairie) in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. The picture is linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo by G.Garitan, 2012).

As the name indicates, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ is a neighbour of Aÿ (four times as many inhabitants), and the built-up area in Mareuil is continuous with that of Aÿ across the commune border.

The village Mareuil-sur-Aÿ is located directly at the Marne river, or rather at the straight and navigable Marne canal (canal latéral à la Marne), with the more undulating Marne river just beyond the canal. Behind the village, to the north, the southern part of the Montagne de Reims rises. Before the days of railroad, river transport on Marne played an important role in transporting the wines of Champagne in the direction of Paris.

The former commune of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ covers 1148 ha and counts 1218 inhabitants (as of 2013), known as Marotiers and Marotières respectively.

Aÿ-Champagne

Since 1 January 2016, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ is a so-called commune déléguée within the merged commune Aÿ-Champagne, which is of the type commune nouvelle. This is a rather new type of merged commune which means that some functions are kept within the communes déléguées, rather than the former communes completely disappearing in the merged commune. The new commune was formed by Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, and Bisseuil, and it resulted in 3194 hectares and 5765 inhabitants (as of 2015 in the former communes). The town hall of the new commune is located in Aÿ.

Lock in the Marne canal just east of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. Clos des Goisses is visible in the background. The picture is linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo H.P.Burger, 2008).

Vineyards

The vineyards in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ are dominated by south-facing slopes, consisting mostly of Pinot Noir, which is the case with all of the Grande Vallée de la Marne – the eastern part of the Marne Valley. This village produces powerful wines, thanks to the south-facing vineyards.

The current vineyard surface in the village is 291.1 hectares (719.3 acres). There are 243.7 ha Pinot Noir (83.7%), 26.4 ha Chardonnay (9.1%), and 21.0 ha Pinot Meunier (7.2%). Current information from CIVC as of 2018, refers to the situation a few years earlier. In 1997, the vineyard surface was 285 ha. There are 300 vineyard owners (exploitants) in the commune.

Champagne houses that use vineyards in this village include Bollinger, Moët & Chandon, Roederer, Philipponnat, and Piper Heidsieck.

The premier cru status – the very best premier cru village?

While there are 17 Champagne villages classified grand cru, which means that they were rated 100% on the échelle des crus scale (it has been phased out, but the villages can still keep their grand cru status), there were two villages rated 99%: Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Tauxières-Mutry. All 44 villages being rated 90%-99% are classified premier cru, but all the other 42 are rated 90%-95%, and no villages are at 96%-98%. So Mareuil and Tauxières just missed out on being classified grand cru. Mareuil may therefore very well be the best premier cru village, and is also where one of Champagne’s most well-known vineyards, Clos des Goisses, is located.

The fact that the larger and grand cru-classified Aÿ receives more attention, although the Champagnes are rather similar, has led to a local expression: “Aÿ le nom, Mareuil le bon”.

Mareuil-sur-Aÿ as seen from approximately northnorthwest. The Marne canal can be found just beyond the village and Clos des Goisses is located just outside the picture to the left. The industrial zone in the distance is located in Oiry. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo G.Garitan, 2013).

Specific vineyards and single-vineyard wines

  • Les Blanchiens is a site from which R. Pouillon & Fils produces a vineyard-designated Champagne.
  • Chemin du Bois is a site from which R. Pouillon & Fils produces a vineyard-designated Champagne.
  • Clos des Goisses is a rather steep and even south-facing slope to the east of the village, just above the Marne canal and the D111 road, stretching in the east-west direction. It is a monopole site owned by Philipponnat since 1935, when they bought it from Société Générale de Champagne, that had gone bankrupt. The size is 5.5 ha (13.6 acres), which is big for a top-class single vineyard site and a monopole site in Champagne. Today, it is planted to about 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. Since the purchase in 1935, a single-vineyard Champagne has been produced from here, initially under the designation Vin de Goisses or Les Goisses, and this makes it the original vineyard-designated Champagne. (Monocru Champagnes, carrying a village name as opposed to a single vineyard name, existed earlier.) In 1956, the name was changed to Clos des Goisses. Although there is a wall at the foot of the vineyard, it isn’t really a clos, because it is not enclosed by a vineyard wall all around. The earlier names was “Les Goisses”. Clos des Goisses is big enough to be formally subdivided into 11 named plots of land (liuex-dits), but Philipponnat has divided it into 14 plots. Clos des Goisses Champagne is produced in basically every vintage (as of the 2009 vintage release, the most recent vintage not produced was 1987), but the amounts are smaller in less good vintages. Depeding on the quality, all plots don’t make it into the Clos des Goisses bottles every vintage, and may instead end up in other Philipponnat cuvées. The explanation why it can be produced so regularly is the pure south-facing exposure, which means that ripe grapes can always be harvested here even when that’s difficult elsewhere. With its rather noticeable oak notes, Clos des Goisses is considered to be a Champagne that should ideally be cellared.
  • Église Saint-Hilaire, the church in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ that has lent Clos Saint-Hilaire its name. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo October Ends, 2012).

    Clos Saint-Hilaire – a plot of 1 ha (2.5 acres) located next to the house of Billecart-Salmon. It was formerly a garden, but the realised it would make an excellent vineyard, and it was therefore planted with Pinot Noir in 1964. The exposure is southsoutheast, and the soil is tufa. Initially, the grapes were used to produce red wine for the rosé Champagnes, but later they started to produce oaked white base wine instead. The first vintage of Clos Saint-Hilaire sold as its own cuvée was 1995. The production is 3500-7500 bottles per year, and it is 100% Pinot Noir. The name has been taken from the village church, Église Saint-Hilaire.

  • Sous le Mont is a vineyard that is the source of one of vineyard-designated Champagnes (lieux-dits) from Avize-based Jacques Selosses, produced from 100% Pinot Noir. (I haven’t been able to figure out where in the village the vineyard is located, but the name translates as “below the hill”.) Similar to the other Selosse lieux-dits, it receives an oxidative oak treatment in solera, and is non-vintage. The first release was disgorged in 2012, and the base vintage was 2005. After a few years, Selosse changed the style somewhat, and Sous le Mont is now almost a rosé, which makes it different from the other two Pinot Noirs (Côte Faron from Aÿ and Bout de Clos from Ambonnay).

Other vineyard sites in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ include Carrière d’Athis, Les Cintres, La Clef, Les Côtes, Croix Blanche, Les Dudies, Montin, and Valofroy, of which some are part of Clos des Goisses.

Champagne producers

Larger Champagne houses, members of Union des Maisons de Champagne

  • Billecart-Salmon (NM), a high-class, medium-sized Champagne house founded in 1818 by Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon (who got married) and still majority-owned by the same family. Groupe Frey (owners of Châtea La Lagune in Bordeaux and Jaboulet in Rhône) owns another 45% since 2005. The house has 100 ha (247 acres) of their own vineyards, and including purchased-in grapes they use a total of 300 ha (741 acres) in 40 villages for their production. The vintage Champagnes and the non-vintage Brut Sous Bois are produced with some oak. The regular vintage Champagne is called Vintage. On a level above this we find three vintage Champagnes: the white Cuvée Nicolas François, the rosé Cuvée Elisabeth (formerly Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon) which was launched in the 1988 vintage, and the blanc de blanc Cuvée Louis. The prestige Champagne is called Clos Saint-Hilaire, and is a 100% Pinot Noir produced from a vineyard next to their buildings (see above). Annual production is 3500-7500 flaskor, depending on the vintage. The first vintage was 1995.
    Vintages of Clos Saint-Hilaire: 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2002.
  • Philipponnat (NM), a good Champagne house that has been located in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ since 1912 and which is part of the Lanson-BCC group. Their own vineyards consist of 17 ha (42 acres), of which 5.5 ha (13.6 acres) is the crown jewel, Clos des Goisses. The Champagnes are generally Pinot-dominated, see some oak in varying proportions, and are in a powerful and vinous style. Philipponnat uses some oak for all their Champagnes. The non-vintage cuvées include 20-30% reserve wines which are stored in oak barrels in a solera system. For most vintage Champagnes, the proportion of oak is 30-35%, but more for the top ones. There are several levels of vintage Champagnes. Since the 2008 vintage, the “regular” vintage Champagne has been replaced by a Blanc de Noirs with 100% Pinot Noir. There is also a blanc de blancs called Grand Blanc. Both these are extra brut. Sublime Réserve is a sec (off-dry) vintage Champagne which in similarity to Grand Blanc is 100% Chardonnay. A step up among the vintage Champagnes, we find Cuvée 1522, which in its white version is composed of about 60-70% Pinot Noir from Le Léon in Aÿ and about 30-40% Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, usually Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. The rosé version also include 8% red Pinot Noir wine from Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. From the 2006 vintage, Philipponnat has also produced two other (more or less) vineyard-designated vineyard Pinot Noir Champagnes: Le Léon from Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ (the 2006 vintage originated from Valofroy, Les Côtes, Montin, Carrière d’Athis, and Croix Blanche and also consisted of a small proportion of Chardonnay, while the 2008 is a 100% Pinot Noir from Valofroy and Dessus des Goisses). The prestige cuvée is the vineyard-designated Clos de Goisses, from the 5.5 ha south-facing vineyard of this name. Clos des Goisses is produced in a powerful style, to 40-75% vinified in oak barrels, depending on the vintage. In most vintages, it is Pinot Noir-dominated, with 65% Pinot Noir/35% Chardonnay being common. Typical production is 15 000-20 000 flaskor, but in some vintages the volume is smaller, since Clos des Goisses produceras is produced in every vintage (at least since 1988), but using a more strict selection when needed. The most recently released vintage (as of 2018) is the 2009. There is also a rarer rosé version by the name of Clos de Goisses Juste Rosé which was launched in the 1999 vintage. Production is 2000-3000 bottles per vintage produced and Juste Rosé has somewhat less oak (40-50%) and often a slightly higher proportion of Chardonnay. From the 2006 vintage, there is also Les Cintres from the two single vineyard sites Les Grands Cintres and Les Petits Cintres which are in the centre of Clos des Goisses. Les Cintres is therefore a “top cuvée” of Clos des Goisses which is produced in good vintages in a volume of 2000-2500 bottles. In some vintages it is a 100% Pinot Noir, in other vintages there is also a proportion of Chardonnay.
    History
    Philipponnat counts their prehistory back to 1522, when a certain Apvril de Philipponnat owned a vineyard between Aÿ och Dizy, but the more continuous history of the house dates back to the mid-19th century, when they were located in Aÿ. In 1912, they moved to Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. In 1935, 6 ha of vineyards were purchased in Mareuil, including the 5.5. ha of Clos des Goisses. The company stayed family-owned until 1980, through a Collard who had married a Philipponnat daughter. In 1980, Gosset took over as owner, but Collard continued to run the business until 1989. Marie Brizard bought the house in 1987, but had to sell in 1997 due to financial difficulties. The buyer was BCC, Boizel Chanoine Champagne (with Bruno Paillard as chairman), and the take-over was a bit messy since BCC considered it necessary to halve the size of the staff to make Philipponnat profitable, which the trade unions disagreed with. (Abel Lepitre was also part of the purchase, but their facilities was soon sold on.) After the purchase, BCC appointed Charles Philipponnat to lead the house. At this time he had a managerial position at Moët & Chandon. So today, Philipponnat is led by a Philipponnat, but it isn’t family-owned.
    Vintages produced of Clos de Goisses: all from 1935 with the exception of 1944, 1954, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1981, 1984, 1987. Composition: 2004 (65% PN/35% Ch), 2005 (65% PN/35% Ch), 2006 (65% PN/35% Ch), 2007 (65% PN/35% Ch), 2008 (45% PN/55% Ch), 2009 (released in 2018).
    Vintages produced of Clos de Goisses Juste Rose: 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005 (64% PN/36% Ch), 2006 (63% PN/37% Ch), 2007 (55% PN/45% Ch)
    Vintages produced of Les Cintres: 2006 (70% PN/30% Ch), 2008 (100% PN).

Other Champagne houses/négociants

The producer status NM = négociant-manipulant means that purchased grapes can be included in the Champagnes. NM producers can be anything from small producers that supplement their own grapes with some that they buy in, to large Champagne houses that primarily rely on purchased grapes.

  • Guy Charbaut (NM, Facebook page), a house founded in 1930, has just under 20 ha of vineyards (about 10 ha were added in the 1960s) and an annual production of 200 000 bottles.
  • Georges Clément (NM), a producer that is found both in Mutigny and in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ (where the cellar is located) since 1996. Has access to vineyards in Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Mutigny, Avenay-Val-d’Or, Bisseuil, Hautvillers, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Tauxières, and Verzy, among others. The Champagnes are also sold under the brand:
    • Henry de Valbert, also written de Valbert.

Champagne growers

Producer status is indicated where known: RM = récoltant-manipulant, or grower-producers. RC = récoltant-coopérateur, growers that are cooperative members but sell Champagnes under their own name.

  • Balourdeau Denis also has an address in Oiry.
  • Philippe Bénard (RM, old website), which is also located in Châtillon-sur-Marne, which nowadays is the official company address. Has 7.5 ha of vineyards of which 3.5 ha Pinot Noir, 2.5 ha Chardonnay, and 1.5 ha Pinot Meunier. The range includes a vintage Champagne which is Chardonnay-dominated (refers to the 2002 vintage).
  • L. Bénard-Pitois (RM), member of Vignerons Indépendants. Has 9.5 ha of vineyards in six villages in the Grande Vallée de la Marne (Avenay-Val d’Or, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, and Mutigny) and the Côte des Blancs (Bergères-lès-Vertus, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, and Oger). Partly uses oak barrels. The range includes vintage Champagne composed of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay (refers to the 2008 and 2009 vintages) and a  vintage blanc de blancs.
  • Bénard Roland (RM)
  • Guy Bouvet (RM, Facebook page), whose range includes a vintage Champagne composed of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir (refers to the 2010 vintage). The company name is Du Clos Moutayer.
  • Danteny-Mangin (RM), member of Vignerons Indépendants. Has vineyards in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Avize with 37% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, and 28% Pinot Meunier. Clos Jacquin is a vineyard-designated non-vintage Champagne from a site in Avize.
  • Roger De Sloovere, whose Champagnes seems to be produced by larger Champagne houses.
  • Marc Hébrart (RM), a Special Club producer, in my view one of the best. Run by Jean-Paul Hébrart since 1997, and some bottles are sold under that name. Has 14.5 ha of vineyards in the grand cru villages Aÿ, Louvois, Avize, Oiry, and Chouilly, and the premier cru villages Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Bisseuil, Avenay-Val-d’Or, Dizy, and Hautvillers with 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. Annual production is 125 000 bottles. The Special Club, which is the “regular” vintage Champagne from Hébrart, is typically 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. The oak barrel-vinified prestige Champagne is called Rive Gauche Rive Droite and is composed of 50% Chardonnay (from the left bank of Marne, Oiry och Chouilly) and 50% Pinot Noir (from the right bank, Aÿ). It was launched in the 2004 vintage. Noces de Craie is a 100% Pinot Noir from old vines in Aÿ and was launched in the 2012 vintage. It is a  cuvée name, meaning something like “wedding of chalk”, and is not a vineyard name.
    Vintages of  Rive Gauche Rive Droite: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012.
    Vintages of Noces de Craie: 2012. Upcoming release: 2015.
  • Lheureux-Saintot (RM)
  • Hervé Niceron (RM), member of Vignerons Indépendants.
  • R. Poullion & Fils (RM), a small produced which has received attention for high quality and a powerful style. Has 6.5 ha of vineyards in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ (the major holdings, about 3,5 ha), Aÿ, Mutigny, Avenay-Val d’Or, Tauxières-Mutry, and Épernay, with about 3 ha Pinot Noir, 2 ha Chardonnay, and 1 ha Pinot Meunier, which are cultivated organically and following biodynamical principles. All Champagnes see a proportion of oak barrel vinification. The producer is run by Fabrice Pouillon who has given them their current style, which has led to more attention in recent years. In this period, the range has been undergoing changes and a number of (more or less) vineyard-designated Champagnes have been introduced. Les Terres Froides (“the cold earths/soils”, the vineyard site is called Les Fourches) is a 100% Chardonnay from a north-facing slope in Tauxières-Mutry. Les Valnons is a vintage 100% Chardonnay from a vineyard site in Aÿ. Les Blanchiens is a vintage 50% Chardonnay/50% Pinot Noir from a vineyard site in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. Chemin du Bois is a vintage 100% Pinot Noir from a vineyard site in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. It is produced with no suger added for the second fermentation (the one which results in the bubbles), which means that the grapes were harvested at a high maturity and some proportion of the grape must saved for the second fermentation. The producer has named this Méthode Fabrice Pouillon. There also used to be a vintage Champagne called 2XOz produced using the same principle. The name should be interpreted as deux hexoses, “two hexoses”, which refers to the naturally occurring sugars in grape must, glucose and fructose. The production used only these, and no saccharose, which is the sugar used for the second fermentation (and usually for the dosage as well). The range also includes two still wines (Coteaux Champenois): Mareuil Rouge which is a red wine using 100% Pinot Noir, and a white wine from Festigny.
    History
    The producer was founded by Roger Pouillon. The son James Pouillon started in the company in 1964. His grandson Fabrice Pouillon started in the company 1998. In 2003, the conversion to organic cultivation was initiated. Following a dividing-up of the vineyard holdings in 2007, some of them, including those in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, ended up with another owner.

Comment: the list may be incomplete.

No longer existing Champagne producers

This list is not complete, but there is one historical producer that is worth mentioning in connection with Mareuil-sur-Aÿ:

  • Drawing of the harvest being transported to the Montebello facilities at Château de Mareuil-sur-Aÿ in the 19th century. The picture was taken from Henry Vizetelly’s book Facts About Champagne and Other Sparkling Wines (1879), and is linked from Wikimedia Commons.

    Montebello was a Champagne house in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ that once was a recognised name. The history of this house goes back to when the Montebello brothers (Napoléon-Auguste, Alfred, and Gustave) bought the Château de Mareuil-sur-Aÿ (built in 1765) in 1830, together with its extensive vineyards. The company was founded in 1834 as Alfred de Montebello. Its business ceased in 1929, a time of economic difficulties. The château and the vineyards (“centaine d’hectares”) was bought by René Chayoux (1892-1969) of Reims. Under his ownership, the name was later changed Ayala-Montebello, after he bought Ayala, located in Aÿ, in 1937. Jean-Michel Ducellier (1918-2003) took over Ayala-Montebello after the widow of Chayoux (she lived 10 years after him, until 1979), but he was more active in Champagne organisations than in his own Champagne house. Jean-Jacques Frey bought Ayala and the château by the Alain Ducellier in 2000, but I don’t know if the Montebello brand was part of the purchase, or had been sold earlier. The Montebello brand is probably owned by another house, because Montebello Champagnes can still be found in France, although no larger quantities have been produced under this name for several decades.

Château de Mareuil-sur-Aÿ today. The picture is linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo by G.Garitan, 2012).

Video clips

Here are two videos from Youtube consisting mostly of old postcards of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ from the early 20th century.

Links

© Tomas Eriksson 2014-2018, last update 2018-12-29

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Champagne villages and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Champagne village profile: Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, a premier cru village

  1. JOHN ATKINS says:

    Cannot find any information on Alson & Co Champagne. Mareuil-sur-Ay. Found a bottle in a kitchen cupboard so won’t be any good to drink. Just interested how old it is

    • vintomas says:

      I’m afraid I have no info on Alson & Co, expect that it doesn’t seem to exist today. So I don’t know when they stopped shipping bottles. Usually, the label design and the “style” of how the official info is printed (producer code, volume, alcohol content…) might give some clues as to the age of the bottle.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s